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Tuesday, Mar 02

Travel | Grand Lake and Rocky Mountain National Park

March 02, 2021
By Debi Lander
[email protected]

John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” speaks to the euphoria of the Colorado landscape, capturing serenity when he sings, “The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullaby, Rocky Mountain high.” You can get that feeling, warmed by ideal summer temperatures and transported by breathtaking scenery — just head to the resort town of Grand Lake and Rocky Mountain National Park. You’ll find them a two-hour drive from Denver.

Grand Lake sits north of the Colorado River headwaters, at the base of Shadow Mountain. The tiny town, established in 1881, boasts a year-round population of only 282, but swells during warm summer months bringing visitors, many of whom return year after year. 

Though small, history runs deep. The village aptly sits on the shores of Grand Lake at the surprising elevation of 8,369 feet. It’s home to the world’s highest yacht club, the Grand Lake Yacht Club. They annually host a race whose competitors vie for the ornate silver, ever so prestigious trophy, donated by legendary tea purveyor but less-well-known yachtsman Sir Thomas J. Lipton. Grand Lake is indeed remarkable, ranking as the deepest and largest natural body of water in Colorado. 

The old-fashioned boardwalks add a touch of Western and boating flare along Grand Avenue. Look for hitching posts and Wild West-style architecture, art galleries, boutiques, and gift shops. Stop into the casual restaurants and watering holes, often featuring live music. 

Naturally, water activities remain the big draw. The marina handles boat rentals of all types: kayaks, canoes, paddle boats, and stand-up paddleboards. The lake offers the perfect place to drop a fishing line in search of cold-water varieties, mainly sockeye salmon and trout.

Landlubbers spend relaxing afternoons on the Grand Lake beach’s sandy shores, enjoying temperatures in the 70s to mid-80s. But only those brave enough dare a swim in the frigid water. 

The Rocky Mountain Repertory Theater offers a contrasting bonus. The long-running theater brings in professional actors and actresses and puts on top-notch full productions of Broadway favorites. 

One of the biggest draws to Grand Lake is its status as the western gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. Colorado’s crown jewel encompasses more than 265,000 acres of wilderness — prime territory for viewing wildlife, hiking, camping, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

Trail Ridge Road, nicknamed the “Highway to the Sky,” ranks as the highest continuous paved road in the U.S, connecting Grand Lake to Estes Park. Bring a jacket and get ready to spin up and down 48 miles of twisty, hairpin turns, and steeply graded pavement edging sheer drops.

In no time, you’ll enter the aspen forest at mid-mountain. Snap selfies at the Continental Divide sign along the Milner Pass. The Divide marks the split where rainwater falls either to the East or the West. 

Expect your ears to pop and whoa’s and ohs (or perhaps something stronger) to spill from passengers. Even if you don’t get out of your car, the Rocky Mountain National Park smacks you in the face. The bold scenery envelops you and sends imagination soaring. 

The tree line dwindles, and winds pick up near the summit. Stop at the Alpine Visitors Center (elevation 11,796 feet) to see tundra exhibits speaking to the altitude’s harsh conditions. The Trail Ridge store offers indoor bathrooms, hot coffee, and a National Park gift shop. You can hike a short distance to the trail summit from here. 

Back in the car, begin your descent toward Estes Park, a ride more enthralling than the uphill. The panorama changes around each turn, and thankfully there are many pullouts and small parking lots. Sharp, snow capped mountains, rolling hillsides, and deep valleys extol the mountain beauty and diversity. It’s a Colorado Rocky Mountain high for sure. 

Visit to read more of local travel writer Debi Lander’s stories and travel tips.

Photo courtesy Debi Lander
Driving into Rocky Mountain National Park.



Monday, Jun 08

Family Travel: Colorado’s Top Five Lodging Suggestions for Summer 2020

June 08, 2020

Author Julie Bielenberg mentions two Grand County properties in her Milehighmamas article "Family Travel: Colorado's Top Five Lodging Suggestions for Summer 2020".

