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Big Willis Gulch Trail



11.2 mile 18.1 kilometer loop
75% Runnable


Ascent: 3,016' 919 m
Descent: -3,016' -919 m
High: 12,302' 3,750 m
Low: 9,288' 2,831 m


Avg Grade: 10% (6°)
Max Grade: 20% (11°)


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Trail shared by Matthew Trinkle

A straight forward trail to a high mountain lake makes for an easy day run or quick overnight backpacking trip.

Matthew Trinkle

Features Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers


A great option for a longer run, or if you're quick on your feet, a nice morning or evening out. Enjoy the stunning views and joyous sounds of the creek before you head back the way you came. This also makes a great overnight backpacking option and is pretty nice during wildflower season!

Runner Notes

Excellent trail running. Below tree line the trail is relatively steep but without obstacles; once above the trail becomes more gradual with easy to expect rocky obstacles. Fast Trail runners should expect about 2-2.5 hrs round trip.


From the parking area turn left to cross a well-made bridge over Lake Creek. Begin a steady incline until reaching a fork in the trail at the Upper Twin Lake Trail at about 0.4 miles. Stay right and begin steadily climbing over the next half mile. Along the way, enjoy great views of Twin Lakes to the Northeast. After climbing about 400 feet, the trail flattens out through a dense, sweet smelling ponderosa forest. Cross a wooden bridge before immediately turning right to join with the Continental Divide Trail. Climb steadily before reaching another fork in the trail at 1.6 miles. Keep right on the Big Willis Gulch Trail. Continue to ascend the steepest section of the trail. Before reaching the end of the crux of the route, cross two streams on primitive log bridges.

At 2.8 miles, stop to fill water and enjoy the views of a pristine meadow along the creek. Run onto a rocky outcropping for 0.2 miles before continuing on a slight incline in and out of the treeline, enjoying two ruined log cabins on the right of the trail. After a few miles on relatively flat ground, pass a small mountain lake to the south before coming around the corner to get the first glimpse of Willis Lake. Pristine waters hold Cutthroat Trout for excellent fishing while the mountain bowl offers views of Rinker Peak, Mount Hope, and Mount Blaurock.

Flora & Fauna

Coniferous forest offers sweet smells and dense canopy. Wildflowers and aspen groves run through the area. Pika and marmots can be spotted at the lake as well as excellent fishing at Willis Lake.

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Jun 29, 2019
Graeme Dunn

Trail Ratings

  5.0 from 1 vote


in Twin Lakes


  5.0 from 1 vote
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in Twin Lakes


in Colorado


18 Views Last Month
2,911 Since Aug 4, 2017



Beautiful fall day
Apr 28, 2018 near Leadvil…, CO
Storm Clouds move in on a rock bar on Big Willis Gulch Trail
Aug 4, 2017 near Leadvil…, CO


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