Colorado State Parks: Highline Lake

Highline Lake State Park is a true year-round park, with many activities to explore in every season. The park is located in Mesa County and features two lakes, a desert landscape, and miles of trails for exploring the area. It is known as the “center for water sports and recreation in the Grand Valley” (Colorado Parks and Wildlife, 2021).

A winter landscape with a lake in the foreground and a snow-covered butte in the background
Mack Hill at Highline Lake State Park. Photo from Colorado Parks & Wildlife.

There’s so much to see and to do at Highline Lake, let’s break it down with one activity for each season!


Clear winter nights are ideal for stargazing at Highline Lake. The park is located far away from the light pollution found in larger cities, so stargazers are likely to be able to pick out constellations, view satellites, or even see the Milky Way. As this brief Beginner’s Guide to Stargazing in Colorado points out, be sure to bring a blanket to keep warm while watching the stars!


Because of Highline Lake’s relatively low elevation (for Colorado) and sunny weather, mud season dries up a bit more quickly than in the mountains. This means that the park’s mountain biking trails are open for business well before summer begins. Every May, the park hosts 18 Hours in Fruita, a popular endurance mountain biking race that takes place over eighteen hours. Less ambitious riders can ride the same 18 Hours trail as these athletes, but maybe just for a few hours.


Highline Lake’s two reservoirs provide some cooling relief throughout the summer. The larger Highline Lake is available for swimming, motorized boating, jetskiing, and waterskiing, while the smaller Mack Mesa Lake is open to nonmotorized and electric watercrafts. The Highline Lake habitat has been threatened by the introduction of invasive species, so be sure to “Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!” by following the Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Watercraft Decontamination Manual and have an ANS Stamp prior to launching.


Highline Lake is a hotspot for migrating birds and has been named an important birding area by the National Audubon Society. Over 200 species of birds have been identified in the park, including species that are rare in western Colorado like the Vermilion Flycatcher. A birding checklist specific to the area can help you keep track of the birds you’ve seen in the park; the State Publications Library’s digitized birding guides can help you identify the birds in the first place!

Are you tempted by any of these activities? Many public libraries are participating in the Check Out Colorado State Parks program, which allows library users to check out free state parks passes. See if your local library is on the list!

Miranda Doran-Myers
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