Mesa Lake Shoreline Nordic

Round Trip Distance: 2.8 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
XC Skill level:
Elevation: 9770 - 9903 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 2 hrs.
Trailhead: Jumbo Reservoir
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic area, ungroomed trails

The Mesa Lake Shoreline trail is located in the Mesa Lakes Recreation Area on the northwest side of the Grand Mesa. With its close proximity to Highway 65, which is open to travel year round, the Mesa Lakes area is a popular destination for winter activities. The Shoreline trail that is a favorite for many people during the warmer summer months is also a good choice for snowshoeing and cross country skiing.

Beginning at the Jumbo Reservoir parking area make your way south a hundred feet or so to the Mesa Lakes Recreation Area access road and follow it.

Turn left onto an old road across from the campground entrance and follow it toward the Mesa Lakes Lodge. There are a string of utility poles along the old road.

Cross the parking area for the lodge and look for the road to the picnic area that is back toward the highway. There is a row of cabins along the road to the picnic area that belong to the lodge. These 2 bedroom cabins with fireplaces can be rented at the lodge. We used to try and spend at least one night on the mesa every winter. Besides bringing games to play at times we would also bring a TV and a movie or two. The funny thing about it, on occasions when it is down around zero or below in the valley it is often in the 20's and above at Mesa Lakes.

There is a fork in the road just past the cabins. The left fork is actually a snowmobile route during the winter. You can still snowshoe and ski on it but you will need to be sure and yield to any snowmobiles when you hear them coming. This road eventually rejoins Highway 65 on top of the Grand Mesa near the Skyway Nordic Area. Take the right fork and follow the lower road toward the picnic area.

The Mesa Lake Shoreline trail begins at the picnic area. The trail loops all the way around the lake and back to this point. This post follows the trail to the left and travels around the loop in a clockwise direction.

Unless you arrive right after a fresh snow the trail will probably already be packed form other snowshoers and skiers.

Some sections of the trail are sheltered enough by trees that they don't see much sunshine at anytime of the year. They see even less during the winter when the sun is much lower in the sky.

There is usually some open water at all of the inlets to the lake.When you come to one keep your eye out for one of the most delightful birds you will ever see. The amazing little American Dipper or water ouzel can be spotted diving for bugs and minnows in the icy waters. The dipper has little flaps that seal off its nasal passages and with its high oxygenated blood it can stay under water for up to 30 seconds. With most birds migrating to warmer climes it is surprising to see one so small that thrives in the mountains year round.

After crossing the dam the trail passes around the mountain between Mesa Lake and Beaver Lake. An alternate route would be to follow the road at the Glacier Springs trailhead but going this way is shorter and has a little less elevation change.

The trail passes by another toilet as the loop comes to an end at the Mesa Lake Picnic Area. From here it is only a matter of retracing your steps back to the beginning.

Before heading to your vehicle you may want to make a stop at the Mesa Lakes Lodge. The lodge is open year round and besides a full menu to choose from they also rent boots and skis. If you have never been inside of the lodge you should do so. The rustic early American decor makes you feel at home as soon as you walk through the doors.

You certainly can't argue with sitting in front of the fireplace with a bowl of chili and a hot drink on any winter day in the mountains.

There are other routes that could be taken to get to the Mesa Lake Shoreline trail but other than walking along the highway or parking in the lodges parking area this post describes the shortest path. Some people follow the road all of the way to Sunset Lake and then continue on to the Glacier Springs trailhead. Any which way you go this is one of the best winter areas on the mesa. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.