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Top 15 Places to Stay in Grand Lake, CO – Hotels, Lodging & Campgrounds

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Grand Lake is a vacation town in the Rocky Mountains of northern Colorado, northwest of Denver and Boulder. Its year-round population is tiny – less than 500, as of the 2010 Census – so it’s better to call it a village. However, Grand Lake is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty and recreational resources, from the expansive mountain terrain of nearby Rocky Mountain National Park, to the stunning shores of Grand Lake, Colorado’s largest, deepest natural body of water. Two other lakes – Granby Lake and Shadow Mountain Reservoir – sit within the same watershed.

Thanks to world-class alpine ski resorts, hundreds of miles of Nordic ski trails, and abundant snowmobile trails, Grand Lake is a popular winter destination. In summer, hikers, bikers, and anglers fill the town. And, for a brief period in fall, the area’s stunning foliage display – anchored by orange-gold aspens that blaze against an impossibly blue sky – draws visitors from around the country. Grand Lake is truly a year-round vacation destination.

If you’re planning an outdoor vacation to Colorado, Grand Lake is a great home base. Here’s a rundown of the area’s best lodging options, plus some general tips for stretching your vacation budget further.

Hotels, Resorts & Rentals in Grand Lake, Colorado

1. Western Riviera

Western Riviera is the largest, most popular lodging option in the Grand Lake area. Located within walking distance of the village of Grand Lake, it has several distinct accommodations:

  • Courtyard Cabins. A rustic option that you can rent by the month from October to May.
  • Eagles Spirit Condo. A handicap-accessible unit near the heart of Grand Lake.
  • The Lake House, Tree House, and Lakeside Cabins. All great options for larger groups looking for rental-style accommodations.
  • The Lakeside Motel . A budget-friendly option next to Grand Lake.

There’s no breakfast service, but the property does offer coffee and ice throughout the day in a central location. There’s also no pool, though the property’s lakeside location more or less neutralizes that deficiency.

During the summer high season, expect to pay at least $150 per night for a room or cabin. During the off-season, particularly early spring and late fall, it’s possible to find rooms for less than $100 per night. Watch for Western Riviera’s online-only specials, such as the “third night free” deal on cabins and condos (excluding July through Labor Day peak season). The property also partners with local merchants, such as snowmobile outfitters, to offer lodging-dining-activity package deals that can reduce the total cost of your trip.

Western Riviera is a great place for visitors who want to take in Grand Lake’s year-round activity slate. In summer, check out the annual State Chili Cook Off, a competition that attracts entrants from all across Colorado. In winter, the annual ice fishing contests in the last week of January and first week of March draw expert anglers and curious onlookers.

2. Gateway Inn

Gateway Inn is a quaint, family-owned property near the shores of Shadow Mountain Lake, just outside (and within walking distance to) the village of Grand Lake. Each room is uniquely furnished in rustic style, and Gateway management allows guests to upgrade to larger rooms for free at check-in if availability permits. There’s a cabin on the property as well, though it’s quite popular and definitely isn’t guaranteed to be available during the high season. The Lounge, an onsite bar and restaurant, has a great happy hour deal – domestic drafts start at $1.50 – and a simple menu. Outside, there’s an expansive deck and a small fire pit. There’s no pool, but a free continental breakfast with hot and cold options is included in all room rates.

Rooms typically go for $125 or more per night during the high season. In the shoulder seasons, it’s possible to find rooms for less than $90 per night. Gateway doesn’t offer package deals, though guests do sometimes get discounts on local activities, such as summer golf rounds at Grand Lake Golf Course, which turns into a Nordic skiing hub during the winter.

downtown grand lake, colorado

3. Spirit Lake Lodge

Spirit Lake Lodge is another rustic lodging option. Located near the heart of the village of Grand Lake, the property is just a block from the main beach on Grand Lake itself.

During the summer, it’s a great option for families looking for a home base near Grand Lake. In the winter, the shuttle to nearby Winter Park and Ski Granby Ranch, two popular alpine resorts, makes Spirit Lake Lodge a logical choice for budget-conscious skiers and snowboarders who don’t want to pay slopeside lodging prices. For winter adventures closer to Grand Lake, Spirit Lake Lodge rents snowmobiles for use on area trails, starting at $110 per two-hour session. On the property itself is a brand new hot tub – but no pool or breakfast service.

