Autumn Hike to South Willow Creek Falls in Colorado

Aspen leaves adorned the evergreen branches and scattered along the path much like rose petals at a fall wedding.

Autumn has arrived with gorgeous landscapes and football. When deciding on whether to hike on Saturday or watch the Colorado University vs. Washington State football game, my husband Danny and I chose the great outdoors. Washington was ahead 21-7 in the first quarter when we last checked.

We chose to hike the Mesa Cortina trail to South Willow Creek Falls just outside of Silverthorne, Colorado. The round trip distance of 8.75 miles was daunting. Pfft! Surely the waterfall would appear in the first mile or two. We would watch for the landmark of a large boulder to let us know we had arrived at our destination.

We started our hike late in the day, but we expected to be back by the 4th quarter of the game.

We were drawn in by autumn’s beauty and the curiosity of what was beyond the next turn.

It couldn’t be too far anyway.

“How far is the waterfall?”

“Twenty minutes or so.”

A half-hour later we met some people walking their dogs. I asked, “How much longer to the waterfall?”

“Twenty minutes.”

The shadows were getting longer.

And longer.

 NO ONE said, “Do you see those mountains out yonder? Well, the waterfall is up there on the right.”

Nor did this guy.

First I said, “Don’t shoot!” Roxy jumped backward at the sight of him and his face paint. Danny stepped on her foot and she yelped.

Then I asked, “How much further to the waterfall?”

“About twenty more minutes.” No lie. That’s what he said.

Was this the rock?

Or this one? I have no idea, but they were as blue as these photos.

We finally made it after two hours of hiking!

Danny and Roxy take a quick break.

The waterfall wasn’t very impressive, but we didn’t have a lot of time to explore. The sun was sinking fast, so we picked up the pace back to the car.

While scrambling back down the mountain, I got a call on my cell phone.

How was it possible to get cell service way out here?

My mom was screaming, “CU just won the game 35-34!” The last 10 minutes would have been fun to watch, but we would have missed all of this.

We assured her we would be careful and kept moving.

It’s official, time does fly with familiarity, hence the miscalculation of time. The trip back seemed so much faster.

We would arrive back at civilization, after a short jaunt through a spooky forest.

Complete with a spook!

The haunted month of October is just around the corner…There will be many more outdoor adventures along with a few missed football games.

Are you looking forward to October?

Click for more adventure, inspiration and wild stories.

Related posts:

Bike Hike to Bridal Veil Falls – Photo Essay with Altitude

Striking Gold – A Photo Essay

Going for Gold – Fall Photos

79 thoughts on “Autumn Hike to South Willow Creek Falls in Colorado

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    1. It is still early here in Boulder too. The higher the elevation, the greater the change.
      I looked over at Danny and since it was getting dark, I wondered about our safety since it’s hunting season. Next time I will wear blaze orange! 🙂
      Thanks Renee!


    1. It was a lot quicker on the way back. It is funny how we clicked off all the landmarks; fallen trees, bridges….
      The hunter was all duded up in camo and on top of his hat was something like Spanish moss. He really freaked out Roxy!
      Thanks Patricia!


    1. It was 9 miles round trip and believe me on the way back I was feeling every step! I am still coming off two months of resting a hamstring injury so I’m not in shape yet…If I hiked liked that 3 times a week, I would have tree trunk legs!
      The color in the mountains has been the best ever since there has been little or no rain. Some is coming in this week….
      Thanks Angela!


  1. Didn’t know you were part of the Blair Witch project! Gotta love those hunters. Or was that an early halloween costume? Oh yeah, football and the fall, calling, beckoning, that sweet siren song! And yet, like the Argonauts and Odysseus, Susie and Danny resist and flourish! Beautiful pictures.


    1. Hahaha! Thanks JBW. Love it!
      I felt like Blair while going into that last forest. Danny yelled, “Look at those huge birds!” I looked up as I was taking a picture and got a couple of really weird photos because I was moving!
      We better watch for hunters next time or go earlier in the day! He was quite a sight!


  2. Oh i am I am i am so looking forward to October..
    some of the shots look straight out of a beautiful dream some out of a thriller but all of them a stunning..
    loved the write up , it mirrors every bit of the fun you have had
    hugs 🙂


    1. Thanks Soma! It really was another spectacular day. I ran into a photographer who said he had 1200 photos to go through after hiking that trail! I wondered if he would get outside at all for the next couple of days! Hahaha!


