5 Can't-Miss Towns in the Rocky Mountains

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 towns should jump to the top of your Rocky Mountain bucket list.

1. Granby

With signature events including the Three Lakes Ice Fishing Contest in January, Ride the Rockies in June, and the "Largest Small Town Parade" in July, every season is perfect for visiting this small town.

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

What to do this summer: Golf at one of the world-class golf courses surrounding Granby including Golf Granby Ranch and Grand Elk Golf Course, or take up summer fishing for another take on a relaxing 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 a nice drive to take in the views before dining or shopping on the town's charming main street.

2. Grand Lake

Downtown Grand Lake

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 do to this winter: Grand Lake is also known as the "Snowmobiling Capital of Colorado," so it's a great place to satisfy your need for adrenaline or pick up a new skill. Keep your eyes open for snowshoeing and nordic skiing trails at Grand Lake Nordic Center as well, and get out and enjoy the snow!

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 in the fall, snowshoe, cross-country ski, or simply watch wildlife in the winter, or explore the hiking and biking trails during the summer.

3. Hot Sulphur Springs

Rich in history and truly 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 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 take a taste of this age-old medicinal secret. Plan your Hot Sulphur Springs visit early in the year to take advantage of the exciting annual Winter Carnival the town holds.

What do do this summer: The hot springs are open year round, but there is plenty more to add to your to-do list in the summertime! Hike, camp, 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!

4. Kremmling

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, all with breathtaking 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 annually in February.

What to do this summer: Kremmling is the epicenter for hunting in Grand County, Colorado. Get your license to hunt anything from pronghorn to elk to bears to mountain lions. If you're not the hunting type, find a different way to get close to some animals: 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 paddle board, 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.

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

5. Winter Park and Fraser

Downtown Winter Park at dusk

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 Carnival, 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 zip line through Devil's Thumb Ranch to learn about the area's heart-racing history. Before the end of your stay, take a scenic chairlift up to the top of 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 local 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 one of these great events.

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. Play to complete our top 15 things to do this summer, 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. Whatever and whenever you decide to visit these 5 Grand County towns, you're sure to cross quite a few things off of your bucket list.