Room rates start at $55 per night during the off-season, making Spirit Lake Lodge one of the cheapest modern lodging options in Grand Lake. However, prices rise steeply during the summer months – it’s sometimes hard to find a room for less than $150 here. One perk for pet owners: Spirit Lake Lodge is pet-friendly, with a $10 per night, per animal surcharge.

4. Grand Lake Lodge

Located on a hillside above the village of Grand Lake, but close enough to walk or bike into town with some advance planning, Grand Lake Lodge offers stunning views of Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Reservoir – probably the best hotel views in the entire area. Lodging consists of variously sized cabins (or halves of cabins with two side-by-side units), starting at $150 per half-cabin. For larger groups, the Elk Cabin ($965 per night, with room for up to 25 guests) is definitely the best deal.

The lodge’s main building, first constructed in 1920, has a host of amenities: a large porch with comfy swings and expansive views, an all-day restaurant, a gift shop, and more. The onsite restaurant has an expansive hot and cold breakfast buffet Monday through Saturday, and full brunch service on Sundays. There’s also a heated outdoor pool with incredible views of the surrounding area, an outdoor basketball court, and a huge indoor fireplace that’s perfect on cold winter nights.

5. Shadowcliff

Built into a mountainside above Grand Lake, Shadowcliff is an unusual property run by a nonprofit organization and supported largely through the efforts of a dedicated volunteer cohort. Somewhat more isolated from town than the other properties on this list, Shadowcliff mostly caters to group uses, such as corporate retreats and family reunions, and has a strong educational programming component. Typical programs include writers’ workshops and immersive yoga instruction, though visitors aren’t required to participate in any onsite classes or activities during their stays. There’s no pool at Shadowcliff.

Larger groups can take advantage of several spacious cabins capable of accommodating up to 10 people, while couples and individuals can stay in hotel- or hostel-style rooms in one of two lodges. A full breakfast is included for larger groups, but individual guests need to make their own arrangements. Fortunately, kitchenettes abound here.

Cabin rates start at $120 for two and include a $15 surcharge for each additional person. Private lodge rooms start at $70 per person, per night, while hostel beds cost $25 per person, per night. Depending on the season, cabins may come with minimum stay requirements – for instance, the Upper Fireside Cabin has a seven-night minimum from mid-June through mid-August. If you’re traveling with a large group, call to inquire about group discounts.

grand lake in summer

6. Terrace Inn

Terrace Inn is a cozy inn on the shore of Grand Lake, right in the heart of the village of Grand Lake. It has three uniquely decorated rooms, ranging from $100 to $195 per night during the high season, and somewhat less (down to $80 for the lowest-priced room) during the low season. Given the paucity of available rooms, your options may be limited or nonexistent during peak periods, so do your best to book as soon as you finalize your travel dates (preferably three or more months in advance).

Daily hot breakfast is included with all rooms, and a highly regarded restaurant occupies the first floor. However, other amenities are sparse – there’s no pool or other onsite recreation options, for example. Though pricey, this restaurant is ideal for a romantic dinner, perhaps to round out a multi-day couples’ vacation.

7. North Shore Lodge and Mountain Lakes Lodge

North Shore Lodge and Mountain Lakes Lodge are two small, commonly owned properties on or near the shore of Granby Lake, about 5 miles from the center of Grand Lake village. Lodging options include rustic cabins and motel rooms of varying sizes, most of which contain kitchenettes, and some of which go for less than $100 per night. Though neither property has a pool, the lake’s proximity is a big plus, and outdoor recreation options, such as fire pits and horseshoes, abound. There’s no breakfast included at either property.

Both properties are popular destinations for weddings, retreats, and other group events. Call for more information about group rates and bulk discounts.

8. Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa

Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa is a rustic yet decidedly upscale resort in the mountains south of Grand Lake, near the small town of Tabernash. Though it’s pricier than some of the other options on this list, you get what you pay for: white-glove service, fine dining (and more casual options too), and a full-service spa that can reasonably claim to be the most relaxing place within an hour’s drive of Grand Lake.

Devil’s Thumb Ranch spans more than 6,000 acres of gorgeous Rocky Mountain wilderness, and it’s surrounded by hundreds of thousands of acres of state and federal protected lands. No matter the season, there’s always something to do onsite or close by: hiking and horseback riding in summer, Nordic skiing and snowshoeing in winter, hay rides in fall, stand up paddleboarding in spring. And special programming, like the annual Oktoberfest celebration, abounds throughout the year.

When you’re done for the day, you can retreat to your cozy, pine-scented room and step back in time – without leaving the creature comforts of the modern world behind, of course. For a more private, woodsy experience, check out the secluded cabins a few minutes’ walk from the main grounds.

