Scales Lake Loop

Round Trip Distance: 4.8 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 10,795 - 10, 896 feet
Cellphone: 0-2 bars
Time: 2 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: County Line
Fee: none
Attractions: Forest hike, wildflowers, wildlife

Scales Lake is located on top of the Grand Mesa in the Grand Mesa National Forest. There are 2 lakes, Scales Lake #1 and Scales Lake Number 2. Scales Lake #1 is the primary source for Kannah Creek. This hike begins at the County Line trailhead and routes around the west side of Scales Lake #1 to the Scales Lake Road, Forest Services Road #118, then south along the County Line Nordic Trail #3, and back to the trailhead on an unnamed trail.

There are several good ways to get over to Scales Lake. I chose to follow the County Line Nordic Trail #1 over to the Dog Trail and then up to the Scales Lake road.

The Nordic trails cut a wide swath through the trees that is well groomed and easy to follow in the winter time. After the snow melts and the grass grows up the trails become mostly indistinguishable from their surroundings other than for the blue trail markers. There is a faint foot path in places but for a good bit of this part of the hike I simply used the blue poles as a guide.

It is just over a mile of easy hiking from the trailhead to the Scales Lake Road. I saw a few moose tracks along the way but nothing that looked very fresh. This time of year most of the lakes and reservoirs on the mesa are drained down fairly low. If you look in the background of the above picture you can see that there was still quite a bit of water in the other end of the lake.

The good gravel road continues for a little less than a half mile where it comes to a radio tower. I saw one coyote while I was hiking along the road.

I cut across a dry bog and found a spot where a moose had been laying.

I followed trail #3 as it looped back to the south toward the rim of the mesa. The trail was very distinct and easy to hike.

Scales Lake #2 made for a pretty autumn picture with the surface as smooth as glass. I would stop and remain perfectly still at times and listen for any sounds. Mostly what I would hear were woodpeckers hammering away on the trees looking for bugs.

There is a short trail that loops out to an overlook directly above the highway and Island Lake. Normally you can see for over 100 miles to the south but there was a lot of smoky haze in the air on this day. If you look at my GPS track or Google Map you will see I made a little loop off the trail in this area. I was tramping through the brush and trees trying to get a picture of a moose. It should be obvious if you are following the track on your own GPS that I had left the regular trail.

There is a pretty good trail that leads from the overlook all the way back to the trailhead. It passes through open areas, around small ponds, and through thick stands of trees. The trail is an absolute delight to hike and if you aren't up to making the entire loop then an out-and-back on this trail to the overlook is an excellent alternative.

I was back at the trailhead around 10:30 and had plenty of time left in the day to find another place to go play. The temperature was in the low to mid 40's F for the hike but I still went through about 60 ounces of water. The Scales Lake area is a beautiful place on the mesa with some easy hiking. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.