| SkyHiNews.com

Best drives for fall colors in Grand County

With colors already turning in Grand County, now is the time to get out and peep some leaves.

The aspens are exceptionally golden this year, mixing brilliantly with the evergreen forests. Reds are visible in some parts of the county as well, but bright yellow aspens will be the highlight of any trip.

This list takes into account current wildfire and coronavirus restrictions, but always follow any posted signs. In no particular order, here are five of the best viewing spots in Grand County.

Highway 125 and Stillwater Pass

One of the easiest and best drives in Grand County for checking out the fall foliage is the horseshoe shaped route stretching from the Windy Gap to the Idleglen Staging Area.

To take the tour you can start at Windy Gap’s wildlife viewing area, where Highway 125 meets US Highway 40, or at the Idleglen Staging Area up County Road 4. The Willow Creek valley, stretching up 125, has some of the best leaf peeping in autumn with whole segments of the western mountainsides covered in an ombré patchwork of yellow, orange and red.

You will find many side roads to explore but continue making your way north until you reach County Road 4 and the turnoff to Stillwater Pass. The Stillwater Pass road winds along the banks of Willow Creek, passing the Illinois Pass trailhead and the picturesque Vagabond Ranch before descending down into the Stillwater Creek drainage.

The old forest service road is rough but manageable for vehicles with modest ground clearance. Keep your eyes peeled as you make your way through the forest; you may spot a bull moose out and about, and remember the area is popular with big game hunters.

Fraser Experimental Forest

The Fraser Experimental Forest is a remarkable place any time of year, but during the fall the low ridgelines just outside Fraser and Winter Park begin shifting from the leafy green of summer to gold and brown in fall. Many of the hillsides are covered with adolescent aspen stands with boughs still very low to the ground.

Just this week, the US Forest Service reduced the closure area for the Williams Fork Fire to only the places where the fire remains active. That means that all of the Fraser Experimental Forest is open, but drivers and hikers should obey any posted closures in surrounding areas.

One of the best drives for checking out the fall foliage is a short route running from County Road 72, running past the Fraser Tubing Hill, up Elk Creek into the Experimental Forest. The road eventually meets up with Forest Service Road that loops back around to Vasquez Road in Winter Park.

Muddy Pass

Up Highway 40 north of Kremmling, just before the turn to head up Rabbit Ears Pass is a historic traverse called Muddy Pass. The western side of Grand County holds some of the largest aspen colonies, especially in the Gore Range, with Muddy Pass highlighted as one of the best. As you reach Muddy pass take a look to the west toward Baker Mountain.

Corona Pass Road

Just north of Winter Park Resort on Highway 40 you will find a forest service road that peels off to the east into the high country. County Road 80, also called Corona Pass Road, will lead you on a winding route up the slopes of Mount Epworth to the top of the Continental Divide and historic Rollins Pass.

Corona Pass Road is lined in many parts with aspens that hang over the road, creating a sense of driving through a golden tunnel. The road also offers some of the most spectacular views of the Fraser Valley’s fall colors. Drive high enough up Corona Pass Road and you will be rewarded with a vast perch from which to view the immense network of aspens that dot the hillsides below.

Kawuneeche Valley

North of Grand Lake into Rocky Mountain National Park is the scenic Kawuneeche Valley, lined with vibrant aspens.

This spots includes not only spectacular views — if you time it right by going to the park at sunrise or sunset, you’ll also enjoying the elk bugling. The elk breeding season features hundreds of elk, many of which gather at Kawuneeche valley, where male elks bugle through a series of grunts and high-pitched squeals.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, reservations are required to enter Rocky between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. The passes are for two hour windows and cost $2, plus the $25 day pass if you are not a senior or annual pass holder. Go to recreation.gov to get a reservation.

Reservations are not required before 6 a.m. or after 5 p.m.

If you can’t get into Rocky, the drive on US Highway 34 leading up to the park is also dotted with golden aspens and make for an equally spectacular drive.

A-MOOSE-ING VIEWS, ELK-CITING TIMES | A guide to wildlife spotting

ELK AND MOOSE are fond of the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park, making it the perfect place to search for some wildlife. Here are some tips and fun facts for moose and elk spotting in the park and throughout Grand County.

MOOSE OBSERVERS

Moose used to be incredibly rare in Colorado. A population transplant in the late ‘80s has grown into an estimated 2,500 in the state. Rocky is currently working on a moose research project to better tally the population in the park.

Sightings are frequent along Highway 34 in the Kawuneeche Valley, but keep an eye out for the mammals throughout the Grand Lake area.

Moose can often be spotted near rivers and lakes, especially on hotter days, and enjoy a good swim. Visitors can see moose almost any time of the day.

As the largest members of the deer family, males can weigh up to 1,500 pounds. An adult moose stands between 5 and 7 feet high at the shoulder.

