There are few things as beautiful as walking from downtown and catching sight of Grand Lake, Colorado’s largest and deepest lake. Surrounded by the historic town of the same name and mountains that tumble to its shores, Grand Lake offers a ton of water activities during the summer. Plus, you can hike into the park from town at the East Inlet Trail and see Adams Falls minutes from the parking area.
Most people visit Rocky Mountain National Park viea the park’s bustling east side. But the West Entrance at Grand Lake is striking, has fewer visitors and is well-worth checking out.
2023 Note: In summer 2023, timed-entry reservations are required for Rocky Mountain National Park between May 26 and October 22, and are in addition to your entrance fee. You can buy your timed-entry reservation for $2 at recreation.gov.
Here are our favorite things to do on the water at Grand Lake.
Go Boating on Grand Lake
In the morning, the waters of Grand Lake are smooth, making it a great time to explore by boat. It’s also the best time to be on the water because afternoon thunderstorms are common during the summer in Colorado.
You have several options for boating on Grand Lake and nearby Shadow Mountain Lake. The Grand Lake Marina rents pontoon boats and Boston Whalers and is located at Grand Lake’s waterfront. It also offers chartered sunset party cruises for up to 35 people.
Or you can spend time on Shadow Mountain Lake, a reservoir connected to Grand Lake via a short canal.The Trail Ridge Marina on Shadow Mountain Lake rents pontoon boats, fishing boats and pleasure boats. It also offers boats tours for up to 12 people.
Go Paddling on Grand Lake
If you are looking to use your arms or feet to power your own boat, a couple businesses on the lakefront offer kayak and pedal boat rentals. You’ll see the glimmering gold, pink and purple pedal boats lining one of the wooden docks on Grand Lake. Pedal boats are a great way to experience the lake with kids. To avoid excessive pedaling, stay closer to shore rather than heading out to the middle of the lake, especially if the wind picks up. The water is choppier in the middle of the lake, making the waters difficult to navigate (and frustrating) for kids, especially if you are trying to make it back in a hurry to return your boat.
If paddling is more your style, Mountain Paddlers Kayak Shak on Grand Lake’s public boat dock rents several different types of kayaks. The Grand Lake Marina also rents kayaks, canoes and single-person paddle boards. With four miles of shoreline on Grand Lake, it takes about 2 hours to kayak the entire shoreline, according to Mountain Paddlers, but you also can just take your time exploring the lake without having to go all around it. For a slight change of scenery, you can kayak to Shadow Mountain Lake via a short canal. Shadow Mountain Lake is much larger than Grand Lake with 8 miles of shoreline and 1,346 surface acres.
If you want to launch from Shadow Lake, you can rent kayaks or paddle boards at the Trail Ridge Marina on Shadow Mountain Lake.
Swim at the Public Beach
Relax on the sandy public beach at Grand Lake and watch kayaks and boaters make their way across the lake. Be sure to bring chairs or towels to sit on as you take in the incredible views of the Rockies surrounding the lake. And it’s worth buying some beach toys in town, if you have children or grandchildren with you. While the lake water is really cold, kids, dogs and some brave adults will often run in and out of the lake to cool off from the sun’s strong rays. There is no lifeguard at this small beach, so keep an eye on your kids.
For more information:
Grand County Colorado Tourism Board