In an ideal world, you and your family would have a least a week at Granby Ranch, in the Fraser River valley of North Central Colorado.
And, if not a week, at least a long weekend.
With the luxury of time, a family could dedicate a full morning to the river, going out with a guide and learning the secrets of luring fish from the river. The mountain biking is so extensive that one day, let alone an afternoon, isn’t enough. And the golf? With two regulation (nothing “mini” here) family holes, it’s the best set up I’ve ever seen for kids.
We didn’t have a week. We had two days and we were going to sample it all. We called it the Granby Ranch “Tri” and we were going to own it.
Fish Granby Ranch
A three-mile stretch of the Fraser River crosses Granby Ranch near the golf course. In order to the protect the river and provide guests with a quality experience, this three-mile stretch is divided into 4 “beats” which are 3/4 mile stretches of river. Guests reserve a beat for four hours and each beat is limited to four poles per session. Beats 1 and 2 are open to all guests, while beats 3 and 4 are reserved for guests with guides.
When we walked into the golf clubhouse to check in for fishing, it was already 10:00 a.m. – not exactly prime fishing time, but a great time “practice” casting, which is what we seem to do more of anyway. Because of low water flows and the unseasonably warm summer in Colorado, the beats closed at noon, to reduce stress on the fish.
While I wish I could say the fishing was great, the reality was that it rained on us and aside from a couple of bites, which we didn’t land, we got skunked. Still, there’s something satisfying about being on the river for two hours, quietly casting again and again, feeling the motion in your arm, and slowing your brain into a meditative rhythm. We watched the clouds and the pattern of raindrops on the river. We thought our own thoughts. It was a good time.
A few fish would have been nice, but we didn’t mind. Event one of the Granby Ranch Tri? Done.
Bike Granby Ranch
As luck would have it, the skies cleared for the afternoon, opening up the possibility of mountain biking. So, when we shut down the fishing at noon, we made the five-minute drive back to our condo in the Base Camp One building, grabbed our bikes and walked over the to the Quick Draw Express lift.
The biking at Granby Ranch is surprisingly varied. The site of the 2009 and 2010 USA Cycling National Championships, we expected some fun downhill courses, but were pleased to find out how many cross-country trails traverse the mountain from the top.
A sign at the base of the lift clearly states that there are no “easy” trails on the mountain and this is true. The map rates the trails green, blue and black, but these rankings are relative, with green meaning “easier,” not easy or beginner. This doesn’t mean less experienced riders or families can’t have a great time. We saw plenty of riders, of all ages, out on the trails.
I found two trails that I thought were outstanding, and both of them were green. One, the Fraser Canyon downhill trail, is new this season and is an easier alternative to the hard-core downhill routes. No gaps, no jumps and few banked curves, it had plenty of rocky terrain at the top with linked “S” turns. About half-way down, the trail smoothes out and becomes a ripping, easy downhill to the base.
My favorite cross-country trail, Nature’s Way, takes a more gradual route downhill (easy enough to ride back uphill, which I did), but is challenging because of numerous tight switchbacks. Both of these trails wind through the forest, with Fraser Canyon coursing through some beautiful stands of aspen. As for the more difficult trails, my sons and husband rode almost all the downhill routes and some of the cross-country. Their favorites? The black-rated downhill Patriot trail, the blue Silky Johnston downhill and the black Ying and Yang cross-country trail.
Tri event two? Done, with an encore planned for the next day.
Golf Granby Ranch
We had big plans to complete our triathlon in one day by playing the two family holes at the golf club. The Granby Ranch course has 20 holes (yes, two extra). According to one of the course employees, when the course was reconfigured, two holes were left over. So, these two holes were made into family holes, with extra tee boxes (some very close to the green) and multiple pin placements. The cost to play these holes is only $20 for a family (listed as casual play) and you can loop back again and again if you’re having fun. Hole one is a regulation par 3 and hole two (which we were told was designed by Jack Nicklaus) is a regulation par 4.
A sudden, intense rain storm cancelled our golf plans and dashed our hopes of completing the Granby Ranch Tri in one day. My husband and I got up early and golfed the next morning in cool, crisp air and clear sunshine. We got a cart and gave ourselves one hour, which meant we completed the two family holes twice, moving the pin each time. We enjoyed every minute.
And, as I wrote earlier, it’s a perfect set-up for families (or anyone just wanting a “little bit” of golf). You don’t have to commit to a certain number of holes, there aren’t any overly serious golfers pressuring you and kids are not only welcome, but especially welcomed, on these holes.
Tri event number three? Done. The weekend at Granby Ranch? Not only done, but done well. The only thing lacking was a little more time.
When You Go…
Granby Ranch is just off of US Highway 40, only 15 minutes north of Winter Park and 90 minutes northwest of Denver.
Although this post focused on the activities on property at Granby Ranch, the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park is only 15 minutes away. And with Grand Lake and Lake Granby nearby, a week might not be enough time to discover all the natural beauty and attractions of the area.
There truly is something for everyone and it is all convenient (which makes me think Granby Ranch is a perfect location for a family reunion).
Condominium lodging is available at Granby Ranch in several different developments. On this visit, we stayed in the new Base Camp One building, adjacent to the chairlift, the Granby Ranch Grill and the swimming pool and community center. We had a two bedroom condo which met our every need, was well-designed and beautifully decorated. Of note, some of the units have guest access to the swimming pool and some do not. When making reservations, make sure you get a unit with pool access if that is important to you.
Lunch and dinner are served at the Granby Ranch Grill on Wednesday through Sunday in summer. Everything is handmade, using unique ingredients and combinations of food. For lunch one day I had the Bebe salad, with bebe lettuce, bacon, dates, bleu cheese and walnuts, and I’d gladly have it again.
The sweet potato fries were addicting and the brick oven pizzas were delicious — the crust was especially outstanding. We’re told the seared scallops with orange beurre blanc are the menu’s “best” of the best (among so many yummy-sounding choices!).
There is a City Market (with a Starbuck’s) across US 40 at the entrance to Granby Ranch if you need groceries.
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