Arapaho National Recreation Area
Managed by U.S. Forest Service, Arapaho National Forest
On the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park are the first of many dams across the Colorado River forming several lakes around Granby, Colorado. Arapaho National Recreation Area contains five reservoirs, the largest of which is Lake Granby (but not including Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Lake). Also nearby, Monarch Lake is the starting point for multiple trails into the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Despite its proximity to the Denver metropolitan area, this untamed country is home to a variety of wildlife including moose, martens, and mountain lions, as well as the river otter and ouzel (or dipper) we saw during our January visit.
Lake Granby, Monarch Lake, Meadow Creek Reservoir, Roaring Fork Falls, Willow Creek Reservoir, High Lonesome Trail, Continental Divide National Scenic Trail
The largest reservoir in Arapaho National Recreation Area is Lake Granby, an area popular with snowmobilers and ice fisherman in the winter. Summer is also a good time to visit when the lakes are unfrozen and available for boating, swimming, and other water sports. That’s when backpackers on the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail prefer to come through here.
Snowshoers looking for some quiet can drive to the eastern end of Lake Granby and hike a mile to Monarch Lake on a road that is closed during the winter months. Throughout the year, Monarch Lake is the starting point for multiple trails that climb into the high elevations of the Indian Peaks Wilderness, plus the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail.
Under a blanket of snow, there is a majestic view from Monarch Lake looking at the Arapaho Creek Valley.
During the summer, day-use fees apply at portions of Arapaho National Recreation Area, like Monarch Lake and boat launches.
The road back to Monarch Lake and many others are closed seasonally due to heavy snow accumulations.
Campgrounds on the lakes fill up in the summer and even the dirt roads around the west entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park can be jam-packed with dispersed campers.
Curecanti National Recreation Area (Colorado)
Colorado National Monument (Colorado)
Dinosaur National Monument (Utah-Colorado)
Nearest National Park
Rocky Mountain (Colorado)
Explore More – When was Arapaho National Recreation Area established?