Highline Loop Trail, also called Native Lake Trail, will make your jaw drop with its never-ending breathtaking scenery from start to finish. But it’s not only beautiful, it is a solid workout traversing through high elevation in a somewhat long trail. The hike is rated moderate to difficult and the trail is lightly used giving hikers a sense of serenity and seclusion from the city’s hustle and bustle.
Highline Loop Trail was designated as a National Recreation Trail in 1979. It is a 17 mile long backcountry loop trail that gains an elevation of 1,080 feet and traverses through tundra clad plateau, and forests and meadows in La Plata Mountains along the eastern side of Continental Divide near Leadville.
To finish the famous Highline Loop National Recreation Trail requires a day hike. It is recommended for all skill level and begins at the parking area at Hagerman Pass Road. From the trailhead, the trail goes uphill through a thick conifer forest. It continues up a very steep hillside slope through long and gentle switchbacks and multiple stream crossings until the top of the ridge. As the forest becomes less dense, a spectacular view of the Continental Divide stretches out on your left. On the second mile, the trail totally opens up and now goes through a wide meadow and across a high tundra clad plateau. The beautiful sceneries of Mt. Massive, the Continental Divide, and some of the fourteeners now fills your view. Then the trail continues at the top of the plateau where you’ll see the divide between the Busk and Rock Creeks.
After the rewarding and satisfying climb, the trail proceeds and passes some small lakes before it turns left on a continuous descent with some moderate switchbacks to Native Lake. Continuing down, the trees become dense again. Ahead, a junction leading to the stunning Native Lake appears on your right. Highline Loop National Recreation Trail continues straight through the west side of the lake into the forest and to a lovely meadow. Mt. Massive and the other neighboring peaks reapppear on sight. The trail goes uphill again through an open meadow on the hillside. Ahead, some trees return as the trail nears the top of the hill- the turnaround point for Highline Loop National Recreation Trail.
From the top, a shuttle is required to continue. If you think you want more, continue downhill to the east to Leadville Fish Hatchery otherwise retrace your step back to Hagerman Pass Road to wrap up your hike.
Before heading out to Highline Loop NRT, here are some tips for you. Start early to be able to complete your hike before sundown. Bring enough water that will get you through this long hike. Also, leashed pets are welcome on trail. No fees required. Let’s go hike this wonderful trail!
From Leadville, drive US Highway 24 and turn west and stay on on County Road 4/ McWethy Drive for 3 miles. Turn right on a three way intersection and stay on County Road 4 to Turquoise Lake for 7.4 miles. On the next three way intersection, turn left and stay at Hagerman Pass Road for 3.6 miles to the parking lot.