Grand Lake: Colorado's Winter Sports Playground

Grand Lake offers snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and more By: Janeen Christoff
Snowmobiling in Grand Lake, Colo. // © 2011 Grand Lake Chamber
Snowmobiling in Grand Lake, Colo. // © 2011 Grand Lake Chamber

The Details

Grand Lake Chamber

Grand Lake, near Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the top snowmobiling destinations in the country and is considered one of Colorado’s top winter sports playgrounds. 

A wintertime visit to Grand Lake would not be complete without a snowmobile tour through the Colorado wilderness or even a ride through the streets of town. Though riders cannot travel within the boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park, there are plenty of vantage points for breathtaking views of one of the nation’s most-visited national parks. Of the 300 miles of snowmobiling trails, roughly 150 miles are maintained, making them accessible for riders of nearly every age and ability.

In January, Rocky Mountain National Park rangers will begin leading guided snowshoe tours in the park nearly every weekend through March. Free-heel skiers have many opportunities for telemarking and cross-country skiing with trails in the national park, as well as nearby Arapahoe National Forest and at the Grand Lake Nordic Center, where the new Scenic River Trail is in full use. Snowmobiling clubs and outfitters are also taking advantage of ideal snow conditions with more than 120,000 acres of alpine terrain.

“We take winter fun seriously here in Grand Lake,” said Lisa Jenkins, executive director of the Grand Lake Chamber. “Rocky Mountain National Park is just one of Grand Lake’s many winter playgrounds. I’d say what we do best is helping people get out there, whether it’s on a snowmobile, skis or snowshoes; on a guided tour, through an outfitter or on their own.” 

One of the most popular ways to spend a few hours in Grand Lake is to sign up for a ranger-led snowshoe tour. Beginning in January, groups meet at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center at the western entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park, where rangers lead small groups, highlighting the region’s natural wonders including area wildlife, geology and history along the way. Two tours are available, one for beginners and one for intermediates, each two hours long. The snowshoe tours are informative, fun and fill up fast; they are ideal for many, but not recommended for children under the age of 8. Be sure to call 970-586-1206 or register online in advance. Participants supply their own snowshoes and ski poles, or they can rent equipment and purchase supplies at Never Summer Mountain Products, the place to go for outdoor gear in Grand Lake. 

For those interested in exploring the park’s extensive trail system on their own, check in at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center for suggestions and trail maps. An easily accessible trail for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing is the East Inlet Trail. The four-mile, out-and-back trail ends at the far end of a large open meadow. En route, don’t miss the side trail that leads to Adams Falls.

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