Winter Attractions in Grand Lake Colorado

Winter in Grand Lake, Colorado

Looking for the perfect spot for your winter vacation or quick getaway? Grand Lake, Colorado is a magical and memorable experience. Lots of fresh, fluffy snow, amazing lights and so much to do.

Depending on the year, winter can start in November, sometimes early December. We have known Novembers where the groomed snowmobiling trails are open and piled with snow. This year may be one of them because of the great snow we received beginning in October. Grand Lake offers four months of pure winter pleasure.

Where to stay for the holidays in Colorado? Well, with us of course. Book early. Enjoy our little Western town’s sparkling lights, Christmas Trees and more. Nothing beats a white Christmas and the Rapids Restaurant is open on Christmas Eve. Book a room with a full kitchen at the Rapids and enjoy your holiday meal with your family. The Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre puts on a holiday show and of course you have to ring in the new year with the Grand Lake fireworks at midnight on New Year’s Eve! The best viewing spot is just 2 very short blocks from the Rapids. Enjoy our fabulous New Year’s Eve dinner and then saunter down the road for one of the best fireworks shows you will ever see.

Do you have a love of the great outdoors? Ice-Fishing is at its best on our three lakes and Rocky Mountain Outfitters will get you lined up with equipment, a guide, and gear. Try something new – you might just get hooked! The Annual Grand Lake Catch and Release Contest is one of them and has a $1,000 prize! Check out the Three Lakes Ice Fishing Contest too. 

 Grand Lake is known as “The Snowmobile Capital of the USA” with 70+ miles of groomed snowmobile trails, exciting terrain and deeply snow-covered meadows. On the Trail Rentals at Winding River Resort or Grand Adventures in town has the sled you need. Double rider sleds are available. Plan an epic adventure and ride from Grand Lake in Grand County to Gould in Routt County. Traverse the Continental Divide. If you bring your own sleds, ride right from your room at the Rapids, through town and onto the trails. 

Not into motorized winter sports? Take a sleigh ride at Winding River Resort, something everyone should experience snuggled under a soft blanket. It is so quiet and peaceful gliding through the trees.

Got kids? Family activities in Grand Lake include our annual, fun-filled Winter Carnival. Bed-sled races, human bowling, teapot curling and more. Pull your little one on a sled in the sled pull races or build a snowman for the competition! Locals participate in a snow sculpture competition. Join in and sign up. To top it off, there is a parade and fireworks! There is a free sledding hill just off the main street. The “Quackers” rubber ducky and fudge store is a must to visit with the family. Everyone can take home a memento.

Did you know there is a free ice-skating rink in Grand Lake? Visit the Grand Lake Community Center and check out some free skates. They even have a gym if you want to work out.

Want a change of scenery …. head down to Granby and go downhill skiing for day at Granby Ranch. The runs are just right and it is not too crowded so you and the kids can ski versus mostly stand in line! Affordable ski lessons are available. Night skiing at Granby Ranch is a fun adventure that will make for some great memories. Go a little farther afield and visit Winter Park for dog sled rides or tubing (day and night). Tubing is some of the best fun you can have and when you head home, soak away the cold at Hot Sulphur Springs. Sit under the stars in the steaming pools or watch the snowflakes fall softly around you. Stargazing in Grand County is absolutely fantastic on the cold, clear nights of winter. If you get up early, you can take a breathtaking trip in a Hot Air Balloon and float above the snowy landscape. 

Grand Lake Nordic Center offers a tubing hill just up the road from the Rapids Lodge, cross country ski and snowshoe lessons and equipment rentals, miles of groomed trails and if you are in one of the dog-friendly rooms at the Rapids, take your dog on the pet-friendly loop! Never Summer Mountain products also have winter sports equipment for sale and for rent. If you have forgotten your boots or mittens, this is the place to get them. The Harbison Loop, Coyote River Trail and Holzwarth Ranch trails in Rocky Mountain are easy and fun for the whole family on snowshoes or skis. The Kawuneechee Visitor Center offers guided trails on weekends throughout the winter. The Center is worth a visit for the displays and the short film introducing Rocky. For skilled skiers and snowshoers, there are plenty of challenging trails. Cross country skiing on the frozen lake ice is a blast and a great way to explore the historic homes along the Grand Lakeshore. Check with the locals to find out ice conditions and open water risks.

