Grand County Outdoors: Trail of the Week – Shadow Mountain Shore and Ranger Meadow Loop |

Grand County Outdoors: Trail of the Week – Shadow Mountain Shore and Ranger Meadow Loop

Deborah Carr and Lou Ladrigan
Backcountry Bound: Trail of the Week


Activity – Backcountry Ski or Snowshoe

Level of Difficulty – 2 (on a scale of 1-5, 1 being the easiest)

Round-trip Mileage – 3.69 miles

Round-trip Touring Time – 2 1/2 hours

Altitude, GPS Reading at Trailhead – 8374′, 40°12’24″N, 105°50’33″W

Altitude, GPS Reading at Highest Point (6) – 8486′, 40°13’01″N, 105°49’48″W

Trail Fee Required – Yes, $5 per day per vehicle available at self serve kiosk. For kiosk, follow CR 66 and just after the canal, turn left into the boat ramp parking area. Free with ANRA annual pass, Golden Eagle, Golden Age, and Access passports.

Dogs – not permitted since the trail goes into Rocky Mountain National Park

Trailhead Location – On US Hwy 34, between Granby and Grand Lake, between mile markers 11 and 12, head south-east on CR 66 toward the Green Ridge Complex and follow this road for 1.3 miles. Turn left at the Green Ridge campground and fishing area (CR 661). Follow CR 661 for .1 miles and turn right. Follow this road for .1 miles to the parking area (1) identifying the Shadow Mountain Reservoir.

Tour Description – Pass around the closed gate and cross over Shadow Mountain Dam. The Colorado River flows on the right downstream out of Shadow Mountain Lake. To the south-east are Twin Peaks and an unnamed snow-capped peak. At the end of the dam is a kiosk (2) identifying the East Shore trail. Turn left and hug the Shadow Mountain Lake shoreline through the lodgepole pine forest. In the distance to the south-west is Elk Mountain. Continuing west and clockwise are Gravel Mountain, Porphyry Peaks, Blue Ridge, the dome shaped Bowen Mountain, the pencil tip shaped Baker Mountain, and the rest of the Never Summer Mountains. Sitting by itself to the north at the end of the Kawuneeche Valley is Lulu Mountain. Continuing clockwise are Green Mountain and the mountains along the Continental Divide. The treed mountains to the north-east are Shadow Mountain and Mount Bryant.

Follow the shoreline north about 20′-30′ inland toward the islands. Adjacent to the second and third islands (3), move into the woods and short-cut the small peninsula to the north. Head north-east and parallel the shoreline again. The mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park are quite majestic from this viewpoint through the trees. Move away from the lake to the fork and trail marker (4). The East Shore and CD trails continue to the right and left. Left leads to Grand Lake and right leads to Lake Granby via Ranger Meadow. Turn right and follow the CD trail through the lodgepole pine forest. Proceed through the tall willows (5) and head east into the woods. Cross Ranger Creek (6) and come to a small meadow. Descend through the center of the meadow (7) to an opening in the trees. Beyond this opening is a large expanse, known as Ranger Meadow. Follow the left side of Ranger Meadow, 20′-30′ from the edge of the woods. Head into the forest (8) and climb the long gradual hill. Level off and when Ranger Meadow disappears from sight on the right, another smaller meadow appears on the left. Leave the woods and continue through this meadow (9). Hug the right side of the meadow to the fork and trail marker (10). The CD trail, Columbine Creek, Lake Granby, and Roaring Fork continue straight. The East Shore trail and Shadow Mountain Dam are to the right. Turn right through the woods and join the south end of the previous meadow. Bear left and descend through the drainage to a large clearing, which is the south end of Ranger Meadow. Shadow Mountain Dam is ahead and the Colorado River is slightly visible to the left. At the fork (11) and trail marker, the trail to the left is closed during the winter to protect Bald Eagles during their winter roosting and early spring nesting. Continue straight across the meadow. Head between the hillside and the willows toward the dam. Parallel the willows into the woods and uphill to the kiosk (2). Turn left and cross the dam back to the gate (1).

Backcountry Tip of the Week – Always ski and snowshoe with someone and leave word with a third party regarding your destination and anticipated return time.

More trails and information are available in “Backcountry Skiing and Snowshoeing in Grand County, Colorado”. The book is available locally in many retail outlets, gift shops, sporting goods stores, and coffee shops or visit our website at This column is a partnership with Headwaters Trails Alliance (, who works to plan, build, preserve and maintain multi-use trails in Grand County.

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