Campgrounds In & Around Grand Lake, Colorado

If you don’t require modern comforts and conveniences to have a good time, take a closer look at the many camping options in and around Grand Lake. The surrounding hills and mountains are studded with rustic public and private campgrounds, some of which cost little more than $10 per night, and a smaller number of modern campgrounds with electric hookups and running water. Many are vehicle-accessible, with easy access to major highways, though it’s also possible to find truly isolated backcountry campsites that provide a true taste of the Colorado wilderness.

Keep in mind that camping requires more advance planning than hotel accommodations, even if you’re not planning a multi-day long-distance hike or other ambitious outdoor adventure. Remember to bring outdoor cooking equipment, tent stakes, tarps, and other items essential (or nearly so) to your comfort and safety.

Also, note that many campgrounds around Grand Lake close during the cold season – typical open seasons last from June through early October, with the exact open/close dates dependent on weather conditions. Winter camping options are severely limited here. Moreover, winter camping is far riskier than warm-weather camping. If you don’t bring weather-appropriate clothing, equipment, and emergency supplies, your experience could take a dramatic, even tragic, turn.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the evergreen forests in much of the Grand Lake area, and particularly in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park, have been affected in recent years by the mountain pine beetle, an invasive species that weakens and kills trees. Since standing dead trees pose risks for campers and hikers, conservation authorities have proactively removed thousands of beetle-killed trees from campsites and trails. This is good news for campers who don’t want to wake up to trees crashing through their tents, but bad news for visitors seeking shade on warm summer days.

entrance sign to rocky mountain national park

9. Elk Creek Campground and RV Park

  • Cost Per Night: $29 and up for a tent site; $49 and up for an RV hookup site; $59 and up for a cabin site
  • Number of Sites: 60-plus
  • Max Stay Length: Not indicated
  • Facilities: Potable water, showers, electric and RV hookups, laundry, TV room, trash service
  • Season: May 15th through October 15th, weather permitting

Elk Creek Campground and RV Park is a privately owned and operated property just outside the village of Grand Lake. It includes rustic tent campsites, RV hookup sites with electric service, and semi-rustic cabins with electricity and carpeting. With easy access to all the attractions and natural resources that make the Grand Lake area so special, plus plenty of modern conveniences (such as WiFi, clean showers, an arcade, group meeting room, and kid-friendly trout pond), Elk Creek is a great option for road-tripping families who don’t want to sacrifice comfort or convenience in exchange for great lodging deals.

10. Winding River Resort

  • Cost Per Night: $35 and up for campsites; $49 and up for full hookups; $110 and up for lodges and cabins
  • Number of Sites: Less than 150
  • Max Stay Length: Not indicated
  • Facilities: Potable water, showers, electric and RV hookups, laundry, trash service, horse corrals
  • Season: Year-round

Privately owned and operated Winding River Resort sits on the beautiful North Fork of the Colorado River, not far from its headwaters. The river is rich with freshwater fish, and the surrounding forests are full of beautiful hiking trails.

On the property itself, there’s a family-friendly animal farm and carriage museum, heightening the Old West vibe. Accommodation options include basic lodge rooms and cabins with electricity, running water, and in some cases kitchenettes, as well as rustic campsites with group showers, water, and laundry. Like Elk Creek Campground, Winding River is a year-round resort with plenty of creature comforts, so it’s an ideal choice for budget-conscious travelers who aren’t keen on totally roughing it.

11. Green Ridge Campground

  • Cost Per Night: $19 and up
  • Number of Sites: 78
  • Max Stay Length: 14 days
  • Facilities: Potable water, flush and vault toilets, trash service
  • Season: Mid-May through mid-October, weather permitting

Green Ridge Campground is one of several large, popular campgrounds located within the bounds of Arapaho National Forest. Tucked into a high valley at an elevation of about 8,400 feet, it’s within sighting distance of Shadow Mountain Reservoir, a man-made lake near Grand Lake. The reservoir is popular with anglers, and the surrounding mountains offer stunning views of the Continental Divide and Western Slope (though some of the higher trails are strenuous and may require technical ability).

