July in Grand County is my unofficial kick-off to hiking season: roads to trailheads are open, snow has, for the most part, melted off and wildflowers are starting to bloom. With over 800 miles of trails in Grand County, finding a hike to fit your needs over the holiday weekend can be a daunting task. To aid you in your quest for achieving hiking bliss, I’ve outlined some of my favorite hikes in the county. Read on to learn more about specific hikes and find resources to explore on your own.
Adams Falls: Technically part of Rocky Mountain National Park, the Adams Falls trailhead is located just outside of Grand Lake. The out-and-back trail ends .5 miles in with great views of waterfalls, and is modest enough for the whole family to enjoy.
Monarch Lake: A 4 mile loop can hardly be considered easy for many, but with a grand total of 113 feet in elevation gain, Monarch Lake is an approachable trail for those wanting to hike a longer distance without having to climb.
Jim Creek: Complete the Jim Creek trail by hiking to the waterfalls, 1.79 miles up from the trailhead, and enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding Continental Divide and Winter Park Resort. Along the course of the trail, Jim Creek increases about 1,200 feet in elevation.
Columbine Lake: A big fan of lake hikes, I especially love Columbine for the wildflowers present at various points along the trail. Columbine is an out-and-back hike covering 2.86 miles total, with an elevation gain of just over 1,000 feet.
Byers Peak: In my mind, Byers Peak is known as an iconic Grand County trail for three reasons: the view, the view and the view. The summit of Byers offers stunning vistas spanning the county from the Continental Divide to the Williams Fork Mountains, reaching all the way into Summit County. Expect to gain over 2,500 feet in elevation in the 3-plus miles it takes to get to the top.
James Peak: For a day hike, James Peak can be a bit long for many (9 miles total, out-and-back), but the vantage point gained by making the trek is worth it. From the 13,300-plus foot summit, one can see much of Grand County and into the Front Range. Total elevation gain is over 2,200 feet.
Want to learn more about the above hikes, or find additional trails in the area? My go-to guide for Grand County hiking is the trail-friendly, spiral bound “Hiking Grand County, Colorado: 3rd Edition” guide by Deborah Carr and Lou Ladrigan. The U.S. Forest Service and local Chambers of Commerce are immensely helpful, as well. For Rocky Mountain National Park trails, check out www.rockymountainhikingtrails.com. Both “Hiking Grand County, Colorado” and RockyMountainHikingTrails.com categorize trails by location and difficulty level; finding the right trail using either source is a quick and easy process.