Round Trip Distance: 1.5 miles
Elevation: 9858 - 9918 feet
Cellphone: 0-2 bars
Usage: Hiking - Biking - Equestrian - Dogs
Time: 1 hr.
Facilities: Vault toilet
Trailhead: Glacier Springs or Mesa Lakes Picnic Area
Fee: $5 - Glacier Springs, none - Mesa Lake Picnic Area
Attractions: Scenic lake, sub alpine ecosystem, wildlife, wildflowers
View Shoreline Trail in a larger map
The Mesa Lake Shoreline trail is located on the northwest side of the Grand Mesa in the Mesa Lakes Recreational Area. The trail is only about 1.5 miles in length but along with the Crag Crest trail it is probably one of the 'must do' hikes on the Grand Mesa. The trail has seen some significant improvements by the Forest Service over the years and in its present condition a person probably wouldn't have any trouble pushing a baby stroller over the entire distance. The only real questionable spots are immediately around the Glacier Springs trailhead where there is currently some ongoing construction.
This post begins at the Glacier Springs trailhead. It is also possible to park at the Mesa Lakes Picnic Area and begin from there. You can get to there by turning off the highway at the Mesa Lakes Lodge turnoff and then taking the first left turn next to a couple of cabins before you get to the lodge. If you follow that little paved road for a hundred yards or so you will come to the parking area. Another option would be to park at the Jumbo Reservoir area and walk in. The only place at present that you have to pay the Forest Service fee is at the Glacier Springs trailhead.
Currently the easiest access to the beginning of the trail is by crossing the dam. It looks like there will soon be a new section of trail that passes just below the dam.
There were a couple of little chipmunks climbing around on the tall fringed bluebells feasting on the flowers. It is surprising that the leaves were strong enough to hold their weight and that the flowers were part of their diet.
The first fork in the trail comes up right after crossing the dam. The right fork takes you on the Deep Creek Cutoff trail. The 'Open To' marker on the sign post is a little confusing. It indicates that all the trails are only open to hiking but the Deep Creek trail by itself is a popular mountain biking trail. Of course, this is the Deep Creek Cutoff trail, although that isn't what the sign designates, so maybe this section is hiking only. The actual Deep Creek trail begins on the other side of Sunset Lake near some cabins.
From this point on the well made trail begins its enchanting atmosphere as it begins to follow the shoreline through the stands of spruce trees.
The next off chute begins the Lost Lake trail which also leads by South Mesa Lake.
The trail builders placed little wooden bridges across each of the streams along the way. You might have any youngsters you have in tow keep their eyes out for trolls. I have heard that if you encounter any they are all very friendly in these parts.
Mesa Lake sits in a very sheltered area that allows it to remain as smooth as glass lots of the time.
Watching a squirrel eating mushrooms reminds me of the old adage that 'just because you see an animal eat something doesn't mean that it is safe for humans'. I say that because I saw where the squirrels had been gnawing on the top of a King Bolete mushroom and also on a little brown mushroom. The King Bolete is safe for humans (cook it first) but the little brown mushroom isn't.
There are a few benches beside the trail where you can sit and watch the fish jumping and the other critters running about filling their bellies. You might also spot a beaver or deer.
The section of trail along the east shore travels through a talus slope of basalt boulders. Years ago this section was pretty tough going but now it is as smooth as the rest of the trail. There are quite a few good spots to fish around Mesa Lake but this area can be especially productive.
The trail continues around the lake until it reaches the access road to the Mesa Lake Picnic Area. Take a left here and follow the road to get back to the Glacier Springs trailhead.
The Mesa Lakes Resort has some boats on each of the lakes that you can rent for your own use. This boat at the Mesa Lake Picnic Area made for a very picturesque scene. My camera doesn't seem to quite capture all the beauty and peacefulness of the moment but it felt a little heavenly.
From the picnic area you can get back on the Shoreline trail by passing between the restroom and the kiosk.
From here the trail wraps around the high mountain that separates Mesa Lake and Beaver Lake. It is just over a quarter mile from the Mesa Lake Picnic Area back to the Glacier Springs trailhead. It's kinda like it took you a little over a mile to get here but only a quarter mile to get back.
From the side of the mountain you can look over Beaver Lake and see the Mesa Lakes Lodge nestled in the trees on the opposite shore.
The twinberry honeysuckle ripens early on the mesa. The berries are so bitter that you won't find them very tasty. I have never heard of anyone making jelly from them like you can from the also bitter chokecherry.
Most of the people that hike the Mesa Lake Shoreline trail are probably campers. There are some nice connecting trails between the Jumbo Reservoir campground and Mesa Lake. The lodge also has numerous cabins available to rent year round. It is a real treat to rent one of the cabins with a fireplace in the winter time and spend the next day enjoying your favorite Nordic activity. The Shoreline trail is a real jewel in the Grand Mesa National Forest. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.