Home Travel Adventure From Excessive Altitude Kayaking To Downhill Biking: Epic Adventures In Colorado’s Grand County

From Excessive Altitude Kayaking To Downhill Biking: Epic Adventures In Colorado’s Grand County

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A colourful sundown over Winter Park

Don’t get me fallacious, I like Denver; nevertheless, a two-hour drive north to Grand County brings you to what I’d describe because the Switzerland of Colorado.

Dominated by excessive altitude cottonwoods surrounding mirror lakes and Rustic-style picket properties with patterned slab siding stretching up from lush inexperienced rolling hills dotted with sagebrush and aspens (pure sunscreen, FYI), it’s like a fairytale come true…particularly in case you’re on the lookout for journey.

Grand County is called after Grand Lake and the Grand River, as soon as the identify for the Colorado River, and is comprised of Grand Lake, Winter Park, Sizzling Sulphur Springs, Fraser, Granby, Kremmling, Radium, Tabernash, Winter Park and Parshall.

The areas I selected to deal with throughout my journey have been Grand Lake, Granby, and Winter Park, all extremely really useful.

Grand County consists of about 75% pure panorama — together with 11 Nationwide Protected Areas — so it’s no surprise you’ll discover limitless climbing, biking and water sport choices.

Desk of Contents

  • Keep
  • Excessive Altitude Kayaking
  • Trekking In Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park
  • An Genuine Dude Ranch Expertise
  • Downhill Mountain Biking
  • A Scrumptious Ending


My keep begins on the Gateway Inn, a country lodging stuffed with teddy bears, wooden carved wildlife, and farming instrument decor.

Together with the balcony connected to my room, a spotlight is a huge lounge with a full bar, free popcorn, common leisure, and an elevated porch with swings and chairs overlooking Grand Lake.

Free S’mores kits to make by their al fresco hearth pits add a candy contact.

A country resort lounge and bar with free popcorn and s’mores

Al fresco patio on the resort

My resort room on the Gateway Inn

From the lodge, it’s straightforward to stroll across the city and discover the numerous selfmade ice cream retailers, waterfront areas, breakfast nooks, and outside journey outfitters.

I get pleasure from breakfast at Fats Cat Cafe, a family-run restaurant recognized for its 200+ tea choice — the lemon, honey, ginger tea is nice for altitude illness — produced from scratch scones, hearty dishes, and cute cat decor.

Excessive Altitude Kayaking

After a 3-egg omelet with sausage and residential fries, I head over to Mountain Paddlers to work it off by means of excessive altitude kayaking on Grand Lake, elevation 8,367 ft.

If you happen to’re on the lookout for Colorado trip concepts, that is positively one so as to add to your checklist!

The water seems like silk on the paddle, and I glide effortlessly over the sleek wake-free waters.

Taking a deep breath I let my lungs fill with alpine air, views of the Rockies, By no means Summer season Vary, and snow-capped Indian Peaks setting the scene.

Endangered ospreys abound, and I even spy a sea otter (and am instructed you possibly can typically see moose swimming to the small abandoned islands off the mainland).

Kayaking on Grand Lake

Rustic properties on the sting of Grand Lake

Solar shining over Grand Lake

Together with magnificence, Grand Lake holds thriller. I’m a sucker for a superb ghost story, and I’m instructed by a number of locals that Grand Lake was as soon as often known as Spirit Lake resulting from an area legend.

Apparently, one summer season a bunch of Ute Indians have been camped on the lake shores once they have been attacked by Arapaho Indians. Whereas the lads stayed to battle, the ladies and kids jumped on a raft to paddle and escape.

Sadly, a storm rolled in as they waited for the land to be clear and all aboard drowned within the lake.

It’s stated the spirits of the passengers hang-out Grand Lake at present, some even claiming they’ve seen undead ladies rising from the morning mist or drifting beneath the floor.

Regardless of the slight shiver, I get imaging this story coming to life, Grand Lake feels actually peaceable. With solely eight year-round residents on the lake, 200 within the city and 15,000 within the county, it’s a real Colorado getaway.

Trekking In Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park

As soon as my arms are efficiently drained from paddling — and snapping 237 pictures — I set off for my subsequent journey:

Climbing in Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park, dwelling to some of the epic mountain ranges within the US. What’s nice about visiting the park from Grand Lake as an alternative of Estes Park is the absence of crowds.

