Shadow Mountain Lake, Colorado, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Shadow Mountain Lake — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

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All About Shadow Mountain Lake

Set against the backdrop of the majestic Rocky Mountains in Colorado’s Front Range region, Shadow Mountain Lake is a picture-postcard Colorado getaway. Bordered by the Rocky Mountain National Park on one side and the Arapaho National Recreation Area on the other and connected to the clear deep water of Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Lake calls outdoor enthusiasts from across the world.

Shadow Mountain Lake is part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. The reservoir is an impoundment of the Colorado River by the Shadow Mountain Dam. Construction on the earth fill dam began in 1944 and was completed in 1946. It is one of a hundred structures that make up the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. Operated by the Bureau of Reclamation, the Project was designed to divert water from the Colorado River on the western slope of the Continental Divide to the east slope of the Rocky Mountains. Shadow Mountain Lake is directly connected to Grand Lake, Colorado’s largest and deepest natural lake. It also receives water from Lake Granby which is 1.8 miles away. The three lakes are referred to as sister lakes and together make up the “Three Lakes” region of Grand County. Water flows from Shadow Mountain Lake through the Alva B. Adams Tunnel to the eastern slope where it is used for irrigation and to meet municipal and industrial needs.

With 1,346 surface acres of water, Shadow Mountain Lake is much larger than Grand Lake. Its maximum depth, however, is just 24 feet making it much shallower than Grand Lake’s 265 feet. By law Grand Lake must remain full, and occasionally water from Shadow Mountain Lake is allowed to flow into Grand Lake, causing some concern over water quality.

Most boats, with the exception of sailboats, can also move from one lake to the other. There are marinas and public boat launches on both lakes. Power boats are popular, and there is plenty of room to jet ski and water ski. The fishing is very good, and Shadow Mountain Lake has healthy populations of brown trout, rainbow trout, and salmon.

Shadow Mountain Lake is surrounded by the Arapaho National Recreation Area. The 36,000 acre recreation area near the west entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park was established in 1978 and is part of the Arapaho National Forest in the upper Colorado River Valley. The Arapaho National Recreation Area includes four other lakes, Meadow Creek Reservoir, Monarch Lake, Granby Lake, and Willow Creek Reservoir. Along with Grand Lake the lakes are often referred to as the “Great Lakes of Colorado.”

There are miles of trails for hiking, biking and horse back riding in the Arapaho National Recreation Area including the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. Although not specifically groomed, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing are popular in the winter. Wildlife includes but is in no way limited to elk, deer, moose, coyote, and bear, and there are also golden and bald eagles. Hunters will find plenty of large and small game animals and waterfowl.

Dedicated in 1915 by Woodrow Wilson, the Rocky Mountain National Park is the nation’s tenth national park. With elevations ranging from 8,000 feet to 14,259 feet at Longs Peak, the scenery is unsurpassed. The wildflowers explode in early summer, and in the winter visitors can snow shoe or cross-country ski through the park to see the abundant wildlife.

The East Shore Trailhead runs 3.5 miles from the dam on Shadow Mountain Lake to the suburbs of the Town of Grand Lake. Established in the late 1870’s, Grand Lake is the oldest resort community in Colorado and it maintains its historic charm. There are shops, restaurants, and galleries. Accommodations range from hotels and bed and breakfasts to vacation rentals. There are plenty of camping options around Shadow Mountain Lake and in the Rocky Mountain National Park.

The area around Shadow Mountain Lake has a long, rich history as a resort and recreation community. With the majestic backdrop of the Rocky Mountains and abundant wildlife, this Colorado Great Lake has something to please everyone.

Things to Do at Shadow Mountain Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park
  • National Forest

Fish Species Found at Shadow Mountain Lake

  • Brown Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Trout

Find Places to Stay at Shadow Mountain Lake

If you’re considering a Shadow Mountain Lake lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Shadow Mountain Lake Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Shadow Mountain Lake lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Shadow Mountain Lake Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Bureau of Reclamation

Surface Area: 1,346 acres

Shoreline Length: 8 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 8,367 feet

Maximum Depth: 24 feet

Water Volume: 18,369 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1946

Water Residence Time: 18 days

Drainage Area: 187 sq. miles

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

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