Grand Lake, Colorado, During Quiet Season
A guide to enjoying Grand Lake throughout the shoulder season
In tourism, it’s called the Shoulder Season, or Mud Season. It’s that time of year when the snow starts to melt away and with it go snow sports. Trails are slick with rain and slush, making them uninviting to hikers.
However, this downtime before summer can be a good time to travel. There are fewer cars on the road, hotels run mud-season specials, and if you like mountain quiet, it is time to go.
We have been in Grand Lake during all four seasons, and our most cozy, most romantic visits were during shoulder seasons. My birthday is in October, and while it is the month when Colorado usually receives its first snowfall of the season, it is often rainy. My October birthday in Grand Lake was filled with foggy delights like beer next to the fireplace and dodging raindrops as we dashed back to our hotel room after a meal of scrumptious pizza.
In the early spring, this town, with its wooden sidewalks, is just waking up and it’s a peaceful place. With a variety of shops, a little retail therapy mountain-style can be on the agenda at any time of year.
A new store opened this fall in Grand Lake. It’s Wild About Birds, and has more than just bird-nerd things, although it has those things too. The owners have done an excellent job stocking the store with fascinating items that are truly unique. There are also fun little projects to do with the kids on a rainy day at the cabin.
Trail Ridge Road connects Estes Park to Grand Lake via Rocky Mountain National Park and generally opens in May. However, if you go earlier the park is still accessible. Drives in the spring can result in moose and elk sightings, as well as spectacular views of snow-covered peaks. As you may know, Grand Lake is located about three minutes from the entry into the park, an ideal Colorado location.
For eats, Sagebrush BBQ & Grill is consistently good and occasionally has live music. A brand new pho place may satisfy on a brisk spring day. Pho at 8,369 feet above sea level (Grand Lake’s elevation) also comes with bragging rights because there are few pho restaurants this high.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you about pizza at The White Buffalo (old-timers will remember it as Grumpy’s Saloon). It is a bar and has the feel of a mountain watering hole for the locals. To be honest, it’s my kind of place. And the pizza is delicious! On our last visit, all the tables around us were murmuring their approval as they put away slice after slice. We ordered a Greek Goddess to go and we were not disappointed.
Western Riviera is a one-stop-shop for lodging in Grand Lake. It’s our go-to whether we are traveling with friends or just as a couple. From the Lakeside House that sleeps up to 8, to a lakeside motel, the Western Riviera properties suit all needs.
On our last visit in November, we stayed in a Western Riviera one-bedroom lakeside cabin. With a kitchenette, living room, views of the lake and an expansive patio, it is a cozy place to watch the sunset over Mt. Baldy, Grand Lake’s iconic peak. The term “alpenglow” must have been invented here because it seems to be a nightly occurrence here when there is snow on Mt. Baldy.
Lastly, Grand Lake is home to the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre, one of the best live theaters in the west. They are featuring “Jersey Boys” starting June 3.
If you enjoy peaceful, authentic Colorado mountain town getaways, look no further than Grand Lake in the spring.