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Grand Mesa Crag Crest Loop

Difficult
 4.6 (13) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A subalpine ridge traverse that offers the sensation of flying over basalt, meadows and along lakes.


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Map Key

10.9

Miles

17.6

KM

91%

Runnable

11,170' 3,405 m

High

10,242' 3,122 m

Low

1,521' 464 m

Up

1,540' 469 m

Down

5%

Avg Grade (3°)

28%

Max Grade (16°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Fall Colors · Lake · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Only foot travel is allowed on the crest section of trail between the East Trailhead and the Cottonwood Lakes Trail junction. Bike and horse travel is allowed on the lower loop portion and the crest trail between the West Trailhead and the Cottonwood Lakes Trail junction.

Overview

A classic loop that is part of the Grand Mesa 60k, 50 Mile and 100 Mile courses. Wildflowers and fall colors add to the scenic vistas of the Book and Roan Cliffs, the West Elk Range and the San Juan Range (on a clear day). The trail is a mix of dirt singletrack and talus tread with the occasional root or waterbar to navigate. Be sure to take a break from watching your step to take in the views.

Need to Know

No water available at the campground. The previous wellhead has been dismantled and the USFS is now required to chlorinate water sources or close them.

Runner Notes

Some sections of the ridge are exposed and afternoon thunderstorms are likely in the summer. Snow often lingers on the ridge until early July.

This is one of the best runs in Colorado! Amazing views, hard climbs, and fun downhill! It is also part of the Grand Mesa Ultras course.

Description

From the West Trailhead, follow signage for Crag Crest Trail #711 (Crag Crest Loop) as you gradually climb through open meadows. At the first trail junction head left following signs for the Crag Crest Loop and Cottonwood Lakes Trail. The steepest climb comes between mile 1 and 2 as you gain the craggy ridge.

When you get to the Cottonwood Lakes Trail junction, head right to keep on the ridge. Follow the ridge as it passes through forests, meadows and along the talus strewn ridge that is only a few feet wide at points. Once you reach the highpoint on the crest you have one small climb before you descend to the lakes below. Keep right at all of the trail junctions (namely the Crag Crest Lower Loop Trail #711.1A at around 6.5 miles in), always choosing singletrack if there is an option until mile 10 where you can either take a left and make a perfect loop, or go right and rejoin the trail to get back to the West Trailhead (right option shown on map).

The final miles have some deceiving climbs so don't go all out getting to the crest at the beginning. This clockwise direction is the one used during the annual Mesa Monument Striders race, but the loop is great to run in either direction from either the West or East Trailhead.

Alternatively, you can run this loop counterclockwise to warm up your legs. Ascend to the top of Crag Crest (11,189') for endless views in all directions. In this direction, you'll similarly pass by multiple lakes, through a volcanic rocky landscape, and end by descending a fun, technical downhill back to the parking lot that will leave your legs wanting more—if they can handle it.

Flora & Fauna

July is generally peak columbine season and the aspens in the fall are wonderful along the trail. Ample opportunities for small mammal sightings including marmots, pika and porcupine.

History & Background

The highest point on the Grand Mesa, Leon Peak, lies just to the east of the crest and was previously the site of a fire lookout. Geologically, the crest is a remnant of the volcanic vents that fed the Grand Mesa shield volcano when is last erupted ~10 million years ago.

Contacts

Shared By:

Andrew Walters

Trail Ratings

  4.6 from 13 votes

#1

in Grand Mesa

#740

Overall
  4.6 from 13 votes
5 Star
62%
4 Star
38%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#1

in Grand Mesa

#145

in Colorado

#740

Overall
35 Views Last Month
7,264 Since Jul 13, 2015
Difficult

0%
0%
29%
7%
50%
14%

Photos

Running the Grand Mesa Ultras
Mar 15, 2018 near Cedaredge, CO
Runners on the Grand Mesa Ultras Course traversing Crag Crest
Mar 13, 2018 near Cedaredge, CO
Wolverine Lake
Jul 14, 2015 near Cedaredge, CO
Cruising the Crag Crest!
Mar 13, 2018 near Cedaredge, CO
Rocky singletrack atop the crest at ~11,000 ft.
Jul 13, 2015 near Cedaredge, CO
The big view!
Mar 15, 2018 near Cedaredge, CO

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Jul 4, 2018
Aimee Crittendon
Jun 18, 2018
Vince M
10.6mi — 2h 12m