Grand Lake in the Fall offers a natural haven like no other. Just a mile from Rocky Mountain National Park’s west entrance, this is the wilder and quieter side. As the weather cools and the crowds dwindle, the wildlife get more active and visible. Moose and elk roam this area and the chances of spying them are excellent. This area is an outdoor paradise for hiking, fishing, hunting, boating, and of course, leaf-peeping. After the day’s abundant adventures, enjoy dining and shopping in Grand Lake’s enchanting historic downtown. The delights of the changing seasons await you in Grand Lake this Fall.
Calling all Leaf peepers, aspen-gaspers, and Fall foliage aficionados, we’ve got just what you’re looking for. This region typically is one of the first in Colorado to shine, peaking by the third week of September. The first glimpses of deep reds, brilliant oranges or that signature Aspen-gold are seen as early as the first week of September. Here are some of our favorite leaf-viewing drives.
Grand Lake: A drive into downtown is rewarding with the small but welcoming groves along Portal and Grand Avenues. Shadow Mountain, adjacent to Mt. Baldy, becomes a cornucopia of color—those steady evergreens interspersed with the yellows of the aspen like a quilt.
Rocky Mountain National Park: This natural wonder is a kaleidoscope of must-see sights. The Kawuneeche Valley inside the park offers spectacular leaf-peeping beauty. The meadows play along too, with their grasses turning yellow to match the overall palette. Take a drive on the wild side by going on Trail Ridge Road to the 12,000 summit, then turn back around to get another peep.
US Highway 34: Cruise along US Highway 34, the main route between Granby and Grand Lake. Thanks to its spectacular lake and mountain views, it has been designated a scenic by-way. In the Fall, the scenery gets even more colorful and dramatic.
There are several side roads to explore off of this main route, too.
County Road 4: Turn right off 34 toward Stillwater Pass and enjoy the sights as this route winds into wonderful wilderness.
County Roads 41 and 411: Turn right off 34 (across from Stillwater Campground) for promises of leaf shows at their best.
County Road 40: Take a right off 34 toward Willow Creek Reservoir.
County Road 6: On the left side of 34, turn into the Arapaho Bay entrance and keep driving. The dark blue of Lake Granby punctuated by the fall colors is something to see.
Road 125: Where 34 ends near Granby, turn right on Highway 40 towards Kremmling. Then go right on 125 into the Willow Creek Valley toward Walden.
In the Fall, most of the animal kingdom is doing the same thing – seeking a mate. But none are quite as dramatically vocal about it as Elk. The male (known as a bull) is not so much calling to the female (known as a cow) as he is fending off other males. The elk with the loudest, most intimidating ‘bugle’ call, ends up with his pick of the ladies. Sometimes, the sound is enough to discourage the intruding male, but at other times there may be a fierce confrontation. This fascinating phenomenon plays out within viewing distance from Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park at dusk in the meadows of the Kawuneeche Valley. Once you see a group of elk (a.k.a. ‘a gang,’ or a herd), park safely off the road and stay near your car. Then wait and watch. The bugle sound is high-pitched and loudly ethereal. The bull’s posture is unmistakable as he struts around the group of cows, his entire head thrown back facing the sky. Please be respectful and stay off the meadows altogether. The elk are engaged in very serious business – quite literally life and death of the species – so any interruptions to the rut is catastrophic.
Miles and miles of scenic trails, including the famous Continental Divide Trail, are found in and around Grand Lake. There are more than 350 miles of trails inside Rocky Mountain National Park alone. Talk about a hiker’s paradise! The ones closest to Grand Lake include Adams Falls, North Inlet to Cascade Falls, and East Shore Trail. Keep in mind these trails currently require advanced reservations (find the link on the front page of our site). Other dog-friendly and reservation-free trails well-worth the walk include Monarch Lake, Pine Beach, and a great network of trails known as the Grand Lake Rec District Trails near the Grand Lake Golf Course.
Fall is for fly-fishing. The rivers have settled down into a clear, ideal flow. The lakes and reservoirs in the area are less crowded and quiet. The headwaters of the Colorado River start inside Rocky Mountain National Park, offering pristine conditions. It continues to flow outside the park too, with great spots from here to Parshall to the west. Colorado River has gold medal waters in Grand County from the Fraser River to Troublesome Creek and from Canyon Creek to Rock Creek. There are several public access points to the Colorado just west of Granby. Arapahoe Creek, flowing from Monarch Lake, downstream to USFS Road 125 also has great fishing.
Catch lake trout and more in Grand Lake, Lake Granby, Columbine Bay, Shadow Mountain Reservoir, Williams Fork Reservoir, Willow Creek Reservoir and Wolford Mountain Reservoir. The ‘more’ includes Rainbow trout, Brown Trout and Kokanee Salmon too.
LIKE A LOCAL: Make sure to get a valid Colorado fishing license and know the rules and regs before you go. For more fishing information go to www.cpw.state.co.us