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Grand Mesa Crag Crest Loop

 4.7 (9)
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10.9 Miles 17.6 Kilometers

1,521' 464 m


-1,540' -469 m



Avg Grade (3°)


Max Grade (16°)

11,170' 3,405 m


10,242' 3,122 m


Shared By Andrew Walters



Getting forecast...

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

Andrew Walters

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.


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.


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 hike in either direction from either the West or East Trailhead.

Alternatively, you can hike 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 moreā€”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.


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Your Check-Ins


Sep 9, 2018
Tyler Hincy
Lower trail still closed. A lot of logging going on. 8mi
Sep 6, 2018
Nick Greb
Just did part of the trail today
Sep 2, 2018
Karla Knight
Trail was closed thru end of 2018 on whole lower portion. 8mi
Sep 2, 2017
Woody Curran
Minor detour near east end due to timber cutting. 10.5mi
Jun 20, 2017
Melissa K
Great day - completed West parking over the crest to complete the loop. 10.9mi — 3h 45m
Aug 14, 2016
Patrick Hanley
4h 15m
Aug 13, 2016
CeCelia Burgess

Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 9 votes


in Grand Mesa


  4.7 from 9 votes
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100 Views Last Month
4,629 Since Jul 13, 2015
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Great hike with beautiful views a long the crest. A bit buggy in some places, I would recommend bug spray. A good hike for dogs too - there are multiple places for swimming/drinks etc. (minus the crest). Jun 20, 2017

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