With creek crossings through sometimes rocky terrain, wildlife aplenty, and elevation change enough to keep it interesting, this is a good 4.5 mile "local's loop" in the high country of Summit County.
From the trailhead, the trail splits almost immediately; stay to the left, on South Willowbrook Trail #9154
, which leads you over some wooden bridge creek crossings and starts your gradual climb up. South Willowbrook Trail lasts just over a mile before it terminates at Mesa Cortina Trail
. For this loop, when in doubt, take a right.
Continue up and, at 1.5 miles in, the trail will connect off to the right with the Gore Range Trail. If you want to see the waterfalls instead of doing this route, just keep going up following the signs. For the loop listed here, hop on the Gore Range Trail and continue making your climb up, taking in the views of Buffalo Mountain, Silverthorne, and beyond. The trail is quite rocky in areas and has lots of roots in others.
When the trail comes to a T, again go right on North Willow Lake Trail
as it begins its descent back to the trailhead. On this trail there are more small creek crossings, chances for wildflower viewing, and tall pines. At the next T, again take the right onto Ditches Trail which will take you back to the parking lot. This is a nice shady hike with beautiful views and well-marked trails.
Moose seen often in the area, plus the regular collection of mountain critters including the occasional bear.