Willow Falls

I have done this hike many times with many different friends and family.

The map below has the hike route taken from two different sources, my "trails of Ruby Ranch" and a hike to Eccles Pass, which has the best recording of the gps track.

Clicking on the map will bring it up by itself to print on an 8.5 by 11 inch page.

As you can see from the map, there are many ways to access the Mesa Cortina trail from Ruby Ranch. For the purposes of this write-up, the access point used was my house. Here is a table showing various landmarks, with times and distances:
Location Time Out Time Remaining Distance Out Distance Remaining
HOME - 1' 17" - 2.5
Mesa Cortina Trail 0' 11" 1' 5" 0.3 2.2
South Fork Willow Brook 0' 24" 0' 53" 0.9 1.7
1st Meadow 0' 40" 0' 37" 1.5 1.1
Buffalo Cabin Trail 0' 50" 0' 26" 1.9 0.6
Fork to Red-Buffalo and Eccles 1' 15" 0' 2" 2.4 0.1
Willow Falls 1' 17" - 2.5 -

This was a leisurely hike, with a time of approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach the falls. I have done this hike in 40 minutes when I was in a big rush to catch the sun in an evening position for photography purposes.

Leaving our house, or any of the Ruby Ranch Trails, the Mesa-Cortina trial is quickly attained. 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:

Coming back from the falls, you will see a tree with a white arrow:

The right hand trail heads back down, and the left hand trail heads up towards Eccles and Red-Buffalo passes.

Feedback to Don Samuels

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This page last updated September 6, 2002