Willow Lakes via S. Willow Creek trail

Distance13.25 mi
Elevation Gain2812 feet
My Time7 hr 4 min
DifficultyHard
Closest TownSilverthorne
Food NearbyWind City Pizza

A hike that ends at a beautiful series of lakes but downed trees made it overly challenging and took away much of the enjoyment for me.

Getting Started

This is another hike that starts out in a neighborhood open space before connecting to the national forest trails. The trail leads close to some houses and the beginning of the hike is actually pretty steep. There will be a gain about 300 feet of elevation in the first half mile and have grades of up to 28%!

You will also get to cross over a nice running stream with a bit of a cascading water effect which is really nice. The trail is narrow at the beginning as it begins to enter into the forest and is pretty uneven as well making it a challenge. Remember to look behind you at the surrounding Silverthorne area!

The sun rising over the mountains surrounding Silverthorne.  The sun is almost touching the mountains in the distance.

Eagles Nest Wilderness

The Eagles Nest Wilderness sign is also when you will really notice all of the trees that had been blown down. There are some large sections of the forest that are laying on their side. Also a ton of trees have been blown onto the trail. I counted over 50 trees that you had to maneuver over, under or around.

About 1.5 miles into the hike you will intersect with the Gore Range 60 trail. You will want to stay on Willow Creek but the this is a very nice place to check out the creek. You will also get your first good looks at Red Peak and Buffalo Mountain just past this intersection.

Red Peak with  snow  starting to cover the higher elevations.

After the creek the trail will keep to a steady incline but nothing overly difficult for the next mile. Around the 2.5 mile in mark the trail will start the major climb. You will climb 1000 feet in a mile and half. This climb is just a really steady incline made more difficult with all of the downed trees.

This really wore me out and took a lot out of me. I had to take several moments at the top of the incline to catch my breath and take on water. The good news is that after this trail flattens out considerably.

The Lakes

When I got to what I thought was the top the views were nice but I didn’t realize there was still another 2 miles to go to get to the final lake. As I said before the top is more level than the previous hill but there are still patches of incline.

There is a sign to get to Salmon Lake about a half mile onto the trail but I skipped this one to head onto Willow lake. The first of the Willow lakes is a really cool area with some waterfalls and small ponds that surround little patches of land. You will have to do some water crossings here but nothing too bad. Its just kind of a cool place in the woods

The first of the  "lakes" is a series of ponds surrounding small patches of water.

The second and third lakes you never actually get too close to if you stay on the trail. One will be behind some trees to your right and the other will be on your left hand side. I was a bit disappointed that you saw these lakes at a distance but not up close.

The  3rd large lake in the distance with mountains further away past the lake.

The final and main Willow Lake has better access to get down close and is completely surrounded by rocky peaks. It really is quite stunning.

The final lake with banks of rocky steep peaks at the end of the trail.

This last lake was worth the time I spent there and I enjoyed it very much. I will say that there was snow on the ground up around the lakes so it may be possible to get closer to the surrounding lakes but I was limited to just following what I thought was the trail.

Distance and Elevation

If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 13.25 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 2812 feet including undulations. That put my high point at around 11,447 feet. I was also moving for a total of 7 hours and 4 minutes.

Effort

This hike was pretty rough. There were over 50 trees (marked on the above map in yellow) that had blown down on the trail and the extra effort of getting over, under or around really took it out of me. It took me about an extra 2 hours from similar hikes of this same length and elevation gain and I can tell you I was completely exhausted by the end. Here is my step count from my Fitbit.

Step count from the hike today was very high at  38,179

Terrain

As I have mentioned the most challenging part of this hike was the numerous trees that were down on the trail. That made it very challenging in trying to get around them. Otherwise the trail is mostly forest but a very uneven path. There is a section that becomes much more rocky as you get closer to the lakes near the end of the hike.

Access

I accessed this hike at the Willowbrook trailhead which is located at the Walter Byron Memorial Park in Silverthorne. The park is in a neighborhood and there is only room for about 8 cars at the trailhead. A mile down the road, near the entrance to the neighborhood, is a dirt overflow lot. There are several signs saying that parking on the street is not allowed and you will get a ticket if you do so.

Wrap Up

The lakes were amazing and I really enjoyed them but getting there had me yelling obscenities’ at the woods at times. I do think that I picked a bad time to be on this trail. Honestly, I was really frustrated and ready for this hike to be over about half way through. Large sections of the forest were blown down in a scene that looked more like a disaster movie than a forest.

All was almost forgiven with my time at the lakes. I was tired and sore by the time I made it and think I would have enjoyed it even more if I wasn’t trying to avoid all the obstacles along the way.

I have added this hike and all of the hikes that I have done on my interactive map section you can find here. If you have any suggestions on hikes or any comments feel free to email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com or you can follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

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