Live Your Colorado Dream Outdoors This Summer

Like many Colorado transplants, I was drawn to the Centennial State by the beauty of the Rocky Mountains, the 300+ days of brilliant sunshine and blue skies, moderate seasons, stunning landscapes and the healthy, active lifestyle encouraged by Colorado’s outdoor playground.

But I confess, as a born and bred Mid Westerner, I miss the abundance of lakes and rivers of Indiana and Michigan where I loved to fish, kayak, boat and swim at every opportunity even if it was only 3 or 4 months of the year!

That’s why I’ve super enjoyed exploring at every opportunity Colorado’s diverse mountainous terrain, including its amazing rivers, lakes and reservoirs. During this unique COVID 19 summer where so many enjoyable outdoor activities are curtailed, I’ve decided to fully engage my spirit of adventure and discovery to explore more Colorado waterways with my kayak in tow.

I encourage you to refresh your spirit by soaking in Colorado’s sun and swimming lakes this summer Recently, I found this blog post, written by Mor Zucker for The Denver Ear. It highlights 14 of the most stunning and swimmable lakes in Colorado. Check it out and please let me know which one(s) you most enjoy as you live your Colorado dream outdoors this summer.


 14 Most Swimmable Lakes in Colorado

Blue Mesa Reservoir

Blue Mesa Reservoir, part of Curecanti National Recreation Area, is the largest body of water in Colorado, with over 9,100 acres of surface water and 96 miles of shoreline. The Reservoir is located in western Colorado (between Montrose and Gunnison), and is one of the three reservoirs formed from the Gunnison River.

Blue Mesa Reservoir does not feature public swimming areas, and most of its shoreline is rocky, yet there are several areas around the reservoir which are known to be good swimming spots. Swimming is advised at the following areas: Bay of Chickens, Dry Creek, and Old Highway 50 beach, which is adjacent to Elk Creek Campground.

If you are looking to enjoy more than just swimming, then many other outdoor activities are available as well. Activities such as fishing, boating, windsurfing, waterskiing, and hiking, camping, and horseback riding. Blue Mesa Reservoir is located at 102 Elk Creek, CO 81230.

Blue Mesa Reservoir. Photograph Credit: ©Dave Dugdale

Boulder Reservoir

Boulder Reservoir, located in Boulder, spans over 700 acres of surface water and features one of the largest lifeguard attended swimming beaches in Colorado.

The swimming area has several roped off areas, with the closest one to the shore suitable for young children, and another section that is suitable for swimmers ages 12 and up that require a swim-test by a lifeguard to cross.

The reservoir also allows for many other outdoor activities, such as boating, water skiing, and fishing, as well as hiking, biking, picnicking, bird-watching and sunbathing.

Boulder Reservoir located at 5565 51st St, Boulder, CO 80301.

Boulder Reservoir. Photo Credit: ©Salty Chip

Chatfield State Park Reservoir

Chatfield State Park, is located in Littleton, and features 1,500 acres of surface water and a swimmable beach area. The Reservoir was first constructed as a Dam by the U.S. Army Corps in the late 60s in order to control the recurring flooding in the area.

Chatfield State Park is open to public and also features boat rentals, a floating restaurant and a marina. The park is a great place for outdoor activities such as biking, hiking, and horseback riding, as well as camping with 197 campsites located on four campsites.

Swimming in the reservoir is only allowed at the appointed swim beach area. Chatfield State Park is located at 11500 Roxborough Park Rd, Littleton, CO 80125.

Chatfield State Park. Photo Credit: ©ktbuffy

Cherry Creek State Park Reservoir

Cherry Creek State Park, located in Aurora, features a roped-off swimmable area along a sandy beach. The reservoir features 4,200 acres of surface water. Water activities, a lake house, a tiki-bar and boat rentals, are available at The Marina at Cherry Creek.

The park also features other outdoor activities such as camping, picnicking, model airplane flying, horseback riding and even a family shooting range.