While moose are typically solitary, calves will stick with their mothers for about a year. Cows usually bear one or two calves in the early summer.

Moose eat up to 70 pounds of food per day and are known to remember their favorite feeding areas. They’ll often return each season to their preferred spots.

A bull moose pauses as snow falls in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Byron Hetzler/bhetzler@skyhidailynews.com | Sky-Hi News
Protect wildlife when viewing by…
  • Turning off car lights and engines immediately.
  • Shutting car doors quietly and keeping conversations to a minimum.
  • Observing and photographing from a distance. If the animal moves away or its attention is diverted, you are too close.
  • Staying by the roadside or on the trail while viewing.
  • It is illegal to use artificial lights or calls to view or attract wildlife.

It’s very important to enjoy moose at a distance. These funny looking grazers are actually one of the most dangerous animals in Colorado if someone interferes with them.

Both bulls and cows are unpredictable, and females are especially protective of their calves.

Keep a good distance between you and the mammal, as moose can top speeds of 35 mph. If the moose displays a threatening positions of “head high” or “head low,” it’s time to pull back.

ELK ENCOUNTERS

Elk usually have a dark brown mane, light brown bodies and white rumps. Only males have antlers, which can grow up to an inch a day.

Elk, once almost entirely wiped out in Colorado, grew to record high numbers in the ‘90s, harming the vegetation and other wildlife in the park. The park implemented the Elk and Vegetation Management Plan to maintain a more natural population of elk with a pretty good level of success.

However, there are still plenty of elk to see at the park. In the summer, large elk herds are found in alpine areas and along Trail Ridge Road. Watch for elk along the edges of clearings around dawn or dusk.

Herds can grow to a few hundred individuals for these social members of the deer family, but older bulls remain in smaller groups or by themselves until mating season.

Calving usually happens late May into June. Newborn elk have spots that fade away by summer. Cows are extremely protective of their calves, so use caution around mother elk.

As fall begins, the elk gather to mate in the Kawuneeche Valley on the western side of the park. The bull elk compete for the right to breed with a herd of females.

The competition typically involves displaying their antlers, necks and bodies and the famous bugling. An eerie sound that starts as a deep tone that rises to a high-pitch squeal, the bugle serves to intimidate rival males.

A deer grazes at Rocky Mountain National Park last summer.
Eli Pace / epace@skyhinews.com

GLAMPING | Camping more glamorous than you could imagine

Campers who believe enjoying the outdoors shouldn’t have to include suffering now have several lodging options in Grand County with the expansion of glamping.

Glamping is a portmanteau of glamorous and camping, where campers get to enjoy the best of both worlds, including the peace of nature plus the amenities of home.

“It’s uniqueness, plus the level of accommodations is much higher, where you’re coming to a king size bed,” David Huber, general manager for River Run, said.

Beyond tent-averse campers, glamping is ideal for families with ranging camping experience to travelers that don’t want to invest in too much gear to a romantic couple’s getaway.

At River Run, glampers can choose between four options ranging in amenities. There are fully furnished yurts with kitchens and bathrooms, airstreams with a kitchenette and bathroom, Conestoga wagons with bedroom amenities and temperature control, as well as adventure tents with king beds.

The wagons and tents will also share access to one of River Run’s comfort stations, featuring a laundry room, bathrooms and showers. They also will have individual fire pits and access to all of River Run’s features, such as restaurants and a bowling alley.

With a combination of high- end amenities and views of the Colorado River, Huber said he thinks the glamp sites will be very popular this summer.

“It appeals to younger people and people who are just getting into this kind of travel,” he said. “I think due to our COVID situation, we’re going to see
the revitalization of the classic American road trip.”

The wagons will be available to rent beginning mid to late June, so long as there are no public health orders prohibiting it, and the other options will be available later in the summer.

For the glamper who really wants to get away, Arapaho Valley Ranch offers tipis and glamping tents outfitted with bedroom amenities and a camp kitchen with access to bathrooms and showers, but without Wi-Fi.

Emily Gold, co-owner of the ranch, called glamping all the fun without the work, since glampers don’t have to worry about the logistics of their lodging and can focus on enjoying their natural surroundings.

“The theory is you can just bring your clothes, food and anything extra you want and you don’t have to pitch a tent,” Gold said. “It’s for people who want to enjoy the outdoors that don’t want to haul all of the things they need to survive on a weekend.”

Glamping is a customizable, cushy version of camping with more amenities. A Conestoga wagon at River Run featuring a king size bed, bunk beds, temperature control and a seating area is just one glamping option in Grand.
McKenna Harford / mharford@skyhinews.com

Aside from the perks of a bed and running water, Gold highlighted what a unique adventure it is to lodge in a tipi or a decked out tent with a deck. Arapaho Valley Ranch’s history as a ranch that started in the 1800s and its location next to Monarch Lake only enhances the experience.

