Round Trip Distance: 3 miles (rim of mesa)
Round Trip Distance: 5 miles
Difficulty: Easy (rim) Strenuous
Elevation: 10,214 - 9382 feet
Cellphone: 0-4 bars
Usage: Hiking - Biking - Equestrian - Dogs
Time: 3 hrs.
Trailhead: Flowing Park Reservoir
Attractions: Scenic views, aspen and conifer forests, wildlife, wildflowers
View Drop Off Trail in a larger map
The Drop Off trail is located in the Flowing Park area of the Grand Mesa National Forest. As you can see from the map the Drop Off trail descends from the top of the mesa down to the area of the Porter Reservoirs. The trail is yet another way of travelling over the edge of the mesa in a place where the rim, for the most part, looks too steep for anyone but a rock climber or mountain goat to attempt.
The parking area at the south side of Flowing Park Reservoir provides access to the Flowing Park, Indian Point and Drop Off trails. There aren't any kiosks or signs to apprise you of any of the trails in the area but they are all well established trails that are signed once you find where they begin.
The Drop Off trail begins as soon as you pass through the green Powder River gates. The sign for the trailhead is just off the left (south) side of the road.
The trail is pointed out very well with numerous markers as you cross the top of the mesa. It is almost possible to see from one marker to the next. The trail is very easy to follow without the markers but it is very reassuring to know that you haven't strayed off on a cow path.
Hiking across the Flowing Park area of the mesa is some of the easiest hiking you can find in the area. The elevation changes are all minor and subtle enough that they are hardly noticeable.
That all changes when the trail reaches the rim of the mesa after about 1.5 miles. If you turn around at this point you will end up with a very nice, easy hike of about 3 miles round trip. If you want a good workout though, keep going.
This is where the trail undoubtedly gets its moniker because compared to the nice flat top of the mesa at this point it 'drops off' rather abruptly.
I was actually surprised at how easy the trail was at first. It was rather pleasant descending through the basalt boulders and it wasn't steep at all for about a quarter mile.
The crux of the hike is probably the big tundra type mountainside above Porter Reservoir #4. This section of the trail isn't marked very well at all but it still seemed relatively easy to stay on the correct path. This part of the hike last for almost a half mile before leveling off at the dam.
The trail is a bit difficult to manage as you try to get from the hillside onto the dam. How you manage it will depend on how high the water is in the reservoir. There is a trail marker right on the north side of the dam.
I hiked as far as the cabin that sits beside the access road coming into the reservoir. Someone did a good job of building this cabin because for its age it is still all intact. It must be getting some TLC from someone.
You can continue on down the access road for about another half mile and reach the lower end of the trail but I chose to turn around at this point and make my way back up the mountain. If a person likes doing a little backpacking this would probably make a good place to camp and turn it into a multi-day event.
It's hard to describe hiking back across the top of the mesa other than saying it is just plain peaceful.
There is a pretty good population of falcons in the area along with a few hawks. I saw one 4 or 5 point buck that ducked back into the trees before I could take a picture.
The Drop Off trail ended up being a little easier than what I was anticipating. I went through less than 100 ounces of water. If you plan on filtering your water it will have to come out of one of the reservoirs as there were no streams or ponds along the way. And now I have explored yet another route for getting on top of the Mesa. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.