You may have never heard of Grand Lake, Colorado and that would not be surprising unless you were from the Denver, CO area. This town and nearby Granby are no secrets for the folks in the region. To find it on a map, it might be best to find Grand Lake which is at the western entrance of the Rocky Mountain National Park. This side is much quieter than the Estes Park entrance but takes more than two hours travel time from Denver to get here.
This popular location has plenty to do in the summer, including hikes in the RMNP, three lakes, and plenty of off-road areas in the nearby national forest. Grand Lake is a park “gateway” town so expect plenty of people in the town itself. There is also the Grand Lake Lodge that overlooks Grand Lake, which is the deepest natural lake in all of Colorado. Shadow Mountain Lake and Lake Granby are reservoirs that are fed by the Colorado River.
The town itself borders the national park and one of the popular hikes from the town is to Adams Falls. The short hike rewards the hiker with a large rushing torrent of water from the mountain snow melt. This is also a swimming hole above the falls, but be prepared for some cold water. While this is not a hike for one seeking solitude, it is one not to miss.
Another great hike in the national park is to Big Meadows via the Green Mountain Trail. This trail is part of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. There are wildflowers galore in this stream-fed meadow. We did not see any moose on our hike but it was a perfect location for them to hang out. Surely they were there but must have been taking a nap.
Big Meadows is surrounded by mountains, some with lingering snow making for a nice backdrop. The field was full of wildflowers and nothing is better than relaxing by the stream and taking it all in.
The western entrance of RMNP is actually much closer to the high-elevation Alpine Visitor Center than the eastern gates. At 11,796 feet elevation, it dwarfs anything we were used to on the east coast. Because it is above treeline, the views are spectacular and expansive. The wildflowers at this elevation have only a six week growing season and July is a great month to view them.
The views west of the Alpine Visitor Center are amazing as well. One of the mountain ranges visible is the Never Summer Wilderness Range.
The western side also has the Holzwarth Historic Farm Site. This ranch started in 1917 was from available land of the Homestead Act of 1862. The immigrants from Germany who settled there, endured the hardships of the remote Kawuneeche Valley and the harsh winters. They eventually built several buildings and opened guest services for visitors and provided goods for the people of Grand Lake such as lumber and even ice from the frozen Grand Lake.
We were disappointed that very few buildings could be visited at the historic site. One of the main structures is currently under renovation. But all was good when a large herd of elk, perhaps one hundred, made their way through the farms clearing. Just when you thought there could not be anymore passing by, more would appear from the woods with little ones in tow. That was the highlight of our visit there.
At the ranch you can see the headwaters of the Colorado River. It is amazing to see this small stream that will later provide water to over 40 million people.
One of the reasons that we chose the Grand Lake area is I have a cousin who lives in Granby, CO. We were able to visit Darrel and Carolyn in their wonderful mountain-top home and enjoy spending some time with them. To our surprise a serendipity happened when we discovered that another cousin was camping on Lake Granby. We were able to visit Vincent and Kristy at their site which was one the best we have seen. It was at the Arapaho Bay Campground at the eastern end of the lake. While the campground is situated for smaller rigs and tents it is a beautiful location on Lake Granby.
I think that this is a location that we definitely would come back for a stay. We knew nothing of this town, and in fact had never heard of it, but it has a lot to offer. This is a high elevation area that is a great respite from the summer heat of Denver and a wonderful stop on our Colorado adventure.
Surprisingly we had not seen any moose, Celia’s favorite. So on our last night a mamma moose and her two young ate supper in the willows beside our camper. OK, we can move on.
Up next: Celia travels home to visit her folks in North Carolina and I stay behind to explore the Montrose, Colorado area.
Note: E-Mail Recipients Please Go to the Piddlinaround.Net Site For Proper Photo Formatting.