On our trip to Colorado last summer, Jeff and I set aside one day of our Rocky Mountain National Park vacation to do a canoe tour of scenic Grand Lake — the largest deepest natural body of water in Colorado and part of the Colorado River headwaters (see our head waters hike write-up) — and to explore the historic town of Grand Lake, situated on the north shore of the lake. Why a canoe, instead of a kayak or motor boat? Because it’s the Rockies! A canoe just felt more Rocky Mountains adventure-like, the way Lewis and Clark and John Wesley Powell did it — expect that it’s all safe and civilized now. And we were forewarned by the rental company that a canoe would keep us drier when (not “if”) the winds picked up on the lake.
We rented our canoe from Grand Lake Marina, which was recommended by our cabin owners. The marina is located at the end of the town’s business district and provides a small parking lot adjacent to to the rental cabin. Their regular rates are 2 hours for $35 (see their rate sheet for more options), but I am pretty sure they offered us a summer season online discount that we booked from our cabin. We were thrilled to learn that the boat rentals are dog-friendly, even though we didn’t bring Holly Beagle on this trip.
The Canoe Tour
It is a four mile circuit to paddle along the entire shore of Grand Lake, which we were able to complete in two hours. We started out clockwise, heading east (at the recommendation of the boat rental crew) due to the prevailing winds. This route protects you from the wind as long as possible, forcing paddlers to work against the wind at just the westernmost end of the lake. The views were gorgeous, the water was relaxing (even when paddling), and we had so much fun just soaking in the nature and over-the-top homes.
The only disappointment is that Grand Lake Marina boat rentals are not allowed to cross into Shadow Mountain Lake. We were staying on Shadow Mountain Lake and assumed we’d be able to paddle into that area. So that was a little bit of a bummer, but not a huge deal. We still enjoyed the Grand Lake tour and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting the area.
The Town of Grand Lake
While you’re down in the marina area, take the time to explore the quaint adorable town of Grand Lake. I’d like to think I could live someplace like Grand Lake, but this Southern California girl has never lived in the snow. Grand Lake is situated one mile from the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park and provides lodging options far less crowded and touristy than Estes Park. It is located at an elevation of 8,437 feet and was established in 1881 to support nearby mining settlements.
There are a handful of eateries and shops all along the main street. We enjoyed some heavenly locally made ice cream after our canoe tour and spent an hour or so window shopping. Our upcoming posts in this series will highlight some of the additional Grand Lake attractions we visited.