Grand Mesa provides colorful mixture of outdoor adventures

Whitewater Creek Falls on top of the Grand Mesa at Lands End.



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Whitewater Creek Falls on top of the Grand Mesa at Lands End.

The view from Skyway Point displays green and gold aspen trees around the Mesa Lakes and West Bench area on the Grand Mesa on Color Sunday.



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The view from Skyway Point displays green and gold aspen trees around the Mesa Lakes and West Bench area on the Grand Mesa on Color Sunday.

QUICKREAD

EXPERT PICK

Ryan Fricke, recreation planner for the Grand Valley Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service, offered his suggestions of things to do on Grand Mesa.

In one day: “I haven’t done it yet but at some point I’d like to hike Crag’s Crest Trail. It’s a good little climb and the highest elevation of the mesa. It’s the spine I guess, if it had a spine.”

In two days: “I’d say disbursed camping with your own self-contained camper or a tent. It’s a great way to get more of the flavor of the Grand Mesa. Off-route camping is allowed 100-feet off the trails. I like the High Tower area east of Colbran. It’s a good place to see moose and it has good streams.”

In a weekend, plus one day: “I’d hike Kannah Creek Basin. Our trail crews spend a lot of time up there and there are 40-plus miles of foot, horse or mountain bike trails. Give yourself at least three days to do a backpacking trail on the loop trail. You can also leave a car at Kannah Creek and hike up to another car at Lake Carson on the top. It climbs from 7,000 feet to 10,500 feet.”

“I’d also highly recommend looking into one of the many outfitters that will tailor a trip to any ability and time limit.”



The place to get away, when you can’t get away, is Grand Mesa.

Just a weekend, a day or more among the sparkling aspens, clean water and fresh air will be enough to revive even the most tired soul.

IN A DAY:

A simple drive atop Grand Mesa, Colorado’s largest flat-topped mountain, rewards with breathtaking views of the Grand Valley, perfect for the novice or professional photographer.

The drive along the Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway, which follows Colorado Highway 65 from the town of Mesa and south to the town of Cedaredge, winds through dramatic landscape, lush forest, and small mountain lodges.

Most of the mesa is within the Grand Mesa National Forest, which has more than 300 sparkling blue lakes and photographic vantage points of every angle.

In late spring, the forest floor is covered in wild flowers. In the summer, the contrast of green hues and muted blue skies provide dappled light for wildlife viewing. In the fall, mushrooms of every color, and a few fungi hunters, cover the yellow and orange leaf covered trails. In winter, snowy white can be a wonderful challenge.

IN TWO DAYS:

Hiking should be included in any overnight stay.

From the extremely easy Discovery Trail, located directly behind the Forest Service Visitor’s Center, to the much more challenging 10-mile loop of Crag’s Crest Trail — both are just off the highway on top of the mesa — there’s a walk for any ability.

Some trails, such as the Lost Lake hike, end with a destination while others remain rugged paths over rocky terrain going nowhere in particular.

Not up for a hike? Many of the trails are open to mountain bikes, horses, motorcyles, ATVs and snowmobiles.

Tired and hungry Grand Mesa visitors can enjoy a good meal and friendly atmosphere available in the many dining options available on Grand Mesa.

Powderhorn Mountain Resort offers a mountain top barbecue grill to weekend visitors only. Burgers, brats, grilled chicken and soft drinks are served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The grill accepts cash only.

The town of Mesa surprisingly has one of the best Mexican restaurants in the state, according to many online reviewers. The Mesa Grande Restaurant, 10983 Highway 65, serves Mexican cuisine, from tamales to enchiladas, at fair prices with quick service.

The Wagon Wheel Restaurant, also in Mesa, offers live music on summer nights, gluten-free meals and outdoor dining. It also has a full bar.

The Historic Alexander Lake Lodge, 21211 Baron Lake Drive, has both dining and overnight bed and breakfast accommodation options. On the second floor, the Paul Bunyon room features a larger-than-life king-sized bed. The third floor houses the sleigh-bed room, perfect for a romantic getaway.

Rooms include two complimentary cocktails upon check-in, morning mimosas and fresh-baked cinnamon rolls. Reservations, especially on weekends, are highly recommended.

IN A WEEKEND, PLUS A DAY:

Try all the weekend has to offer, then enjoy the calm and quiet of a weekday night in a private cabin rental.

Many cabins are available for rent, some by private owners and others at established lodges, rustic or modern, and most are at reasonable prices.

A family-friendly favorite are the cabins at Grand Mesa Lodge, located near Island Lake at 25861 Highway 65.

Fourteen rustic cabins are available year-round. They include one or two private bedrooms, living spaces and full kitchens. Prices range $100–130 a night.

A steep hike leads to Island Lake, a favorite among trout fishermen, where canoe and boat rentals are available. Snowmobiles are available to rent during the winter months.

Cabins include barbecue grills, fire pits, coffeepots and microwaves. Propane heat is available but there are no televisions or Wi-Fi or cell phone service.

In the evening, guests enjoy campfires and roasted s’mores.

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