Length: 3.9 miles
Elevation gain: N/A
Route type: Out & Back
Difficulty: Easy - Medium - Hard
During my visit to Rocky Mountain National Park in the fall of 2016, I hauled my kayak with me with the sole purpose, as you might guess, to kayak in Colorado! Not really sure where that might be until I was out there, I settled on Grand Lake for its ease or access and stunning fall beauty! Although there is no set way to paddle the waters, I opted for a trek around the perimeter of Grand Lake to get a view of the whole lake as best I could from the water.
The trek can be strenuous! On this lake, kayakers will find the standard efforts associated with paddling still waters very much apply. Much to my surprise, there was a current as well passing from Shadow Mountain Lake to Grand Lake that made the trek into Grand Lake easier and quite a bit more difficult on the trek back out. I put in the water at the Arapaho National Recreation Area parking lot and made my way through the nearby canal into Grand Lake. This much was rather easy though it wasn't until I neared the end of the canal that I discovered the current pulling me into Grand Lake. This would be the challenge to overcome on the way back out. If you aren't used to paddling upstream, be warned that you will have more of a fight to get back out than you did getting into Grand Lake.
Be prepared! Check on weather conditions before starting out. As is the case with any body of water, particularly lakes or other open bodies of water, there are few places to hide should the weather turn ugly. No one really wants to find themselves in a small boat out in the middle of a lake several miles from safety while a storm rages all around them. I've been in situations like that before and believe me, it's only fun for a moment before you realize the gravity of the situation and panic starts to creep in.
There are bigger boats! The lake is home to many residents, most of whom have lakeside docks and power boats of their own. Although Grand Lake is not super large compared to Shadow Mountain Lake, there are still larger boats that can make their way from Grand Lake to Shadow Mountain Lake. Watch out for them as they may not be able to watch out for you and you don't want to be run over by a boat any more than you would a car. Also be aware of their wake should they throttle up. Again, this is probably not as likely in Grand Lake as it would be in the larger Shadow Mountain Lake but you should still be prepared either way!