Watch: Bootprints Hiking Guide to Argentine North Fork and Half Moon Vista trails at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area
KEYSTONE — With the news that Arapahoe Basin Ski Area had tested snowmaking earlier this week, I decided to check out the new Half Moon Vista trail at A-Basin.
A-Basin, known to many as “The Legend,” is an iconic ski and snowboard hill above 10,500 feet at the Continental Divide. But in recent years A-Basin has made a concerted effort to expand and improve its summer recreational programming.
The new Half Moon Vista trail begins at the Black Mountain Lodge and continues ascending from the end of the Argentine North Fork Trail. To access the Argentine North Fork Trail, just hike to where you would put on your ski or snowboard gear during winter: to the left of the Black Mountain Express Lift line at the Mountain Goat Plaza base.
The very beginning of the hike is on the ski area’s summer road but just a tenth of a mile in, the Argentine North Fork Trail continues for hikers and mountain bikers via a singletrack on the right. The ski area’s disc golf course continues at left.
Through this lower portion I trudged through some man-made snow for a bit — a sign winter is coming. After hiking under the ski area’s new aerial adventure park, which was also completed this summer, the Argentine North Fork Trail switchbacks continuously through wooded portions and across lower-mountain ski runs.
The first few switchbacks to the west gave a great view of the newly-completed terminals for the new Molly Hogan and Pallavicini lifts.
A half mile into the hike, you’ll gain about 200 feet. It’s through here where a hike earlier in the summer will reward with beautiful wildflowers. It’s also here, not too far into the hike, where you’ll begin to realize how great of a job A-Basin did making a hike up ski runs. The Argentine North Fork ascends moderately and through as much forested canopy as possible.
At the 0.75-mile mark of the hike you’ll have gained just under 300 feet. The trail to this point is built well, with well-placed rocks that help with runoff to keep the trail dry and the footing as secure as possible. Through this wooded portion you’ll traverse a few wooden bridges and, if you’re hiking in the fall, you may travel through some more snow like I did.
Through the first mile-or-so of the hike there are several signs reminding you to beware of flying discs. The disc golf course takes somewhat of a different route up the summer slopes, but you’ll likely cross paths with disc golfers on popular days.
While hiking up the mountain and looking down at the ski slopes you can gain a deeper appreciation of the nature of the terrain you’d typically ski quickly through in the winter.
The lower-mountain the slopes we hiked up and across seemed like blue, intermediate runs. But it was actually the beginner Sundance green run — a reminder of how A-Basin’s greens are closer to other ski areas’ blues, and A-Basin’s blues (I’m thinking of you Loafer and Davis) are similar to blacks at other ski areas.
On the ascent to the Black Mountain Lodge at mid-mountain you’ll switchback and reach the summer road a few times. Here just hike across the road and you’ll find the trail on the other side.
At the 1.7-mile mark into the Argentine North Fork Trail and after 700 feet of elevation gain, the views of the East Wall and Lenawee lift open up, as the Black Mountain Lodge comes into view at right. It’s here where I had some trouble finding the trail sign for the Half Moon Vista Trail — it looked like it was knocked or blown over from the cairn that was holding it up. I still found the trail pretty easily one the left near the Lynx Lane winter ski run sign.
Again, it’s an understatement to say A-Basin and their trail builders did a great job with the new Half Moon Vista Trail. Despite navigating steep wooded slopes and bedrock boulders beneath the Lenawee lift, this new half-mile trail continues the mellow, moderate ascent and climb through as much canopy as possible.
At the 2.5-mile mark from the base area, the new trail tops out at 11,875 feet. The singletrack is perfectly carved into the slope leading back down to the summer road. From here, I looped back down to the Black Mountain Lodge to access the top of Argentine North Fork Trail.
Distance: 4.66 miles round-trip
Elevation gain: 1,043 feet
Elevation loss: 1,043 feet
Starting elevation: 10,840 feet
Highest elevation: 11,875 feet
Elapsed time: 1 hour, 45 minutes and 23 seconds
Average speed: 2.65 mph
Average pace: 22.62 minutes-per-mile
Ideal for: Wildflower viewing, trail running, hike with dog,
Parking: Arapahoe Basin Ski Area Early Riser Lot
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