Tucked between Colorado’s largest natural body of water and an entrance to the Centennial State’s most popular National Park is Grand Lake, a town that still delivers that rustic mountain town feel. Whether you’re looking for a weekend of kayaking or a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park without the crowds, Grand Lake makes for the perfect summer getaway. Filled with quaint streets and mom-and-pop shops, this Grand County destination often feels like a step back to simpler times. Below you’ll find some ideas for the perfect weekend in Grand Lake. Presented by Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce.
DAY 1: Get Lakeside
As you enter the town of Grand Lake, it’s hard to ignore the massive body of water ringed by mountain peaks. As the namesake of the town, Grand Lake is the largest and deepest natural lake in Colorado. It’s not the only water in the area either: Shadow Mountain Lake and Lake Granby are nearby as well, so Day One in Grand Lake will be spent playing at these picturesque, lake-side destinations.
You can’t go out on the water with an empty stomach. Fortunately, Grand Lake has a ton of awesome places to fuel up for your day. Two local favorites include Blue Water Bakery and the Fat Cat buffet. Head to Blue Water Bakery if you’re looking for awesome baked goods and the best cinnamon rolls in town, or choose Fat Cat on this first morning if you’re ready to stuff your face with everything from Scotch eggs to spinach quiche.
Once you’re full, let your food settle by heading to the lakeside boardwalk. From here, you’ll hunt down a company called Rocky Mountain SUP for a paddleboarding excursion. Never been on a paddleboard before? No problem! They’ll give you all the tools you need to enjoy your experience, including a half-hour of demonstrations. Once you’ve learned the proper paddleboarding technique, expect to spend about an hour on the water, just cruising around at your own pace.
Once you return your paddleboard rental gear, check out the lakeside Miyauchi’s Snack Bar for an affordable and delicious meal. Don’t forget to grab some homemade ice cream, too. It’s one thing that every local will tell you not to skip.
Your next excursion gets you out on the water again, but this time in a kayak. You’ll be able to zip around the lake, soaking in all the views you couldn’t reach on your paddleboard. Look for Mountain Paddlers to rent your kayaking gear. Convenient and affordable, they’ll get you set up with everything you need on the water without requiring you to transport your own kayak. Rentals also come with a dry bag to keep your valuables safe.
As your time on the water comes to a close, you’ll probably start thinking about dinner and a bed. One hotel that we recommend is the Western Riviera. It’s right on the lake and a block away from the main street in town, putting you in close proximity to some of the best restaurants.
There are a ton of great places in town for dinner, but if you’re in the mood for something fancy head over to Sagebrush BBQ & Grill and order up a steak. It’s a place that locals will recommend time and time again. Want something more laid back? Pancho & Lefty’s has great Mexican food, a fun bar, and views of the lake.
Day 2: Lace Up Your Hiking Boots
While Grand Lake might be named for its lake, it’s also smack dab in the middle of a landscape full of hiking trails, including some that travel through nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. You can’t visit this town without at least checking out a few.
You have a few options regarding trail choice. Several recommendations require you to enter Rocky Mountain National Park. There’s a fee, but it’s worth it, and you don’t have to deal with the insane traffic often found at the Estes Park entrance.
The two most beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park hikes at the Grand Lake end of the park lead to waterfalls. The Adams Falls hike is the easier of the two, roughly one-mile round trip. With only about 100 feet of elevation gain, this is one hike that most people will be able to do. The more difficult hike is to Cascade Falls, another great choice, quite a bit longer and a much harder work-out. At 7.4 miles, this moderately difficult trail tends to attract a lot of wildlife.
If you feel like staying outside of Rocky Mountain National Park, one cool trail in the area is the Shadow Mountain Trail. At 9.7 miles round trip with 1860 feet of elevation gain, this one isn’t for everyone, but the views from the top make the struggle worth it.
After a couple hikes, you’ll probably need to refuel. Head back to the main street in town, Grand Avenue, and pop into Cy’s Deli. One bite of a sandwich and you’ll be sad you’re only visiting…this is definitely a place that will have you wishing you were a local. Grand Pizza is another great option that’s nearby.
As you’re finishing lunch, if you’ve got the energy, embark on another hike. If you don’t, explore the the downtown area, filled with restaurants, shops, and cafes or soak in a lakeside sunset.
While your time in Grand Lake is now be drawing to a close, you’re sure to want to return. A town where you never meet a stranger, home to Colorado friendliness, a laid back vibe, and an unbeatable proximity to the outdoors, it’s no wonder why Grand Lake is one of the most popular summer destinations in Colorado.
Looking to explore Grand County? Check out this video, showcasing the best of the region: