Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain Lake, and Grand Lake Bring the High-Mountain, On-the-Water Adventure + Beauty Here in Grand County

All connected but each distinct, the lakes that comprise the "three lakes" region here in Grand County make it easy to pack in adventure, views, and a reprieve from the hustle and heat. All three sit along the east side of Highway 34, making both a beautiful drive to Rocky Mountain National Park and a haven for summer fun in the heart of Grand. Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain Lake, and Grand Lake are not only the headwaters of the Colorado River; they are truly the jewels of the county come summertime. 

Fishing, swimming, stand-up paddle boarding, and kayaking are favorite on-the-lake activities throughout the summer and early fall - and all three lakes allow motorized boats, making them the go-to spot in the county for getting on the water on a speedboat, pontoon boat, or jet ski. With miles of water to explore and islands just asking for you to stop by and set up camp for a picnic, it's easy to see why our mountain lakes are such a popular destination.

Love the lake vibe and soaking in the views but looking to get your heart rate up a little more? Hiking trails abound in the three lakes region! They really have a little something for everyone this time of year. 


Colorado's second largest lake is a short 12-minute drive from downtown Granby and sits at about 8,280 feet. With over 40 miles of shoreline and surrounded by the Arapahoe National Forest, the Arapaho National Recreation Area, and the Indian Peaks Wilderness with sweeping views of the Continental Divide, Lake Granby is in an ideal location to experience the Rockies on the water. The man-made reservoir is an integral part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, an elaborate system of reservoirs, dams, and canals that provides water to farmers and residents east of Colorado's Front Range. 

The lake's accessibility and size make it an easy destination for many.  If you have the luxury of enjoying the mountains on the weekdays, popping over to Lake Granby before or after work or making a day of it on the water can make you feel like you have the place to yourself. While the weekends can understandably draw more of a crowd, the size of the lake makes it possible to get on the water from one of the three public boat launches, find your own little cove, and drop anchor away from it all. And several sandy beaches can be found along the shore - ideal for launching paddle boards and kids digging in the sand for hours!

Fishing Lake Granby? It's continually stocked with trout and kokanee salmon, keeping anglers busy all season long. Sailing? Check out the Lake Granby Yacht Club to connect with a community of sailing enthusiasts. Looking for a hike? Follow County Road 6 (the turn off Highway 40 to lake Granby) about nine miles to its end at Monarch Lake. A relatively flat 4-mile loop follows the shore of the lake, winding through the forest and across several streams. If you're feeling ambitious, you can split off onto the Cascade Creek Trail to start gaining elevation and eventually make it up to Cascade Falls. Hoping to rent a boat and explore the open waters? Or just need a place to dock your boat for the season? Check out Highland MarinaBeacon Landing Marina, or Indian Peaks Marina to get set up with everything you need. 

Ready to literally set up camp and stay awhile? About 260 campsites can be found on or near Lake Granby, making it easy to cozy in and enjoy all the lake has to offer without having to pack up at the end of the day!

Lake Granby is part of the Arapaho National Recreation Area, so a day or annual pass is required to park at boat launches, trailheads, day-use/picnic areas, campgrounds, and fishing access parking lots. 


Like Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain Lake is part of the Big Thompson Project and sits within the Arapaho National Recreation Area. Created by Shadow Mountain Dam on the south end, the lake connects to Grand Lake on the north end via a narrow waterway (best for non-motorized crafts or small motorized boats), giving you the opportunity to experience both lakes without having to get out of your boat!

Covering more than 1,300 acres of surface area, Shadow Mountain Lake is flanked on the east by Rocky Mountain National Park, home to Shadow Mountain, which stands at just over 10,000 feet in elevation. Its sparkling clear waters, abundant wildlife, and peaceful vibe make it one of our go-to spots for paddle boarding. The active osprey nests on several of the lake's islands are worth paddling past (from a distance, of course)! It is wild to watch them dive into the water, snatch their prey, and fly back into the air with its dinner.

Boat ramps are found on the south end of the lake at the Green Ridge Campground. If you're hopping on the water without a motor, there are several great launch points : Hilltop boat launch, Point Park picnic area, and Pine Beach picnic area all provide easy access to launch canoes, kayaks, and SUPs.

