Get Out: Mesa Top Trail offers beautiful view, trails

Daily Sentinel special sections editor Andy Smith navigates part of the Mesa Top trail. The trail has fantastic views, especially during the summer.

Julie Norman takes in the view during a break from riding on the Mesa Top Trail.

A few weeks ago my boyfriend and I got up at 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday to join the Singletrack Sisters, COPMOBA and volunteers for a trail-building day on Grand Mesa. We were getting a chance to help with an extension of the Mesa Top trail, and the lure of cooler temperatures was too much to resist.

After a long drive up Colorado Highway 65, down Lands End Road and down Flowing Park Road, we arrived at the work site and got started. 

We listened to a safety briefing, then divided into groups, grabbed tools and headed out across a rolling meadow toward the rim of the mesa. Dew, still clinging to every strand of grass, soaked my shoes before I’d gone 100 yards. The air was crisp, and the sky was cloudless. Bugs were nonexistent. What a great day to be working on a trail.

Our group headed out to where the new trail would meet the current trail. We were deep in the woods, surrounded by evergreens and small aspens. We formed a great assembly line of sorts: One person moved rocks; one person filled in holes from rocks with dirt; one person raked out the line of the trail from one flag to the next; and other came along and removed weeds.

Soon, all that could be heard was the smack of a sledgehammer and the scrape of a rogue across weeds and roots. Trail work creates teamwork rather quickly. Groups have to communicate with one another, get second opinions and offer or ask for assistance quite often. It’s a great way to get to know people. 

By the time we stopped for lunch, our group was worn out. We ate, looking out toward the San Juans, and talked about favorite trails in the area.

After lunch we spent the last few hours perfecting our piece of trail and working to build out far enough to meet up with the trail created by the group behind us. When all of the work was done we gathered our tools and trudged back through the meadow. Only now, instead of hiking across flowers and grass, we were hiking on a trail. An actual trail existed almost all the way back to the base camp.

When we arrived back at camp, a huge spread of beverages, burgers, brats and brownies awaited. There were bags of chips, salsa and even door prizes. I ended up with a great White Brothers Mountain Racing Products T-shirt and an REI T-shirt.

The afternoon slowly moved along as we chatted with other volunteers and enjoyed some great and well-earned food. The Singletrack Sisters sure know how to sponsor a trail building day. Of course, it couldn’t have happened without great folks like the U.S. Forest Service and COPMOBA, either.

The next weekend, still awed by the abundance of wildflowers we’d seen, I headed back up to Grand Mesa to ride a portion of the Mesa Top trail with a few friends.

The parking area for the trail is just south of the Lands End Road turnoff. Once you see Lands End Road, keep driving, and you’ll soon see a large parking area with a sign saying “Mesa Top Trail” on the right-hand side of the road. Park here. You can’t miss the large trail sign for Mesa Top near the bathrooms. 

Our group planned an out-and-back ride. We decided to bike out about four or five miles and then turn around. This way we would get to ride part of the new section of trail as well as the original section.

The Mesa Top trail can be a bit tricky. It’s rocky in places, so some technical skill is required. The “out” portion of our out-and-back was quite entertaining. Narrow singletrack took us across meadows, into forests and right out to the edge of the mesa. The views were spectacular.

We did miss the turn to the new section of trail but soon realized our mistake and found our way back. After about four miles, start looking for a large rock cairn and flag on your left. If you begin to encounter low-hanging limbs on the trail, you’ve probably gone too far.

The “back” portion of the ride is a little more strenuous. Rocky sections that were fun to roll down on the way in are now a great uphill challenge. Still, it seemed we made quick work of our return trip, and soon we were back to a lovely lake near the start of our ride.

I stopped one more time to look around; everywhere I turned there were flowers: yellow, purple, white and pink.

There truly is no appropriate way to describe the scenery on the mesa this time of year. Your best bet is to just get out and enjoy it for yourself.

Daily Sentinel online advertising coordinator Julie Norman can’t do enough mountain biking and backpacking on her days off. Email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


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