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2 Days in Grand County: Grand Lake, Winter Park, Hot Sulphur Springs & More

Deep lakes, thick forests and the good old Colorado work-hard, play-harder attitude define mountainous Grand County, home to Winter Park, Grand Lake, Granby, Kremmling and Hot Sulphur Springs.

The shores of Grand Lake, Colorado
The shores of Grand Lake, Colorado

World-renowned hot springs, working guest ranches and Rocky Mountain National Park are just the tip of the must-do list when the weather is warm.

Day 1

Start your voyage in Winter Park with a chairlift ride to 10,700 feet above sea level. Once the snow melts, Colorado’s longest continually operated ski resort becomes a summer playground, and the swift Zephyr Express lift will take you from the base area to mountaintop views of the Continental Divide and the Fraser Valley in just six minutes.

Downhill bikers flock to the award-winning resort for its ramps, jumps and top-to-bottom terrain, while the alpine slide sends summer sledders down the mountain on more than 3,000 feet of bobsled-like track.

The adventure continues with a climbing wall, 18 holes of mini-golf, bungee trampolines and a human maze, along with an events calendar chock full of music and beer festivals, a chili cook-off and kid-friendly outdoor movie nights. The town of Winter Park also bustles year-round; don’t miss the free summertime concerts at Hideaway Park downtown or the new Foundry Cinema & Bowl to enjoy craft cocktails wood-fired pizza while you bowl and watch movies. Other new dining and imbibing options include Caffe GiocondoThe Peak Bistro & Brewery and Hideaway Park Brewery.

Or head to Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby to experience the spectacle of their new summer tubing hill and other family activities.

In the afternoon, go north to the laid-back county seat of Grand Lake, where hints of the village’s Western character are revealed in its historic boardwalks and hitching posts alongside the parking spots.

Grand Lake is Colorado’s deepest and largest natural lake and is a magnet for summer fun-seekers looking to ski, fish, camp, sail or relax on the sandy beach. Rent a pontoon boat or a canoe to take some leisurely laps on the water, look up for eagles and down for trout — some shallow spots in the snowmelt-fed lake are nearly translucent. The lake is also popular with jet skiers and water skiers who love to pick up speed on the water's expansive acrege.

Take a short, rewarding hike less than a mile from town to Adams Falls and see one of the beautiful waterfalls that feed into Grand Lake.

The area is the western entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. This side of the massive, 415-square-mile park receives more snow and rain than its eastern counterpart in Estes Park and is comprised of lush forests, constantly flowing high-mountain streams and the occasional moose grazing near willow thickets.

Or explore the area’s mountain golf courses, where you’ll tee off amid inspiring scenery (and your ball will fly farther through our thin air).

Catch an evening show at Grand Lake’s Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre, which presents a lineup of Broadway favorites and will have you whistling show tunes throughout your Rocky Mountain excursion. Learn more about summer in Grand Lake >>

Day 2

Go straight to the source of some of the state’s most pristine whitewater and book a rafting trip on the upper Colorado River. Grand County is a prime rafting destination with continuous flows as the river carves its way from the Continental Divide to the Grand Canyon and eventually into the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of Mexico. For those who like to play in the water, the new Gore Canyon Whitewater Park has park-and-play features for kayakers and stand-up paddleboarers.

This section of the river is perfect for families and those who want a mellow float and stunning backdrops of jagged red canyons and green valleys. Guides in Kremmling and the nearby ranching town of Radium are on hand to take you down the river.

After the whitewater thrills, retreat to Hot Sulphur Springs and do what visitors have done since the time of the Ute Indians: Soak in the area’s mineral-rich pools. Volcanic rock 35,000 feet below the earth’s surface heats the water that fills the pools at the town’s namesake resort and spa. The town of about 500 residents also has a rustic main street with shops, diners and the Pioneer Village Museum, where tools and clothing of the county’s settlers are on display. 

Expect nothing but the best at the many dude ranch resorts that dot Grand County. Proprietors roll out the country hospitality to those seeking an authentic Old West experience, offering activities like horseback riding, hiking and square dancing, and the not-so-cowboy tennis, yoga and volleyball. Some even have luxurious spas and miles of trails and fishing.

Get Sidetracked

Fraser is another ideally situated homebase for exploring the area’s outdoors (and is perhaps best known for its epic lift-served snowtubing hill in winter). 

And Kremmling is a sportsman’s paradise amid some of the state’s best fishing waters and elk-hunting grounds, as well as miles and miles of ATV and OHV trails.Head to Rusty Spurr Ranch for trail rides and cattle drives, book saddle-and-paddle trips for great rafting and riding or hike to Radium Hot Springs on the Colorado River.

Winter Fun

Winter Park Resort's deep snow, incredibly diverse terrain and the Winter Park Express Amtrak route from Denver right to the slopes make it a favorite skiing and snowboarding destination (and now fat-biking!) with beginners and experts alike. Nearby, the smaller Ski Granby Ranch is known as a long-time family favorite.

All the Grand County towns pack in plenty of fun beyond the slopes, with groomed trails for snowshoers and cross-country skiers, six area snow-tubing hills, sleigh and dogsled rides, as well as snowmobiling routes with epic Continental Divide views. In Grand Lake you can even ride your snowmobile through town and right up to your favorite Grand Avenue lunch spot.