A First Timer’s Guide to Colorado’s Lands End Observatory on the Grand Mesa
High atop Colorado's Grand Mesa sits the historic Lands End Observatory. This ranger observatory was built mainly by the U.S. Forest Service in 1936 and 1937 and is an incredibly fun place to visit during the warmer spring and summer months.
Depending on snow and road conditions, the site is accessible during the winter months but at your own risk. Look to the signs along the scenic byway for an indication if the roads going up are still open on a given day. The observatory is no longer in use, but the site is still a popular destination for one of the best overall views of the Grand Valley.
This History of Lands End Observatory on Colorado's Grand Mesa
As America tried to scratch and claw its way out of the Great Depression, President Roosevelt was working on two developments that made the Observatory possible. These developments were the Region 2 Architectural Division in 1936 which caught to develop lands in Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming. Secondly, Roosevelt's "New Deal" created the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
Once established these groups began work on recreational projects in these selected states. The project in Colorado quickly developed into creating Veteran's Road up the side of the Mesa in the mid-1930s, followed by the Observatory which was built in 1937.
Directions to Colorado's Lands End Observatory
There are two ways up to the top of the Grand Mesa that will take you to the site of the Observatory. You can either take Lands End Road (formerly Veteran's Road) right up the side of the Grand Mesa itself. It seems pretty amazing that with all that rock blasting and men working on the steep sides of the Mesa, that not one person was injured building Lands End Road. Check out a video of the ride up the side of Lands End Road.
The other route up is to take the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway to the top of the Grand Mesa, and then cut over to the Observatory on the half-gravel-half-paved road across from near the Visitor's Center. See the map below.
The View from the Top at Lands End Observatory
When you arrive at the Lands End Observatory you'll find plenty of parking near the ranger station (which is boarded up), and if you walk down the path just beyond the ranger station there are still restrooms open at the top but they are not maintained by an attendant so you may find some plants growing up through the floor but the plumbing all still works.
Scroll through the photo gallery below for the lay of the land on the top of the Mesa.