Many tourists who visit Rocky Mountain National Park only experience the town of Estes Park on its eastern side. But for those lucky travellers who take the Trail Ridge Road (U.S. 34, the highest continuous motorway in the United States, with more than eight miles above 11,000 feet) 48 miles across Rocky Mountain National Park westward, they land in the charming Town of Grand Lake, Colorado.
Situated on the shores of Grand Lake, Colorado’s largest and deepest natural body of water, the Town of Grand Lake and its surrounding area has welcomed visitors for years. Prehistoric people, followed by Utes, Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes made their way annually to the region to fish and hunt. Trappers and hunting guides, eventually, found the area. But it was in the 1870’s, when miners flooded into surrounding settlements such as Lulu City, that the town became a bustling outfitting and supply point.
Nowadays, despite the town’s small year-round population, there are an amazing array of activities the area offers. Consider renting a kayak or paddle boarding across the waterway. There are publicly and privately operated marinas, and public boat docks on the lake. Interestingly, Grand Lake is home to the world’s highest registered yacht club, hosting sailing races, and the nation’s highest altitude golf course. Furthermore, Grand Lake is considered the snowmobile capital of Colorado with 125 miles of groomed trails. Of course, Rocky Mountain National Park, which surrounds the town and lake on three sides, offers hiking and fishing, but, in particular, is a great area in the park for moose sightings. Some even wander onto local streets. And if all of the above is not enough, the town has a summer stock theatre producing musicals from June to August and frequent festivals and parades. Wow.
But let’s talk about the town itself. Expect to find horses sharing parking spots outside a variety of shops and restaurants along the boardwalk. Cascades of the Rockies offers not only books, but gourmet food items. At night, enjoy live music in a local saloon.
The only potential downside to visiting Grand Lake, depending on your perspective, is the area has been hit much more heavily than Estes Park, by the pine beetle. Although the forests are revitalizing, there are dead trees everywhere. Personally, although I found it sad, it was also enthralling in the extent of damage and would not let it deter a visit to this wonderful area.
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