Well, by now, you should be convinced that Grand Lake in Colorado is the perfect place for winter family fun. Book at the Rapids Lodge today. We have great rates in the winter. Always book direct for the best price. Find us on Booking.com and Expedia.com, but book with us online or by phone. We are always happy to chat so give us a call.

The Rapids Restaurant – Grand County’s Most Romantic Dining Experience

Every year our Local newspaper, the Sky-Hi News, runs a competition that local businesses are keen to win! The public votes on any business in categories like Community, Fitness and Outdoors, Food and Drink, Music and Entertainment, Services and Shopping. 

The Rapids Restaurant has claimed the title of “Best Place for a Romantic Date” once again! A big thank to all our patrons for your continued support and enthusiasm.

The Rapids Restaurant is unique in its location along the Tonahutu River. No matter what the season, the view is always beautiful, and sometimes decorated with a fox or moose! The river is floodlit at night and so even late diners can enjoy the water tumbling over rocks. Remember to get a photo in front of our grand main fireplace with a mantel that is decorated seasonally.

Our ambiance is unparalleled in Grand County with the warmth and detail of Victorian Decor in a 1915 historic lodge, and two cozy fireplaces. Truly delicious, high quality food and an extensive wine list make for a memorable meal. 

Any special occasion warrants visit to the Rapids Restaurant – birthdays, anniversaries, reunions, business dinners, rehearsals and weddings. Our guests come back year after year to mark each landmark event in their lives. 

Perhaps its your turn to start a tradition!

Rapids wins "Best Of" 2018
Rapids wins “Best Of” 2018

Grand Lake Night Sky and Stargazing

For many of you who live in cities or on the East Coast, our starry nights can be astonishing! Any time of the year can offer a good show on a clear night without the light pollution of urban areas. Drive into Rocky Mountain National Park and the intense dark will show you more stars than you ever imagined. RMNP offers Night Sky programs. Keep an eye out for their 2019 calendar. Dry, cold air in Fall and Winter is perfect for stargazing.

“Night sky over Granby” by local photographer Bob Fergeson, Nostalgiawest

Every year there are celestial events to watch, from meteor showers to the alignment of planets. On October 8th this year, we have the Draconids Meteor Shower. It will be a moonless night and offer about 10 meteors an hour. October 21-22 brings the Orionids, about 20 meteors per hour and then on October 23rd, Uranus is at its closest to earth and will be fully illuminated.

Visit SeaSky.org for a month by month list of celestial activity. Perhaps your next vacation to the Rapids Lodge will center around the astronomical calendar.

Standing outside, watching the stars will create special memories. The cool or cold air and the sounds of a Rocky Mountain night can be magical. Perhaps you will hear the hoot of an owl, a pack of wild coyotes howling at the sky, the huffing of a Moose in rut, the bugling of an Elk or the call of a bear cub as it follows Mom. Foxes can be recognized by a sharp bark. In Summer, you might even feel the breeze from the wings of a bat as it swoops past.

Grand Lake has so much to offer, no matter the season.

Moose in Grand Lake Colorado

Where to see Moose?

Why, the Historic Rapids Lodge and Restaurant in Grand Lake, Colorado of course.

Moose love our river …..  the cool water and the willows that line the shore. July brought an impressively large bull moose to the opposite banks quite regularly. Our lunch and dinner guests got to watch him at leisure and took home some great photographs.  He would nonchalantly munch on willows and now and again, take a long drink at the river’s edge. On occasion he would also wade the river, coming to our side of the riverbank, just south of the Rapids. His antlers grew larger and larger each week. One morning during check out, he wandered right through the middle of the parking lot and then his immense size was really evident. He towered over parked cars and even the dumpsters and so on.

Moose in Grand Lake Colorado

Moose in Grand Lake Colorado

Each season brings different regular visitors. Sometimes its a fox that hangs around, sometimes a black bear includes the Rapids property in his regular nightly patrol, or perhaps we have a few deer that frequent our flower beds.  Some summers we have had a mama moose with a single youngster or even twins, meander past our flower pots for a little extra greenery.

