Andys Loop/Tabeguache Trail

Date: December 19, 2009
Round Trip Distance: 7.4  miles
Difficulty: Moderate-Strenuous
Elevation: 4673-5495 feet
Cellphone: 3-4 bars
Usage: Hiking - Biking - Equestrian - Day Use Only
Start: 8:45 End: 12:45 Elapsed: 4 hrs.
Facilities: Vault toilet at trailhead
Trailhead: Tabeguache on Monument Rd.
Fee: none

The Tabeguache trailhead, where I began, is located on Monument Road. There is a system of trails between Monument Road and Little Park Road that can be accessed from this trailhead as well as from several points along Little Park Road. The trails are very popular with both hikers and mountain bikers alike. Several of the side trails are open only to bikes. The main trail that cuts through the middle of the rest and runs from here all the way to Montrose, Colorado is the Tabeguache Trail. With so many mountain bikes using the trails it is important for hikers to remember to always yield the trail to the bikes. As far as that goes, you must also yield the trail to horses.

The sun had been up above the Grand Mesa for about an hour but it hadn't yet started shining in to the lower areas along the trail. There was still 2-6 inches of snow left from the storm that had blanketed the area the previous week. The trails are a little tough for bikers in the winter at times like this but they are still getting a lot of use from hikes.

I began by following the Tabeguache trail as it headed south through the draw. After hiking only 0.3 miles I came to where it junctions with the Eagle's trail. At this point I took the fork to the right and followed the Eagle's trail for another 0.8 miles. About 0.3 miles down the Eagle's trail I passed the junction of the Pet-e-Kes trail. After continuing for another 0.5 miles I came to where Andy's Loop begins. Andy's Loop forms the western edge of the trail system as it climbs up the hills on the west side of the area.

The slope of the climb was moderate through this section and if it hadn't been for the snow that persisted in the shadier areas the going would have been a lot easier. I was surprised that this trail, which is a lot more remote than the others in the area, was still getting enough use in this weather that I didn't have any trouble following it.

There trail crosses a short section of private land about 2 miles from the trailhead. There are signs instructing everyone to respect the private property and remain on the trail. About 2.8 miles from the main trailhead the tracks that I was following came to an end. From this point on I had to pick the trail out of the snow and break trail for anyone else that might decide to venture this far.

Once I made it to the south facing slopes the snow disappeared for the most part. At this point into the hike I was now above the inversion that has been choking the valley for the last 3 weeks. From here the trail traversed around the hill until it was heading mostly east. The elevation decreased as the trail dropped into the wash at an area just above Echo Canyon. You can actually walk about 100 yards down the wash to the point where the water spills over the cliff into Echo Canyon.

About 3.6 miles from the trailhead I came to the junction of Andy's Loop and the Ribbon Trail. I took the fork to the left that headed up the hill 0.5 miles to Little Park Road. I had hiked this section of the trail a few weeks ago when I hiked the Ribbon Trail.

Once I came to Little Park Road I had the choice whether to walk down the hill along side the road to where the Tabeguache trail intersects the road or to cross the pavement and follow a section of the Gunny Loop for 0.8 miles to the same spot. I decided to go the long way and follow the Gunny Loop. I took the left fork of the Gunny Loop and followed it until I came back out onto Little Park Road. There is a parking area on the east side of the road and a trailhead for the Tabeguache Trail on the west side of the road. This is at exactly the 10 mile marker of the Little Park Road.

There were a lot of tracks through the snow showing that the trail was getting a lot of use. Except where the trail climbed over a few small ridges it was all downhill from Little Park Road back to Monument Road. Several of the downhill sections were steep enough that they required careful planning to stay on my feet. There were a lot of trails splitting off in both directions. The Tabeguache trail was well marked and I didn't have any trouble staying with it.

There was a steady blood trail from someones dog that had at least one paw that was in pretty bad shape. The snow and ice seems to be every bit as hard on their feet as the rocks are in dry weather. I've seen dogs that got bad enough that they laid down on the trail and had to be carried. A good set of booties from REI can help a lot. Hiking really takes its toll on claws and pads. Mountain lions retract their claws when they walk. They must have pads that are a lot tougher than dogs.

Judging from this warning sign there must be a few people that get buggered up on some of these trails. The names of some of the trails kind of indicate that the novice might want to beware.

The closer I approached to the lower trailhead the more hikers and joggers I came across. It had taken me 2 hours and 15 minutes to hike from the bottom, up Andy's Loop, to Little Park Road and one hour and 45 minutes to hike down the Tabeguache Trail to Monument Road.

I have been saving the Tabeguache trails for days when I am on-call and can't wander too far away. Today was one of those days. When I left my house this morning the outside temperature was 10 F. When I crossed the Colorado River on my way to the trailhead the temperature was 7 F. The temperature at the trailhead was 15 F when I started and around 32 F when I finished. I stayed plenty warm with a pair of Under Armour Extreme Cold Gear for a bottom layer and a pair of jeans and wool shirt for an outer layer. I had my Obermeyer coat and a pair of gloves on when I started out but I had to shed them after awhile.

I went through about 60 ounces of fluid and one protein bar. If I were doing this hike in the summer time I probably would have needed about 4 times as much fluid. These trails are close to town and another great place in the area to 'Take a hike'.