Round Trip Distance: 6 miles (rim and back)
Round Trip Distance: 13 miles
Elevation: 9732 - 10,442 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Usage: Hiking - Biking - Equestrian - Dogs
Time: 7 hrs. 30 mins.
Facilities: Vault toilet
Trailhead: Jumbo Reservoir or Glacier Springs
Attractions: wildflowers, scenery, wildlife, lakes, solitude
View Deep Creek in a larger map
The Deep Creek Trail is located in the Grand Mesa National Forest east of Grand Junction, Colorado. The Deep Creek Trail runs from the vicinity of Mesa Lakes, on the north end, across the top of the Grand Mesa, to the Lands End Road where it descends to its southern most point at the junction of the Coal Creek Trail. The first several miles of the trail from Mesa Lakes to the top of the mesa travels mostly through pine and aspen trees. Once on top of the mesa the trail crosses meadow after meadow of grass and wildflowers. There are many ponds and lakes along the trail with opportunities to view moose and other animals.
The beginning of the Deep Creek Trail can be a little challenging to find if you are starting from the Mesa Lakes area. The official start of Deep Creek 709 is from the road just west of Sunset Lake next to the driveway for one of the private cabins. You can begin at Jumbo Reservoir and follow the West Bench Trail until it gets to the road and then walk to your left for a little ways until you get to the trail. Better yet, you can follow the West Bench Trail for 3/4 of a mile and take the Deep Creek 709.1A trail that makes a shortcut up the hill to the road where the 709 trail begins. Another choice would be to pay the entrance fee and park at the Glacier Springs trailhead by Mesa Lake. You can walk across the dam and get on the Deep Creek 709.1 Cut Off Trail. I chose to follow the West Bench Trail to the start of the Deep Creek Trail and on my return trip I came back on the cut off trail.
After leaving the road and passing the cabin the trail begins climbing through the aspen and pine trees. There are plenty of arrows on the trees marking the trail. The trail has a modest slope to it for about a quarter mile before leveling off. About 2 miles from where I started out at Jumbo Reservoir I came to the junction of the Deep Creek Cut Off Trail. There weren't any signs to mark the trail but I could tell from my map that that is what it was.
The trail passed through several clearings. All the sloughs were dried out so other than the dew on the grass I didn't have any trouble keeping my feet dry. Occasionally a pond or lake could be seen off to the side of the trail. The undergrowth of grass, bushes and wildflowers was thickest in areas where the sunlight was able to penetrate the thick canopy of the trees. Monk's Hood, Fireweed and Red Clover seemed to be the latest wildflowers in the height of their bloom.
Just over 2 1/4 miles into the hike the trail began climbing again. I was expecting the trail to be a lot steeper as it climbed up to the top of the mesa but the climb was stretched out over almost 3/4 of a mile and other than an occasional short burst of an increase in grade it turned out to be a pussy cat.
I was on top of the mesa at about the 3 mile point. Since I had hiked about a mile to get to the beginning of the Deep Creek Trail the free map that I had picked up at the Visitor Center by Ward Lake was accurate in saying that it was 2 miles to the top of the mesa.
The next mile of hiking took me across several meadows toward Anderson Reservoir Number 2. There were a few game and cattle trails that criss-crossed the trail in places, especially near the reservoir, but I could tell from the map of the Grand Mesa, that I had purchased, that I needed to pass to the left of the reservoir. The free map indicated much of the same thing but will a lot less detail. I also had the topo map loaded into my GPS and it showed the Deep Creek Trail on it so I was able to follow it with ease.
After passing Anderson Reservoir Number 2 the trail crosses FS 100 Road which is called the Anderson Reservoir Road on some maps. There is a Deep Creek 709 trail sign on the other side of the road but the trail is pretty faint. The trail is following an old road that is completely over grown. The trail passes on the left side of Anderson Reservoir Number 1. After a short distance it comes to a fence. The gate was stretched so tight that I had to climb over it to get to the other side.
The trail was pretty faint in place for the next half mile. They were running the first annual Grand Mesa 100 so I expect that after all the runners go through there ought to be a pretty nice path to follow. For the rest of the way over to the Lands End Road the moose were doing a good job of marking up the trail. It seemed to be their official thoroughfare.
There are some restored cabins from the old Raber cow camp where the Deep Creek Trail crosses the Lands End Road. This is where I turned around and headed back. The trail continues on over the side of the mesa to the Coal Creek Trail but I decided to save that for another day. The official Deep Creek Trail is pretty faint around the Lands End Road. In this picture the trail is behind the upper cabin but you can also get on it by following a path through the trees where the trail becomes a lot more apparent.
I had an very pleasant hike back across the mesa. I don't know what I enjoyed more, the long rolling meadows on the top of the mesa, or the shaded corridors of the forest heading back to Mesa Lakes. I do know that I really like this trail.
When I made it to the junction of the cut off trail I took a right and followed it all the way to its end at Mesa Lake. From there I followed the paved paths back to where I started at Jumbo. I had been out 7 1/2 hours but I probably spent a half hour visiting with the folks at the Grand Mesa 100 aid station at Anderson Reservoir and maybe almost another hour chasing pictures of stuff along the way. The only mosquitoes were around the lakes and I don't think I received any bites from them. I was wearing a long sleeve shirt and long pants and had dabbed a little Off on my head and hands and that seemed to do the trick. I went through 100 ounces of water and 100 ounces of Gatorade, a bagel and 2 energy bars.
The Grand Mesa is hard to beat for summer hiking when the temperatures are hitting 100F in the valley. I consider the Deep Creek Trail to be one of the best kept secrets on the mesa. It would be nice to see more trail markers in a few places but all in all it is a real jewel. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.