Round Trip Distance: 4 miles - 6.4 km
Elevation: 9769 - 10,186 feet
Cellphone: 0-2 bars (real spotty)
Usage: Snowshoeing - Cross Country Skiing - Dogs
Time: 3 hrs.
Facilities: Vault toilet
Flush toilet at Visitor Center
Trailhead: Ward Creek Reservoir
Attractions: Marked back country Nordic trail
View Finney Reservoir Nordi in a larger map
The Finney Nordic trail is located in the Ward Nordic trail system on the southern side of the Grand Mesa. This post describes accessing the trail from the Ward Creek Reservoir trailhead but you could also begin from the Ward trailhead between the Grand Mesa Visitor Center and Spruce Lodge. The Ward trailhead only has enough parking for about a half dozen vehicles but I have never not been able to find a place to park. The Ward Creek Reservoir trailhead is right on Highway 65 and it is usually easily accessible by a 2-wheel drive vehicle.
There are usually some nice maps available at the trailhead along with a donation box if you would like to contribute to the trail grooming and maintenance costs. You can also download a map at www.gmnc.org if you would like to do a little planning before you come up.
There are several routes that all lead to the Finney Nordic trail but this post describes following the Ward trail to Skinned Horse to Finney and then coming back via the East Ward to the Ward and then the Staircase trail.
The Ward trail heads south along the east side of Ward Creek Reservoir. The trail begins gaining elevation about a mile from the trailhead. By the time you get to the Skinned Horse trail, which is 1.5 miles from the trailhead, the total gain is around 130 feet. That is a nice gradual slope. The Ward trail is normally groomed when there is enough snow to allow for it. It is the only groomed trail in the Ward Nordic Area.
This picture is of some fresh moose tracks that weren't there the day before. There were numerous tracks that led up to the trees where they would bite off some needles and then come back the same way they had gone before moving on to their next stop. Each stop would be a little further up and around the side of the mountain. I learned the hard way up in Alaska that if you ever cross their path within a close distance of them their instinct is to retreat the same way they had been so they don't feel like they have been cutoff. My only other pearls of moose wisdom are to stay away from bulls during mating season, they are super aggressive, and never walk between a cow and her calf, which you would only do by accident, because she will kill you.
The Skinned Horse trail departs to the right when you get to the junction. There is a round sign on a tree that designates it as the Sheep trail but the maps all show it as the Skinned Horse.
The Sheep trail begins about a half mile from the turnoff from the Ward trail. The elevation gain over the last half mile was about 170 feet.
The Finney trail departs to the right at a 4-way intersection where the Skinned Horse trail continues straight ahead and the trail to the scenic overlook is on the right.
The Finney trail is short and sweet and pretty much all downhill.
The Finney trail comes to an end where it meets the Sheep trail. The maps on the trail signs show the trail continuing around Finney Reservoir and then climbing back up to the Skinned Horse trail. I walked around the reservoir for a ways but never could pick up any more trail markers so I turned around and headed back.
The Finney and Sheep trails come out on the East Ward trail which eventually connects back into the Ward trail. This is a nice easy stretch of trail to follow.
The quickest way back to the trailhead is to jump onto the Staircase trail which takes a very direct line down the side of the mountain.
The trail gets a little confusing when you get into the thick of the aspen trees but if you keep heading through them going downhill you will quickly come out on the lower end of the Ward trail.
The Finney trail can be very strenuous if you are on snowshoes and have to be the one to break the trail open. All of the work is in getting to the beginning of the trail and is soon forgotten once you begin heading downhill. The Finney trail is a good connector if you are starting out at the Ward trailhead and coming down Skinned Horse. You can use the Finney trail to get over to East Ward and then back to where you began. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.