Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Skyline Trail Loop-Blue Mountains

The Skyline Trail is in the Blue or Abajo Mountains in the Manti-La Sal National Forest in southeast Utah. The Dry Wash forest access road leads north from Highway 191 on the north side Blanding 11.6 miles to a forest road junction near the Nizhoni Campground. Forest Road 095 on the left leads west 5.8 miles to a trail that is marked No. 013.

A short distance up Trail 013 is marked as the Blue Creek-Allen Canyon Trail and it is noted that it is 2.3 miles to the Skyline Trail. The trailhead elevation is about 8500 feet and the climb to the junction with the Skyline Trail is about 1340 feet up to about 9840 feet. This trail is open to hikers and horse riders.

On the way up there are good views of Mt. Linnaeus at 10,958 feet. The trail is gravelly most of the way and climbs steadily. The lower segment of trail is mostly Gambel Oaks with scattered Ponderosa Pines.

The views to the south overlook the upper end of the Allen Canyon area. The road leading to the trailhead also has views of this canyon area. The Bears Ears are visible in the distance.

It took me 1:30 hours to reach the junction with the Skyline Trail. There aren't any trail markers at the top but the junction is clear. The Skyline Trail is 5.1 miles long and this junction is near the middle. In addition to the views of Mt. Linnaeus and Allen Canyon, there are skyline views into Tuerto Canyon.

I turned left to descend back toward Forest Road 095. Between the Blue Mountain peaks to the north, the La Sal Mountains are faintly visible in the distance. At this high elevation Spruce and Fir trees replace the Ponderosa Pines.

The descent from the skyline is about 2.3 miles and much of the way passes through Aspen forest. As the trail nears the forest road the Gambel Oaks come back and there are also Maples and a few patches of the evergreen Manzanita.

It took me a total of 3:05 hours to arrive back at the Forest Road 095, leaving a 3 mile walk back to my starting point to complete the loop. This trailhead for the Skyline Trail is well marked and the same hike in the opposite direction could start here. There are good views to the south all along the road. A large alcove is visible that may have an arch on the right side.

About 1.3 miles west of the Skyline trailhead is a view point called the Causeway. I saw more than 10 deer on this trip and two groups of turkeys. My total hike took 4:20 hours for about 7.6 miles. I carried and drank 3 liters of water on a 65 F degree mid October day.

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