We entered the water on a cool July morning at the public boat dock in the town of Grand Lake. The put-in is super easy. There's a cement boat dock or there's the adjoining beach that you could also use in the morning. We started out on glassy water and first hugged the north shore heading east. There is no wild area to speak of around the entire lake, but its surrounded by towering mountains, making it very majestic to paddle there. There are mansions around the lake that are beautiful to see also.
It seemed every day the water started out like glass, then around 10am the wind picked up all of a sudden from the south and made the water choppy. This wind blew all day and died down around 4pm. We were there for a week and it was a daily occurance.
If you're not a confident paddler stay off the lake mid-day. The choppy waves can get intense and the motor boaters are not courteous here and do not give you much room. There is a yacht sailing club that sails daily and are very interesting to watch.
There is a waterway that connects Grand to the much larger Shadow Mountain Lake. There is a charming wooden arched bridge over this waterway...near the southwest end of the lake.
Once on the Shadow Mountain side there's wilderness down the east side of the lake with many osprey nests. The ospreys pay little heed to boats and will dive for fish very near. The south end of Shadow Mountain Lake has many islands to explore, many of them have pelicans, geese and ducks as residents. We watched an osprey catch and eat a fish within 30 feet of us. The south end islands have shallow water between them, and the water is so clear you can see the bottom easily. A local paddler said he sees the most moose near the islands too.
Beware of waterskiiers near the south boat dock, they don't respect any obstacle in the way of their enjoyment. (This seemed to be the theme on these 2 lakes) Luckily the lake is large enough its not much of a problem. The west side of the lake is quite boring since there is a highway running alongside with wall-to-wall cabins. The east bank is the way to go -the scenery is captivating!
If you have a sail for your kayak this is an excellent lake. Start on the south end as prevailing winds go south to north.
Many cabins, hotel, & condos for rent in the area. There is a boat rental at the public beach area adjacent to the dock.
None required for the city dock, but all other boat docks are run by the USFS where fees vary depending on length of permit (minimum $5)
In Grand Lake, go thru town to the east side on the main business district street (there's only one street) at the T-intersection turn right by Pancho & Lefty's restaurant to the city public boat dock parking lot. There is boat trailer parking here, close enough to carry your kayaks to/from the water.