Grand Lake is the largest and deepest natural body of water in Colorado, headwaters of the Grand River, now known as the Colorado River. The nearby town of the same name was established in the late 1800s as an outfitting and supply point for the mining settlements around Grand Lake. Grand Lake is situated at 8437 feet elevation and serves as an entry point to Rocky Mountain National Park, which surrounds the lake and the town on three sides.
Grand Lake, CO is an historic mountain town in the heart of the Rockies, where snow capped mountains are a daily sight to visitors and residents alike. Plenty of shops, restaurants and galleries line the wooden boardwalks, and outdoor sports await the adventurous. Cross country skiing and snow showing are available in the winter, and of course water sports and horseback riding will lure you to the lake in the summer.
The town of Grand Lake was settled in 1867, and served as the county seat of Grand County from 1882-1888, after European hunting parties discovered the area and erected summer lodges for themselves and their local hunting guides. Permanent residents included miners as well as the hunting guides. Silver prospectors bought in more commerce in the 1870s as the town of Grand Lake developed, and before the famous shoot-out.
When the silver mines produced only low-grade silver and political disagreements regarding the location of the county seat ensued, the infamous Fourth of July shootout ended a prosperous era prior to 1890. That's when tourism became the primary industry in the area.
A small collection of stalwart residents put down roots, and some simply chose to make an annual visit. That’s why several small hotels were built and some dude ranches attracted tourists who traveled by wagon and stagecoach through rugged mountain passes to enjoy the unforgettable Grand Lake summers.
It is assumed that French trappers first made their way into the Grand Lake area to hunt beaver, weasel, bobcat and fox. Then European tourists heard about the lush beauty of the area, as well as the bounteous hunting, and after stopping off in Denver many made their way into the high country with their families, their guides and even their servants in tow.
The Lake itself is part of the C-BT water project which diverts water from the Colorado River Basin east via the Alva B. Adams Tunnel, then under the Continental Divide and Rocky Mountain National Park to the Platte River and ultimately the Mississippi River basin.
But you are probably a lot more interested in what you can enjoy in and around Grand Lake right now.
You'll want to explore Rocky Mountain National Park, for sure. It has over 265,000 acres of wilderness, with 360 miles of trails, leading out from 35 trail heads. There are 150 lakes to discover, 5 campgrounds with 585 campsites, and 200 back country sites for roughing it.
You may catch a glimpse of one or more of the 3,000 elk that live throughout Rocky Mountain National Park all summer, especially if you drive (or ride your bike) up Trail Ridge Road between Grand Lake and Estes Park. It is known as the highest continuous paved road in the United States, and reaches 12,183 feet at its highest elevation. Moose and bighorn sheep are prevalent, too.
In the summer months you can rent boats, kayaks, fishing equipment, rafts and experienced fishing and whitewater rafting guides to enjoy Grand Lake and the Colorado River. You will take home memories of a lifetime from your Grand River visit, that's for sure. Come for a weekend, a month or a lifetime, but definitely come to Grand Lake, Colorado to enjoy one of the most historic and pristine places you will ever visit. Don't miss it!