Distance: Approximately 11 miles
Duration: Approximately 7 hours 38 minutes
This is a hike from Ruby Ranch to the Meadow Creek Trail Head, at Exit 203 off of Interstate 70 in Frisco. The route goes over Eccles pass.
Here is a small map of the hike:
As with all of my recent hikes, I have used the GPS to indicate where we were in time from the start of the hike. You can click here to get a larger map, at the finest scale. A profile also can be had here.
A running total of our hike is as follows:
50 minutes and 1.9 miles, the Buffalo Cabin Junction.
1 hour out , 2.1 miles
1'17", and 2.5 miles, Willow Falls
2 hours out, 3.3 miles
2'12" and 3.6 miles, a small foot bridge protecting wetlands
3 hours out, 4.5 miles
3'37" and 5.2 miles, the trail junction for Eccles or Red/Buffalo passes
4 hours out, 5.4 miles - Lunch here
4'38" and 6.0 miles, Eccles pass
5 hours out, 6.3 miles
5'11" and 6.7 miles, Leave Gore trail for Meadow Creek
6 hours out, 8.1 miles
7 hours out, 9.9 miles
7'38" Meadow Creek Trail Head - approximately 11 miles.
The first 5 miles of this hike is identical to the Red Buffalo Hike, and I will borrow that description:
We left our house at 9:00 am and hiked on the Ruby Ranch Spur to the Mesa-Cortina. For those of you reading this not living on or visiting as guests at the Ranch, you will have to find other access to the Mesa-Cortina. The Mesa-Cortina from this point to its end at the South Willow Brook is an old jeep road from the ranch. The morning and early afternoon was characterized by low clouds, so the pictures we took were not the ideal scenic pictures. Examples of what the morning was like can be seen here and here.
There is very little elevation gain for this portion of the hike. The trail is well traveled, with access points from the South at the Mesa-Cortina trail head, Ruby Ranch, and the Willowbrook development. Traveling to the South Fork, you may encounter muddy spots, especially at the following locations: 1) right after the Ruby Ranch Spur meets the Mesa-Cortina (this is also where the Willow Brook trail comes in) and 2) just before the South Fork of Willow Brook. The bridge crossing the brook is a three log bridge, which our dogs negotiate without difficulty.
Immediately after the bridge, the Mesa-Cortina trail ends and becomes
the Gore Range Trail. A sign will mark this, with a narrow trail
coming in on your right. If you go right, you hike north on the Gore Range trail, paralleling Colorado Route 9. The hike to Salmon Lakes went this way. Our hike continues straight on the old jeep road.
After a brief climb away from the creek, the path levels out. After
a short hike you will arrive at the first meadow. On your left will be
Buffalo Mountain and on the right Red Mountain. After going through a couple of more meadows, the trail narrows to a footpath and you arrive at the Buffalo Cabin trail on your right, at 1.9 miles.
At this point the trail starts to climb. It passes a couple of small springs / creeks, a scree field, coming at last to the Willow Falls area. The remains of a foundation of a log cabin mark this area, and the falls are about 20 yards beyond. This is about 2.5 miles out.
Assuming that you don't want to go to the falls (a popular destination
on the weekends), just before you come to the log cabin, the trail
will take a 90 degree turn to the right and start to climb again. Most people will miss this turn. A tree on the left (not right) has a blaze on it, right where the trail divides:
If you go to the falls, and start back, at the trail junction you will see:
From this vantage point, the right trail goes back down, and the left
hand trail continues the climb.
The trail it continues to climb through a couple of switch-backs. The creek will occasionally be visible on your left. The trail continues alternating between woods and meadows. At 3 miles, a boulder field will be on your right and in order to avoid it the trail heads towards the creek and passes through Pussy Willows.
The next landmark is a log bridge in the forest at 3.6 miles is the
next "landmark" if for no reason that it is something easy to recognize.
In the next set of meadows, there may be streams, depending on how soon after snow melt you are hiking.
After negotiating the many streams, the trail reached the end of the valley. Looking up, the low spot on the your right, just to the left of Red Mountain is the Red Buffalo Pass. To the left is Eccles Pass. We had a pleasent climb up to the pass, passing a couple of small lakes. We at lunch just below the pass and then quickly obtained the summit.
On the other side of the pass, the trail starts out through a long valley. The Gore trail will leave in this valley, and it looked much less traveled than the Meadow Creek trail that we took. There is not much to say about the hike down to the highway, other than it leaves the meadow, and enters forest, criss crosses the creek (and I fell in). On the way down, the trail to Lilly Pad Lake joins in.
For more pictures of the hike, click here.
Some flowers are here
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This page last updated September 09, 2001