“How often do you get to say you stayed in a tipi,” she laughed. “Most everybody has been camping at least once in their life, but glamping is newer.”

For more information about glamping at River Run, visit RiverRunRVResort.com and for more information about glamping at Arapaho Valley Ranch go to ArapahoValleyRanch.com.

GO FOR A CRUISE | Amazing views await on Grand County’s roads

As sunny summer days warm up Colorado’s High Country, millions of tourists will take to mountain passes to reach the majesty of Middle Park.

Here they will take part in all of the classic summer activities, from mountain biking and hiking to whitewater rafting and fishing. But there is one simple pastime that is often overlooked, forgotten amidst the countless options for summer fun: a simple country drive.

Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. Sky-Hi News File Photo
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

TRAIL RIDGE ROAD

This is a famous and popular choice. When people think of taking a drive in Grand County, most will immediately think of the expansive vistas of the alpine stretches passing through Rocky Mountain National Park.

A bit further west, where US Highway 40 descends
into the narrow valley of the upper Colorado River, there
is even an official National Scenic Byway running along the Colorado River headwaters from the Park to State Bridge.

But if you search a little harder you can easily find a few dusty old mountain drives that do not see much traffic. Take a trip down the roads less taken.

STILLWATER PASS ROAD

Leading from Cutthroat Trout Bay high up into the mountains north of Granby, Stillwater Pass Road is one of Grand County’s longest and loneliest stretches of dirt.

The road is a winding meandering forest service road that is also officially known as Grand County Road 4. The road connects US Highway 34 and the Three Lakes area to Colorado Highway 125, running north from the Windy Gap into Jackson County.

Stillwater Pass Road is roughly 23 miles. While it is in fairly good shape, vehicles with low ground clearance could find it challenging. Come prepared with plenty of gas and a map.

There are more than a few spur roads and jeep trails that lead away from the main artery. Near the northern end of Stillwater Pass Road, where it approaches the ridge of the Continental Divide, hikers can find trails leading to nearby Lost Lake and its small, placid, crystal clear waters. You can access Stillwater Pass Road from US Highway 34 and Grand County Road 4, just south of Cutthroat Trout Bay or by taking CO 125 north roughly 17 miles north to Grand County Road 4.

WATER BOARD ROAD

Denver Water Board Road, or simply Water Board Road, is a comparatively lightly traveled road running along the western slope of the spine of the Continental Divide. Water Board Road runs high above the Fraser Valley and connects the Meadow Creek Reservoir area to Fraser via Grand County Road 8.

Along the way the road passes the Hurd Creek climbing area and the trailhead to Devil’s Thumb rock. Before heading down into Fraser, drivers can turn south on High Lonesome Trail road and head further into the vast network of forest service roads that lead down to neighborhoods outside Winter Park Resort or up to Rollins Pass and the remnants of the ghost town of Corona.

While most of Water Board Road itself is passable to the average vehicle, the spur roads and jeep trails leading off the main road, including the road up to Rollins Pass, can be rough and rugged. You can access Water Board Road from Grand County Road 8 in Fraser, from Grand County Road 83 near Tabernash and even from the neighborhoods east of US 40 near Winter Park Resort’s base area.

FRASER TO UTE PASS

Normally when drivers head from Fraser to Kremmling
they must take US 40 north through Granby and then turn west, following the path of the Colorado River. But during summer months, once forest service roads have opened and snowdrifts have all melted away, drivers have the option of taking a series of country and forest service roads from the Fraser Valley over to the Ute Pass area.

From there drivers can easily head south into Silverthorne
and Summit County or north to Williams Fork Reservoir and the towns along the Colorado River like Parshall and Kremmling. The path through the area, which includes Church Park and portions of the Byers Peak Wilderness, leaves from Fraser and heads west on Grand County Road 50, following the path of Crooked Creek.

The road splits at Church Park and drivers will want to follow Grand County Road 32 which continues west past the turnoff to Lake Evelyn’s trailhead. Eventually this road will emerge onto Grand County Road 3, also known as Ute Pass Road.

FISHING GRAND COUNTY | Tips, tricks and a few locations

You’ve planned this vacation for a while. It’s what got you through the last two weeks of hectic work. Now you’re here and have a few hours to get outside.

First, you need to decide how adventurous you want to be. Does an eight-mile hike deep in the Rockies sound like the thing to you? How about a short walk to a nice, little creek? Or how about renting a boat and fishing one of our bountiful bodies of water?

If a hike to the backcountry is what you want to do, grab a trail map, water, raingear, snacks, rod, reel and a small assortment of small spoons, spinners, jigs and flies. There are plenty of lakes a short hike from the vehicle, as well as overnight hikes. Just always be prepared for afternoon storms or any other circumstances that might occur.

Most of our lakes have brook trout. You can also find cutthroat and splake, a hybrid of resulting from the crossing of a male brook trout and a female lake trout, in a few.

