Fires in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is closed due to spreading wildfires in and around the park. We are praying for rain and snow to help slow the fires down. Our thoughts are with the fire fighters and the communities affected by the fires, especially Estes Park, Colorado and Grand Lake, Colorado. Both places hold special places in our hearts.

You can find out more information about the closures on the national park’s website, here.

We are also keeping updated by following the Estes Valley Fire Protection District on facebook as well as the official page for the Cameron Peak Fire.

NASA also has a near real-time heat map that you can view here.

East Shore Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Today I want to share a scouting report for a new (to us) trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. East Shore is located on the west side of the national park near the town of Grand Lake and Granby Colorado. The trail borders Shadow Mountain Lake and Lake Granby as well as the Colorado River. We parked near Shadow Mountain Dam. Our girls found the dam fascinating. (Their excitement could be attributed to the movie Frozen 2 which features a dam breaking as a major plot point.)

East Shore trailhead Rocky Mountain National Park. Hike near Grand Lake and Granby.

From the trailhead you could see Green Ridge Campground which is part of the Arapaho National Recreation Area.

East Shore trailhead Rocky Mountain National Park. Hike near Grand Lake and Granby.
National Park signage at East Shore trailhead.

The East Shore trailhead gives hikers access to RMNP as well as the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. From Shadow Mountain Dam, we headed north for a half mile. The total distance of the East Shore trail is over 20 miles.

By the time we made it to East Shore, we had already hiked up on the alpine tundra and gone kayaking on Grand Lake. Given all the activities of the day, it’s not surprising that we only made it through a very small portion of the trail. We are excited to return when we have more energy and time to explore.

East Shore trailhead Rocky Mountain National Park. Hike near Grand Lake and Granby. Views of Lake Granby and Shadow Mountain Lake
The East Shore trail features lake and mountain views. Imagine how pretty it would be at sunset.

Trail Positives: Lake views, mountain views, wildflowers, dam.

Trail Negatives: Distance from our cabin in Estes Park.

Final Thoughts: This trail would be a good option for people visiting Grand Lake or Granby, Colorado. Remember that hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park requires a park pass and a timed-entry permit.

East Shore trailhead Rocky Mountain National Park. Hike near Grand Lake and Granby. Views of Lake Granby and Shadow Mountain Lake
The section of the trail was flat and easy for my 5-year-old to walk on.
East Shore trailhead Rocky Mountain National Park. Hike near Grand Lake and Granby. Views of Lake Granby and Shadow Mountain Lake
Wildflowers blooming along East Shore trail in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Kayaking Grand Lake, Colorado

One of the highlights of our July trip to Colorado was renting a kayak on Grand Lake. We were staying at our cabin in Estes Park, Colorado so we drove over Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park to get to Grand Lake. A national park pass as well as a timed-entry reservation are required to drive this route. We stopped along the way to do a short hike up on the Tundra Communities Trail. The drive would take about an hour and a half without stops. On our drive to Grand Lake we spotted a couple of moose which is common in this area of the national park.

Grand Lake Colorado kayaking. Rent a kayak on Grand Lake.

renting a kayak on grand lake in Colorado

We rented a 15 foot tandem kayak for our family of four from Mountain Paddlers Kayak Shak. The kayak had enough room for two adults and our two small children.

Mountain Paddlers is located right on the lake. Rentals are first come, first served. We rented our kayak for one hour, which was a good amount of time for our first ride with the kids.

best time to go kayaking in grand lake

Mountain Paddlers is open from 8:00 am until 7:00 pm seven days a week from Memorial Day through Labor Day unless the weather is bad.

The rental came with floatation devices for everyone in the kayak as well as a safety whistle and dry bag.

kayaking lake estes vs. grand lake

Last summer we went kayaking on Lake Estes in Estes Park, Colorado. We enjoyed our time on the water. I wrote about our experience in this post.

Grand Lake is a bigger lake which means that there are more boats and some faster boats on the water with you. I enjoyed the natural landscape. As a HGTV fan, it was also fun to see the lake homes. Some of them are dream homes! Grand Lake is the largest natural lake in Colorado while Estes Park is man-made. Grand Lake also connects to Shadow Mountain Lake. We didn’t get that far, but I would like to extend our rental time in the future so we can explore Shadow Mountain Lake as well.

things to do in grand lake, Colorado

We worked up an appetite paddling, so once we were back on land, we ate lunch outdoors at a Mexican restaurant. We enjoyed dessert at an ice cream shop. Then we went on another quick hike before heading back towards Estes Park. I could not have asked for a better day trip. Want more ideas for things to do in Grand Lake? I wrote this post about Great Reasons to Visit Grand Lake, Colorado with Kids.

Where is Rocky Mountain National Park? And Answers to Common Questions

I often get so excited about finding new restaurants in Estes Park or trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, that I forget some people are traveling to our favorite town for the very first time and need to know the basics. This post is dedicated to answering common questions for first-time visitors.

Where is Rocky Mountain National Park?

Rocky Mountain National Park is located in the state of Colorado.

What towns are near Rocky Mountain National Park?

Estes Park, Colorado is a mountain town that sits on the eastern side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Estes Park is approximately a one-and-a-half hour drive from Denver, Colorado and less than an hour drive from Boulder, Colorado.

Grand Lake, Colorado sits on the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park and is approximately a two-hour drive from Denver, Colorado.

Traffic in the Denver area can dramatically affect drive times, so I recommend timing your trip to avoid rush-hours if possible.

What is the elevation in Estes Park and Grand Lake?

Estes Park is at 7,522 feet in elevation. Grand Lake is even higher at 8,369 feet. At these elevations, it is good to keep in mind that your body needs time to acclimate. We have found altitude affects each person differently – some people have only minor issues adjusting while others may experience altitude sickness. We try to stay hydrated and find lower elevation hikes that are less strenous on the first day of our trip.

What is the weather like in Rocky Mountain National Park?

Summer: One of the best parts of traveling to the mountains in the summer months is the cooler temperatures and lower humidity (compared to our home in Arkansas). Mornings and evenings are often cool. Afternoon highs can reach into the 80s. Afternoon rain showers are common.

Fall: Crisp fall days, golden aspens, and the elk rut make autumn a wonderful and popular time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. It can snow in the fall as we learned during an October trip where we ended up doing more sledding than hiking.

Winter: Winter is less busy in Rocky Mountain National Park compared to summer and fall prime months. Temperatures are cold, but on sunny days we have found it comfortable to hike, go sledding, and snow shoe as long as we bring warm layers. Some days the winds are extraordinarily strong which makes it less enjoyable. The town of Estes Park sparkles with holiday lights.

Spring: Snow and snow melt are common in spring. When we want to hike we typically visit lower elevation areas where the snow has melted out. Often the trails are slushy and muddy in spots. We bring trekking poles and fresh shoes to change into when we are done with our hike.

Additional tips about weather conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park can be found on the national park’s website.

I hope this is a good start. I’ll answer more common questions in upcoming posts mixed in with new hikes that we enjoyed from our most recent trip. If you have any questions I should cover in our next post, please ask them in the comments.