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Highline Loop Trail

Difficult
 5.0 (1) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

Designated as a National Recreation Trail in 1979 for outstanding scenic value, it does not disappoint.


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Map Key

17.7

Miles

28.5

KM

81%

Runnable

12,282' 3,744 m

High

9,224' 2,811 m

Low

3,961' 1,207 m

Up

3,950' 1,204 m

Down

8%

Avg Grade (5°)

43%

Max Grade (23°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Commonly Backpacked · Views · Wildlife

Overview

Highline Loop Trail begins at approximately mile eight on the Bear Creek Trail #607, and continues east around the head of Bear Creek headwaters via the Sharkstooth Pass, to the Indian Ridge Trail (#520), then back down on either the Grindstone Loop Trail #658 or the Grindstone Trail #608. This starts off wandering beautiful valley and hits some of the highest trail in the La Plata Mountains.

Description

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.

Contacts

Shared By:

Valerie Norton

Trail Ratings

  5.0 from 1 vote

#1449

Overall
  5.0 from 1 vote
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Recommended Route Rankings

#245

in Colorado

#1,449

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186 Since Aug 22, 2020
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Photos

"South" direction along the Highline Trail section of the Colorado Trail.
Aug 22, 2020 near Rico, CO
The local high peaks along Highline Trail section of Colorado Trail.
Aug 22, 2020 near Rico, CO
Meeting the loop near Taylor Lake.
Aug 22, 2020 near Rico, CO
Junction of Sharkstooth Trail and Bear Creek Trail.
Jul 9, 2015 near Rico, CO
Dropping down Indian Trail Ridge (Highline Trail, part of Colorado Trail) looking out over Bear Creek.
Aug 22, 2020 near Rico, CO

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