Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado

Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado

The Crag Crest Trail is located in Grand Mesa National Forest, one hour from Grand Junction, CO. It is a popular area in the summer for hiking, fishing, and camping; in the winter, for snowmobiling and cross country skiing. The Crag Crest trail is well known for its 2 mile long "crest" or ridge that provides great views of Colorado's Highest Mesa, hence the name, "grand mesa". There is nothing technical about this hike, and even older kids and dogs can do this trail. On the weekend we chose to come here, there were fires all in the West, so we didn't have great views. However, on a clear day you can see all the way to the San Juan Mountains, the LaSal Mountains in Utah, and more! The best time of year to hike this is typically late June through September when the snow is gone and the trails are dry.

The most popular way to hike this is as a loop, which is 11.3 miles RT, and what we chose to do. However, the lower section of trail consists of tons of down/dead trees, no shade, and only one lake with easy access for dogs to swim in or to filter water from. If I were to do this trail again, I would do it as an out and back. Hike the upper trail for about 5 miles one way to where the "crest" ends, and then turn around. You don't miss out on anything on the lower trail, and this will skip all the boring and hot parts of the loop. 

Here From Grand Junction, CO head East on I-70 and take exit 49 for HWY65. You will see signs for Grand Mesa. Follow this road for 33 miles. Turn left into the signed "Crag Crest Trailhead". It is a giant parking lot with a port-a-potty. Here is a driving map from Grand Junction, CO. Total drive time from Grand Junction is about 1 hour.


Distance: 11.3 mile loop
Elevation gain: 1,388 ft ascent, 1,333 descent
Time: 5-7 hours
Dog friendly? Yes, off leash
Kid friendly? Ages 12+
Fees/Permits? None

Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
There are two trailheads you can begin to hike - we chose the East TH, which is right off the road, and provides easiest access to the crest.
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
This trail gradually gains elevation very slowly. Over 5 miles you will only gain about 900 ft!
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
At the first trail split, stay left. This is about 10 minutes into the hike. If you decide to do the loop, you will return here from the right.
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
Pass by a boulder field. Honestly this area reminded me of the Uintas!
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
At 1.0 mile, hike up the first and only switchback to reach the crest. You should also be able to see Wolverine Lake.
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
At 1.6 miles stay right for the crest.
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
Pass by a nice meadow on the left.
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
You'll see many "trails" leading to the cliff edge, but only a few actually had good views.
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
Hike through a section with a lot of downed trees.
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
At 3 miles, the fun begins along the crest! Now this is what we came here for!
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
This was so cool! 
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
One small switchback.
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
Wow, I can't imagine what these views must be like when there aren't fires in the whole Western US!
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
At the top of the crest, it was time for a photo op! The lake below me is Butts Lake haha!
This shirt is made by Duluth Trading Co! I love their Pier Genius t-shirt because it has SPF built in, smell-proof material, and is quick drying. The shorts are from Amazon and are the best spandex-style yoga shorts for hiking, plus very affordable.
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
Gotta keep moving! We weren't even quite halfway done yet.
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
Ok Charlie, time to snap a good photo of you too! Overall he was doing really well - he was drinking a lot of my water yet it was only 70F. 
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
Ahhh so pretty, I love ridge hikes!
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
My favorite section of the crest, probably because it was the most narrow section.
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
Ashley is a strong hiker, and loved this trail too. 
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
If you plan on doing this hike as an out and back, and you reach this spot, I recommend turning around. Below this is where the trail turns back to dirt and downed trees, and honestly becomes boring the next 4 miles.
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
A few switchbacks to drop in elevation.
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
Stopping by Upper Eggleston Lake to let Charlie swim, and for me to filter water. After 6 miles I was down to 1/2 liter, so I knew I would need to more to make it out the last 4 miles since Charlie drank most of it.
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
At 7 miles, turn right, to start making the loop back.
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
And this is what most of the lower trail looks like....boring, hot, dry, sandy. This was the one good view we had looking back to the Crest.
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
Which way should we go, Charlie!?
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
At 10.8 miles reach another trail split. This one is a little confusing, but its a 3-way intersection and you'll want to turn right to get back to the East TH. It's confusing because the arrow points right for both West/East TH, but this will take you back to that first trail split.
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado
We made it back to the car and total hiking time including all of our photo stops, lunch break, etc., was 5.5 hours.
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado, Cobbett Lake Campground
There are tons of campgrounds to choose from in the area, and I randomly chose the Cobbett Lake Campground. Typically we like free, dirt road camping, but because neither of us were familiar with this area and we wouldn't arrive until midnight, we felt better just paying to reserve a campsite. Recreation.gov says that the water service was suspended here, and that wasn't true, the water pump was working perfectly. Always call the forest ranger and ask before your trip so you know how much water to bring. This campground was really clean, however it is close to the road so the sound of cars was annoying.
Hiking the Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa, Colorado, Cobbett Lake Campground
This giant buck was within 30 feet of our campsite - how cool!

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