Most individuals suppose Estes Park is the one gateway to the Nationwide Park when it really isn’t.

Climbing in Smoky Mountain Nationwide Park

The path I select for my journey is Inexperienced Mountain into the Onahu Creek Path, an eight-mile (13-kilometer) journey that begins with wide-open trails immersed in towering ponderosas and spruce reaching towards the clouds, the bottom dotted with purple columbine and girl slipper flowers steadily transferring uphill.

After 40 minutes or so it ranges out, and ultimately I spill out in a lovely open meadow — aptly named Large Meadow — an amazing view of the long-lasting and oddly slanted Mount Ida and… a moose!

An enormous male moose stands within the meadow crunching away on grass, unaware of my creepy self lurking within the bushes snapping pictures.

It’s wonderful attending to witness nature from a protected distance in its pure habitat, no one else round however me.

Spying a large moose in a large meadow

After the meadow, I change to the Onahu Creek Path to kind a loop, curving up and right down to the gushing Onahu Creek to cross a whimsical picket bridge.

Right here I cease to savor a grilled cheese and turkey sandwich with a facet of chocolate chip cookie from Sloopy’s Grill.

The nourishment is required, as I’ve nonetheless acquired three miles to go, woodland enveloping me and offering contemporary oxygen to propel me ahead.

Towards the tip, the flowers get extra lush, fields of daisies and dandelions including a lovely twist.

Stress-free alongside the path

Talking of gorgeous, let’s speak about Rocky Mountain park rangers.


I may have to maneuver to Colorado. As you’re watching out for moose and elk, preserve your eyes peeled for these guys, as effectively.

An Genuine Dude Ranch Expertise

The day ends with a drive to the Drowsy Water Dude Ranch, an all-inclusive ranch with a great deal of actions: fishing, climbing, downhill biking, yoga, campfire songs, line dancing classes, zip-lining, and extra.

Not surprisingly, dude ranches supply an amazing choice when on the lookout for holidays for teenagers and households, too.

A serious spotlight is the horseback driving, a variety of path ranges provided, even morning breakfast rides on the mountain high.

What I’m instructed by the opposite company who’ve been there for the week is the hands-on instruction is unsurpassed, and the workers work with you till you’re snug on the horse.

The evening I’m there, I dig right into a scrumptious barbecue meal with gooey chocolate chip oatmeal brownies earlier than enjoying blackjack and hula hooping round their night carnival, a family-friendly occasion that takes me again to my childhood (though be aware in addition they do adult-only weeks).

Whilst you’ll usually want to order for seven days, they permit me to return for a night expertise to take a look at the choices.

Cute horse on the dude ranch

Enjoyable moments on the Drowsy Water Visitor Ranch


If you happen to don’t do the ranch, head to Grand Lake Lodge for dinner.

Together with their heat indoor house with animal heads, cozy couches and plenty of picket accents, the elevated outside porch overlooking Grand Lake is stellar, as is the buffalo meatloaf and mason jar S’mores dripping Fluffernutter, all paired with an area Colorado beer (sure, beer can go together with dessert).

The view from Grand Lake Lodge

On the drive again to Grand Lake, Lake Granby catches my curiosity. It’s large, 11.34 mi² (29.36 km²), dotted with colourful boats and appeared over by Abraham Lincoln Mountain, which appears like Abe himself.

The coast curves towards the Rockies into the sundown, an alpine glow illuminating the bushes to my proper.

There are such a lot of colours, textures and moods that ignite my senses in a single place.

Sundown over Lake Granby

Downhill Mountain Biking

My sense of journey is especially ignited the following day as I head from Grand Lake to Winter Park for my first go — ever — at downhill biking at Trestle Bike Park.

Now I completely love biking — simply ask me in regards to the Hiawatha path in Idaho — and although this Colorado trip, particularly, was fairly the joys.

As a result of the continental divide appears nearer to Winter Park, the surroundings is much more dramatic than in Grand Lake, which turns into clear as I drive by means of the Fraser Valley, mountains seeming so shut I can virtually contact them.

Properties are nestled on hillsides and the odd bunch of pine bushes covers small slopes. The encircling snowy peaks flip the panorama into a beautiful pure stadium.

