Grand Lake is a charming Colorado mountain village surrounded by several pristine lakes. Downtown has an inviting boardwalk lined with colorful locally-owned shops and restaurants. Entertainment is easily found during its busy summer season and outdoor recreation is endless.
It sits at the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park at an elevation of 8,369 feet. There are about 410 residents in this Grand County town and an influx of tourists in the warmer months. Winter is quieter, but snowmobiling and ice fishing still draw many to the area.
European hunters discovered the beautiful Grand Lake in the mid-1800s. A number of them built houses and the area was officially settled in 1867. Because of the abundant wildlife, many hunting guides came to town. Silver deposits were discovered along the nearby rivers and Grand Lake exploded overnight.
Hotels and ranch houses were constantly constructed to keep up with the influx of new residents. Grand Lake grew enough to be the county seat of Grand County. Outdoor recreation and the beautiful mountain air made the area a popular tourist destination. Today the village maintains a “mountain rustic” aesthetic and caters to visitors from all over.
Grand Lake – Sits one block behind the main street and provides water sports galore. It’s Colorado’s largest and deepest natural lake at 265 feet deep. Boating and fishing are easy to find at Grand Lake or one of the many other lakes around. Boat rentals are available at the Grand Lake Marina.
Rocky Mountain National Park – Situated between Grand Lake to the west and Estes Park to the east. Biking, camping, fishing, and hiking can be found within the park’s limits only minutes from town. This entrance is typically quieter during busy season, so it’s a good place to escape the crowds.
Read about the top things to do in Grand Lake.
- Arapaho National Forest offers numerous dirt roads and trails for biking. Take County Road 4 south of downtown off US-40 for a variety of trails suitable for all levels.
- Rocky Mountain National Park to the north has lots of trails for the avid mountain biker.
- Stillwater Campground is right across US-34 from the Grand Lake Brewery, south of town on the way to Granby. The campsite charges a fee and is part of the Arapaho National Forest. It’s very convenient and close to the lake.
- Another Arapaho National Recreation Area campground is at Willow Creek Reservoir.
- An easy, dispersed camping option is to take County Road 4 just south of the same Grand Lake Brewery and Stillwater Campground on US-34. Heading south you’ll take a right very shortly onto County Road 4. After a couple of miles, you’ll reach the Arapaho NF and Stillwater Pass Area where camping is pretty much fair game at any of the pull-offs but beware of private property signs. County Road 4 continues for 21 miles to CO-125.
- Read about the camping near Granby, Grand Lake, and Western RMNP.
- There are three big lakes near town. Grand Lake directly borders town, to the south is Shadow Mountain Lake, and a bit further down is Lake Granby. Fishing is excellent in every one of them.
- The Colorado River begins near town with various places to fish for trout.
- Willow Creek Reservoir is far enough off US-34 to keep crowds low. It’s part of the ANRA, so there is a daily fee, but you can also fish in Willow Creek before the reservoir for free with a license.
- Rocky Mountain National Park is the best bet for loads of great trails. On the Grand Lake side of the Continental Divide is the Holzwarth Historic Site. This short trek visits the Holzwarth Trout Lodge from the 1920s. It’s about an hour round trip with viewing.
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Grand Lake Lodge – Established in 1920 on a hillside above town, this lodge has many cabins available to rent in the summer months.
Rapids Lodge & Restaurant – This spot offers a variety of accommodation options, from single rooms in the lodge and small cabins to whole cottages. Built-in 1915, the lodge sits on the edge of the Tonahutu River, part of the Colorado River headwaters.
Winding River Resort – A very family-friendly resort within walking distance of many shops and restaurants. The property is also horse-friendly, with stables for rent.
Read about the best hotels in Grand Lake.
Feb – Winter Carnival – Get through the dog days of winter with an exciting day of unique events. There will be ice sculptures, parades, curling, and even human bowling for visitors to spectate or participate in.
Jun-Aug – High Country Stampede Rodeo – Every Saturday from early June to mid-August, neighboring town Fraser hosts a wild evening of western rodeo performances.
Jul-Aug – Arts and Crafts Fair – Two weekends in Grand Lake Town Park that showcase local art and handmade crafts.
Aug – Buffalo Days – A community-wide BBQ to celebrate a unique culinary staple of the area: buffalo barbecue. The days will be filled with food, a 5k run, a movie screening, and a cornhole tournament.
Read about the top events in Grand Lake.
Activities near Grand Lake
Cross Country Skiing:
- Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa (30mi)
- Grand Lake Nordic Center (3mi)
- Granby Ranch Nordic Trails (19mi)
- Latigo Ranch Nordic Center (58mi)
- Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center (23mi)
- Arapaho National Forest
- Arapaho National Recreation Area
- Colorado River
- Monarch Lake (19mi)
- Never Summer Wilderness
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness
- Hot Sulphur Springs (24mi)
- Winter Park Village (36mi)
- Colorado River Headwaters Byway (<1mi)
- Fall River Pass (22mi)
- Iceberg Pass (25mi)
- Milner Pass (18m)
- Stillwater Pass (6mi)
- Trail Ridge Road (1mi)
State Wildlife Areas:
- Estes Park (46mi)
- Fraser (31mi)
- Granby (15mi)
- Hot Sulhpur Springs (24mi)
- Kremmling (41mi)
- Tabernash (27mi)
- Winter Park (36mi)
- Amtrak Granby Station (15mi)
Visit the town’s official website.
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