  3. That is so exciting!!! Good job you hadn’t just read The Raven Boys or maybe it’s a shame you hadn’t ha, ha, haaa! Did I miss the waterfall? Was it trickle springs lol?


    1. I think the dramatic part was a little further up, but the scramble with Roxy would have been hard. You can see the water behind Danny. I will have to check out Raven Boys! I love scary stories this time of year.
      Thanks Catherine!


  4. What beautiful pictures Susie. Definitely my fave time of year. And isn’t that always the case when one is hiking??? It’s always 20 minutes to the destination. hahaha! I swear I heard the same while hiking to Snow lake in the Cascades. I think it must have taken two hours! But should have been 20 minutes.


  5. Wow, these photos are beautiful. What a gorgeous hike, but that’s funny that everyone said 20 more minutes! Glad you made it back before dark!


    1. It was really dark, but we made it!
      That was the funniest thing. I kept looking at Danny and he would check his watch and say, “Let’s see where we are in 20 minutes.” That was the longest 20 minutes ever!
      Thanks so much Lynn!


  6. OH! You need a L-O-V-E button for your photo essays, Susie.

    I am so glad you chose the hike over the football game. It was what it was with or without your eyes on the tube. But, those pictures…


    *sob* How I miss Colorado. On future hikes, keep a lookout for a spot that would accommodate a deluxe tree house for writing. I have it designed in my noggin. National forest, you say? Heck! I pay federal income tax. Surely I’ve paid enough to borrow a tree.


    1. I am sure you can borrow one!
      I will find the perfect spot for your tree house Gloria. I bet there are all kinds of “stands” built by hunters like the one we met!
      Thanks so much for the L-O-V-E!!!


    1. Exactly. There will always be more and we go to the all of the home games anyway!
      I am hoping to get out to the Rocky Mountain National Park and see the elk before the snow flies! 🙂 Thanks John!


  7. What did all these “20 minutes” add up to, Susie, about two million minutes? From my POV it was well worth it for these terrific images but had I been on that long hike with you, I would have been air lifted out.


    1. It was hilarious after a while. “Just 20 more minutes….. really!!”
      There were a couple of times when we looked up on our way out and saw planes passing overhead. I asked Danny if a “sag wagon” would be coming by for me. I was really feeling it during the last hour of the 4 since we went at a good pace during the whole hike. If I could only hike like that 3 times a week, I would really be in shape!


  8. Great pictures, indeed. What a fun adventure! You have to make the most of this gorgeous autumn weather, which is my favorite time of the year. I’m not much of a snow-bunny so I’ll hike in the woods right through October if I can.


    1. Wow! Thanks so much Michael! I hope you are settling into Cali life. Fall here has been unbelievable for color, but we are now getting our first storm in a while. I can hear thunder rumbling outside….


  9. Nice Photo Essay… that was a lot of 20 minute hiking for that little piss-ass waterfall. Roxy looked real impressed… better not mention waterfalls when you drag her out for the next hike.


  10. I honestly get lost in your photos! I really felt like I should have been turning pages instead of scrolling down with this essay. I really enjoyed this piece.
    Roxy looked a tad tired…I’m sure the agent has already been on the phone demanding a spa treatment.


    1. Thanks so much! I am really getting into photography, but am limited by my cameras…One is my phone and the other is my compact Nikon Coolpix.
      I forgot one photo of Roxy off-leash since no one was on the trail on the way back. She looked disgusted because we couldn’t keep up with her! Hahaha!
      She was so filthy, Danny gave her a bath and only half the dirt came off! 🙂
      You’re right. I will call the spa today….


  11. Good choice – you had the score fed to you, anyway. The waterfall was a bit of a let-down, but then I suppose all are that. Our Victoria Falls is a let-down on a very large scale. Especially when the river is in flood.
    Are you quite sure that what sounded like ‘Twenty Minutes’ to you wasn’t something like ‘Tawentei min uts’ which is Mohican or Apachee or something for ‘One heck of a long way’?


    1. Tawentei min uts… Hahaha! I had a good belly laugh over that one! I can’t believe how many people told us that!
      I think we had a little bit of a hike to go to get to the more impressive part of the falls, but we ran out of daylight. I would say, “next time,” but we seldom hike in the same place. 🙂
      Thanks so much Colonist!


  12. Wow! Can I move in with you both, and Roxy of course. Haha! Right… I’m going for a long walk this coming weekend… I’m enthused with Autumn leafy inspiration thanks to your photos 😉


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