9 Things to Do in Grand Lake

9 Things to Do in Grand Lake

  • Brenda Freeman
  • 06/8/22
Grand Lake is one of Colorado’s hidden gems, nestled right up against Rocky Mountain National Park’s (RMNP) western edge, where Colorado’s deepest natural lake meets some of the most spectacular mountainside views in the state. Just two hours from Denver, Grand Lake is ideally located to provide visitors with a small-town atmosphere and enough outdoor activities to last a lifetime. If you’re in the market for one of the stunning Grand Lake, CO homes for sale, read on as we share nine of Grand Lake’s most exciting—and relaxing—things to do all year round.

Enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park

The so-called “Western Gateway” to the Rocky Mountains, Grand Lake is tucked into a charming alpine area fifteen miles northeast of Granby and 140 miles from Estes Park, where the main entrance to RMNP is located. However, Grand Lake is only a five-minute drive away from the only entry point on the west side of RMNP: the Grand Lake Entrance. Being so close to the park, Grand Lake is an excellent location for an extended camping trip or exploring the historic trails that link Grand Lake to the park at roughly 8,300 feet above sea level.

There are countless opportunities for entertainment in the park. Stop by the Kawuneeche Visitor Center to chat with a ranger, plan a campsite or hiking tour, or gather maps and provisions. Dozens of miles of trails fork off from Kawuneeche, offering easy access to sightseeing, hiking, camping, and climbing areas.

If getting that much exercise all at once isn’t your thing, take a drive on the Trail Ridge Road, spanning 48 miles of some of the highest mountains in the park from Grand Lake to Estes Park. The wildlife is astonishing for first-time visitors and long-time residents alike. Vast herds of elk numbering over 800 often pass by with groups of bighorn sheep in the hundreds, and mule deer and moose populations are all spread across the area near Grand Lake. Moose have even entered the town in broad daylight and walked down the main street —the wilderness is always closer than you think in Grand Lake.

Visit family-friendly restaurants and shops

Photo courtesy of Mountain Living
Grand Lake is well-known for its beautiful waterside and alpine environment, but the city itself also has quite a lot to check out. If you’re into retail therapy, head over to Grand Lake’s boardwalk, where you’ll find plenty of locally-owned, unique shops and art galleries.

Grand Lake also has diverse dining options for the whole family. Grand Pizza offers a west-coast slice with more vegetable, meat, and cheese options than you’d ever expect 8,000 feet above sea level. Miyauchi’s Snack Bar near the lakefront is a nice place to kick back after a long day in the sun and enjoy homemade ice cream. A personal favorite, Sagebrush BBQ & Grill serves up some of the best barbecue around. They have all the favorites like pulled pork sandwiches and ribs as well as some unique dishes like elk bratwurst and burgers. They also have an impressive offering of craft beers to match their meals! For late morning brunch, take a walk over to the Blue Water Bakery to sample some of the city’s best breakfast sandwiches and wraps. After all, you’re going to need the energy if you’re going to try out all the activities that Grand Lake offers.

Hit the slopes in Grand County

Photo courtesy of MyProtein
Grand Lake starts to come alive as a historic yet “off the beaten path” destination in the winter. The skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling trails run for dozens of miles with difficulty levels that suit first-time beginners, veterans, and everyone in between. Guided tours are a great way to experience Colorado's eye-catching views in a controlled, popular environment.

Cross-country skiing is one of Grand Lake’s specialties. The Grand Lake Nordic Center provides over 35 kilometers of cross-country trails for skiers, dogs, groups, and children. More casual sports like tubing are also available for children or those looking to maximize their vacation time on the slopes.

Take a spin on snowmobiles

Not only is Grand Lake the “Western Gateway” to the Rockies, but it’s also known as the “Snowmobiling Capital of Colorado.” The city and the surrounding terrain contain over 300 miles of trails explicitly built for snowmobilers of all skill levels and 150 miles of permanently groomed routes. Snowmobile rentals are available from outfitters both in town and closer to the mountain trails, and guided tours are easy to book.

