Located at the west entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park is the quaint town of Grand Lake, Colorado. This charming town is more than a gateway to the national park, it is also boasts the largest and deepest natural lake in the state of Colorado, and if you are lucky, you'll spot a moose or two, which live in the area. This is a great place to take out a canoe or kayak. Bring your own or rent one in town.
There are several places to drop in. One is them is the Gene Stover Lakefront Park, at the corner of Hancock Street and Lake Avenue, right in the hubbub of Grand Lake. There is a public parking lot across the street as well as a restroom to change clothing. After you paddle, you can put your boats back on your car and stroll around town for several more hours. The park also has a swimming area.
This is an extremely peaceful paddle. You can make a loop around the lake, staying close to shore, or go straight out into the middle. Power boats share the water, but in general, paddlers and power boaters barely notice each other.
Staying to shore and looping around the entire lake takes a couple hours, and it is fun to look at all the lakeside houses, from cozy, historic cabins to larger, modern homes.
In several directions, you will be able to see the remnants of the glacial action that formed Grand Lake. The glacial ice carved into the mountains to the east. As the earth's temperatures warmed, the glacier melted leaving ridges of clay and rocks called moraines.
When you drive into town you will see Shadow Mountain Reservoir and may want to drop in there. If you choose to do so, there is a connecting channel between Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Reservoir. A sign warns about strong currents, but the channel itself is more calm than Grand Lake as it protected by land and it is a no wake zone. The waters do get choppier on Shadow Mountain. There is an island in its natural state on the other side of the channel after coming from Grand Lake which acts as a barrier between the strong waters and the canal.
The area by the bridge on the canal is a popular spot for fly fishing, so be careful not to get tangled in a line.
The island just outside the channel protects the waters when entering Shadow Mountain Reservoir. However, the calm waters soon turn to white caps on the other side.
This portion of the Shadow Mountain Reservoir shoreline is a marshland. There is an island, but it is not that inviting to explore.
If the water is choppy, you will most likely go back to Grand Lake and continue the loop to your drop-in site.
Once you have finished exploring Grand Lake by water, you can play tourist on land by walking the wooden boardwalks of Grand Lake. There are sweet shops, all types of stores, and a variety of restaurants and bars.
Many of the buildings from the town's founding in the late 1800s and early 1900s still exist, and the town has done a great job of maintaining the turn of the century charm.
The town not only boasts the natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains, but almost every shop and store has a flower box or basket with colorful flowers bursting out more color. It truly is a beautiful place to visit. A weekend during the fall is a good time to go, when school is back in session and the aspens have begun to turn to gold and red.
Whether you are on a cross country road trip or a Denverite looking for a weekend get away, making Grand Lake a destination for a day or two is definitely worth doing.