Friday, July 9, 2010

South Willow Falls

Distance: 4.52 miles one way to the falls, 4.9 miles one way to the upper falls and overlook
Elevation: 8,824 ft - 10, 111 ft
Elevation Gain: 1,287 ft net, 1,560 ft cumulative

South Willow Falls with Buffalo Mountain in the background

South Willow Falls is a dramatic cascade that roars down a narrow gully between Buffalo Mountain and Red Peak. I have seen the trail to the falls on the map and figured it would be deep in the trees the entire way. It is not. There are wide open meadows on both the initial Mesa Cortina Trail as well as the Gore Trail. There were also numerous peak-a-boos.

Buffalo Mountain is an obvious landmark on the trail. Its dome-like shape is visible from miles around.

A more wooded section of trail

A large rock formation near the turn off to the fall

A ruin of an old cabin after the turnoff

What I did not expect was the hordes of people on this trail. There are so many trails in Summit County that I am used to being practically alone. This trail felt like 3pm on I-70 during the height of ski season. It was practically bumper to bumper. I would highly recommend doing this trail on an off day.

Images of South Willow Falls

(On the left: The trail sign indicating the turn off) There are two ways to get to South Willow Falls, one is via Mesa Cortina, which I did, and the other via the Buffalo Cabin Trail, which I am told is steeper but shorter. I plan to take that route and try and go beyond the falls to Red Mountain Pass.

The Mesa Cortina Trail is 2.9 miles long and ends at the intersection of the Gore Trail. It is a total of 3.94 miles to the intersection of the Buffalo Cabin Trail (9,654 ft), 4.52 miles to the turn off to the falls (well marked), and 4.6 miles to the falls themselves (10,035 ft).

More Images of South Willow Falls

A small fraction of the people gathered at the falls

I would highly recommend getting back on the main trail and heading another 0.3 miles to the upper falls. Nearby is a massive, channel-your-favorite-lizard, boulder with wonderful views. I was torn between hanging out in the trees by the upper falls or on the rock with the other sun worshipers... except there were no other sun worshipers. The hordes all stopped at the falls, so I and my friends had this lofty perch all to ourselves. Sweet!

The upper falls

The boulder above the falls

The view from the boulder


Linda said...

People, eh? But I know the feeling.
I'm struck by your clouds. We just don't get clouds that shape and so very very white.

Anonymous said...

I'm newer to Colorado and want to thank you for your beautful photography you have shared. It inspires me to want to explore so many parts of the state that I hadn't heard of or considered. Simply beautiful! Thanks!