Even if you don’t see the wildlife in town, Rocky Mountain National Park will certainly offer up some great sightings. Early mornings and late evening are the best time for wildlife viewing.  Elk, Mule Deer, Red Fox, Coyotes, Yellow Bellied Marmots, Ground Squirrels, Chickaree Squirrels, Chipmunks and more.

Don’t forget about birding Rocky Mountain National Park!

Fire danger is high in Grand Lake!

Grand Lake had a big scare on June 28th, 2018 and I this is my personal experience.

Fire in Grand Lake

Fire in Grand Lake

On Thursday afternoon, I left the lobby of the Rapids to check something in a room and I noticed a wisp of smoke on the horizon directly West of us, over the hill near the Grand Lake Golf Course. By the time I returned from the guest room, the plume of smoke had thickened and broadened and was an ugly dark color.  I immediately phoned my Columbine Lake home to warn them that there was a fire and it was rapidly growing; they should prepare in case of evacuation orders. Not long after that, I received word homes along the golf course road and in the southern section of Columbine were being evacuated. Those of us who lived in the area, dropped everything and hastily raced home.

On the way home, my car thermometer read 87 F, and that didn’t change with further driving later in the day. It was so very hot for a Grand Lake summer day, usually in the mid 70’s. The wind had also kicked up.

I stopped at a friend on the way home for a second. They were already throwing things in the car and they told me that a man on the horse had ridden by to warn them that although they weren’t in the line of fire, they probably had 45 minutes before formal evacuation orders were in place.

On arrival home, I instantly started reviewing my “fire” list: files, important documents, photo albums, computer….. and if I had time, clothes, water and a little bit of food. The mandatory evacuation call came in. We hooked up the little sail boat figuring that at least we could live in that if we had to for a while, cramped and basic though it would be.

At the time of our hurried departure, I noticed a neighbor had not begun packing their car and banged on their door, alerting them to the mandatory evacuation. A staging area had not been selected at that time and we decided to not clog up town but rather to head down to the Stillwater boat ramp to the south. Amazingly, when we got there, friends texted to say they had been offered a house to stay in and did we want to join them. Yes!

It was nerve wracking watching the smoke, the spotter plane, the helicopters with water bags and the slurry bombers. The big planes took several passes to determine the air flow and line up for dropping fire retardant, then they would disappear below the tree line as they flew the dangerous path to quell the fire.  We heard a little later the slurry bombers had to be sent home because a drone was being flown and making it too dangerous for the big planes.  Soon the smoke began to diminish and we enjoyed a beautiful moonrise before turning in for a restless night.

In the morning we were relieved that the smoke had dissipated from our fire, although the sky was hazy from the larger fire far to the south of us.  By early morning, the smoke began to clear and the afternoon was beautiful. The evacuation order remained in place until 7pm that evening as they worked to douse hotspots and ensure conditions didn’t change and cause flare-ups.

We were so happy and relieved and grateful to sleep in our own beds Friday night!

The Grand Lake Recreation Area and Golf Course had done extensive tree clearing on the south side of golf course road last fall and winter. If they hadn’t done that, this story might have turned out very differently.

The Town of Grand Lake was never affected thank goodness. Businesses stepped up to help the evacuees among many other volunteers. The Grand Lake Center became the staging area for evacuees with food, refreshments and cots. Not many people end up staying there because in this lovely, little town, many of the community members took so many people into their homes.

Hotspot work continued for days to ensure no further flare-ups. The Town of Grand Lake wisely cancelled the 4th of July fireworks and we were grateful for that decision. A stage 2 fire ban is in place and the air is dry and hot. Do your rain dance folks! So much of Colorado is under pressure from wild fires and we hope everyone stays safe, and that all the amazing folks fighting those fires stay safe, and start to make some headway.

Spring sprung early in the Rockies. We have had unusual weather for May. Days were often sunny and 65F to 70F. As a result, flowers have bloomed and the Aspen Trees are well leafed out. Unfortunately, we are already wishing for more frequent rains although we experience a good soaking storm on May 29th. As far as playing outside or on the lakes, however, this weather is awesome! The elk and moose are dropping their calves and when they are all still scrunched up from the womb and wobbly on their spindly legs, such a sight is truly moving. You can see them as they cross the road near the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park in the very early morning and at dusk.

 

The first hummingbird was seen at the Rapids on May 1st!

