Skyway, County Line and Ward Lake are all trailheads on the Grand Mesa to some of the greatest cross-country skiing in the world, thanks to Mother Nature, the U.S. Forest Service, the invention of Nordic skis and the Grand Mesa Nordic Council, GMNC.
GMNC is a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization that maintains trails and signs along the cross-country trails. Much of the group’s funding comes from memberships. All of the trails are on public land, so there is no fee required to use them.
Snow conditions on the Grand Mesa are typically ideal until March. World-class cross-country skiing and snowshoeing areas on the Grand Mesa that are not groomed include: West Bench Trailhead at Jumbo Lake, where you can ski all the way to the top of Powderhorn Ski Area; Waterdog Trail, across the road from Jumbo Lake; and the Griffith Lake/Lake of the Woods Trailhead, just a few miles farther up the road.
To reach this Nordic nirvana from Grand Junction, take I-70 east for 20 miles to the Grand Mesa/Powderhorn exit. That’s Colorado Highway 65, a National Scenic and Historic Byway, and it will take you to the top of the Grand Mesa.
Travel through the town of Mesa, past Powderhorn Ski Area and into the Grand Mesa National Forest. Pass a number of wide spots in the road, most of them great places to ski. To get to Skyway, travel 10 miles past Powderhorn to the Skyway parking area. It will be on the left, or east of the highway, just after you travel up the last major hill and reach the top of the mesa.
On the way, you’ll have passed West Bench, Waterdog and Griffith/Lake of the Woods trailheads. If you keep going, you’ll come across County Line and Wards Lake trailheads.
No matter where you go, tell someone where you’ll be and when you’re expected back, and go prepared. Weather in Colorado’s high country can change without warning.