Feeling ambitious? Hike up to Shadow Mountain via Shadow Mountain Trail (9.6 miles round trip with 1,635 feet of elevation gain), ending at a historic fire lookout tower. For something a little less strenuous, try the East Shore Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park: hike along the lake shore, soak in the views, and eventually connect to the Continental Divide Trail.

Fly fishing and line fishing in and around Shadow Mountain Lake are always popular in the summer and fall. Reel in some brown trout, rainbow trout, and salmon from the lake. For quiet fly-fishing surrounded by lush forests, escape to one of the many nearby creeks or the Colorado River, which flows out of Shadow Mountain Lake and into Lake Granby

The only marina on Shadow Mountain Lake is Trail Ridge Marina. You can pontoon boats, fishing boats, and kayaks and spend your day exploring both Shadow Mountain and Grand Lake!


Some might call Grand Lake the ultimate open water destination in Colorado, and we're lucky enough to have it in our backyard! The state's largest and deepest natural lake lives up to the hype. Its 507 surface acres and depths that reach down to almost 400 feet contain crystal-clear snowmelt that reflects the stunning surrounding peaks. You really have to see it in real time to truly appreciate it! Mount Craig, known locally as “Mount Baldy” due to its uncovered peak, sits on the shores of Grand Lake and reaches 12,007 feet in elevation. Powerful glacial movements created a natural dam in the area, forming the lake tens of thousands of years ago. The local Ute Tribe originally named it "Spirit Lake," a name many still use today. 

The lake is lined with homes, many with their own private beaches. But the town beach, nestled on its north shore in the historic and eponymous town of Grand Lake, is open to the public - its sandy shore and dedicated swimming area with views of Mt. Baldy is truly idyllic. Rent a paddle boat, stand-up paddle board, canoe, or kayak right off the beach and head out on the water to enjoy the majesty of Grand Lake. Grand Lake Marina, a stone's throw from the town beach, also rents motorboats of all kinds, making it quick and easy to hop out on the lake. Have your own boat? Boats can be put in at the Grand Lake Boat Ramp, located on Portal Road by the Adams Falls Trailhead (or you can always launch on Shadow Mountain lake and connect over to Grand Lake under the rainbow bridge!). The shores along downtown Grand Lake have several public boat docks, making it easy to dock your boat while you take a walk and grab an ice cream in town. 

Grand Lake is also a sailing mecca. The Grand Lake Yacht Club is home to a fleet of top-of-the-line sailboats available for use for members. They also offer weeklong summer sailing school to youth aged 7-17. The sailing community in Grand Lake has an infectious enthusiasm; if you bump into someone who sails, you might just find yourself out on the water giving it a go within the hour! 

Just like the rest of the county, outdoor adventure abounds around Grand Lake, and there is no shortage of hiking! An easy family-friendly hike up to Adams Falls starts at the East Inlet Trailhead at the end of Portal Road just outside of the town of Grand Lake. Less than a mile up brings you to the rushing waters of Adams Falls. Keep hiking a little under five more miles to Lone Pine Lake or 7 miles up to Lake Verna. While outside of Rocky Mountain National Park's entrance, these trails are still in the park, so be sure to leave your furry friends at home if you head that way! 

And if you love to fish, Grand Lake is ready for you! The lake is home to a variety of fish species, including mackinaw (lake trout) and kokanee salmon. Rainbow, brook, German brown, and cutthroat trout also grace its waters. The lake is regularly stocked with fish by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, so your odds of catching that whopper in Grand Lake's pristine waters are much higher!


Does life on the water sound as good as it gets? Beautiful mountain homes along Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain Lake, and Grand Lake might be the real estate investment you're looking for! Or calling nearby Granby, Tabernash, Fraser, Hot Sulphur Springs, or Winter Park home will give you quick access to the beautiful three lakes region of Grand County. We're here to join you on your search for the perfect mountain property for you. Whether you simply want to sign up for listing alerts to keep your eye on the market, or you're ready to start the process with a buyer consultation meeting, we're here to support you and look forward to connecting

Posted by Leah Bishop on


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