The higher lakes might not thaw until late June and July in some cases, which means the water will be cold. Most of my fish have been caught casting along the shorelines, but I always make a few casts into the deeper water. Also, the creeks coming out of these lakes will have fish in them.

Grand County’s waterways are well known for having various species of trout and other fish.
Robert Mendoza / Sky-Hi News

These fish are very spooky — everything above them wants to eat them. Stealth is the upmost important. Google Earth can help you find these lakes, but a map will get you there.

Sunset at Meadow Creek reservoir is stunning. While gazing at the peaks an occasional brook trout or tiger trout is more than happy snap you back into reality.

In most high mountain lakes, I will have a couple small spoons, a small box of flies, which consist of light and dark colored wooly buggers and a few black ants along with a small casting bubble. Place the fly 4’-6’ behind a bubble. After casting, reel it in very slow with an occasional twitch, which seems to get their attention. Monarch Lake above Lake Granby is another excellent choice.

The Colorado River starts in Rocky Mountain National Park. After runoff subsides, it fishes very well for brook trout with an occasional brown trout.

If your goal is a simple place to take young kids, the Lions fishing ponds in Fraser, Cozens open space ponds just outside of Winter Park, and the pond at Kaibab Park in Granby are excellent choices.

If creek fishing is what you enjoy, a few places to try some fly fishing in are Vasquez, St. Louis, Willow and Muddy Creeks. These creeks fish very well with rainbow, brook and brown trout in them. Again, stealth is very important since the fish are spooked easily.

The Fraser and Colorado rivers are great choices for the person who likes to fish larger rivers.

Granby, Grand Lake, Willow Creek, Shadow Mountain, Willow Creek and Williams Fork all have great trout fishing.

And if boating is your thing, rent a boat from one of the marinas or hire a guide for the day.

The opportunities to explore some great places in Grand County are endless. Grab your fishing rod and get outside for a few hours. You just might get a very fresh trout dinner.

Bernie Keefe is the owner of Fishing with Bernie. He has been fishing in Grand County for more than 25 years. For more, www.FishingWithBernie.com.

WET AND WILD | Upper Colorado packs a world-class rafting experience

One of Grand County’s western-most towns, Kremmling has a rich ranching heritage. Bordered by the Colorado River on one side and vast rolling hills on the other, the town is also a summertime mecca for outdoor enthusiasts.

While ATV riders can explore miles of trails to the north of Kremmling, rafters of all ages and experience levels head south to the Colorado River.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

Be prepared to get wet. Guides encourage guests to wear:

  • Bathing suits
  • Quick-drying clothing (avoid jeans)
  • Shoes that will stay on your feet if you end up in the water (not flip flops)
  • Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen

The Upper Colorado River headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park, and flows out of Lake Granby through the Grand County towns of Granby, Hot Sulphur Springs and Kremmling before turning south into Gore Canyon.

The river valley offers stunning views and opportunities to see some of Colorado’s most famous wildlife – bears, moose, elk, bighorn sheep, bald eagles and river otters are just some of the critters that call the area home.

Fly fishers can access the river at several points along Colorado Hwy 40 between Hot Sulphur Springs and Kremmling. To get up close and personal with the Upper Colorado and its natural beauty, visitors can also take to the whitewater.

Six rafting outfitters maintain permanent residences in Kremmling — MAD Adventures, Adventures in Whitewater and Liquid Descent all have main street storefronts, and Breckenridge Whitewater, KODI and AVA maintain offices in the area.

The Upper Colorado features class II and III whitewater, and is perfect for families and most levels of rafters. On half-day trips, rafting guests will experience Wake Up, Needle’s Eye and Surf City rapids, and can soak in the volcanically heated mineral pool at the Radium Hot Springs. Daring guests can make the 25-foot cliff jump into the river from Jump Rock.

For more experienced rafters, the Gore Canyon offers class IV and V rapids. The Gore is currently only run commercially by outfitters Liquid Descent and Adventures in Whitewater.

For experienced rafters, Gore Canyon offers serious whitewater opportunities. Warning: This is not a run for inexperienced kayakers and whitewater enthusiasts.
Justin Scheible / Adventures In Whitewater / www.AdventuresInWhitewater.com

“You must have Class IV experience or higher,” said Justin Scheible, co-owner of Adventures in Whitewater, of booking a Gore Canyon trip. “It’s one of the best stretches of river on the entire planet, and we’re proud to run it. We just want to have the right people out there.”

As for the pandemic, visitors concerned about health and safety related to COVID-19 needn’t worry.

“We’re following state guidelines as far as gathering sizes,” Scheible said. “Our goal is to keep groups that come in together as separate from other groups as possible. That means we might cut our boat capacities to avoid mixing groups.

“We’re also limiting capacity in our vans and busses. Smaller boat loads, smaller van loads. It’s important to us that people come out and have a good time.

