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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67 thoughts on “Grand but quaint

  1. . Love your hummingbird photo! What a lovely place this is, with or without the snow. I really can’t imagine meeting a Moose or an Elk on the high street, Yes, that water looks very cold, but it doesn’t seem to bother the guy with the stunning antlers. 🙂

  2. We just got another pass to RMNP and were going to head to Grand Lake one day, but didn’t. 😦 One of these days! And I finally got boots from Jax in Loveland. Oboz. 🙂

    • Those boots will make a huge difference. Last summer I did several day trips into RMNP and loved it. We found this moose off Columbine Road shortly after you exit the park but before you turn to go into Grand Lake. Highly recommend the drive.

      • We drove to the Continental Divide this last time. That will be a few more posts in the future. Gotta catch up! Yeah, just the one trip I noticed I wasn’t sliding. Thank the Lord!

  3. Nice article but what really blew me away was the photo of the hummingbird. I had no idea there were moose in Colorado. This is a state I’d not given much thought to but you’ve really intrigued me.

  4. We’ve never stayed in Grand Lake but have made several day trip to the area. It is such a magnificent drive from the east. We just did the big loop drive while we were staying in Englewood a few weeks ago. We haven’t been up the road to Winter Park in 23 years. We were surprised to see how they have widened the road making for a much more enjoyable trip through those switchbacks. Of course, my main purpose for heading that way is the moose sightings. Seems to be the only place to see moose. And we’ve never failed to see some:) What a great place to spend time with the family enjoying the beautiful Colorado winter and making lasting memories:) Thanks, Ingrid, for sharing your family time and this great location:)

    • Hwy 40 (Berthoud Pass) was vastly improved with an additional lane and guardrails over the years. When we first started visiting the area, hwy 40 always scared the cr*p out of these former flatlanders. Seeing those moose are always a treat. Last year we hit the wildlife jackpot that had me smiling for weeks. This summer our CO stay has been shortened due to the eastern trip but I’m hoping next summer we’re able to linger in Colorado’s high country. I never seem to get enough 🙂

  5. Hummingbird is phenomenal!
    I also really love the Moose! LOVE Him! So cool that your family got to spend Christmas together in a rustic cabin! Very Cool!

    • We do have some great family memories. Right before seeing that moose, hubby surprised me with a moose necklace he purchased in one of the art galleries in Grand Lake (someone needed a potty break allowing my sweet man to shop alone) On our return to camp we encounter that handsome moose…. what a perfect day 🙂

  6. That is the perfect hummer shot! I think you should put it up against the pros!
    Yet another wonderful place to explore. Im so glad you are posting about your favorite CO towns. Gorgeous, gorgeous, can’t wait to be there myself. Thanks Ingrid.

    • Awe, you are too kind. I guess there’s an up side to not feeling well – I get to lounge around snapping hummers.
      You know me, I have a bunch of recommendations when it’s time for you to spend some serious time exploring CO.

  7. Holy hummingbird Batman! That is a great photo. I was just at Rocky Mountain Park at the end of April. It looks like spring has finally sprung there. It was snowing when we were there! Its a pretty area for sure!

    • Thank you. Wow, April is super early to visit Rocky. The snow must have still been pretty deep. Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park to Grand Lake isn’t usually plowed open until May. It’s beautiful anytime of year 🙂

  8. Great hummingbird capture — and I also love the moose shot! We’ve yet to see moose in the wild. Can’t imagine one walking down the main street! That would be fun to see. Another lovely Colorado town to explore. Thanks for the tour!

