There’s more to adventure than sailing up on Grand Lake
Serene boating and antler-art shopping may be your vision of a weekend in Grand Lake (“grand,” perhaps, for the multimillion dollar homes encircling its waters). But don’t be fooled: With Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) surrounding it on three sides, Grand Lake has big potential for adventure. So while your caffeine-revved comrades crowd the interstate headed for more obvious locales—Breck, Vail, Aspen—clip in or boot up, and enjoy these epics.
– The Tour de Rocky –
Starting in Estes Park or another Front Range locale, cycle to Grand Lake over the continental divide through RMNP. The apex 48-mile Trail Ridge Road is so spectacular you may not even notice your lungs, legs and head bursting from the altitude (12,183 feet at top). Arrange a car shuttle with a friend, or (preferred) bike it out and back with a sig other, staying overnight in Grand Lake. Consider the Western Riviera (westernriv.com, 970-627-3580), which has lakeshore access for a post-road cool-off in alpine waters. Of course, Grand Lake also makes a good starting point. On your ride, check out spectacular wildlife—elk, eagles, pika, North American homo sapiens barely able to remove themselves from their cars and the occasional shy moose browsing on shrubs.
– Hike Across the Divide –
Day 1: Leave one car at Bear Lake in RMNP. Take a second car to Grand Lake; chill out and prepare for your monster hike. Get your burger fix at Miyauchi’s then follow up with a White Cap Wheat or Plaid Bastard microbrew at the Grand Lake Brewing Co (grandlakebrewing.com, 970-627-1711).
Day 2: Starting from the North Inlet Trail, hike east toward Cascade Falls. The trail offers some of the best peak-studded scenery in the Park, passing below Hallet Peak, over Flattop Mountain (the continental divide), and finally descending to Bear Lake. If you decide to break the 18+ mile hike into multiple days, a handful of designated backcountry campsites can be reserved. They fill up fast in the summer; permits are required. Obtain one in person at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center on the east side or the Kawuneeche Visitor Center on the west side of RMNP. For more info on hiking and camping in RMNP, go to nps.gov/romo.
– Strawberry/Doe Creek Single Track –
Why haven’t you heard of this sweet 22-mile ride? Probably because it requires some hike-a-biking up steep, loose slopes. But the rideable parts are fully worth the inconvenience (think tire-wide singletrack through grassy meadows). For directions visit singletracks.com/bike-trails/strawberry-doe-creek.html. Treat yourself before the ride with fresh cinnamon rolls from Betty’s Café and Bakery (970-627-1934) or wash up and enjoy a romantic riverside dinner afterwards at the Rapids Lodge and Restaurant (rapidslodge.com, 970-627-3707). •
More to check out in Grand Lake
Rent a kayak or sport boat at the Grand Lake Marina.
Get your fancy omelets, pastries, fresh fruit, and chocolate fondue at Caroline’s Cuisine, off highway 34 at the Soda Springs Ranch.
Hike 3.3 miles to the Shadow Mountain Fire Lookout. Originally built in 1930, the tower offers a spectacular view of Grand Lake, RMNP and Arapahoe National Forest.