This loop has no trailhead. The most common access is via the Highline Trail (part of the Colorado Trail, CT - Segment 27: Hotel Draw Road to Kennebec
) from Kennebec Pass (which is accessed via a tough 4x4 road). This is, itself, a stunning mile of trail. The loop can also be accessed via the Hillside Connector #614
, Bear Creek Trail #607
or Sharkstooth Pass
If coming to it from Bear Creek Trail #607
as it is described by San Juan National Forest
, the loop starts with a run up the wide, grassy valley ringed with rocky ridges. There are very few creek crossings on the gentle climb. Forest closes in as it gets steeper and the trail gets a little harder to see. The forest thins again as Bear Creek Trail makes one last climb to intersect Sharkstooth Pass
Take the left to climb over Indian Trail Ridge to Taylor Lake. The trees are left behind and the trail scrambles a little through the scree as it goes over this unnamed pass. Green things slowly start again as it descends to the lake. It is easy to get lost in the random trails around the lake, but with a little looking, one can find the way to the Highline Trail.
Take the left, following the arrow for the "entire loop". This is the most used section and you are likely to meet other runners and mountain bikers. Trail climbs again to return to Indian Trail Ridge, then follows it in a rolling, generally dropping way, eventually finding the trees once more.
Turn left again at the signed Grindstone Trail to continue downward through trees and meadows with numerous views. Grindstone Loop Trail intersects shortly after the Hillside Connnector, providing a slightly longer alternate route. A fire scar along the way causes some of the trail to be difficult to follow on the way back down to Bear Creek Trail.
While generally advertised as 17 miles, the loop is actually closer to 20 miles.