Get Up and Go to Grand County, Colorado!


By Nancy Mueller


ON BIG BLEND RADIO: Travel writer Nancy Mueller talks about her grand three-day weekend getaway in Grand County and Rocky Mountain National Park. Watch here in the YouTube player, or download the interview podcast on Spreaker, Podbean, or SoundCloud.

When seeking a destination where wilderness, wonder, and wildlife take center stage, it’s hard to top Grand County, Colorado – especially when views of surrounding peaks reach dramatic elevations over 14,000 feet. By car or boat, on foot, skis, or snowmobiles, sky-scraping vistas attract nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

Our grand three-day weekend getaway begins in the town of Grand Lake, also known as the “Western Gateway” to Rocky Mountain National Park. Settled in the late 1800s, Grand Lake offers plenty of family-fun activities. For starters, opt for a room with a view of the town’s star attraction, Grand Lake herself, at Western Riviera where most condos and cabins are set at water’s edge. Recognized as the largest and deepest natural body of water in Colorado covering more than 500 surface acres with depths of 265 feet, Grand Lake and neighboring Shadow Mountain Lake form a continuous waterway fed by the headwaters of the Colorado River and runoff from the Continental Divide. Go for a leisurely boat tour of lakeside homes and wildlife via pontoon boat, or try your hand at landing a rainbow or brook trout from a fishing boat. Boat rentals, including kayaks, paddleboards – even a Tiki boat- are available at nearby Trail Ridge Marina. 

Grand Lake also features a historic wooden boardwalk perfect for strolling over 60 boutique shops, galleries, and eateries that line the walkway. Blue Water Bakery, just steps away from the Western Riviera, serves breakfast wraps, bagels, and scrambles while Sagebrush BBQ and Grill highlights a hearty Wild Game Combo (think buffalo, bear, and elk sausage) and The Chuck Wagon (country fried steak smothered in sausage gravy) among its many menu selections. For dinner, Rockies on Grand Avenue offers pub fare ranging from burgers and fries, salads and sandwiches, to pasta and pizza. Or enjoy a Grand Lake Paloma or Huckleberry Lemonade cocktail and fine dining at Huntington House Tavern at Grand Lake Lodge. Follow up your dinner with the best seats in town at the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre, which in our case, featured a foot-stomping performance of Ring of Fire, The Music of Johnny Cash.

It’s one thing to admire spellbinding views of the Rockies from the vantage of Grand Lake; it’s quite another to head off into the heart of those views in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). Established in 1915, with most of the park’s 416 square miles proclaimed protected wilderness in 2009, RMNP features a fragile alpine tundra landscape, lava cliffs, pristine lakes, waterfalls, and open meadows. Visitors require a timed entry-reservation to experience the park, including such recreational adventures as camping, biking, and over 355 miles of hiking trails, three of which lead directly from the town of Grand Lake. We chose one of the most popular routes, Adams Falls, which offers easy access from the East Inlet Trailhead for our venture into the park. The hike features an elevation gain of 113 feet that passes through pines and aspens, the Adams Creek Meadow (perfect for picnicking), and an overlook of the 55-foot waterfall that runs through a narrow rock gorge. For drive-throughs of the park, Trail Ridge Road (noted as the highest continuous paved highway in North America) offers sweeping scenic vistas with several viewpoint stops along the way. The Alpine Visitor Center, the national park system’s highest visitor center, offers food and beverage, plus souvenirs, and direct access to The Alpine Ridge Trail, aka “Huffers Hill,” so-called for its short, but steep hike that gains more than 200 feet in only three-tenths of a mile. 

Beyond Grand Lake and RMNP, our three-day Grand County Colorado getaway took us to nearby Granby for an overnight stay at the newly-opened River Run Resort. Here, adventures start with your choice of lodging. Will you go for an RV site, villa or studio rental, or tent camping? Maybe seasonal glamping in a Conestoga wagon, adventure tent, airstream, or yurt instead? Whichever option you choose, the property provides entertainment for all ages. On-site amenities include a sports complex, community center, pool and playground areas, Event Center, and SunFit Wellness Center. In town, be sure to stop by Never Summer Brewing for a pint, flight, or growler of cold, handcrafted beers like the earthy Up Your Kilt Scottish Ale or silky smooth Jackstraw Oatmeal Stout.

What better way to cap off our fun three-day Grand County getaway than by making a beeline to Adventures Decanted in Winter Park for an ultimate wine experience? We sampled wines by the glass from over 60 selections through Enomatic wine dispensers — the first in Grand County — accompanied by a smorgasbord of menu favorites that featured local and imported cheeses, cured meats, flatbreads, and yummy chocolates.
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What’s not to love about Grand County Colorado?

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Nancy Mueller is a Seattle-based freelance travel writer and photographer with an established media outlet at: where she writes about “fun travel adventures for the young at heart.” She’s snorkeled with sea lions in the Galápagos Islands, sailed the Nile, paddled the Yukon River, and braved an overnight in Quebec’s Ice Hotel among her many adventures. Her bags are always packed for day trips, weekend getaways, and global escapes.

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