There’s no denying Grand Lake in the summer. With the boardwalks connecting charming shops and eateries, and with the state’s largest natural body of water only steps away, the town in Colorado’s central mountains feels something like a beach getaway.
But in the cold of winter, Grand Lake shines no less.
The quaint hamlet often is missed in the shadow of Winter Park Resort, that world-famous ski destination to the south. There’s no chairlift in Grand Lake, but there’s no shortage of powder-packed adventure. There’s not the abundance of apres sit-downs, but you shouldn’t have a problem finding a fire to cozy up to with your favorite drink.
And you’ll find something else here that busy resorts can’t quite claim. There’s a quiet that prevails. A certain kind of serenity. A sense of calm and appreciation afforded by a true, authentic escape in the wintertime Rockies.
Self-powered funGrand Lake is the western portal of Rocky Mountain National Park. This side of the park doesn’t draw the crowds of the other side, via Estes Park. And the solitude is felt even more so in the winter.
Rent a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis and see the majesty for yourself. Or check in with Kaiyote Tours and allow experts to show you around; they know the spots for moose viewing.
Grand Lake Nordic Center maintains trails for snowshoeing through glistening forests and along the Colorado River, where you might eye a bald eagle. The center also grooms a 35-kilometer circuit for skiing. Kids will love the hill for sledding and tubing. When you’re done, settle down with a bowl of chili.
Grand Lake is a base camp for ice fishing. Enthusiasts dot the frozen water in town as well as Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Lake Granby nearby.
In recent years, a free ice skating rink has been set up at Town Park along Grand Avenue.
Catch a rideGrand Lake is committed to its self-proclaimed title: the Snowmobiling Capital of Colorado. That’s a commitment exemplified by the town maintaining snow-packed roads so riders can conveniently pass through and park where they please.
But the boardwalk is not their destination. Local ambassadors count 300-plus miles of snowmobile trails in the vicinity, with about half of those groomed. The surrounding Arapaho National Forest serves as a vast playground.
Allow guides with On the Trail Rentals or Grand Adventures to show you around scenic meadows, forests and ridges.
Explore the townThe past is always present around Grand Lake. Buildings still stand from the town’s early days, including the elaborate Kauffman House. The 1892 home now houses a museum. It’s been open for tours on select dates over the winter.
The riverside Rapids Lodge & Restaurant is another historic landmark. It’s a cozy, romantic stop for an evening cocktail.
If not there, consider dinner at Sagebrush BBQ & Grill, with buckets of peanuts, gamey sausages and platters of smoked meats in an old West setting.
You’ll have to come back in the summer for a show at Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre. Still, the creative town reveals itself at several artist-owned galleries.
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