“Safety’s what we do every day, so this is just another rung in the safety ladder,” Schieble added.

In addition to rafting day trips, there’s ample opportunity for visitors to camp along the banks of the river – most notably in the recreation areas off of Grand County Road 1 (also known as Trough Road and Colorado River Headwaters Byway). The Pumphouse, Radium, State Bridge and Two Bridges recreation areas offer overnight campsites for $10 per site ($6 at Radium) and $30 for group sites.

In “normal” (non-pandemic) years, some outfitters offer overnight rafting trips for a fully immersive mountain experience. Many outfitters suspended overnight trips at the beginning of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, so be sure to call ahead or visit the outfitter’s website before planning your Grand County getaway around a guided overnight rafting trip.

Visitors to the Upper Colorado River valley with their own raft, boat, kayak or paddle board are welcome to put in at the recreation area boat ramps. The recreation areas charge $5 per vehicle for day-use passes, which can be purchased on site.

Most outfitters rent gear, including wetsuits and booties. While it may be unsettling to don a rented wetsuit or a shared life vest in the current coronavirus environment, Scheible said that all gear is cleaned and sanitized after each use using a restaurant-style three- tub system and special disinfectants.

And while the canyon surrounding the Upper Colorado offers stunning Rocky Mountain views, think twice about taking your cell phone to use as a camera. You’ll be assisting your guide with paddling, and rapids are to be expected, which will result in the raft — and its passengers — being jostled.

Rafting at Adventures in Whitewater and other outdoor recreation opportunities can offer one great way to boost people’s mental health, physical fitness and overall quality of life the quarantine blues.
Justin Scheible / Adventures In Whitewater / www.AdventuresInWhitewater.com

BIG WOOLY BACKPACKS | Hiking to camp? No probllama

Few outdoor enthusiasts would argue there’s anything better than an empty trail, good weather and all the amenities, but local Kevin Kaltenbaugh has found a way to make those trips even more enjoyable by getting the weight off his back.

“Once you see what it’s like not having to carry your stuff, it’s very addictive,” he said. “It’s fun to hike with nothing except a camera in your pocket.”

He does this with the help of a herd of pack llamas — 23 to be exact — that he rents out for others to experience through his business Corral Creek Llamas outside Kremmling.

Each of Kaltenbaugh’s llamas have a unique personality, but they all share names starting with the letter “L,” like Linemon, Luscious, Lemon and Leeroy.

There are few limits on where the llamas can go, but Kaltenbaugh has rented them to hunters, fishers, campers, hikers and for weddings.

“Llamas aren’t as intimidating as horses or mules,” he said. “They’re fun and quirky. They’re aloof and eager to learn.”

Beyond being quirky, the llamas at Corral Creek are easy going and aren’t skittish, which makes them good partners for people, whether it be a family camping trip or a hunting group.

Each llama can carry up to 70 lbs. Renters often take them hiking, camping, hunting or fishing, but Kaltenbaugh has also brought them to weddings.
McKenna Harford / mharford@skyhinews.com

For most adventures, Kaltenbaugh gets a feel of what is planned and the group’s experience level to help match them with the right llamas for the job. Each llama can carry up to 60-70 pounds.

Kaltenbaugh rents the llamas for day trips or 10-day excursions, and he recommends two llamas per person to start.

“They like to be with each other; they’re herd animals,” he explained. “You can live decadently with two llamas.”

Before heading out with the llamas, Kaltenbaugh gives any renters a class in handling them and their care. The llamas are low-maintenance, but there are a few keys to keeping them happy and healthy.

Kaltenbaugh says one of the best parts of hiking with pack llamas is the freedom of not carrying anything.
Courtesy Corral Creek Llamas

Renters will learn how to saddle and pack their llamas for the trip, which is not as intimidating as it sounds, before Kaltenbaugh goes over basic care. The llamas feed themselves on surrounding plants, so renters really only have to ensure the llamas are watered and given rest.

“For people that have done horse trips, the seminar can be 15-20 minutes, but for some, I’ve gone a couple hours,” Kaltenbaugh explained. “The good news is nobody ever fails because we’ll work at it until you get it down.”

Though Kaltenbaugh is not a guide or outfitter, he offers renters to join him on a free trip for extra experience and time getting to know the llamas and their capabilities before they rent.

As an owner of pack llamas for more than two decades, Kaltenbaugh explained that building knowledge and relationships with the llamas broadens the adventures people can have with them, including exploring off-trail, which is Kaltenbaugh’s personal favorite way to camp.

“You can advance with the llamas and go from a mild vacation on a trail to doing a circle of the Flat Tops,” he said.

Regardless of what kind of vacation recreators are looking for, Kaltenbaugh believes it can be made better with the help of his herd.

“They come in with a dream and the llamas help it happen,” he said.

For more, www.corralcreekllamas.com.