To camp here, you need to separately purchase a pass to Arapaho National Recreation Area at $5 per day, $15 per week, or $30 per year (for unlimited access). Green Ridge is one of the area’s busiest campgrounds, so it’s advisable to reserve well in advance.

glacier gorge in rocky mountain national park

12. Cutthroat Bay Group Campground

  • Cost Per Night: $95 per night, per site
  • Number of Sites: 2, each able to accommodate 50 people
  • Max Stay Length: 14 days
  • Facilities: Potable water, vault toilets, trash service
  • Season: Late May through early September

Located in the stunning Arapaho National Recreation Area at an elevation of 8,300 feet, Cutthroat Bay Group Campground is a great option for large groups that wish to stay together. For larger groups, its $95 per site, per night fee is very affordable. Moreover, it’s not as heavily used as most nearby non-group sites, meaning your group is likely to have the run of the place. However, if you’re just traveling by yourself, with a partner, or with your immediate family, Cutthroat Bay probably isn’t your best choice.

Like other Arapaho National Recreation Area campgrounds, this property requires a daily, weekly, or annual pass to access the National Recreation Area. Also, keep in mind that there aren’t any RV hookups here – just parking spaces large enough to accommodate RVs. On the bright side, Cutthroat Bay does have volleyball courts and horseshoe pits.

13. Glacier Basin Campground/Glacier Basin Group Sites

  • Cost Per Night: $26 and up (group camping $4/person/night)
  • Number of Sites: Less than 165, including 12 group campsites that can accommodate several RVs and 10 or more tents
  • Max Stay Length: 7 nights, June 1st through September 30th; 14 nights at other times
  • Facilities: Potable water, vault and flush toilets, trash service
  • Season: Late May through early September, weather permitting.

Glacier Basin Campground is a large, busy property located in Rocky Mountain National Park, just east of Grand Lake. Situated at 8,500 feet above sea level, it’s within easy driving and hiking distance of some of Colorado’s most breathtaking mountain scenery. Given Glacier Basin’s favorable location and steady camper traffic, be sure to make your reservations as soon as you know your plans – and, keep in mind that some of the property’s sites are first come, first served. Also noteworthy: You can take advantage of a regular shuttle to Estes Park, a town on the eastern edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as Bear Lake, a popular destination within Rocky Mountain National Park.

14. Longs Peak Campground

  • Cost Per Night: $26 and up
  • Number of Sites: Less than 25
  • Max Stay Length: 7 nights, June 1st through September 30th; 14 nights at other times
  • Facilities: Vault toilets, potable water
  • Season: Mid-May through mid-September, weather permitting

Located 9,500 feet above sea level in Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak Campground is a remote but beautiful property that accommodates tents only. Though the altitude makes for chilly nights, the clear, thin air is perfect for stargazing, and the surrounding trails (including the trail up Longs Peak, one of the Rockies’ highest peaks) mean this campground is perfect for serious hikers.

Keep in mind that this campground is completely first come, first served, so be sure to arrive early during the busy season. Longs Peak Campground doesn’t have its own website, but you can learn more about it at the National Park Service’s list of Rocky Mountain National Park campgrounds.

continental divide sign in rocky mountain national park, colorado

15. Moraine Park Campground

  • Cost Per Night: $18 in winter; $26 in summer
  • Number of Sites: 244 in summer; 77 in winter
  • Max Stay Length: 7 nights, June 1st through September 30th; 14 nights at other times
  • Facilities: Vault toilets year-round; running water, flush toilets, and showers in summer only
  • Season: Year-round, though most sites are summer-only

Located approximately 8,100 feet above sea level, Moraine Park Campground is a popular Rocky Mountain National Park campground with nearly 250 summer sites for tents and RVs, many of which can be reserved in advance. It’s one of a relative handful of Grand Lake-area campgrounds open year-round, though all 77 winter sites are first come, first served, and running water is not available during the cold season.

Like Glacier Basin, Moraine Park has a regular shuttle to Bear Lake and Estes Park. It’s also within walking distance of the Moraine Park Discovery Center, a family-friendly interpretive facility with lots of educational content about the surrounding natural areas. More information is available from the National Park Service’s list of Rocky Mountain National Park campgrounds.

15. Timber Creek Campground

  • Cost Per Night: $26 and up
  • Number of Sites: 98
  • Max Stay Length: 7 nights, June 1st through September 30th; 14 nights at other times
  • Facilities: Potable water, vault toilets
  • Season: Late May through late October

Just 10 miles north of town, Timber Creek Campground is the closest Rocky Mountain National Park campground to Grand Lake. Located at nearly 9,000 feet above sea level, Timber Creek gets nippy at night, and the water is typically shut off in early fall – sometimes more than a month before the campground closes for the winter. It’s also entirely first come, first served, and reliably fills up during July and August, so be sure to arrive early during the busy season. More information is available from the National Park Service’s list of Rocky Mountain National Park campgrounds.

