Shadow Mountain Overlook Tower, Grand Lake East Shore Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Shadow Mountain Overlook Tower - 9.6 miles

Grand Lake East Shore Trailhead

Shadow Mountain Tower

Shadow Mountain Tower

Round-Trip Length: 9.6 miles
Start-End Elevation: 8,390' - 9,923'
Elevation Change: +1,533' net elevation gain
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
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Shadow Mountain Overlook Tower - 9.6 Miles Round-Trip

The Shadow Mountain Overlook Tower is located 4.8 miles from the Grand Lake - East Shore Trailhead on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Lookout, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is the last of four fire detection towers constructed in the Park during the Great Depression era.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The East Shore Trail follows the east shore of Shadow Mountain Lake to the Shadow Mountain Trail, which climbs methodically on switchbacks to the tower. The Lookout provides unique insight to the history of wilderness management, and views across the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park:

The East Shore Trail runs south and level by the lake for .7 miles, then veers east on a steady climb through beetle-marred pine forests. Still, verdant ground cover and fallen timber uphold an overall aesthetic.

The trail climbs and winds steadily to Shadow Mountain with only an occasional glimpse of the lake and Never Summer Range (west).

After nearly 4 miles of uneventful climbing the trail reaches a hitch rack, privy, and sign pointing to the Overlook Tower. Climb the stairs to the third level where an observation deck wraps around the tower with panoramas of the Park's SW corner and surrounding National Forests.

Highlights include Lake Granby, Shadow Mtn Lake, Grand Lake, the Never Summer Range, Continental Divide, and the East Inlet corridor.

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Worth Noting

  • The three story tower - completed in 1933 - was (reportedly) built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Because of its remote and rugged location, construction of the tower was, not surpisingly, particularly difficult. Mules teams packed in a majority of the building material.

  • The Shadow Mtn Summit is 10,155 ft.

  • After leaving the lake area, there is no water on the trail.

  • Mosquitos are ubiquitous by the lake - bug repellant is advisable.

  • Because the trail begins outside of the park, no fee is required.

Directions to Trailhead

Turnoff Highway 34 towards Grand Lake. Make the very fist right turn on Center Dr, then a left turn onto Marina Dr. Make a right turn onto Shadow Mtn Dr, which soon turns into Lakeside Dr. Make a right turn onto Jericho Rd, cross over the bridge and drive past the marina launch area. The road will dead end at the parking area for the Grand Lake East Shore Trailhead.

Contact Information

Rocky Mountain National Park
Visitor Information:

Backcountry Office:

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Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


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