    • I wanted to stay at least a week camped some where around Grand Lake this summer, but we decided to head back east to visit family and friends. We love Grand Lake and even looked at some houses along the small lake that the moose was standing in…. the housing thought lasted a matter of minutes as we were quickly reminded about the long, cold winters at 9,000 feet in elevation 🙂

    • Thank you so much. It took a little trial and error and lots of patience, but I finally figured out the perfect shutter speed 🙂

    • Thank you Jet. Although I’m always thrilled to see moose and elk, I was particular happy to finally capture a nice shot of a hummer. Those little guys are so fast it’s not always easy 🙂

    • My kids have no complaints. Our daughter was just over visiting on Sunday and I let her know about the post I was composing. The stories started flying; some of which brought us to tears due to the laughter. Good times 🙂

    • Thanks Lu. I’m now very comfortable shooting with the FZ-200 and have learned all its in and outs. I rarely shoot anymore in the IA mode. I was so excited with that hummer shot. Now I can’t wait to revisit the Desert Sonoran Museum next winter. (even though Tucson isn’t really on the schedule. That museum is worth a little rearranging).
      You and Terry would love Grand Lake and that nifty truck camper of yours will allow you a ton of camping options.

  9. My God! That first pic is stunning. I’m totally blown away by some of these……that moose…my lifelong dream to see a moose in the wild……and that cabin in the snow-covered mountains. Oh, what a delicious feast for my eyes!

    • Awe, thank you! I was thrilled beyond words when we stumbled upon that moose. We spent at least 30-40 minutes watching the huge guy. Our winter get aways were always special 🙂

  10. What a lovely place, like you, I enjoy watching the kids play on the slopes more than I enjoy being on the slopes. My one attempt at skiing was a disaster. It’s gonna be a great day!

    • I took lessons at Villa Olivia and again in WI and hated it. So I can relate to your disastrous experience. I belong behind the camera watching my children have fun 🙂

  11. I’ve often heard of Grand Lake and it sounds like a place we need to work in a visit. I hope you eventually took up snow skiing – most fun thing you can do with your cloths on.

    • Haha…. my husband uses that same saying. Nope, never had much of an interest in taking up the sport. I took ski lessons in WI when I was younger and hated it. Love tubing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling…. thus happy 🙂

  12. Thank you so much for the great travel locations! This town is a must for me now. My BFF is in Denver, so getting around the rest of the state will become an adventure for both of us. 😃
    Love the little fuzzy rodent. What is that?

    • That’s a Pika and lives at elevations over 10,000 feet. Cute little thing, huh! From Denver, you could actually make a day trip out of it, which I’ve done on several occasions and written about it. Or make a loop by heading down toward Winter Park and shushing down the mountain via an Alpine Slide…. so much fun. Don’t hesitate to email me for fun ideas 🙂

    • I skied in the Midwest and hated it. I know every one says it’s not the same as the fresh powder in Colorado, but fear of a reinjure scared me too much. Plus I always have way to much fun behind the camera 🙂

  13. Thanks for sharing this today. We briefly talked about driving on to Grand Lake last year after we arrived at the top of Trail Ridge Road, but it was already getting late in the day, and we weren’t sure about driving back over that road after dark to return to Estes Park. Need to go here sometime, as it looks like a great little town.

    • I recall during that visit you had a lot of rental car issues messing with your plans. So a revisit is definitely in order. You’d love it 🙂

  14. Great blog post obviously a stunning location with lots to see and photograph but the picture of the bird (a hummer? of sorts maybe) that grabbed me quiet stunning

    • Yes, it’s a hummingbird. Those little hummers are quick little guys so I was particularly pleased to finally capture a nice photo of one. Thank you 🙂

  15. 🙂 Thanks for the blog love! We really enjoyed our stay in Grand Lake! They even have one of the sweetest libraries we’ve ever visited on our travels. The wildlife can’t be beat and your photos are living proof!

    • Grand Lake and Crested Butte are two towns that hold a special place in my heart. We’ve made some very wonderful memories in both places.
      You took some fantastic photos of the area and thus I felt compelled to share the beauty. Isn’t that what we do 🙂

  16. What a wonderful picture of the hummingbird. But then, excellent shots of the other wildlife, too.
    Have a great day,

    • Thank you. I finally figured out how to set the camera to capture these cute speedy guys. Boy, do those hummers zip around 🙂

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