It's no secret that Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the country's most breathtaking parks... but even with so many people flocking to the park to admire its beauty, there are still plenty of hidden gems, lesser-known hikes, and gorgeous natural features that don't get nearly enough attention. Uncovering hidden gems is a great way to get some peace and quiet in a park that can get crowded, and it lets you enjoy the park the way it was meant to be seen. This guide will help you get off the beaten path and back to nature in the Rockies!
If you're looking to head off the beaten path, the best place to start is Dutchtown Ghost Town. The town was built to accommodate Dutch miners that were driven out of Lulu City after a drunken incident one night. The town existed for only four years, and is now nothing but scattered remains. But hey, half the adventure is searching around looking for what's left of the town! It's a great activity for those who enjoy spooky adventures or treasure hunts.
As the name implies, Never Summer Wilderness enjoys an eternal winter. The wilderness area is located directly to the west of Rocky Mountain National Park, and is home to seven mountains that reach over 12,000 feet in elevation. The area gets its name from the exorbitant amounts of snow and rain that collect on its peaks. The area has 20 miles of hiking trails to explore, which allow you to discover beautiful gulches and even cross the continental divide on two different passes.
Right near Grand Lake, the Western gateway to the park, lies the cozy Black Bear Lodge, a great place to stay during a trip. The boutique lodge offers 17 hotel rooms, a heated pool and hot tub, and spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains. The lodge has plenty of activities for warm summer days, including grills, horseshoe sets, and swings for the kids. The lodge is only a quarter mile from Grand Lake, where you can enjoy fishing and boating; you can rent your boats from nearby Trail Ridge Marina!
Bordering Rocky Mountain National Park is the Grand Lake Metropolitan Recreation District, a lesser-known but just as fun park! The park is home to the Grand Lake Golf Course during the summertime, as well as a Nordic skiing in the winter. This quiet park offers unparalleled views of the Rocky Mountains and Grand Lake, as well as miles of hiking trails for you to discover. Make sure to grab a bite to eat at the Sly Fox Restaurant, a dining experience with a great view.
Start out a morning before exploring the park at Blue Water Bakery Cafe, known for its fresh-baked bread and pastries. The cafe is in an idyllic spot, with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. They have plenty of delicious breakfast options but make sure to grab a pastry like a lemon blueberry scone or a chocolate croissant. The cafe strives to only use natural ingredients in their recipes, and even offers gluten-free options.
Home to a famous all-you-can-eat weekend buffet, Fat Cat Cafe will have you leaving stuffed and completely happy! The cafe is conveniently located in downtown Grand Lake, a short drive from your other trip activities. The cafe offers traditional American fare in a rustic setting, and there are plenty of cat figurines on display to match the theme. The buffet is all freshly made and even has pies to choose from for dessert. Make sure to try the scotch eggs, which are a fan favorite! If you're looking for a reward for a long day of hiking in the Rockies, this is it.
For an escape from the Rocky Mountain crowds, head to the more quiet Summerland Park. The park is home to beautiful open meadows, both aspen and pine trees, and a variety of flora and fauna. This is a great place to have an idyllic mountain picnic, or a quiet night of truly isolated camping.
Hidden away on the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park lies Cascade Falls. A 40-foot waterfall that drops through a granite chute, Cascade Falls is worth the long trek to find it. The hike to this glorious waterfall begins at North Inlet Trailhead, and goes for almost four miles. The trail brings you directly to the foot of the falls, but experienced hikers will want to climb to the top for even more spectacular views. It requires a bit of a scramble up the rocky cliff to get to the top, but the view is most definitely worth it.
With hidden waterfalls and delicious local restaurants, your Rocky Mountain National Park adventure will be anything but ordinary. These spots are all off the beaten path, which guarantees that you will avoid the crowds and have unique vacation stories that cannot be matched. So get ready for the trip of a lifetime to Grand County!
Only 67 miles from Denver, Grand County is brimming with natural beauty, adventure and authentic Colorado heritage. Each of our 5 towns - Granby, Grand Lake, Kremmling, Hot Sulphur Springs and Winter Park - has its own distinct character and story to tell. Don’t just vacation. Go Grand.