Grand but quaint

Let’s continue the journey on my “top 5 favorite Colorado mountain towns”.hummingbirdColorado mountain townsToward the top of my favorites list is Grand Lake, Colorado.  We first discovered this charming little mountain town in the winter of 1997.  We were looking for an affordable place to take the kids on a winter ski vacation.

Now keep in mind, Al and I were bona fide flatlanders at the time with absolutely no interested in schussing down a mountain slope, but since the kids were young and would be growing up in Colorado, we felt it was important to expose them to the popular Colorado sport of snow skiing.  After all, what Coloradoan doesn’t know how to snow ski?  Moi !

Grand Lake Colorado

the town of Grand Lake sits at the shores of Grand Lake, Colorado’s largest and deepest natural lake

The slopes at Granby Ranch (previously known as: Silver Creek or Sol Vista) were highly recommended to us as a great place for beginners, and it turned out to be the perfect venue for the kids to take up the sport of snow skiing.  Al and I would put the children in ski school while he and I lounged around a roaring fire in the ski lodge exercising our arms by lifting mugs of hot chocolate to our lips.

The outside deck offered a perfect vantage point for me to photograph and video tape the kids in ski school.  As Al and I got more comfortable leaving the children in ski school, he and I would venture off (with the instructors knowledge of course) and explore the surrounding area.  Those explorations included lunch and shopping in the town of Grand Lake, about a 30 to 45 minute drive from the ski slopes.

snowmobiling in Colorado

snowmobiling the back country near Grand Lake, CO. Rocky Mtn National Park and the Continental Divide can be seen in the background. The Kamikaze duo of Al and Ashton on the left. The conservatives Logan and me (behind camera) on the right.

When the kids needed a break from the slopes, we’d rent a couple of snowmobiles in Grand Lake and make a day of exploring the back country at 9,000 plus feet in elevation.  Our preferred place for lodging for these winter excursions was at Snow Mountain Ranch, a fifteen minute drive south of the town of Granby.

YMCA of the Rockies

We rent a rustic cabin in the woods for Christmas celebration. Snow Mountain Ranch, Colorado

Over the next ten years, this part of Colorado was where we would spend Christmas and ring in the New Year.  It became our family of four tradition and we had a blast snow skiing, snowmobiling, sledding, tubing, and snowshoeing.  The majority of the time, we would rent a rustic cabin at Snow Mountain Ranch, a great place for family fun – winter or summer.  There’s so many activities available at Snow Mountain Ranch as well as multiple lodging options, including a camping (summer only).

scenic towns in Colorado

Grand Lake is loaded with quaint shops, unique art galleries, and fun restaurants.

The town of Grand Lake is actually more of a summer tourist destination, and you’ll find several shops closed during the winter months.  Although snowmobiling is a very popular sport here, offering some of the best groomed back country trails in Colorado, the ski slopes are pretty far away, thus it’s not considered a ski destination.

Grand Lake, Colorado

Grand Lake is the western gateway into Rocky Mountain National Park

What makes Grand Lake so popular during the summer months is the access into Rocky Mountain National Park.  Grand Lake borders Rocky Mountain National Park on its western edge.  Folks from around the world visit this beautiful part of America.

Grand Lake, Colorado

this photo of Al and Bear was taken in Sept. of 2008 at the lovely park along Grand Lake

The lake itself is also a popular draw for anglers and water enthusiasts.  Personally, I can’t imagine engaging in any activity that would require actually touching the water as the water temperature appears to always be COLD.Grand Lake, Colorado

I remember one time standing on a dock at the water’s edge and feeling a wave of coolness rise and sweep over me.  It felt like I had opened my refrigerator freezer door and was greeted by a rush of cold air.  Yep, that’s some cold water!Rocky MountainsAnother popular draw to the area is the wildlife.  The moose population over the past twenty years has grown substantially in this part of Colorado.  It’s not uncommon for a moose to walk down Grand Lakes’ main street early in the morning and Elk are easily spotted roaming throughout the National Park.Rocky Mountains

PikaThere’s several campgrounds in the area as well as plenty of other lodging options. However, we’ve never personally overnighted in Grand Lake, thus can’t speak from experience.

There’s three different routes to access the town of Grand Lake….

During the summer, a leisurely drive through Rocky Mountain National Park via Trail Ridge Road from the town of Estes Park to the town of Grand Lake is a memorable scenic drive with stunning views accompanied by wildlife sightings.  I highly recommend this drive, but keep in mind, this road is not RV friendly.

The route we often took during our winter excursions:  From Interstate 70, we would head north on Highway 40 through Berthoud Pass heading toward Winter Park.  Although fine for a regular vehicle, there’s no way Al would pull the RV UP this road.  The grade is such that it would put a tremendous strain on the engine not to mention all the switchbacks.ColoradoThe preferred RV route:  From Interstate 70, head north through the town of Silverthorne on Highway 9.  In the town of Kremmling head east on Highway 40 to 34 east.

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying many visits to this charming mountain town.  You can read about one of my favorite day trips from Estes Park to Grand Lake by clicking here.  And if you’re interested in what others have to say about Grand Lake, you can click here for Lisa’s experience. (Lisa posted some great photos showcasing the area)

Next, I’ll finish up with my next two favorite Colorado mountain towns……

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