More Tips to Save on Lodging in Grand Lake, Colorado

Whether you’re roughing it in the woods or staying in a modern lakeside cabin, follow these general tips to stretch your Grand Lake vacation budget even further:

1. Travel During the Off-Season

If you don’t have to travel at a specific time, consider scheduling your trip for the off-season (generally springtime and fall outside foliage season) or during non-peak times (such as midweek during the peak season). If at all possible, completely avoid busy winter and summer holidays. Traveling during the off-season and non-peak times saves money and exposes you to fewer fellow travelers.

2. Verify Cancellation Policies and Re-book If Prices Fall

Lodging prices vary due to a host of factors, including demand and time of booking. Before you book any lodging (particularly at more expensive hotel and resort properties), verify with the host that your reservation isn’t final. If you’re permitted to cancel and re-book at any time prior to your reservation (or soon before), watch room or unit prices closely and take advantage of any last-minute drops. Some Grand Lake properties, including Western Riviera, offer impressive last-minute deals – particularly at the start and end of winter and summer, when the weather is less predictable.

3. Seek Out Package Deals

It’s not difficult to find package deals at popular Grand Lake hotel and resort properties. One example is Western Riviera’s Snowmobiles/Dinner/Lodging Package, valid December through March. These deals typically bundle several services, such as room nights, restaurant meals, and spa treatments. Package prices are usually more than the full cost of any single included service, but substantially less than the combined individual cost of each bundled service.

For instance, Western Riviera’s $542 Snowmobiles/Dinner/Lodging Package includes a $40 dinner-for-two credit, offsetting the price of most entrees at the resort’s El Pacifico Restaurant, plus two nights in the Lakeside King room ($100 per night and up).

4. Bunk Up With Friends and Family

Even if you don’t know anyone who lives in or near Grand Lake, you can still save a bunch of money by traveling in a larger group and rooming with your traveling partners. After checking that you won’t be in violation of your host’s occupancy policies, book accommodations that allow you to fit larger groups in a single unit – for instance, two couples in a hotel room, or a group of six in a small townhome.

For larger groups, consider booking group campsites or reserving an entire single-family house on VRBO or Airbnb. In any case, split the cost evenly among your party’s members. While bunking up isn’t the most luxurious way to travel, it saves money that can be used on fun experiences or personal pampering later in the trip.

grand lake, colorado in winter

5. Use Multiple Booking Websites and Methods

When booking, don’t put all your eggs in a single basket. In addition to searching for lodging deals on Hotels.com, Trivago, Booking.com, Expedia, and other popular travel booking websites, check with each property individually to determine whether they offer any unadvertised deals (often called “website-only deals,” as in hotel website only). While this adds to your booking time, it can save you money if you’re able to snag a good website-only deal.

6. Try Social Coupons and Daily Deals

Don’t forget about social and daily coupon options such as LivingSocial and Groupon. These websites and apps sometimes offer deep discounts on Grand Lake lodging, including Western Riviera, better than anything available on generic booking websites or hotels’ own websites. However, their deals are often time- and quantity-limited, so watch closely and be ready to pounce on attractive offers.

7. Look at Airbnb and VRBO Home Rental Options

Despite its diminutive size, Grand Lake has a lot of Airbnb and VRBO listings. Though pricing and availability varies by season and unit type (for instance, whole condos are more expensive than single rooms), Airbnb and VRBO listings are generally comparable to or cheaper than local hotel rooms. During non-peak times, it’s possible to find a spacious Airbnb or VRBO listing in a small house or full-size condo for less than $150 per night.

Final Word

Grand Lake has more than its fair share of natural assets. Rocky Mountain National Park, multiple state parks, huge national forest tracts, and the majesty of the Continental Divide all lie at or near its doorstep. In addition to its incredible scenic wealth, Grand Lake has another advantage over some fellow Rocky Mountain resort towns: proximity to Colorado’s biggest population centers. More than four million people live within a two-hour drive, mostly in the Front Range corridor stretching from Fort Collins, through Denver, to Colorado Springs. If your travel dates are flexible and your budget has some wiggle-room, why not tack on a frugal trip down to the base of the mountains?

Have you ever been to Grand Lake, Colorado? Where did you stay?

Brian Martucci
Brian Martucci writes about frugal living, entrepreneurship, and innovative ideas. When he’s not interviewing small business owners or investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, he’s probably out exploring a new trail or sampling a novel cuisine. Find him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

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