A Summer on the Lake

Colorado's Grand Lake (the body of water and the town) is a twinkling Rocky Mountain gem

When I moved to Colorado in 2000, I was surprised by how many bodies of water were sprinkled around the state. However, I was also a bit befuddled by them. They looked nothing like the lakes I’d grown up around in the Pacific Northwest. My husband explained that they were man-made lakes called reservoirs and built as water supply. 

Then, years ago, I visited Grand Lake, Colorado, and was so excited to have found a lake that reminded me of home. Not only is this cobalt blue lake picturesque, it’s Colorado’s deepest and largest natural lake.  

Located in the central-northern part of Colorado, in the Rocky Mountains, Grand Lake is the name of the lake and the town that hugs its northern shoreline. Directly to the southwest, Shadow Mountain Lake forms a continuous body of water with Grand Lake and is where kayakers and canoers enjoy being buzzed by the osprey that nest in the trees surrounding this peaceful reservoir. 

Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer

A stone’s throw south of Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Lake is one of Colorado’s largest bodies of water. At 7,000 acres, Granby Lake features marinas, coves and a fisherman’s favorite, lake trout. Known as one of the best “mackinaw” fisheries in the country, Lake Granby is also home to a healthy population of kokanee salmon (Guide to Boating on Grand County’s Lakes).

Without a doubt, Grand Lake is a touristy place when the weather is warm, but it has a charming, summer-camp feel, especially in the summertime. Families walk the wood-planked sidewalks while enjoying ice cream cones. The lake undulates with boats of all kinds, including a high percentage of vintage vessels that add to the nostalgic ambiance of the place. 

​Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer

In the morning, before speed boats start creating waves the length of the lake, stand-up paddle boarders hug the shorelines, enjoying the calm before the storm. This is a good time to get out in a canoe or kayak, as well. 

Lodging options here are vast, with everything from old-fashioned motels to VRBOs available. We like staying with the family-owned Western Riviera, which features a variety of lodging options including their newest property, the beautifully renovated Penthouse on Grand. 

​Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer

Over St. Patrick’s Day weekend, we stayed at The Penthouse on Grand, which is located in the heart of downtown and steps from the lake. With three, big en-suite bedrooms, it’s ideal for traveling with friends and perfect for families with older children.

While touristy towns often struggle to offer quality food options to visitors, Grand Lake has several delicious eateries. For fine dining, The Historic Rapids Lodge & Restaurant is the go-to spot. Grand Pizza is the place for families to pig out after a long, hot day on the lake, and there’s no better place to start your day than at The Fat Cat… but come hungry. 

Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer

Forgot the booze? We love popping into Grand Lake Wine & Spirits; whether you need a six-pack of beer or ice, they are friendly and accommodating. It’s the same with the little grocery store in the parking lot next to Cy’s Deli. We always end up there for something, and they are just so nice.  

Located about seven miles from the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Lake provides endless opportunities for recreational activities. Whether you fish, bike, hike, horseback ride or just like sitting lakeside with a book, Grand Lake is what summer in the Rocky Mountains is all about.

Categories: The Heidi Guide