By now, most people in the Roaring Fork Valley are well aware of Fruita’s reputation as a first-class mountain biking destination. With miles of stellar singletrack and rides to suit any ability level, this small town in western Colorado has earned its place in the sun. It’s that very sun, however, that can make a trip to Fruita problematic. Lying on the edge of the desert as it is, Fruita can get so blazingly hot as to make a bike ride a bit of an ordeal.
That’s where Highline Lake State Park comes in. Located just past Fruita in the even smaller town of Loma, Highline Lake is a surprising oasis amidst the dusty fields, with a tree-lined swim beach, great fishing and plenty of room to operate power boats or wave runners. There’s even a scenic little bike trail around the lake that takes riders through a marshland where they are all but guaranteed to see great blue herons, sea gulls and numerous other bird species.
In addition to the swimming, boating, fishing and picnicking opportunities at Highline Lake, there is also an excellent campground, with 31 grassy sites set amongst the trees. Each site comes complete with a fire pit, picnic table and grill, and there are shower and laundry facilities on site. Be forewarned, though: The campground sells out very quickly during summer weekends, so make your reservations well in advance. Reservations can be made online by visiting coloradostateparks.reserveamerica.com.
To get to Highline Lake State Park, take I-70 west past Fruita to the Loma exit and go north on Colorado Highway 139 for six miles to Q Road. Take a left on Q Road and go west for 1.2 miles, then take a right onto 11.8 Road and head north for approximately one mile to the park entrance. You will be required to purchase a state parks pass for $6 per vehicle to get into the park.
Once you’re inside the park, the swim beach and picnic grounds will be straight ahead of you, between the boat rental building and the earthen dam that forms the lake. There are also sheltered picnic tables at numerous points around the lake for boaters and fishermen. On weekends, the swim beach can get a little chaotic, so those seeking a modicum of peace and solitude should head for Mack Mesa Lake, which lies just to the northwest of Highline Lake and is reserved for wakeless boating and fishing.
After a dusty, sweaty ride along one of the myriad trails in the 18 Road or Mary’s Loop areas, there’s nothing like going for a refreshing swim and downing a few cold ones in the shade. Highline Lake State Park fits that bill perfectly and is well worth the short drive from Fruita and nominal access fee.