The hike to Willow Lakes and Salmon Lakes is a long hike no matter how you dice it. I started at the Mesa Cortina trailhead which adds about five miles to the hike, clocking in at 21.2 miles roundtrip. For some reason I decided to do this a day hike, making for a very long day, almost 12 hours to the minute.
The first / last six miles are very easy and go very fast. The beetle kill from the trailhead to about 11,200 feet is staggering. Once above 11,200 feet everything about the forest becomes very healthy and very green, it's very pretty from there onto the lakes.
There are several lakes in the Willow Lakes and Salmon Lakes chains, though they are rimmed with boulders making it difficult to get to some of them. There was a very light breeze for most of the day, making the surface of most of the lakes look like glass, giving the two skies effect; it was very pretty and very peaceful.
This hike makes more sense as a two-day event, and you're in Eagles Nest Wilderness, so dispersed camping rules apply. Even though this was a long day-hike, it was a pretty hike, the views are worth the trek. Checkout my GPS tracks here.