You can’t deny Grand Lake in the summer. With boardwalks connecting charming shops and eateries, and the state’s largest body of natural water just steps away, this town in Colorado’s Central Mountains feels like a beach vacation.
But even in the cold of winter, Grand Lake shines.
Quaint hamlets are often overshadowed by Winter Park Resort, a world-famous ski destination to the south. Grand Lake doesn’t have a chairlift, but it does have plenty of powder-filled adventures. There aren’t many aperitifs, but you’ll have no problem finding a cozy fireplace with your favorite drink.
And you can find something here that a busy resort can’t claim. There is a reigning stillness. Some kind of stillness. The peace and gratitude that comes with a true authentic escape in the Rocky Mountains in winter.
Self-powered fun Grand Lake is the western gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. This side of the park does not draw the crowds on the other side via Estes Park. In winter, I feel even more lonely.
Rent snowshoes or cross-country skis and see the majesty for yourself. Or check in with Kaiyote Tours and let the experts guide you. They know the spots to see elk.
The Grand Lake Nordic Center offers snowshoe trails through shimmering forests and along the Colorado River, where you can spot bald eagles. The center also has 35 kilometers of trails for skiing. Kids will love the hills for sledding and tubing. When you’re done, settle in with a bowl of chili.
Grand Lake is the base camp for ice fishing. Aficionados dot the town’s frozen waters, as well as nearby Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Lake Granby.
A free ice skating rink was recently installed at the town park along Grand Avenue.
Riding Grand Lake is working on the self-proclaimed title of the Snowmobile Capital of Colorado. It shows in the town’s efforts to keep the roads snow-covered so that riders can comfortably drive through and park wherever they want.
But the boardwalk is not their destination. A local ambassador says he counts more than 300 miles of snowmobile trails nearby, about half of which are groomed. The surrounding Arapahoe National Forest is a vast playground.
Let an On the Trail Rentals or Grand Adventures guide take you through scenic meadows, forests and ridges.
Exploring the City There is always a past around Grand Lake. Some of the town’s earliest buildings still stand, including the elaborate Kauffman House. Built in 1892, the house is now a museum. During winter, tours are held on specific dates.
The riverside Rapids Lodge & Restaurant is another historic landmark. A cozy and romantic place for evening cocktails.
If you’re not there, consider dinner at the Sagebrush BBQ & Grill. Buckets of peanuts, game sausages and smoked meat platters are served in an Old West setting.
I have to come back in the summer for a show at the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theater. Still, the creative city makes its mark with several artist-owned galleries.