Trip Report: The Highline Loop
Crossing the wide wildflower basin beneath Diorite Peak and Mount Moss, I realized we hadn’t seen another hiker in two days. At the height of tourist season on a relatively easy trail to access, that’s an unusual (and incredible) feat. We were finishing the Highline Loop, a 20-mile loop in the lonesome La Plata Mountains of Southwest Colorado.
Designated a National Recreation Trail in 1979, the Highline Loop traverses some of the highest terrain in the La Platas including Indian Trail Ridge and the Sharkstooth Trail. In between are some 7-miles of rough, poorly maintained forest track that enhances the sense of seclusion.
The best way to access the Highline Loop is from the top of Kennebec Pass – high-clearance and 4x4 required. From here, it’s a short 1.5-mile hike to high alpine Taylor Lake, where we camped on Friday night. The next morning, after coffee and sunrise, we put our eNZees on and hiked up Indian Trail Ridge.
This section of the loop is also part of The Colorado Trail, a 486-mile hiking path that connects Durango to Denver. Normally, hikers have to be wary of monsoonal thunderstorms when they’re exposed up here, but lately Colorado’s been under a high-pressure system. We took our time crossing this gorgeous ridgeline and admiring the abundance of wildflowers.
Eventually, we left Indian Trail Ridge and climbed down to 8,800 ft. into the Bear Creek drainage. After climbing over downed trees and pushing through undergrowth for several hours, we pitched our tent next to a stream and called it a day.
The higher the trail climbs, the better it gets. The following day we enjoyed waterfalls, snowy basins, and endless views of the surrounding mountains. Though it’s short on mileage, the Highline Loop is big on elevation gain. If you set out to hike it, be prepared to spend considerable hiking up and down long exposed ridges.