Grand Lake Colorado

Grand Lake Colorado

The Tonahutu flowed well all month and was just below peak for most of the latter part of the month. Our flow indicator is a big boulder and we only saw the water lap over it on one day. Often, when there is a lot of snow and a quick melt, the boulder becomes completely covered with water. Peak flow is at 10 am….it takes that long for melt from the higher elevations to reach us!

 

Memorial Day Weekend brought regular visitation from a bull moose much to the delight of our guests. He appeared nightly over the long weekend at the water’s edge, sometimes forging the river. The parking lot seemed to be on his habitual route too. Perhaps he will stick around all summer. If he does, hopefully, he won’t munch on all our flowers when we get them into the pots!

 

Boy, bookings are fast and furious this year! Many weekends are already sold out in the summer. Be advised, make your plans for getaways and vacations, reunions and weddings as soon as possible so you can snag your spot! If you missed it this year, remember we open bookings one year in advance!

 

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Its spring in Grand Lake, Colorado!

Its spring in Grand Lake, Colorado!

The Continental Divide has had some excellent snowfalls recently with snowpack as of April 18, showing at 97% of average in the Upper Colorado Basin. Most of the snow at lower elevations has melted off and the three lakes, Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain and Granby, are days away from returning to open water.

Spring in Grand Lake, Colorado

Spring in Grand Lake, Colorado

The Tonahutu River at the Rapids Lodge is now fully open and beginning to inch up with snowmelt. The American Dippers are back and darting in and out of the water as they search for food below the surface. What a unique species they are. Bird-watching is always good at the Rapids. The Stellar Jays are constantly flitting about and the morning chorus is alive with the calls of American Robins and Chickadees.

Moose are being seen frequently now as they move around in search of spring willow shoots and a coyote was seen running down highway 34 just the other day. Foxes are always darting in and out between the houses. Elk are frequenting the open areas near Granby

The Aspen Trees are blooming and grass is greening up. It’s a quiet time of year but it’s beautiful and peaceful. Weather can change in an instant from sunny and warm to a few flurries to chilly and windy so come prepared with lots of layers!

Although Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park doesn’t open until Memorial Day Weekend, you can still drive 8 miles into the park for wildlife viewing and hiking trail access. You can also now enjoy traffic-free conditions and walk or bicycle past the vehicle barriers to enjoy Trail Ridge Road (with you leashed dog as a bonus). The Rapids Lodge is offering great low season rates in Lodge Guest Rooms and Rapids Suites. The Rapids Restaurant will open for the summer season on May 4th for dinner and lunch service starts Memorial Day Weekend.

Consider staying and dining at the Rapids Restaurant for Mother’s Day or Memorial Day Weekend! Catch Grand Lake before the crowds.

Visit the Rapids Lodge late fall early winter

October is proving to be a beautiful month in Grand County, Colorado. Gorgeous days of blue sky and sunshine! Yes, there have been a few snowfalls but the white has settled mostly at higher elevations and melted off at our elevation. Our scenery is truly breathtaking at the moment with the remaining trees still cloaked in gold against a backdrop of stunning, white mountains. At this time the rutting elk are still busy in Rocky Mountain National Park and Trail Ridge is still open for the season despite a few temporary closures including at night. Nothing beats the un-crowded trails and peaceful moments of solitude at this time of year. And then join the Rapids Lodge for dinner.

Deer eating bushes, Grand Lake, Colorado

Deer eating bushes, Grand Lake, Colorado

For those of you who are hunters, the snow always helps to push big game down to lower elevations. If you aren’t a fan of the cold and roughing it at hunter’s camp, the Rapids Lodge has great lodging options ranging from 8 person condos to smaller rooms, some of which are now bookable at a great low season rate. Use our book online option to check availability at these great rates (available all the way through early June next year). Don’t forget Halloween, a really fun time to be up in the mountains and doing something different. Grand Lake and Granby both have trick or treating!

Deer eating bushes, Grand Lake, Colorado

Deer eating bushes, Grand Lake, Colorado

Get planning for the winter! Grand Lake offers so many winter activities. Call us and we will send you in the right direction. A white Christmas in the Colorado Mountains is a magical experience! The Rapids Restaurant is now serving dinner Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Come at 5pm and grab your spot by the fire.

