Updated: 3/25/2016

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Grand Lake has so much to offer visitors as both a charming, historic village and a body of water. Surrounded by national forest on three sides, it’s the closest town to Rocky Mountain National Park, which means you’ll have your pick of nature-loving pursuits. And if you plan to stay closer to civilization, plenty of delightful amenities await. Here’s why you should put Grand Lake at the top of your list for a Colorado summer vacation.

You’ll never run out of things to do on the waters of Grand Lake.

Where lakes in Colorado are concerned, Grand Lake happens to be the largest natural one in the state. As the weather heats up, that’s your cue to cool off with various aquatic activities. Grand Lake Marina has you covered for boat rentals, whether you choose to cruise in a pontoon or whaler. For a slower pace, explore the lake by kayak, canoe, paddleboat or stand-up paddleboard. No matter your vessel, the lake is a perfect place to drop a fishing line in search of kokanee salmon, mackinaw and three types of trout.

Spend a relaxing afternoon on the sandy shores of the Grand Lake beach, where you can kick back and watch sailboats glide to and from the nearby Grand Lake Yacht Club, the highest-altitude registered yacht club in the world and host to Regatta Week races each August. The beach is also ideal for swimming and splashing around. Another spot on the water’s edge is Point Park, where you’ll find fishing access, picnic sites and an amazing view of Mount Craig, aka Mount Baldy. On the Fourth of July, catch the largest display of fireworks in Colorado as they burst over the lake, brilliantly reflecting off the water.

Grand Lake in Colorado surrounded by the Rocky Mountains and national forest
Grand Lake in Colorado surrounded by the Rocky Mountains and national forest
Old West architecture in the historic village of Grand Lake
Old West architecture in the historic village of Grand Lake
View of Mount Craig, also known as Mount Baldy
View of Mount Craig, also known as Mount Baldy
Elk grazing in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park
Elk grazing in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park
Water's edge at Grand Lake
Water's edge at Grand Lake
Kayaking on Grand Lake
Kayaking on Grand Lake
Bull moose near Sun Valley Lake
Bull moose near Sun Valley Lake
A bear spotted in Rocky Mountain National Park
A bear spotted in Rocky Mountain National Park

Classic mountain lodging boasts only-in-Colorado views.

With the backdrop of national forest and an alpine lake at your front step, you’re guaranteed to have amazing scenery anywhere you choose to stay. Go the rustic route at Grand Lake Lodge, whose location on a hillside above the lake provides sweeping vistas, especially appreciated from the front porch swings. For a quintessential mountain experience, check out the many Grand Lake cabin rentals.

Daven Haven Lodge has an onsite restaurant and 12 individual cabins nestled among pine trees. To be close to the action, you can’t beat Western Riviera Lakeside Lodging’s lakefront hotel property. Here you’ll be walking distance to town and all of its shops, restaurants and activities. If you’re looking for family-friendly accommodations, Soda Springs Ranch is a popular pick for its mountain- and lake-view condos and amenities like a heated outdoor pool, playground, tennis court and more. And for a little more solitude, Sun Valley Ranch is just northwest of town, right on the waters of Sun Valley Lake. Book the Bunkhouse for a party of six, or the Lodge Cabin for larger groups of 10 to 12. View all Grand Lake lodging listings >>

The town of Grand Lake will keep you entertained with cultural attractions, an old-fashioned boardwalk and more.

Grand Lake may be a small place, but it’s one that buzzes with activities the whole family will enjoy. The Grand Lake Boardwalk along Grand Avenue dates back to 1881, but you can still admire its Wild West-style architecture — complete with hitching posts — while strolling past more than 60 shops, galleries, restaurants and watering holes.

Listen as live music floats from saloons throughout town, or catch a show at the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre. Its full schedule of musical performances in the summer brings Broadway to the mountains, along with youth programs. Swing by the Town Park Pavilion for another only-in-summer offering: bingo on Friday and Saturday nights. Lastly, tap into Grand Lake’s wide variety of dining options, whether you want casual barbecue, a scenic patio table or fine dining.

Surrounding outdoor wonders are waiting to be explored.

One of the biggest draws to Grand Lake is its status as the western gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. This crown jewel of Colorado encompasses more than 265,000 acres of wilderness — prime for hiking, camping, mountain biking, horseback riding and viewing wildlife. Catch a glimpse of grazing elk, and hear their bugling sounds during mating season in the fall. Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the U.S., connects Grand Lake to Estes Park, cutting through the park with beautiful scenery along the way.

Don’t leave the Grand Lake area without witnessing the lovely sight of waterfalls. Adams Falls feeds into the lake on its eastern side and can be seen by walking a short distance from the village. Get to the heart of Cascade Falls via a 3.5-mile hike (one way), spotting plentiful species of wildflowers on the trail. For a bird’s-eye, 360-degree view, hike to the Shadow Mountain Fire Lookout, a three-story stone and wood tower built in 1930 that’s on the National Register of Historic Places. From here you’ll be able to see Grand Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park and the Arapaho National Forest below. Additional locations for outdoor fun >>

Grand Lake’s proximity to Denver and Boulder makes for a manageable road trip.

Being so close to the Front Range means visitors can quickly and easily reach Grand Lake for a weekend getaway. Rent a car if arriving into Denver International Airport, and from Denver it takes about two hours to get to Grand Lake. Head west on I-70, then take US 40 East to US 34 East. There’s also an Amtrak station in nearby Granby; if you choose to travel by train, call the Granby Chamber of Commerce to arrange transportation to Grand Lake.

Want More?

Read more about summer in Grand Lake, Colorado and discover other things to do while you’re there. Make trip planning easier with resources like the Grand Lake travel guide, and look for deals on lodging.