On the Water: Discover Colorado’s Lakes
Colorado is rich with swimmable reservoirs and lakes, making our landlocked state a veritable water-lovers’ play land. Boat, beach, sail, swim — here are the best Colorado lakes to visit this summer.
Colorado’s largest and deepest natural lake stretches out on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park in the town of Grand Lake. The national park borders the glacier-formed lake on three sides, making this a prime post-hiking and biking cool-off spot. Hang on the boardwalk, around the marina and on the public swimming beach or rent a boat and get out on the pristine mountain water.
Hugging Chatfield State Park, this inviting body of water is a popular urban retreat for Denverites. Head to the swim beach and look out over 1,500 acres of surface water, splash around, partake in water sports, barbecue or set up camp in one of the 197 sites within walking distance of the reservoir. Boat rentals, a floating restaurant, biking, hiking and horseback riding round out the experience.
Families, college co-eds and everyone in between flock to this Boulder recreation mecca. At 700 acres, there’s plenty of space to sprawl out along one of the largest lifeguard-attended swimming beaches in Colorado. Go boating, water skiing, fishing, hiking, biking, picnicking and bird watching all with spectacular views of Boulder’s Flatiron Mountains.
Tucked just minutes west of Fort Collins, Horsetooth’s beauty lies in its crystal blue waters, lush greenery and red rock framing. The 6.5-mile straightaway spans 3,900 acres of surface water neighboring 1,900 acres of public land. Locals love to rock climb, hike and bike here while boaters dip into coves to swim and fish. Public swimming areas, paddleboarding and jet ski and boat rentals are at the ready.
Set in the center of Summit County, this mountain- and trail-lined reservoir is home to world-class high-altitude sailing, lakeside dining, boat tours and 25 miles of shoreline. Hit up the full-service marina for stand-up paddleboard, kayak and pontoon rentals or sign on for a guided tour and explore the surrounding islands and wildlife. Visit the lakeside Island Grill and Tiki Bar for tropical drinks, decks and live music happy hours.
Vallecito Lake lies 18 miles northeast of Durango in the mountain valley town of the same name. The high country lake rests at 8,000 feet, so the water is extra refreshing (read: brisk) most of the year. Relax at the free public swimming area, stop by one of the fee-based swimming spots or visit the full-service marina for boating, paddleboarding and fishing supplies.
Blue Mesa Reservoir
Colorado’s largest body of water covers an impressive 9,100 acres of surface water and 96 miles of shoreline in the Curecanti National Recreation Area between Montrose and Gunnison. There are no marked public swimming areas, but locals know to head to Bay of Chickens, Dry Creek and Old Highway 50 beach adjacent to Elk Creek Campground. Fishing, boating, windsurfing and waterskiing are also on tap.