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Choosing the best lakes in Colorado to visit throughout the year is no easy task.
Despite Colorado being the 6th driest state in the country, the state has some spectacular lakes and reservoirs to visit on a hot summer day.
Whether it’s jet skiing, sailing, or just a good old fashion dip into the water, Colorado is home to more than 4,000 bodies of water, both natural and manmade.
And many of the lakes and reservoirs are within a short drive from Denver or Colorado Springs, and make excellent day trips.
And it’s not just for summertime! Several lakes in Colorado offer ice-fishing and ice-skating during the winter.
Beyond water activities, there are also loads of things to do nearby. Most Colorado lakes offer access to hiking, sunbathing and swimming beaches, picnic tables, and camping!
In this guide, we are sharing the top 10 most beautiful lakes in Colorado for fishing, boating, camping, and swimming.
In this post:
1. Boulder Reservoir
Boulder Reservoir is one of the most beautiful lakes in Colorado for many reasons.
This man made lake is located about 7 miles northeast of Boulder, near Gunbarrel.
The Reservoir is a 700-acre lake and Recreation Area available for boating, swimming, fishing, paddleboarding, kayaking, and more.
The most popular spot is the beach and swim area which allows for swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking.
The lake is stocked with local species of fish like bass, catfish, crappie, rainbow trout, and walley.
If you enjoy hiking or running, check out the Boulder Reservoir Loop Trail which is a 5.3 mile trail surrounding the lake.
Paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes are available for rental and use on the lake.
The Community Sailing of Colorado also offers sailing classes and rentals for those interested.
And the Boulder Reservoir offers fantastic views of the iconic Boulder Flatirons to the west. It’s a perfect summer getaway for families with kids and dogs.
It costs $5 per person or $10 per vehicle, per day for daily access to the Boulder Reservoir through May 27, 2021.
2. Manitou Lake
Unlike the Reservoirs on this list, Manitou Lake is not available for swimming and dogs must be kept on a leash.
But the Lake does feature other popular water activities like kayaking, canoeing, and fishing.
It’s also a nice spot for picnicking at one of the many picnic areas or you can rent the Pavilion for $50 per day.
In addition, the Manitou Park Lake Trail is a great hiking spot as it surrounds the entirety of the 5-acre lake in a 2.4 mile loop.
The trail showcases amazing views of Pikes Peak and the Pikes Peak National Forest, near Woodland Park.
There is also lots of wildlife viewing and bird watching available for nature lovers.
It costs $7 per vehicle, per day to access the Manitou Lake and Recreation Area.
3. Sloan’s Lake
In the middle of Denver’s hustle-and-bustle is a watery oasis known as Sloan’s Lake.
If you want access to city amenities and gorgeous views of the Rocky Mountains, then Sloan’s Lake is the perfect choice.
The Lake and surrounding green space covers 290 acres and features a popular walking path called Sloan’s Lake Loop.
The trail is an easy and flat 2.6 mile hike that circles the entire lake. It is also home to many Canadian geese and other local waterfowl.
Outdoor activities available include hiking, biking, boating, fishing, tennis courts, basketball courts, sports fields, and multiple playgrounds.
Other popular things to do include birdwatching, water skiing, picnicking. Dogs are welcomed but must be kept on a leash.
Visiting the lake is free, parking is free, and there is no fee to enjoy the many outdoor amenities available.
4. Lake Pueblo Reservoir
Pueblo Reservoir, also known as Lake Pueblo, is another beautiful lake in Colorado. The weather and water temperatures are especially nice in the summertime.
Pueblo Reservoir is located within Lake Pueblo State Park and is located just west of the city of Pueblo.
It is rated as one of the top fishing spots in the state!
Lake Pueblo covers over 4,600 acres of water with 60 miles of shoreline and nearly 10,000 acres of land and open space.
It is open all year round, 24 hours a day. Day passes start at $10 per vehicle and must be purchased to access the lake and campgrounds.
Fees for camping or using the facilities start at $22 per night but annual passes can be purchased for $80.
The main recreation activities include hiking, biking, picnicking, sailing, motor-boating, waterskiing, tubing, and fishing.
Visitors can choose from two full-service marinas and a wide array of campsites.
There are also 22 hiking trails that are great for mountain biking, running, walking and more. Dogs are welcome too, but must be kept on a leash.
Both of these are easy 2-4 mile hikes and offer gorgeous views of the plains and the Rocky Mountains.
If you’re planning to visit for the day, check out the Lake Pueblo State Park trail map.
5. Lake Dillon Reservoir
Also known as Lake Dillon, Dillon Reservoir is located between the towns of Frisco and Dillon.
It actually supplies Denver with drinking water and is operated by the city’s water utility program.
Lake Dillon is open year-round and serves as the world’s highest deep-water marina.
