Highline Lake Loop

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 3.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Skill level:
Elevation: 4727 - 4742 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 2 hrs. (hiking time)
Trailhead: East Entrance/Boat Launch
Fee: $7/vehicle
Attractions: Lake views, fishing, picnicking




The Highline Lake Loop is located in the Highline Lake State Park west of Grand Junction, Colorado. The 3.5 mile long loop begins near the east entrance of the park where it makes a loop around the reservoir, passing between Highline Lake and the Mack Mesa Reservoir in the process. Enroute the trail passes many picnic areas and short spur trails that lead to a number of different duck blinds. Most of the trail is also part of the 18 Hours of Fruita trail that is part of an annual mountain bike race that is normally held during the Fruita Fat Tire Festival each spring.


This post begins at the parking area near the east entrance and Visitor Center of Highline Lake State Park. Flush toilets are available inside the Visitor Center and a vault toilet can be found across the parking area toward the lake if the Visitor Center is closed. The Google map at the top of this post should be sufficient for getting directions to the park.


The trail can be picked up behind the boat inspection shack near the east boat launch.


The trail is an obvious wide gravel path that is suitable for year round use.


As the trail travels around the east side of the lake it crosses the intake of the reservoir. Highline Lake is fed by the Government Highline Canal which allows it to maintain a constant water level during the months that the canal is flowing with water.


A short distance after crossing the bridge the trail comes to its first fork where the Highline Lake Loop continues to the right and the East Bluff trail begins on the left or what appears at first to be straight ahead.


At the 0.86 mile point from the parking area the Highline Lake Loop comes to where the southern end of the Engle Loop trail begins on the right side of the trail. A short connector on the left leads over to the East Bluffs trail which is close by at this point. This intersection was unmarked at the time of this post. Many of these trails have only been added recently so perhaps at some future date there will be more signage.


Another intersection comes up at the 1 mile point where the East Bluffs trail rejoins from the left and the upper end of the Engle Loop trail departs on the right. The East Bluffs trail is a bit confusing on current maps that show it comes to an end at this point even though there are several more trail markers in the area for the trail including one that is all the way over by the shore of Mack Mesa Reservoir.


At the 1.02 mile point the Highline Lake Loop follows the left fork and the Greasewood Flats trail begins on the right. The Greasewood Flats trail runs from here to Mack Mesa.


As the trail continues around the north end of the lake it passes several of the spur trails that lead to duck blinds that are situated near the waters edge. When the blinds aren't being used by duck hunters they are occasionally found useful to anglers as a place to sit while fishing from the bank. The fishing can be pretty good at times at Highline Lake where rainbow trout have been caught that weighed over 5 pounds. There are also channel cats, bass, crappie and carp in the lake that can also be pretty big.


As the trail begins wrapping around the west side of the lake and turns toward the south it passes between the lake and Mack Mesa. Mack Mesa is smaller but the water is cleaner and the fishing is usually pretty good.


Numerous picnic tables with shelters and grills can be found all around both Highline Lake and Mack Mesa. Most are accessible by vehicle but some require a short hike or a boat to get to.


At the southwest end of the lake the trail pops out onto the road above the west entrance for a short distance. A sign marks the spot where the trail picks up once again. From here follow the route that crosses the bridge over the spillway and climbs to the top of the dam. This point is also the west end of the Blue Heron Marsh trail.


After crossing the dam veer left along the path that passes between the swim beach and the grassy slopes of the main picnic area.


The last leg of the trail passes by the swim beaches and eventually ends up in the parking area near the east boat launch and Visitor Center. There are many other places a person could park to access the trail since it is a loop and it passes either through or close by multiple parking areas. There is also a nice campground at Highline Lake State Park but for much of the year you will want to reserve a campsite in advance because it is always full during the warmer months. For this post we hiked the Highline Loop trail but it tends to be a whole lot funner on a bike. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.