5 Can't-Miss Rocky Mountain Towns

Three people kayak on Grand Lake with snowcapped Rocky Mountain National Park peaks and golden aspens in the background.

Some of the best-kept secrets of the Rocky Mountains lie just outside the Western Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. Each with distinct personalities and unique grand adventures, these Colorado mountain towns (all less than two hours from Denver by car) should jump to the top of your itinerary.

Rocky Mountain Towns

  1. Granby
  2. Grand Lake
  3. Hot Sulphur Springs
  4. Kremmling
  5. Winter Park and Fraser

1. Granby

With signature events including the Three Lakes Ice Fishing Contest in January and the "biggest small-town parade" for July 4th, every season is perfect for visiting this Colorado mountain town.

What to do this winter: Hit the slopes or pick up a cross-country trail at Granby Ranch. If you prefer to sit back while gliding through the snow, consider dog sledding at Snow Mountain Ranch. If you're more for a slow-paced winter, grab a pole and drop a line with some ice fishing. There's no better way to enjoy the frosted Rocky Mountain scenery.

What to do this summer: Golf at one of the world-class golf courses surrounding Granby, like Grand Elk Golf Course. Or do some summer fishing for another take on a tranquil day. Looking to become one with the west? Cowboy up at one of Grand County's authentic dude ranches.

What not to miss: Since Granby is located in a gorgeous Rocky Mountain valley, it has incredible views of the Continental Divide. Make sure to take a hike or drive to take in the piney landscapes before dining or shopping on the town's charming main street.

Things to Do in Granby

2. Grand Lake

A sign that says "I Love Grand Lake, CO" hands on a building in downtown Grand Lake, with mountains from Rocky Mountain National Park in the background

With an unbeatable lakeside setting, Grand Lake offers an incredible break from the everyday. With year-round recreational activities, you can visit any time you need to get away.

What to do this winter: Grand Lake is known as the "Snowmobiling Capital of Colorado," making it a winter-activity wonderland. Keep your eyes open for snowshoeing and nordic skiing trails at Grand Lake Nordic Center so you can take to the trails to see shimmering, snow-dusted trees.

What to do this summer: Grand Lake offers classic mountain activities like hiking and mountain biking, but it also offers several ATV/OHV outfitters that can help you see the town in a whole new way. And with the largest natural lake in Colorado, Grand Lake's summer list wouldn't be complete without some water sports. If you plan your trip at the right time, you might just be able to attend one of the town's signature events like the 4th of July Extravaganza or Grand Lake Regatta Week.

What not to miss: Also known as the Western Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Lake is an incredible place to stay while you explore the park. Look for bugling elk and golden leaves in the fall. Snowshoe, cross-country ski, or simply watch wildlife in the winter. In the summer, explore the less-traveled hiking and biking trails with plenty of technicolor, flower-lined paths.

Things to Do in Grand Lake

3. Hot Sulphur Springs

Rich in history and unique natural attractions, Hot Sulphur Springs is the perfect place to relax and unwind any time of year.

What to do this winter: Home to hot springs that line the craggy canyon, Hot Sulphur Springs is famous for the relaxing, sacred waters that Ute Indians once used to heal minds, bodies and spirits. Visit Hot Sulphur Springs Resort and dip into this age-old medicinal secret. Plan your Hot Sulphur Springs visit early in the year to take advantage of the town’s annual Winter Carnival, complete with ski competitions, costumes and plenty of seasonal fun.

What to do this summer: The hot springs are open year round, but there is plenty more to add to your summer itinerary. Hikecamp, or fish in this gorgeous, small-town setting before stopping by one of the town's signature events like Hot Sulphur Days in June.

What not to miss: No matter what time of year you visit, the hot springs at Hot Sulphur Springs Resort is the town's biggest attraction. Don't miss it when you visit!

Things to Do in Hot Sulphur Springs

4. Kremmling

A metal airstream camper sits at a campground surrounded by sagebrush in Kremmling, Colorado with the Rocky Mountains in the background.

Whether you are looking for hunting, fishing, or whitewater rafting, you can't go wrong in this "Sportsman's Paradise." Kremmling offers fast-paced adventures and relaxing retreats, with panoramic summit scenery year-round.

What to do this winter: Visit Latigo Ranch for some prime Nordic skiing or snowshoeing in the beautiful, quiet Kremmling scenery. Afterwards, warm up in the hot tub or the historic log lodge, and experience the "Best Dude Ranch in Colorado." Or catch the Annual Wolford Mountain Reservoir Ice Fishing Contest, held every February.

What to do this summer: Kremmling is the epicenter for hunting in Grand County, Colorado. Get your license to hunt anything from pronghorn and elk to bears and mountain lions. If you're not the hunting type, try horseback riding, or visit the Middle Park Fair and Rodeo. If you're looking for an adrenaline rush, visit the newly-opened Gore Canyon Whitewater Park, and kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or raft through this new recreation site. Plan your trip at the right time, and you might get to experience Kremmling's "Fire up the Cliffs" 4th of July Celebration, complete with food trucks, hip-swaying music and a craft-beer garden.

What not to miss: Visit the Kremmling Cliffs. Climb to the top to get the best view of the town. Take the Colorado River Headwaters Scenic Byway that cuts through Kremmling and continues over the scenic Trough Road to State Bridge.

Things to Do in Kremmling

5. Winter Park and Fraser

People ride on the summer gondola at Winter Park resort with the Continental Divide in the background.

Don't let the name fool you—Winter Park and Fraser are wonderlands year round, with extensive things to do in the summer and the winter. With can't-miss signature events like Blues From the Top Music Festival and the Winter Park Brew Fest, you can't go wrong with planning your trip any time of year.

What to do this winter: Ski, ski, ski! Winter Park Ski Resort averages the most annual snowfall of any major resort in Colorado, and you'll find extensive beginner to advanced terrain for skiers and snowboarders alike. Looking for something a little more laid back? Try dog sledding or fat biking. Whatever type of day you choose, end your day with some s'mores and hot chocolate in town before doing it all again the next day.

What to do this summer: Your trip to Winter Park and Fraser wouldn't be complete without a day or more of mountain biking. Known as the "Mountain Bike Capital USA," Winter Park has an incredible range of trails. If you're trying to stay cool, the area has plenty of kayaking and rafting as well. Or take a zipline through Devil's Thumb Ranch to learn about the area's heart-racing history. Before the end of your stay, take a chairlift up above mountains covered with a tapestry of native wildflowers all the way to the 610-foot vertical drop of the first and longest alpine slide in Colorado.

What not to miss: Winter Park is home to an incredible summer concert series. With music events and festivals featuring local and national artists every week all summer long, it'd be hard to miss! Make sure your summer retreat overlaps with one of these great events.

Things to Do in Winter Park

Things to Do in Fraser

Check Out These Rocky Mountain Cities Year Round

With so many things to do in each Grand County town, it might be hard to figure out where to start. With plenty of natural attractions and scenic drives, you can plan to hit all five. Experience the best of fall, find out the top activities for non-skiers in the spring, or learn how to do winter like a pro. Whenever you decide to visit these five Grand County towns, you're sure to cross quite a few things off your bucket list.

More About Colorado Mountain Towns

Looking for more mountain-town fun? See these resources for itinerary inspiration: