Lake of the Woods Trail not your typical Grand Mesa trail

Lake of the Woods Trail not your typical Grand Mesa trail

The Lake of the Woods trail might not be the best choice during monsoon season, but it’s still a great summer day getaway.


Lake of the Woods Trail

Drive time and distance: 1 hour, 3 minutes; 46.4 miles

Elevation: 9,997-10,350 feet

Length: 5.3 miles

Hiking Time: 3 hours

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Looking for a “typical” Grand Mesa National Forest trail? One that meanders up and down short dark-timbered hills that spill into broad, wet mountain meadows?

A trail where the crest of a rocky ridge towers along one side and the dark timber gives way to sprawling aspen before the pine take over again?

Some place where you might see a moose, a golden eagle or a golden mantled ground squirrel?

Try Lake of the Woods Trail. It leads to Bull Basin and Bull Creek. For you anglers, the upper mile of this stream is easily fished and it has several good pools. Downstream, though, the majority of Bull Creek is steep and brushy, and much of the stream has poor accessibility.

Hikers, hang on just a moment, while I pass on this valuable angling information: Bull Creek reservoirs 1 and 2 and the connecting channels require fishing by artificial flies and lures only, and a bag, possession and size limit for trout of two fish 16 inches or longer.

If you’re a hiking angler, keep that in mind. It doesn’t make any difference if you’re just here for the hike, which is well worth it, and generally typical of what you’ll find across the vast Grand Mesa.

The trail is open to hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking. The area is closed to motorized traffic. Amazingly, the mosquitoes did not swarm the other day. Of course, even the mosquitoes couldn’t dodge all that rain.

I can tell you from first-hand experience, this trail is slippery when wet, as it was the other day when it poured.

You can hike around most of the wet meadows and puddles from amazing amounts of moisture this year, but you’ll still get wet. If you don’t mind wet feet, tennis shoes are fine here.

This time of year, it’s not too cold.

Lake of the Woods Trail flows in, out and around a lush forest with meadows of thick, tall grass and wildflowers, patches of low-growing Oregon grape, dense stands of Aspen, Douglas fir and Englemann spruce.

It bobs up, down, over and around small intermittent streams and across a twisting and rocky terrain that includes splendid glimpses of the Crag Crest, the top ridge line of the Grand Mesa that runs parallel to this trail.

This ‘crag’ crest is a long rocky ridge left behind by two parallel glaciers in the last ice age. It’s about six miles long and reaches an elevation of 11,160 feet. By contrast, the trail head for Lake of the Woods is at about 10,200 feet.

Lake of the Woods Trail actually gives up a couple hundred feet of elevation from the trail head, but climbs again. That’s really when it’s slippery when wet.

To reach the Lake of the Woods Trail head (Forest Service Trail 506), travel east from Grand Junction on Interstate 70 for 20 miles to the Grand Mesa/Powderhorn exit (49). That’s Colorado Highway 65, a National Scenic and Historic Byway. It travels over the top of Grand Mesa.

Go through the town of Mesa, past Powderhorn Ski Area and head into the forest. About two miles past the Mesa Lakes Resort area, on the last long curve before heading up the final stretch to the top of Grand Mesa, you’ll come to Mile Marker 38.

Beyond the mile marker is a long cabled guard rail. Just past that, turn left on graveled Forest Road 250. (Before your navigator has a fit, this Forest Service Road is not marked.)

Travel four-tenths of a mile to a parking area large enough for horse trailers at the end of the road.

About 1.5 miles from the trail head, you’ll come to the misspelled junction of Lake of the Woods Trail 506 and Bull Creek “Cutofe” Trail 506-1A. If you take the Bull Creek Cutoff, you’ll wind your way over to the Bull Creek Reservoirs and eventually to the road that leads past Waterdog Reservoir and back to Highway 65 across from Jumbo Reservoir.

If you stick to the Lake of the Woods trail, however, you’ll generally follow the ridge line of the Crag Crest to Bull Basin. In about 10 minutes, you’ll come to a few other trail junctions, but stick to the right, or toward the ridge line, and you’ll pop up to Bull Basin Reservoir 1.

You can continue on this trail all the way to the Cottonwood Trail junction, a few miles farther east and slightly north.

I turned around here as the sky opened up and poured on me. The rain felt great, though. Living in the arid west, you have to love that moisture.

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