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Number of days
Motorized watercraft allowed?
Water difficulty
Easy / Class A
Please respect the outdoors and leave no trace. One tip how to dispose of waste properly: Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products. For more information, visit

Grand Mesa is a year-round playground that is not well-known outside of the western Colorado towns of Grand Junction, Delta, and Montrose. Very popular for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing in the winter, it is a lightly-used area in the short warm season when the campgrounds are open (about mid-June to early October). There are two major recreation areas on the mesa, each having multiple campgrounds, at least one lodge, several lakes, and some summer home developments. The closest to Grand Junction and the smaller of the two is Mesa Lakes Recreation Area.

Mesa Lakes is a very well-developed area that will appeal to recreation-lovers of all kinds. There are many attractions: the Lost Lake Trail, the excellent Jumbo Campground and the Mesa Lakes Lodge. The highlight of the area is the set of eight outstanding lakes that dot the area. All of the lakes have small dams built decades ago to consolidate the water supply for agriculture down in the valley below, but early in the season the lakes are pristine and nestle very naturally in the surrounding spruce and aspen forest. There is plenty of parking, paved trails between most of the lakes, picnic areas in sun and shade, a small boat ramp, and several handicapped-access fishing areas.

As paddling destinations go, this is not a challenging area. None of the lakes are very large, but Mesa Lake and Sunset Lake are big enough to occupy a few hours. The portage between any two of the lakes is typically less than 50 feet, and even the small lakes like Glacier Springs and the ironically-named Jumbo are pleasant places to paddle and drift or fish (all the lakes are stocked regularly and the fishing is good).

The Island Lake Recreation Area has more campgrounds, much larger lakes and more development, but for a quiet weekend  getaway or even day trip, Mesa Lakes is an oasis on the mesa.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

General Day Use Fee


Very scenic. Great fishing. Many lakes. Good camping.


Many mosquitos in early summer.


Forest Rd 252
CO 81418
United States


Campgrounds + Campsites
Picnic tables
Covered picnic areas

Site characteristics: Water


Portage required



Field Guide


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