Distance from Denver: 96 miles
Length: 12.3 miles round-trip
Best for: Hikers who would rather explore something hidden than go where everyone else goes -- namely nearby Mirror, Gourd and Crater lakes -- as well as fly-fishing folk
For a classic hike to a high-alpine lake, it’s hard to beat the Stone Lake trail, winding through dense forests of aspen and bristlecone pine via the Roaring Fork drainage leading up to Mount Irving Hale Pass. Leave from the east side of Granby Lake, and be prepared for a tough start, followed by a mellow middle, and then a really tough final ascent, boosted by ridiculously photogenic views of the Indian Peaks. About halfway to the lake at the pass, the open area hosting the remains of an old cabin is popular with elk, and also offers wild raspberries for most of the year. Who knows why the people who name natural features are so obsessed with the word “hell,” but Hell Canyon is a surprisingly heavenly place, although the steep descent can be loose and slippery, and signals that you’re about to hit the final, brutal uphill to the lake.
Be aware that not only is it a tough trek, but it’s also not well marked; a good topo is your friend here. If fishing and camping are your goals, in less than a half mile past Stone Lake, Upper Stone Lake offers an even more remote locale in an equally stunning setting, with its backdrop of the 12,000-plus Hiamovi Mountain and Cooper Peak.
If you’d rather spend the night in an old-school motel, the quaint little mountain town of Granby -- which you’ll see from the trail -- is one hell of a throwback, flanked by forest and walkable from one end to the other. In case you didn’t get enough river or lake in your life -- natives of the landlocked state never do -- Mustachio’s On The Lake is the place for a good night’s sleep and a delicious meal (think rack of lamb and lobster ravioli), all, you guessed it, with a view of Granby Lake itself. On the way out of town, Showboat’s Drive By Pie bakes the best green chile apple pie you’ve never heard of.