Monday, Feb 24
Friday, May 10

Afar - Crowd-Free Private Reserves Could Be a Solution to Overtourism

May 10, 2019 - Grand County's Latigo Ranch is highlighted by Afar for their effort of preserving the American West by sharing their 550 acres of ranch land with visitors. Ranch owner, Randy George, discloses how tourism helps ranchers maintain their western lifestyle.

Thursday, Feb 28

AAA - An Insider’s Guide to Winter Park, Colorado

February 28, 2019 - Native reporter shares Winter Park memories and insider tips to best experience the region's shopping, dining and unrivaled activities.

"Winter Park has always been a popular ski area, highly favored among Colorado locals, in part due to its unpretentiousness. In fact, Winter Park takes its name from its origin: The resort was founded as a winter sports park for Denverites."

"On a group trip, it can be hard to find an activity that pleases everyone. Fortunately, the snowcat tour on Winter Park mountain really does have something for everyone. Thrill seekers will relish riding in the heaving, multiton Piston Bully as it pulls its way straight up (and down) the mountain slopes, and they will be the first to volunteer to sit up front with the driver as co-pilot. Meanwhile, ski nerds can geek out, as the snowcat driver explains what a snow dragon is, how fake snow is made, and where the ski runs in the Alice in Wonderland Valley got their names. And for the scenery lovers? The two hour-long ride provides jaw-dropping views of the mountain, the town, and the entire Continental Divide."

Read more.

Thursday, Feb 28

World Property Journal - Top 5 Great Winter Ski Getaways in U.S. Revealed

February 28, 2019

World Property Journal - Seasoned travel and tourism journalist ranks 5 best US ski resorts, listing his #1 choice as Winter Park Resort.

"At Winter Park, you can traverse the local winter wonderland the old-fashioned way, in snowshoes. Or you try a new way of doing it, on something called a ski bike. Or, you can try "dashing through the snow" on a snowmobile. And if you're up for outdoor adventure on your feet, there are miles of great winter trails here. After your day of adventure, you can take the new gondola up to the Sunspot Mountaintop Lodge, where you can enjoy a gourmet dinner at 10,700 feet." 

Read more.

Thursday, Feb 28

World Property Journal - Top 5 Valentine's Day Getaways in America Revealed

February 28, 2019

World Property Journal - Travel and tourism journalist names favorite American destinations to celebrate Valentine's Day and features Kremmling's Latigo Ranch.

"And on Valentine's night, you might be served grass-fed ribeye filet, Colorado lamb chops, or Bison Flank Steak Roulade, each surrounded by gourmet sauces and sides and garnishes. Before dinner you may want  to grab a glass of fine wine from the lodge, and watch a spectacular Rocky Mountain sunset with your Valentine from the deck, with frosty views of some of the most beautiful country in North America. Or, you might decide to celebrate the day inside your cabin, with a roaring fire in the hearth and a great bottle of wine."

Read more. 

Thursday, Feb 28

Travel Weekly - Skiing a 'private national park' at the Devil's Thumb

February 28, 2019

Travel Weekly - Reporter spends two days enjoying everything Devil's Thumb Ranch has to offer—from Nordic skiing to ranch to table cuisine.

"It's like a private national park," is the description that Thad Carlson, the property's senior head of sales, used a couple of times during my two days at the resort as an invited guest. And while the cynic in me couldn't help but find something contradictory about the juxtaposition of the terms "private" and "national park," I understood where Carlson was coming from."

Read more.

Friday, Jan 04

Budget Travel - Winter Park Ranks Among Affordable American Destinations

January 04, 2019

Budget Travel - The editors of Budget Travel highlight Colorado's Favorite Playground in their list of 51 Affordable Discoveries Across America. Winter Park is friendly, reasonably priced, inclusive and full of unmatched outdoor recreation.

Read more.