A Drive Through Grand Mesa – Colorado

Fruita, CO (outside Grand Junction)

One of the hikes we had on our agenda during our visit to the Grand Junction area was the Crag Crest Trail on Grand Mesa.  That was until we did a bit of research on the Grand Mesa.

It turns out that the Grand Mesa is the largest flat-topped mountain in the world.  It has an area of about 500 square miles and stretches for about 40 miles east of Grand Junction between the Colorado River and the Gunnison River, its tributary to the south.  Most of the mesa is pretty flat and over 300 lakes and reservoirs are scattered along the top of the formation.  But for us the most important fact about the mesa is that most of it is at ten thousand feet above sea level.  Right now in Colorado that high an elevation means there is still plenty of snow to contend with.  So we put that hike on the “to do later” list and decided to just take a drive through the area (called an “auto hike©” by some people we know!).

To get to the mesa we drove south on Rte. 50 for about 35 miles to the town of Delta.  There we turned east on Rte. 92 for a few miles to the junction with Rte. 65, which is the road through the mesa.  As we left Delta we could see snow covered mountains all around us.

We were hoping to see some wildlife on the mesa (especially Moose) but all we spotted were numerous Yellow-bellied Marmots runnning across the road in front of us.

As the highway climbed up to the mesa the temerature (high 60s below) began to drop and the snow began to pile up.  The numerous lakes at the highest elevations are still covered with ice.

We had read that the visitor center was open for business, but when we arrived there were workers inside setting up but the doors were locked.  The snow around the building was still piled high and the temperature was down to forty degrees.

The visitor center is the starting point for a little nature trail called the Discovery Trail, but the pile of snow next to the building discouraged even the nimble hiker from exploring the trail.

We continued our drive north and came across a sign indicating the trailhead for the Crag Crest Trail, where we had earlier made plans to hike.

But it seemed that the road to the trailhead hadn’t seen much traffic for a while!

The unplowed road to the trailhead

So we just continued our ride across the mesa while enjoying the solitude of the forest.

Rte. 65 crossing Grand Mesa

Hwy. 65 crosses the mesa then descends back down to the small town of Mesa, CO.  From there the road turns to the west and winds through a canyon for about ten miles before ending at I-70.  Then it’s west on the interstate for less than twenty miles back to Grand Junction.

Auto-hiking seems to be the norm here with our weather.  Maybe tomorrow will bring the sun without storms.

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14 Responses to A Drive Through Grand Mesa – Colorado

  1. Ingrid says:

    The Grand Mesa is supposedly really pretty in the summer and home to lots of mosquitos. You wouldn’t think they’d survive at 10,000′. Hope you squeeze in a little hiking this weekend even though the weather forecast isn’t looking too good 😦

  2. Sue says:

    At least you got to see the area and make notes on what to come back to see or do. Some time you just have to settle for an auto hike and some stimulating conversation.

  3. Becky says:

    Thanks for sharing the pictures of Grand Mesa. We’ve never had the opportunity to make it up. Great shot of the marmot.

  4. Nancy says:

    Seeing that much snow would scare me from hiking! Glad you got to look around and hopefully you will get back when there is less snow. Cute picture of the Marmot. Have a fabulous Memorial weekend.

  5. Sorry the snow changed your hiking plans but it looks like you had a lovely drive. Love the Marmot photo!

  6. Erin says:

    Scenic driving beats non-scenic driving. All that snow along the road reminds me of some of the hiking we did by car in the Canadian Rockies — even late into the season.

  7. Hans Kohls says:

    I went to Jr and Sr High School and Grand Junction and did some cross country skiing and snowmobiling on Grand Mesa during those days back in the late 70’s. Glad you had a nice scenic drive.

  8. Jodee Gravel says:

    After that dangerous river crossing in yesterday’s post I’m surprised a little trail-obliterating snow kept you off the trail. Still, you got to see a lot of the mesa while staying dry and warm – that’s a lot of snow!

  9. LuAnn says:

    I’m not sure anyone in the west is having good weather right now. We haven’t seen much of the sun in many days. Here’s hoping for warmer weather for all of us soon. This looks like a place to bookmark for future hiking.

  10. Sarah says:

    It seems that Colorado and much of the West is have a colder (and snowier) than usual spring, while Alaska, especially Southeast Alaska, is much warmer than usual. Still, I’m glad you enjoyed the drive. You’ll just have to plan a return trip.

  11. Laurel says:

    That is a LOT of snow!! An auto hike was a very good idea. Love that cute little yellow bellied marmot in his fur coat. It looks sooooo cold there. Hope you manage to get some hiking in. We depend on you to be our trail blazers! 🙂

  12. pmbweaver says:

    WOW…largest flat-topped mountain in the world….little did I know. And yes…skip this hike for now. I wouldn’t want you two to get snowed in.

    Love the term…Auto-hiking. I must remember that one.

  13. What a pretty way to spend a day without hiking!

  14. Pam says:

    That snow actually looks good to me today. Too hot here at 70 for me I got all cranky and went back to the rv. I’m one of those who likes it between 45 and 65.

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