Vista Loop

Round Trip Distance: 8.3k/5.15 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
XC Skill level:
Elevation: 10,601-10,828 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 3 hrs.
Trailhead: Skyway
Fee: none
Attractions: Groomed trails

I decided to start the new year the same way and at the same place I finished off the previous year so I headed back up to the Skyway trailhead on the Grand Mesa. The azure blue skies of yesterday had turned to ashen gray today and the 8F of yesterday had warmed up to 17F today.

I left the trailhead and took the trail to the right and followed the Lion's Loop for about a third of a mile. At the bottom of the little hill I followed the trail to the left to the junction of Will's Hill and Arroyo trails. Another left here took me into the dry wash gully of the Arroyo trail (tautologically speaking of course). All joking aside the passage through here took me to the beginning of the Vista Loop at an upper junction with the Lion's Loop.

For almost the first two miles of the Vista Loop the trail meandered up an open valley climbing only slightly on occasions. I passed Summit Reservoir No. 1 that lay frozenly nestled in the trees on the north side of the trail.

At one point I left the trail and walked over to an exposed outcrop of the volcanic basalt that forms the top of the Grand Mesa. The hard layer of basalt probably provided the necessary cap that kept the mesa from eroding away like the valleys around it.

When I reached within about a quarter mile from the Kannah Crossing the trail began climbing sharply up the ridge. I stayed slightly off the trail on the right side, digging the spikes of my snowshoes in with my toes, trying not to tear up the trail for any skiers who might venture out this way.

At the Kannah Crossing the trail bent back heading in the direction of the trailhead. The trail continued to climb as it worked its way through the trees. The sun peered through the clouds from time to time and shed some light through the thick stands of trees. Piles of snow would slide off the heavily burdened boughs and hit with a thud on the snow covered ground. I must have turned to look at least a dozen times thinking that someone, or something, was near.

I made it back to the Lion's Loop and followed it to the right for a couple hundred yards to the top of Will's Hill. I was hoping a skier would come along so I could watch them go down the hill. I saw two skiers that side stepped their way to the bottom but nobody appeared to entertain my curiosity so I continued on to the trailhead.

There were four cars in the parking lot when I set out and 3 hours later the place was packed. Even with all the cars I only met a few people on the Vista Loop and a couple on the last leg of the Lion's Loop as I approached the trailhead. It looked like the Skyway was the place to be today.