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.

Great Reasons to Visit Grand Lake, Colorado with Kids

One of my friends recently asked if I would recommend bringing two young kids to Grand Lake, Colorado.

Grand Lake, Colorado

My answer is yes! The mountain town of Grand Lake has a ton to offer families who are seeking outdoor adventures. Grand Lake is located on the West side of Rocky Mountain National Park. If you love water, you will enjoy having Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Lake, and Lake Granby all within a half hour drive.

Typically when we are visiting Grand Lake, we are coming from Estes Park and have been in the car for a long time. Town Square Park is a beautiful green space with a nice playground. The park is wonderful to burn off the energy from our car ride.

Ice cream in charming downtown Grand Lake, Colorado

Downtown Grand Lake has numerous shops and restaurants to explore. We love grabbing an ice cream cone and walking along the shore of Grand Lake, the largest natural lake in Colorado.

The mountain lakes are wonderful, but I’m also impressed by the colorful displays of flowers around town. It feels very welcoming. Local residents seem to take great pride in their beautiful home.

Grand Lake Colorado is simply beautiful!

grand lake is less busy

Grand Lake is typically less busy than Estes Park, which is located on the East side of the national park. This means you will most likely benefit from shorter lines at the national park entrance and less trouble finding parking spots downtown.

outdoor adventures abound

Outdoor adventures in Grand Lake, Colorado include water recreation such as boating, swimming, sailing, and paddle boarding.

Grand Lake beach

Although there are adventures to be had year-round in Grand Lake, some top attractions are only open seasonally including Trail Ridge Road. The scenic highway typically opens at the end of May depending on the weather. You can learn about road conditions on the National Park’s website.

Hikes Near Grand Lake, Colorado

Some of our favorite family-friendly hiking spots near Grand Lake include:

Coyote Valley
Lake Irene
Adams Falls and East Meadow

If you are looking for a challenge, you can cross over the continental divide from Bear Lake to Grand Lake. You can read about the 18 mile hike here.

more to explore!

There are many hikes, picnic spots, and attractions we haven’t had a chance to explore yet including the Holzwarth Historic Site.

Did you know Rocky Mountain National Park has its own podcast? We listened to an episode titled, “Getting Wild on Rocky’s West Side” which was a great resource for learning more about Holzwarth. Additional resources when planning a trip to Grand Lake include grandlakechamber.com and visitgrandcounty.com.

Grand Lake is great for families
Grand Lake – toddler fun