With over 25 miles of shoreline there are endless things to do. Enjoy both motorized or non-motorized boats from two marinas, or fish from anywhere on the lake.
In the winter, visitors can enjoy ice fishing as well as nordic skiing around Lake Dillon.
The Reservoir is home to several large camping grounds and is a popular destination for RVs and campers during the summer.
Both are pretty easy hikes and feature gorgeous views of the Colorado mountains, Lake Dillon, and the entire Recreation Area.
Rentals are available for boats, paddleboards, and kayaks but are weather dependent.
There is no cost to visit Lake Dillon but if you want to dock at the marina, there is a boating fee.
6. Eleven Mile Canyon Reservoir
If you’re looking for a lake in Colorado that’s a bit more secluded, we enjoy visiting Eleven Mile State Park and Reservoir.
The Park is located about 65 miles west of Colorado Springs, going directly into the mountains.
The closest town to Eleven Mile Canyon Reservoir is Lake George, which is a popular summer destination all its own.
This is another popular fishing spot due to the abundance of fish available!
Fishers can expect to catch many species of fish including trophy rainbow, brown, cutthroat, kokanee, and pike.
The top things to do at Eleven Mile Canyon Reservoir are:
- Bird watching
Eleven Mile State Park is home to lots of wildlife like deer, elk, coyotes, bobcats, badgers, jackrabbits, and other ground animals.
There are many different species of birds that live in or migrate throughout the park. So, be on the lookout for all kinds of wildlife!
Waterfowl and small game hunting are also available at Eleven Mile Canyon during the fall.
The cost to visit Eleven Mile State Park is $9 for a day pass per vehicle, or $28 per night for a basic campsite.
Annual passes and marina rentals are also available on their website.
7. Horsetooth Reservoir
Located west of Fort Collins, Horsetooth Reservoir covers over 3,900 acres of water and surrounded by 1,900 acres of public land.
Specific beaches along the water’s edge are designated for swimming and are crowd favorites. Additional water activities available include fishing, boating, water skiing, and scuba diving.
Other outdoor activities available here include camping, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and rock climbing.
Daily Entrance Permits are required to access the Horsetooth Reservoir and cost $9 per vehicle and/or $9 per boat trailer.
Annual Entrance Permits can be purchased online starting at $90 and are valid for 12 months.
The information center and the main entrance are both located in the South Bay of the Horsetooth Reservoir.
8. Grand Lake
Grand Lake sits at 8,369 feet above sea level and is located in the town of Grand Lake, near Rocky Mountain National Park.
In fact, Grand Lake Rocky Mountain National Park surrounds the lake on three sides and serves as the western gateway to the Rockies.
In the summer, you can even visit Estes Park from Grand Lake via Trail Ridge Road, which is the highest paved road in America.
Grand Lake has over 60 miles of surface water and is Colorado’s largest and deepest natural lake.
If you are planning to go boating on the lake, head to the Grand Lake Marina. Various boats are available for rent as well as paddleboards.
Water sports that are popular on the lake include water skiing, kayaking, jet skiing, and wakeboarding. So, you will always find something fun to do!
Grand Lake also allows for public swimming and features a well-maintained swimming and sunbathing beach.
And since Grand Lake is nearby RMNP visitors can enjoy hiking, biking, camping, fishing, horseback riding, and many other outdoor activities.
9. Dream Lake
Much like the name sounds, Dream Lake is a gorgeous lake in Colorado. It’s like something you’d see in a dream!
Dream Lake is located inside Rocky Mountain National Park and is one of the most popular destination hikes in the area.
It sits at 9,905 feet in elevation and is not a destination for the faint of heart. However, access to the lake is via Dream Lake Trail, which is an easy 2 mile hike.
It’s a nice scenic walk and makes a popular hike for families with dogs and small kids.
In order to visit Dream Lake you must pay the entrance fee to Rocky Mountain National Park.
The pass costs $25 per vehicle and is good for 7 days or you can grab a day pass for $15 per vehicle.
10. Blue Mesa Reservoir
Blue Mesa Reservoir lives up to its name and is Colorado’s largest body of water, even though it’s man made.
It is located in western Colorado near the town of Gunnison and sits at 7,519 feet in elevation.
Blue Mesa Reservoir covers 20 miles of water surface and 96 miles of shoreline. It’s the perfect summer destination for beating the Colorado heat.
In the summer there are two full-service marinas where visitors can rent power boats, paddleboards, pontoon boats, and kayaks.
One of the more popular lake activities is the guided fishing trips.
Fishing and deep water fishing are common at Blue Mesa and avid fishermen can expect to see gold medal trout and wild trout.
State fishing licenses are required to fish in Blue Mesa Reservoir.
Thanks to being located within the Curecanti National Recreation Area, there is also excellent hiking nearby.
So, bring your hiking boots and swimming gear to enjoy a day at Blue Mesa Reservoir.
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