  • Ski & Snowshoe with a Ranger in RMNP
  • Dog Sled Rides
  • Sleigh Rides
  • Guided and Unguided Ice-Fishing
  • Snowmobiling – 130 miles groomed trails
  • Ice Skating
  • Grand Lake Touring Center
  • Sledding
  • Winter Hot Air Ballooning
  • Soak in the Hot Springs at Hot Sulphur Springs
  • Wildlife watching – moose in the snow, red foxes and coyotes, a deer or two.
  • Birdwatching in Colorado can be good, new species from the north make an appearance.
  • Stay at the Rapids Lodge

 

 

 

It’s almost fall in Colorado!

This summer has flown by and it’s been a wet one for the Colorado Mountains. Nights have been, on average, a little cooler. Perhaps this will bring a fabulous, dry fall bursting with color! Colors have already started to change here and there, the odd willow, a few Aspen Trees, the grass in the meadows …. it won’t be long before the scenery is bursting with color.

Fall in Colorado

Perhaps you have made your fall vacation plans and perhaps some of you are waiting to see when peak color will be. Either way, we encourage you to book soon for fall accommodation at the Rapids. A River View Condo at the Rapids is always the prime spot but there is charm in every room whether it is Lodge Guest Room 6 “Treehouse Suite” or a Rapids Cabins with a fireplace. Our Rapids Suites are spacious and some a dog-friendly too. We invite you to explore our website and enjoy all the wonderful photos of the rooms, property, and area.Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park is a fantastic drive to Estes Park. Plan an evening for spending in the park, watching the Bull Elk round up their harems of females, all the while filling the valley with their haunting “

Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park is a fantastic drive to Estes Park. Plan an evening for spending in the park, watching the Bull Elk round up their harems of females, all the while filling the valley with their haunting “bugling”.  Fall days on the lakes are often warm and still, with the water reflecting blue skies and golden Aspen leaf reflections dance on the water. Try a Starlight soak in Hot Sulphur Springs after a stunning hike. You will likely see Moose around too and the bulls sport really impressive racks in Grand County. We can direct you to some breathtaking fall dives in the area.

A Colorado Fall is just not to be missed, it’s that spectacular!

A fall lunch outside by the river with startlingly blue skies and golden Aspen Leaves is not to be missed. On chilly nights, you may enjoy a fireside table with a view for a sumptuous dinner.

What to expect: May in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado

As of mid-March, our area is at 143% of average expected snowpack for this time of year! March is often the biggest snow month of the season although I think this January will be hard to beat! The weather right now is fairly warm, days in the mid 40’s with nights not too far below freezing. Just today, the Tonahutu River in front of the AAA Three Diamond Rapids Restaurant, began to open up and for the first time. We can hear the water gurgling again! Music to our ears. Unless we get a remarkably cold snap, we expect the ice to melt away fairly quickly. Perhaps we will have a nice slow melt, maybe it will be really warm and we will have a sudden melt. Either way, the Tonahutu River this spring will be raging and a quite a spectacle to see. Pick a River View or Rapids Condo with a view of the river and enjoy the rushing water from the comfort of your room.

tonahutu-River-Grand-Lake-Colorado

Spring has arrived in many parts of the country an estimated three weeks early. Right now, mid-March, there have been sightings of our spring icons: American Robins and Mountain Bluebirds! Your birding adventures can start now! Perhaps the lake ice will also melt off early this year and the Aspen Trees will sprout green leaves at the beginning of May versus Mid-May in Grand Lake. We will have to see.

The two big events of May are of course, are Mother’s Day and Memorial Day Weekend (enjoy the Parade)! On Memorial Day Weekend, Bingo, on the weekends, in the Grand Lake Pavilion starts up for the summer and the historic Kauffman House (Grand Lake, Colorado’s first hotel) opens up for the summer season. Who needs events for an excuse to come to the mountains in May? The scenery is never prettier with snow-capped peaks towering above azure lakes and the brilliant green of fresh spring growth contrasting with the blues of peaks and sky. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for baby moose!

We have accommodations for every taste: Riverside Condos that sleep 4 to 12 people, Historic Lodge Guest Rooms, Rapids Suites sleeping 4-7 people and in mid-May, our pet-friendly cabins will open up for the summer season! Book now to visit “Grand Lake’s Hidden Gem.”