The following article is sponsored by Visit Grand County
As the snow melts and the rivers swell in Grand County, our thoughts turn to the simple pleasures of summer... like these 15 things you ought to try before the snow returns in late fall.
1. Savor the Summer from a Saddle
In Grand County, horseback riding isn't just a hobby — it's a way of life. Whether you stay at a world-class guest ranch or saddle up on your own on a wilderness trail such as the Bowen Gulch, you'll find plenty of opportunities to roam free this summer.
2. Go on a Day Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park
As one of America's greatest national wonders, Rocky Mountain National Park boasts more than 350 miles of hiking trails. Of those, the western slope trails in Grand County are far less traveled than those on the eastern slope. So indulge your inner Robert Frost and head to Timber Lake or the rigorous 8-mile one-way trek to Haynach Lakes.
3. Spot a Moose
In summer, they're not hard to find. Their preferred habitat is among stands of willows and on the edge of forests. The outlet of Grand Lake and the Kawuneeche Valley are prime locales, and you can also find some near Winter Park along Berthoud Pass.
4. Sail on Colorado's Largest Natural Lake
Aptly named, Grand Lake is renowned for its challenging winds and überscenic views of the peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park, it has long been a favorite for sailors. And since the lake sits at 8,366 feet above sea level (The Grand Lake Yacht Club is the world's highest registered yacht anchorage), you may never sail a higher place.
5. Go Old School with a Night of Camping
Get reacquainted with the spirit of the outdoors by camping for a night or two (or a week) on one of Grand County's many public campgrounds. Options are extensive, but some of our favorites include the intimate St. Louis Creek Campground near Fraser (16 sites), the scenic Arapaho Bay Campground on Lake Granby (84 sites), and the Timber Creek Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park (98 sites).
6. Tee Up and Drive Farther Than Anywhere Else
If you love golf, you'll love how your game improves in the thin air. At altitude, golf balls not only travel farther, but they spin less, too, meaning straighter approach shots (in theory... altitude does not seem to have an effect on a golfer's consistency!). Among the county's revered courses, you'll want to look into a tee time at the links-style Grand Elk Golf Club, the hidden gem Grand Lake Golf Course (a favorite among moose), the wickedly fun Pole Creek Golf Club in Tabernash, or the stunning Golf Granby Ranch.
7. Watch Our Fireworks on the Fourth of July
There are plenty of reasons to feel patriotic on the Fourth of July in Grand County — our national park system, quintessential American small towns with loads of charm, and fireworks! Set out a picnic blanket and watch the colorful displays over Grand Lake, Granby, Winter Park, and the cliffs outside Kremmling at the annual Fire Up the Cliffs celebration.
8. Go Singletrack Mountain Biking at Winter Park
It doesn't matter if you are a serious gearhead or just interested in seeing the mountains in a new way — Winter Park's Trestle Bike Park is one of the best places to mountain bike in North America. Our pick? Take the new top-to-bottom beginner trail Green World to the Boulevard. Or find yourself a little deeper in the Mountain Bike Capital USA,™ and enjoy Granby Ranch's top-notch mountain biking program and mulit-use bike park with some of the most respected professionals and instructors around. Try out the downhill, cross country, and family mountain biking trails that will satisfy beginner to expert bikers.
9. Enjoy Grand County's Waterways by Kayak
Considering its well-known neighbors, Monarch Lake doesn't get a lot of press. But this small and oh-so-scenic lake at the foot of the Indian Peaks southeast of Lake Granby is a great spot to paddle a canoe or kayak and cast a line for trout. On some days, you're only competition for fish are the nesting ospreys.
If you're looking for a more fast-paced water adventure, kayak the newly completed Gore Canyon Whitewater Park. The park is right where the Colorado emerges from the Gore Canyon and enters the meandering flats of the Pumphouse Recreation Area, directly between the top two already established put-in zones. With the stretch boasting year-round flows, the new site creates a park-and-play venue usable from early spring through fall.
10. Soak Up the Sun at a Music Festival
Coloradans love the outdoors more than anything. A close second? Enjoying live music outdoors. This summer, join in the hip-swaying, foot-stomping fun with two concert festivals in Winter Park — the renowned Winter Park Jazz Festival, the SolShine Music Festival, and the Blues from the Top Festival.
11. Fish for Lake Trout in Lake Granby
With its open water, hidden coves and seemingly endless shoreline, Lake Granby is tailor-made for exploration. But it is what lurks in the deep waters that has made it famous among fisherman — lake trout, also known as "mackinaw." While these trout can reach monstrous sizes, anglers can also pursue kokanee salmon, rainbow and brown trout.
12. Rent a Pontoon Boat With Friends
Gather your friends and family and spend some quality on the water with a pontoon boat on Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain Reservoir, or Grand Lake. Days on end can be spent out on the water of these lakes: take a swim, enjoy the mountain sunshine, and reconnect with friends in a distraction-free setting.
13. Check "Hot-Air Ballooning" Off Your Bucket List
You can hot-air balloon almost anywhere, but when you take flight over Grand County — and see fog rising from the Fraser River, the crisp outline of the Continental Divide, and dozens of serene lakes scattered like sapphires on the land — you'll know you chose the perfect place to do so.
14. Seek Solitude with a Backpacking Hut Trip
Backcountry enthusiasts are spoiled for choose in Grand County. Sure, there is a national park and five wilderness areas to potentially backpack in, but there are also two backcountry huts — the High Lonesome Hut and the new Broome Hut — to hike to, just in case you'd like to experience the backcountry in nicer digs than a nylon tent.
15. Race Down the Alpine Slide
A summer vacation isn't complete without an adrenaline rush, right? Head to Winter Park Resort, where in summer — in addition to sublime mountain biking — you can race down the mountain on Colorado's longest and most thrilling alpine slide.