Before heading out on a trip, Kaltenbaugh teaches renters how to saddle, pack and care for the llamas.
McKenna Harford / mharford@skyhinews.com

INDOORS & OUTDOORS | Tons of fun wintertime activities aside from skiing

Fun lurks around every corner in Grand County. Contrary to popular belief, there is far more to do here in the winter than go skiing and snowboarding. We’ve put together this list of fun wintertime activities in Grand County.

SLEDDING AND TUBING

Grand Lake: Grand Lake Nordic Center has a free tubing hill with 10 tubes shared between guests. While there is no tow rope, there is a maintained trail to the top of the hill. Outside tubes and sleds are allowed, as long as the sled does not have a sharp metal edge. The hill is available during daylight hours. Visit GrandLakeRecreation. com/nordiccenter/ for more.

Granby: Snow Mountain Ranch provides a sledding and tubing hill. There is no tow rope or moving platform to the top of the hill. A day pass must be purchased if you’re not staying at the ranch. A pass is $25 for adults and $10 for kids, and tubes are available at the Winter Pavilion, weather permitting. Only tubes provided by the ranch are allowed. Visit SnowMountainRanch.org or call 970-887-2152 for more.

Fraser: Colorado Adventure Park offers single tubing for one or two hours at $24 and $36 respectively. Double tubing is $38 for one hour and $64 for two. The park offers a variety of terrain and a Magic Carpet lift to the top. Kids interested in a bit more adventure can hop on a Snow Scoot, a Polaris 120 snowmobile for kids shorter than 5 feet and 90 pounds or under. The park is open every day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Call 970-726-5779 for more.

Winter Park: Hideaway Park features a free sledding hill in downtown Winter Park. Sleds are provided for free on this small but fun hill next to a new playground. Call 800-903-7275 for more. * Fraser: The Historic Fraser Tubing Hill offers first-come, first-serve tube rentals for 60 minutes or 90 minutes at $24 and $28 respectively. No outside tubes or sleds are permitted, but a rental is included with the cost of the ticket. The hill offers a lift to the top and is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Call 970-726-5954 for more information.

ICE-SKATING

Tabernash: Devil’s Thumb Ranch has an outdoor skating rink from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, weather permitting. Access the rink directly on weekends and visit the Nordic Center for access on weekdays. Those staying at the ranch have free access to the rink. Day visitors can purchase passes that include use of the ice rink for $25 for adults, $15 for seniors, $10 for children 6-12 and free for children 5 and under.

Granby: Snow Mountain Ranch offers a rink under a covered pavilion with the Continental Divide as the backdrop. Ice skates are free to rent and those staying at the ranch have free access. Day visitors can purchase passes that include use of the ice rink and ice skates for $25 for adults and $10 for children.

Fraser: IceBox Ice Rink is an NHL-sized, partially enclosed rink with skate rentals for $4. Non-resident fees are $6 for children 4-17, $7 for adults and $6 for seniors 60 and older. Children 3 and under are free. Check the ice rink schedule online at FraserValleyRec.org or call 970-726-5919.

Fat biking is the snowy version of mountain biking that uses bikes with large tires to help bikers with the terrain. The activity has become very popular in the county.
Courtesy Snow Mountain Ranch

FAT BIKING

Granby: Snow Mountain Ranch has fat bikes, the snowy version of mountain biking that features giant tires and heavy treads. Guests or day visitors can use the trail. Day passes are $25 for adults not staying at the ranch. The ranch provides more than 24 miles of trails reserved exclusively for fat biking. A bike rental that includes a helmet is $60 for a full day, $40 for a half-day or $20 an hour. The bikes come in four adult sizes.

Tabernash: Devil’s Thumb Ranch offers all-day fat bike rentals for $40 including a helmet. The ranch has 12 km of biking-dedicated trails. Riders not staying at the ranch will need to buy a trail pass, which is $25 for adults, $15 for seniors and $10 for children. Call 970-726-8231 in advance to check availability.

WINTER AIR RIFLE BIATHLON

Tabernash: Devil’s Thumb Ranch offers a sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting for $50 per person, excluding equipment rental and trail pass. The experience lasts one hour and you must be 12 or older. Call 970-726-8231 for details.

HOT SPRINGS

Hot Sulphur Springs: Tired of the cold? The Hot Sulphur Springs Resort & Spa offers natural, hot, mineral-rich water in 21 pools and baths. Temperatures range from 95-112 degrees. The resort does not add chemicals, filter or recirculate the water. Rates start at $20 per adults (12+), $12.50 for children age 3-12 and $30.50 for a two-day pass. Adults can use private pools for $20 an hour and the resort offers towel rentals for $2 and robes for $6. The resort is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. year round. Call 970-725-3306 for more.

