Grand County and Winter Park Exploring

I call Winter Park, Colorado, my home away from home. As the biggest ski town of Grand County, this resort town is the gateway to the Fraser Valley and includes the towns of Fraser, Tabernash, Granby, and Grand Lake.

Winter Park was originally called Hideaway Park, a village that began in 1932 by L.O. “Doc” graves. Doc was a valley merchant and had lived in the area for 10 years. In 1978, the Winter Park was founded as a town, and two years later incorporated the West Portal Village, which became the home of the Mary Jane Base ski area. These days, the area can often be overrun with tourists on weekends, thus I try to avoid being around town during the festival times. On those crowded occasions, I tend to escape into the mountains – and I get out early before most folks are out of bed.

Winter Park Morning 1

On a quiet summer morning before the tourists awaken, Winter Park, Colorado, begins to warm up in the earlly morning light.This image was taken along Highway 40 as it enters town after crossing Berthoud Pass to the south.

The areas of Grand County offer plenty of photographic opportunities. I love to explore the areas of Berthoud Pass. High up where the snowmelt contributes to First Creek and Second Creek, the summer wildflowers are beautiful. Above tree line, golden windflowers commonly known as “Old Man of the Mountain” hug the ground in tough weather conditions and add splashes of yellow to the lofty slopes.

Near Fraser, Colorado, the most well known mountain is Byers Peak. Rising to almost 13,000 feet, the trail to the top is relatively easy and provides views in all directions. 

Byers Peak Trail - Fraser, Colorado 1

Depending on your starting point, the Byers Peak trail is generally between 8-9 miles round trip and reaches the summit at 12,804' in elevation. The ascent takes you around 3,000 vertical feet. Along the path, you'll find wildflowers in June and July, including these golden "Old Man of the Mountain." Byers Peak towers over the town of Fraser and makes for a good morning hike.

Several campsites line County Road 73 as this dirt path leads to the trailheads of Byers Peak. Around Fraser and Winter Park, the favorite place to eat seems to be Hernandos, although Elevation Pizza’s food is pretty tasty for take-out, as well, after a day of hiking and playing.

At the other end of Grand County lies the statutory town of Grand Lake. This little town rests along the largest natural body of water in Colorado (and takes the same name as the town – Grand Lake). Established in 1881, Grand Lake is the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. From the areas around the lake, trails such as the North Inlets and East Inlets provide miles of hiking as they lead into RMNP. In the mornings and evenings, and occasionally during the day, moose can be seen roaming these valleys. While there are elk, their numbers are considerably more in the national park. I do enjoy photographing around the east inlets just past Adam’s Falls at sunrise, always hoping for (and keeping a safe distance) a moose to wander into the scene.

East Inlets Moose at Sunrise, RMNP 1

I woke up very early, then drove and walked to this location at the East Inlets in Rocky Mountain National Park many times during the summer hoping for this opportunity. Finally, a moose presented himself and seemed to pose while I captured a fleeting moment of beauty. This scene did not last and the moose did not linger. He quickly strolled away and into the distant forest.
I do enjoy this area around Grand Lake. With the three lakes nearby, miles of hiking trails, RMNP at the doorstep, and several good restraunts, it is a great place to spend some time.

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If you have any questions about these photographs of Winter Park and Grand County, please do not hesitate to contact me.