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Crag Crest National Recreation Trail
The Crag Crest Trail in the Grand Mesa National Forest, Colorado, was designated as a National Recreation Trail by John McGuire of the US Forest Service on March 14, 1978.
The Crag Crest National Recreation Trail is a 10.3 mile circular trail (map) consisting of a crest portion and a loop portion. It is recommended that you get an early start to avoid afternoon thunderstorms.
It is accessed from two trailheads. One on the west end across from Island lake and one of the east adjacent to Eggleston Lake.
The crest portion (6.5 miles) rises steeply from the East Trailhead to the top of Crag Crest. From the West Trailhead, the crest portion rises more gradually to the top of Crag Crest. Sections of the Craig Crest are on a narrow ridge with steep drop offs on both sides.
The loop portion (3.4 miles) provides an alternative return route.
Only foot travel is allowed on the crest portion between the East Trailhead and the Cottonwood Lakes Trail junction. Rocky dropoffs and narrow trails make any other type of passage unsafe.
Foot, mountain bike and horse travel are allowed on the loop portion and on the crest portion between the West Trailhead and the Cottonwood Lakes Trail junction.
Motorized vehicles are prohibited on all portions of the Crag Crest Trail.
Trail Tips to Enjoy Your Experience
It is very important to remember that weather conditions can change rapidly. Be prepared for cool temperatures, rain showers, lightning and mid-afternoon thunderstorms. Wear a hat and apply mosquito repellant. To avoid hypothermia, long sleeve jackets and pants would be a good idea. Plan to be off the ridge by early afternoon to avoid dangerous lightning strikes.
Always monitor children, especially on those segments of Crag Crest with precipitous drop offs.
Keep pets on a leash.
Tell others where you are going, when you expect to return and allow plenty of time for the hike. You might want to consider a vehicle shuttle.
Bring plenty of drinking water and snacks. You will be hiking at a high elevation with steep drop offs.
Commercial lodges are near the trailheads. Dining, groceries, lodging, and sporting goods are available at most of the lodges.
Trailhead parking lots are provided. The West Trailhead, near Island Lake, is accessible from Colorado Highway 65. The East Trailhead, near Eggleston Lake, is accessible from Forest Road #121.
Horse unloading ramps are available at both parking lots.
Drinking water is available at Crag Crest Campground, adjacent to the East Trailhead, but is not available along the trail or at the West Trailhead.
Restrooms are available at the Crag Crest Campground, the West Trailhead and the Visitor Center.
The Crag Crest rises from 10,150 feet at Eggleston Lake to 11,189 feet along the crest. At the lower elevations, the trail passes through stands of Englemann spruce, subalpine fir and open meadows. Quaking aspen, with leaves which are light green in the summer and brilliant yellow in the fall, grows among the dark green conifers. Patches of low-growing Oregon grape are found in and near these forested areas.
The forests and meadows provide food and cover for big game animals such as elk and deer. They may be seen feeding in the open meadows in the early morning or late evening.
Porcupine, snowshoe rabbit, pine squirrel, chipmunk, pocket gopher, red fox and various species of mice are some of the small mammals often seen along the trail. The pika or “cony” and the yellow-belly marmot can often be detected among the rocks. Ravens, woodpeckers, flickers, finches, hawks, blue grouse, chickadees, robins, jays and hummingbirds area few of the many kinds of birds which may be observed in the Crag Crest area.
Vistas from Crag Crest
The view from Crag Crest extends in all directions. To the northwest, the Book and Roan Cliffs appear as multicolored cliffs and slopes.
The highest point on the Grand Mesa is Leon Peak, located in the east. This 11,326-foot peak was once used as a fire lookout. In the distance, east and south from the trail, are the West Elk Wilderness, Uncompahgre Wilderness, Lizard Head Wilderness and the Raggeds Wilderness.
The view to the east and south includes the West Elk Mountain Range, the San Juan Range, and views of five of the 14’ers.
To the west the Uncompahgre Plateau can be seen, and on the western horizon, the La Sal Mountains in western Colorado and eastern Utah is visible on a clear day.
Crag Crest Trail #711
The Crag Crest Trail #711 is a designated National Recreation Trail and is restricted to foot travel except for the first 1.5 miles of trail from the West Trailhead. This section, which connects the West Trailhead with the Cottonwood Trailhead, is also open to horses. This trail has become popular because it offers many scenic vistas and a unique display of geologic history. It connects Island Lake with Eggleston Lake, however, this may be extended to a circular hike by returning to the original trailhead on the Crag Crest Lower Loop Trail #711.1A. The trail rises steeply to the crest from the East Trailhead, and more gradually from the West Trailhead. Some sections along the top portion of the crest are narrow with drop-offs on both sides. Due to the high elevation of this trail, travel is often hampered by snow drifts until early July.
||July – October
||Open to Hiking & Horseback for the first 1.5 miles from W. TH, Hiking only after that.
||Cedaredge, CO and Mesa, CO
Travel approximately 22 miles south on Highway 65 Mesa, or travel north for approximately 16 miles from Cedaredge. The Crag Crest Trail begins out of the southeast corner of the parking area.
Travel approximately 25 miles south on Highway 65 from Mesa, or approximately 15 miles north from Cedaredge to Trickel Park Road, FSR #121. Travel east for approximately 3.6 miles on the Trickel Park Road to the Crag Crest Campground and Trailhead. A parking area does exist outside of the campground which will accommodate approximately 25 vehicles.
Off Highway 65 above Island Lake. T. 12S., R. 95W., Sec. 3. U.S.G.S. Map: Grand Mesa.
Crag Crest Campground off of Trickel Park Road, FSR #121. T. 11S., R. 95W., Sec. 31. U.S.G.S. Map: Grand Mesa.
Horse Travel First 1.5 Miles from the West Trailhead.
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