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 Willow & Salmon Lakes

Length: Approx. 18 miles roundtrip
Highlights: 
Pristine alpine lakes, spectacular mountain views and excellent fishing.
Difficulty Rating:
Advanced (length)
Elevation Gain: Approx. 2,250 ft.

Directions:
Take Colorado 9 north from the Silverthorne exit (205) of I-70. Turn left onto Wildernest Road at the traffic light - A Wendy's is located on the right and a 7-11 store on your left. As you start up the mountain Wildernest Road becomes Ryan Gulch Road. Look for Buffalo Drive on your right and turn right here. Buffalo Drive dead ends at Buffalo Mountain Drive and you will turn right here. Take the next left, Lakeview Drive, which is soon intersected by Aspen Drive. Turn left onto Aspen Drive and the parking lot for the trailhead will be on your right.

Above: One of the picturesque Willow Lakes

 

 Below:
Gore range trail junction about 2 3/4 miles from the Mesa Cortina Trailhead.


 

 
Description:

This hike is looong and involves a significant elevation gain but the rewards are indescribable - kind of like the soreness you will feel the next day if you are not in shape!!

Beginning at the Mesa Cortina trailhead you enter the Eagles Nest Wilderness after about a twenty minute walk and begin ascending a series of switchbacks through the forest. Views of Lake Dillon canbe glimpsed off to the south and the snow capped (usually) Williams Fork Mountains off to the northeast can provide a pleasant diversion.

 

 
After about two and a half miles from the trailhead you will cross South Willow Creek and see a sign that marks the merger with the Gore Range Trail. Turn right (north) here and follow the the Gore Range Trail for about three and a half miles and numerous stream crossings until you reach the junction with Willow Lakes Trail.

Follow this Trail for about another two miles, numerous switchbacks and an 800 elevation gain to the Salmon Lake Trail which appears on your right.


Below:
Willow Lakes Trail Junction about 6 and a half miles from the Mesa Cortina Trailhead.


Above: Great views of the Gore Range as you head toward the junction with the Willow Lakes Trail.

 

 

A steep ascent of several hundred yards brings you to the spectacular Salmon Lake at about 11,165'.

Trace your steps back to the trail intersection and sign. Hang a right there, and follow the trail back to the Willow Lakes area.

Above: View from the Willow Lakes Trail.

Above: Sign marking trail up to Salmon Lake

You will cross two streams before coming to the first of three Willow Lakes. If you go to all of the lakes it will add at least another mile to your hike from Salmon Lake but is well worth it. If you have your license and some equipment, try your luck in Willow Lakes. We did and pulled out more than a dozen trout.

 Your elevation at the last lake will be approx. 11,390'.
Above: Destination # 1: Salmon Lake

Above: Another shot of Salmon Lake

Spectacular views of Red Peak and the saw tooth Gore Range abound throughout this hike making it one of the most stunning wilderness experiences in Colorado.

Be sure to purchase a copy of the "Summit, Vail & Holy Cross" Trail Map from Weber's bookstore on Main Street in Breckenridge before heading into the backcountry!!
Above: Another one of Willow Lakes

Above: Scenery along the trail... between the lakes

 

 


 
 

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  beginner intermediate advanced
    Black Powder Pass   Mohawk Lake   Quandary Peak  14,265'
    Lily Pad   Chihuahua Gulch   Lincoln & Bross 14,291' / 14,177'
    St. John's   Mt. Royal   Bierstadt Peak 14,060'
    Mayflower Gulch   Wheeler Lakes   Willow & Salmon Lakes
    Loveland Pass   Radical Hill Trail   Upper Crystal Lake
    Salt Lick Trail   McCullough Gulch   Gray's & Torrey's 14,278' / 14,267'
    Mesa Cortina Trail   Mt. Sniktau   Mt. Democrat 14,152'
    St. Mary's Glacier   North Ten Mile Trail   Mt. Victoria
    Sally Barber Mine   Willow Falls  

Mt. Elbert  14,433'

    Oro Grande Trail   Eaglesmere Lakes   Buffalo Mountain  12,777'
    Meadow Creek-Salt Lick   Mosquito Pass   Eccles Pass
    Shrine Mountain Trail   Webster Pass   Mt. Huron  14,003'
    Ptarmigan Trail   Ptarmigan via Wilder Gulch    
    Peaks Tr. Barton Gulch   Wheeler Lake - Park County    
    Hoosier Pass Loop   Lenawee Trail    

 

  Spruce Creek Loop   Nightmare on Baldy Mine    
    Tenderfoot Mountain Trail        
   

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Note: The Summit County Explorer website is for entertainment purposes only. SCE will not be held liable for the any accidents or injuries resulting from the activities listed on this site. Trail conditions change daily and we assume no responsibility for the safety of any individual during any of these activities. Please consult actual trail guides and maps before attempting any of the activities mentioned here.