If snowmobiling isn’t your forte, you don’t have to look very long before you find any number of ATV outfitters, nordic ski trails, or walking tours around the historic downtown to try out at your own pace.

Year-round fishing

Grand Lake boasts some of the country’s best lake fishing hotspots, but perhaps Grand Lake’s most extraordinary claim to fame is its ice fishing facilities. In the winter months, visitors can see fisherpeople walking out on the lake's surface in the early morning to set up their equipment to catch lake, rainbow, or brown trout.

If you’re not an expert with the rod and reel, several guided ice fishing trips are available in the outfitters and tackle shops in town. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to explore the best ice fishing that Grand Lake has to offer first-hand, the city has many rental facilities that can supply you with all the ice fishing gear, clothing, augurs, specialty rods, and ice huts you’ll need to stay out on the water as long as you wish.

Hike around Grand Lake

Photo courtesy of Alamy Images
All the fun and entertainment waiting at Grand Lake doesn’t stop at the water’s edge. There are hundreds of miles of protected wildlife, not to mention the dozens of marked trails that crisscross the area surrounding Grand Lake. Thanks to thousands of acres of federal land like the Arapaho National Forest spanning the greater Grand Lake area, there is truly hiking galore.

The hike from the Colorado River Trailhead to Little Yellowstone is one of the most popular treks, while Timber Creek Campground and its 100+ campsites remain the hub for hikers looking to enjoy the wilderness during the summer.

Get out on the water

Grand Lake wouldn’t be the destination it is today without its waterfront views and a stunning dark blue freshwater lake. Grand Lake is the deepest natural lake in Colorado at 389 feet in depth and a total surface area of 507 acres. There’s always a free corner to enjoy the lake in peace with your family.

There’s no shortage of things to do around the lake, whether you need a midsummer cool-off in the water, have a knack for boating and fishing, or simply want to take in the breathtaking 360-degree mountain views. Anglers can visit the marina at the town beach or stop by Point Park to rent equipment.

Grand Lake includes several bodies of water apart from its namesake. Shadow Mountain Lake is perfect for fishing and angling brown trout and salmon varieties. Shadow Mountain Lake is connected to Grand Lake by a convenient canal, so travel between fishing and boating sites is relatively easy. Finally, Lake Granby is just a few miles away with a full suite of fishing, sailing, boating, and other aquatic activities.

Try out Nordic skiing, tubing, and snowshoeing

Photo courtesy of ISMI
When it comes to winter activities at Grand Lake, there’s so much more to do than traditional skiing, snowboarding, or snowmobiling. Ice skating on the lake is a popular pastime open to the public when weather conditions are safe, while others enjoy exploring the mountain off the beaten path with Nordic skiing tours, tubing, and more. These are great options for those who aren’t power sports fans or those younger visitors—plus, the tubing facilities are free on the mountain! Just start at the Grand Lake Nordic Center to pick up your supplies or hire a guided tour. Dog sledding and snowshoeing trails are also open in the winter from the YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, just a few miles away.

Enjoy the view with mountain lodging

There are enough lodging options at Grand Lake to satisfy all kinds of visitors, whether you’re traveling alone, with a party, or taking a quick getaway with the family. Grand Lake and Grand Country provide some of the most family-friendly lodging experiences in the Rockies.

Situated in a convenient but remote corner of the Rockies near Grand Lake, the Overlook at Grand Lake is an ideal location for large groups and families. If you’re looking for a little more rugged outdoor experience, try out the YMCA at Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby. Here, you can rent yurts in the summer and get to know fellow travelers.

If you’re interested in Grand Lake, CO real estate, or want to learn more about what Grand Lake offers, from the mountaintop views to wilderness trails to the lakeside, contact Brenda Freeman today.  Brenda and her expert real estate team are well-equipped to assist you in finding the home of your dreams in this mountain paradise.

*Header photo courtesy of VisitGrandCountry.com

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