SLEIGH RIDES

Tabernash: While guests staying at Devil’s Thumb will be given sleigh ride priority, the ranch also takes reservations from the public. Sleigh rides are $50 for adults, $40 for children 6-12, and kids 5 and under are free. The rides are 45 minutes to an hour and end with hot drinks and s’mores around a campfire. Rides are subject to weather and trail conditions. Reservations are required. Call 970-726-3777 or email stables@devilsthumbranch.com for more.

Grand Lake: Winding River Resort gives sleigh rides from mid-December through Dec. 31. Group rides are $25 for adults, $20 for children (5-12) and 4 and younger are free. Reservations are required at least 24 hours in advance. Call 970-627-3215 for more.

Fraser: Dashing Thru The Snow offers sleigh rides through secluded woods and meadows in old-fashioned sleighs. Group rides are $40 for adults, $35 for ages 5-11 and $5 for 4 and under. The company also offers private rides on a smaller sleigh. Both group and private rides leave four times daily, at 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. Call 970-389-2966 for more.

HORSEBACK RIDING

Tabernash: Devil’s Thumb Ranch has horseback riding through the winter as long as trail conditions allow, often until mid-February. Rides are $85. Adults are preferred because of the winter trail conditions, but the ranch will take special requests into consideration. Rides end with hot drinks and s’mores around a campfire. Reservations are required. Call 970-726-3777 or email stables@devilsthumbranch.com for more.

INDOOR ACTIVITIES

The Foundry: The Foundry in Winter Park offers bowling lanes and movie screens to keep the whole family warm and entertained. Families can choose from eight bowling lanes and one or two movie options, as well as enjoy food and drinks at a table or in the theater. The theater and bowling alley is open 4-10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1-10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Check foundry-wp.com for movie listings.

Headwaters River Journey: Winter Park is home to a one-of-a-kind museum that’s focused on water and sustainability by highlighting local waterways, such as the Fraser and Colorado Rivers. With over 31 exhibits, many interactive, the Headwaters River Journey engages visitors with games, real-world examples and creativity stations. Tickets are $8 for kids ages 5-15, $15 for adults and $12 for seniors over 65. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

Cozens Ranch Museum: Learn about the pioneer days of the Fraser Valley and what it looked like to journey over Berthoud Pass on foot at the Cozens Ranch Museum. The first homestead, post office and stage stop in the Fraser Valley is now home to exhibits about the Cozens family, Doc Susie, President Eisenhower, Ute Native People and the discovery of Berthoud Pass. It also features a gallery of local artists and books on Grand County history. Tickets are $3 for children ages 6-17, $6 for adults and $5 for seniors. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

Wylie’s Paint and Games: From the outside, Wylie’s looks like nothing more than an unassuming paint shop, but step inside and you will find a world of traditional and modern games. Whether families are looking for a board game, a vintage video game or a role playing game, Wylie’s offers a selection to buy and play in-store. Not sure how to play or what the rules are? Ask a Wylie’s employee and they will be happy to teach it. The store also hosts game nights, typically on Thursdays and Fridays, for larger group games, like Magic: The Gathering or Dungeons and Dragons. Check out the store’s Facebook page for the latest events. The store is open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Grand Park Rec Center: Not just a gym, the Grand Park Recreation Center includes an indoor swimming pool, a rock climbing wall and gymnastics space complete with trampolines and foam pit for families that want to get active inside. Day passes are $9 for ages 3-17 and $11 for adults. Fitness classes can be added for $5. The rec center is open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. S

SNOWSHOEING & NORDIC SKIING | Grand County has miles of great trails for the whole family

Grand County is a premier destination for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. With three Nordic centers in the county and free trails maintained across its public lands, the county has something for any skill level.

Before heading out to cross-country ski or snowshoe, make sure to have a safety plan with proper clothing and equipment. You should also thoroughly research weather conditions and bring plenty of food and water.

DEVIL’S THUMB RANCH

Located in Tabernash 15 miles from Winter Park, Devil’s Thumb Ranch has over 70 miles of trails at the base of the Continental Divide.

Dogs on leashes are allowed on certain trails. Day passes are $25 for adults (13 and older), $15 for seniors (65 and older) and $10 for kids 6-12. Kids 5 and under are free. The pass includes complimentary access to the ice-skating rink.

The ranch also offers ski and snowshoe rental packages starting at $25 for adults, $15 for seniors and $10 for kids. Demo ski rentals are $40. The ranch offers one-hour lessons for adults 13 and older at $40 per person, not including equipment rentals and trail passes. Lessons take place at 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. daily. One-hour lessons for children 6-12 include equipment rental and a trail pass for $55. Kids’ lessons are at 10:30 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Private lessons and tours are available for $50 per person, excluding equipment rental and trail pass. Private lessons are at 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m. The ranch is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Call 970-726-7010 for trail conditions. Visit DevilsThumbRanch.com or call 970-726-8231 for more information.

GRAND LAKE NORDIC CENTER

The Grand Lake Nordic Center has more than 20 miles of trails less than a mile from Grand Lake.

