Grand Mesa Crag Crest Loop
ElevationAscent: 1,521' 464 m
Descent: -1,540' -469 m
High: 11,170' 3,405 m
Low: 10,242' 3,122 m
GradeAvg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 28% (16°)
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“A subalpine ridge traverse that offers the sensation of flying over basalt, meadows and along lakes.”— Andrew Walters
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.
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.
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