I settle into the Zephyr Lodge at Winter Park Resort and stroll subsequent door to the test in for my downhill mountain biking expertise.

There aren’t many issues that scare me; nevertheless, the considered barreling down a mountain at full velocity dodging bushes and flying over rocks — probably flipping myself over the handlebars and breaking my face — does.

However isn’t going through your fears and attempting new issues that journey is all about?

I used to be recreation.

My downhill mountain biking journey

Taking the carry up for one way or the other downhill mountain biking

Views alongside the mountain biking path

Jonathan of Journey Meals Love and I preparing for a downhill mountain biking journey at Winter Park Resort

After suiting up in a full-face helmet, physique padding, gloves, and knee and shin guards I’m able to sort out the paths. Or a minimum of I really feel badass sufficient to in all of the gear.

As soon as I see the terrifying terrain I’ll be embarking on I’ll admit my confidence stage deflates, and I trip shakily over branches and bumps whereas letting out awkward distressed whimpers.

Fortunately, being the worst rider within the group means you get your individual private information. Rating.

Christy is wonderful with me, drilling into me some important downhill mountain biking guidelines:

  • No laborious braking, particularly with the entrance brake (except you need to flip over the deal with bars, that’s)
  • Don’t look down or at what you don’t need to hit, however as an alternative look ahead on the path at the place you need to go
  • Stand tall with out your knees locked, elbows out, foot pedals stage and lean again a bit

It takes about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) of the 5.5-mile (9-kilometer) Inexperienced World Path for me to get snug, however as soon as I do, I’m capable of gradual my coronary heart fee again to human stage and benefit from the trip.

And after I full a pointy and steep flip that I completely anticipate to face plant on, I really feel like superwoman.

Okay, so possibly I’m not prepared for the Olympics. I nonetheless really feel proud after I make it right down to the underside of the mountain with all my bones intact.

And going through a serious worry made the journey price it by itself (as does Winter Park Resort’s alpine slide, considered one of their quite a few rides I bounce on after).

The journey ends as all adventures ought to, with a beer and good meals at Hernando’s Pizza Pub, an iconic eatery in Winter Park.

Open since 1967 the unique house owners, Jerry and Anne Von Dracek, named “Hernando’s” after the theme tune of their favourite musical, the Pajama Sport.

Scrumptious enjoyable at Hernando’s

Together with a convention of serving scrumptious pizza, the restaurant additionally posts greenback payments adorned by diners on the partitions, with over $20,000 adorning the eatery. It’s a enjoyable option to go away a chunk of your self in Colorado.

If you happen to like meat, attempt the “Column I” topped with pepperoni, sausage, meatballs, salami, ham and bacon.

In any other case, the vegetarian-friendly “Vegetarian” pie comes with black olives, mushrooms, onions and inexperienced peppers.

Make certain to avoid wasting the crusts for the tip, as tables characteristic bottles of honey to drizzle on high. If you happen to haven’t tried it, it’s essential to.

My journey by means of Grand County was an epic journey I’d extremely advocate to anybody eager to expertise the Colorado countryside in an energetic and thrill-filled means.

Have you ever visited Grand County? 

My journey was sponsored by Go to Colorado. I used to be not required to write down this publish nor was I compensated for it. As all the time, all opinions are my very own, and all writings are primarily based on my private experiences within the vacation spot.


Getting There: Vacationers can fly into Denver Worldwide Airport and rent a shuttle service — I used Residence James Transportation — or lease a automotive (I like Avis). From the airport it’s about 2.5 hours to Grand Lake and a couple of hours to Winter Park. The value for Residence James Transportation was $94 for Denver Worldwide Airport to Grand Lake, and $69 from Winter Park Resort to Denver Worldwide Airport.

Getting Round: Whereas it’s potential to discover each Grand Lake and Winter Park with out a automotive — though you’ll want to rent transport to take you from one to the opposite — it’s really useful to have a automotive to really profit from your time.

Seasons: My above journey report is predicated on a summer season journey; nevertheless, Grand County has journey choices year-round, together with a few of Colorado’s finest snowboarding in winter.

Well being: As a result of Colorado is a excessive altitude state, make certain to hydrate earlier than and through your journey. Eight glasses will not be sufficient, and altitude illness can creep up on you with out warning.

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