There is a dog friendly snowshoe trail and ski loop. Day passes for cross country skiing start at $18 for adults, $8 for kids 5-16 and free for children younger than 5. Prices for adults are reduced with an afternoon rate of $14 starting at 1:30 p.m. and a twilight rate of $12 starting at 2:30 p.m.

Rentals are $18 for adults and $8 for kids ages 5-16. Rates for adults are reduced to $14 at 1:30 p.m. and to $12 at 2:30 p.m. There is also a transferable five day rental punch card for adults for $72.

Nordic ski lessons are available by appointment only for all ages and experience. The hour-long lessons are $25 (cash or check only), excluding equipment rental and trail fees. Call the Nordic Center to reserve a day and time at 970-627-8008.

Snowshoe rentals are available at the lodge for $12 and the trail fee is $12. There are 3 miles of snowshoe trails ranging from easy to advance. While not groomed, the trials are well marked with yellow signs. Throughout the winter, the center also offers full moon skis from 5-9 p.m. featuring adult beverages and a bonfire. Visit the Nordic Center’s webpage at GrandLakeRecreation.com/nordiccenter for more information.

Grand County is home to three Nordic centers and free trails maintained across its public lands.
Courtesy Snow Mountain Ranch

SNOW MOUNTAIN RANCH

With over 120 km of terrain for skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking — snow mountain biking — Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby offers trails for beginners to advanced.

Leashed dogs are welcome on some trails. A single pass for skiing, snowshoeing or fat biking is $25 for adults, $10 for kids 6-12 and a transferable 5-punch card that family members can share for $110. Children five and under are free.

Passes also give access to tubing, ice-skating and other amenities offered at Snow Mountain Ranch. If you’re staying at the YMCA of the Rockies lodging, trail passes are included in the stay.

Rentals for adult skis or snowshoes are $20 for a full day or $15 after 1 p.m.; child skis or snowshoes are $10 for a full day and $8 for half.

The ranch offers a demo ski rental for $35. The ranch holds group Nordic lessons daily for one hour at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. with a maximum of 10 people per group. The group lessons are $35 for adults and $20 for children.

Private lessons are available at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. for $50, with $40 for each additional person in the private lessons. Call the Nordic Center at 888-573-9622 to schedule a lesson.

Guided snowshoeing hikes available for all levels are $15 per person. Call 970-887-2152, ext. 4135, to schedule. The ranch offers a learn-to-ski package that includes a one-hour lesson, equipment and trail fees. The package is $70 for adults ($55 for overnight guests) and $40 for children. The ranch is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more, call 970-887-2152, ext. 4173.

THE WINTER PARK EXPRESS | Getting to Grand County made easy

A huge draw for Winter Park Resort is its proximity to the Front Range, but for every minute a traveler has to sit in traffic on Interstate 70 it gets exponentially longer.

Luckily, the resort has a unique solution in the Winter Park Express, the only ski train in North America.

“With the train’s continual growth in ridership, it’s been gratifying to see the incredible popularity of this Colorado institution for visitors on the Front Range, throughout the country, and beyond,” said C.A. Lane, vice president of operations and assistant general manager for the resort. “Nowhere else in North America can you take a train from a major metropolitan city to the slopes of a world-class ski resort.”

This year, Winter Park visitors will have more chances than ever to ride the train. In addition to trips every Saturday and Sunday as usual, the train will also run every Friday for 18 new trips this year. The train starts running Jan. 10 through March 29.

Winter Park Resort Marketing Director Liz Agostin explained the expansion is to keep up with demand.

“This addition is a 30% increase in trips throughout our Winter Park Express season, and gives guests the opportunity to plan a long weekend ski trip without having to drive,” she said.

In 2019, the train saw a record number of riders with 19,200 tickets purchased throughout the season, an increase of about 7% from the 2018 season and 8% from the inaugural season in 2017, according to Amtrak.

Since the revival of the ski train in 2017, more than 52,000 passengers have ridden the train and it’s only expected to continue growing in popularity with construction projects on I-70 and recent improvements at the resort.

Even the train itself has seen upgrades, including a Sightseer lounge car with floor to ceiling windows to enjoy the unique railway views. It also added a snack and beverage cart so passengers can enjoy coffee on the morning trip and beer or wine on the way home.

Originally started up when Winter Park was a fledgling ski hill in 1940, the train service was suspended in 2009 before the resort partnered with Denver, Amtrak, the Colorado Department of Transportation, the town of Winter Park and the Colorado Rail Passengers Association to fund it again.

Tickets start at $29 each way and tickets are on sale now at Amtrak.com/ WinterParkExpress. Each ticketed adult can bring a child age 2-12 for half the adult fare.

The Amtrak trains depart Denver Union Station at 7 a.m. and arrive at the resort at approximately 9 a.m., leaving Winter Park at 4:30 p.m. to return to Denver at 6:40 p.m.