Cherry Creek State Park Reservoir is located at 4201 S. Parker Rd., Aurora, CO 80014.

Cherry Creek State Park Reservoir. Photo Credit: ©The Marina at Cherry Creek

Devil’s Punch Bowl

Devil’s Punch Bowl is located on the westside of Independence Pass, about 9 miles from the town of Aspen. Devil’s Punch Bowl is often visited by backpackers and families, that come especially to brave its cold waters and witness its cliffs, waterfalls, caves and crystal clear, emerald hued waters.

Devil’s Punch Bowl is located at CO-82, Aspen, CO 81611.

Devil’s Punch Bowl. Photo Credit: ©Colorado Info

Grand Lake

Grand Lake, located in the Town of Grand Lake, is Colorado’s largest and deepest natural lake, with over 60 miles of surface water length. The lake’s waters flow out of Rocky Mountain National Park, which surrounds the lake on three sides.

Grand Lake allows for public swimming and features the town’s boardwalk that takes you all the way to the lake. Many other water activities are also available such as boating, canoeing, and more.

The proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park also allows for many other outdoor activities nearby such as hiking, biking, camping, and horseback riding. Grand Lake is located at 1246 Lake Ave, Grand Lake, CO 80447.

Grand Lake. Photo Credit: ©Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce

Green Mountain Reservoir

Green Mountain Reservoir is located near the town of Heeney in Summit County, and features 2,150 acres of surface water and a designated swim area. The reservoir is a well-known for its fishing and camping activities and includes six campgrounds, 208 campsites, and two boat-launch facilities.

Many more outdoor activities are also available, such as hiking, 4×4 driving, bird watching, and picnicking.

Green Mountain Reservoir’s swim beach is located near the Cow Creek South Campground, 124 Hwy 9 North, Heeney, CO 80498.

Green Mountain Reservoir. Photo Credit: ©Summit County Voice

Guffey Gorge a.k.a Paradise Cove

Guffey Gorge (also known as Paradise Cove), located in Guffey, is a lake that is administered by the Bureau of Land Management, and is situated along a trail.

The cove is a small but deep pool, fed by a small waterfall. This little-known area is a great place to cool-off after a short hike and its beautiful surrounding cliffs and small beach area, a serene place to relax, hang out or have a picnic.

Guffey Gorge is located at 13800 Main St, Guffey, CO 80820Psst it’s a little over a two-hour drive from Denver.

Guffey Gorge / Paradise Cove. Photo Credit: ©Dave Soldano

Horsetooth Reservoir

Horsetooth Reservoir, located minutes away from Fort Collins, Colorado, features over 3,900 acres of surface water surrounded by 1,900 acres of public land, and is considered an outdoor paradise by many locals and visitors.

Specific designated swim beaches are located along the reservoir for public swimming, and many outdoor activities are also available, such as scuba diving, fishing, boating, stand up paddle boarding, and water skiing.

The area also features activities such as camping, rock climbing, picnicking, hiking, biking, and more.

Horsetooth Reservoir’s swim beach entrance is located near the South Bay at 4200 W County Road 38 E, Fort Collins, CO 80526.

Horsetooth Reservoir. Photo Credit: ©Colorado Fisherman

Jackson Lake State Park

Jackson Lake State Park is located in Orchard, in the west side of Morgan County, Colorado. Jackson Lake features 2,700 acres of surface water and features shallow water that warms up quickly in the summer. Swimming is allowed on the west and south shores out to the wake buoys.

Outdoor activities such as boating, sail-boating, fishing, jet and water skiing are available, as well as other land activities such as camping, hiking, picnicking, OHV riding, hunting, and bird watching.

Jackson Lake State Park is located at 26363 Country Road 3, Orchard, CO 80649Psst it’s a 90 minute drive from Denver.

Jackson Lake State Park. Photo Credit ©Martin

Prospect Lake

Prospect Lake, located in Colorado Springs, is part of Memorial Park and features a designated swim beach and nearby outdoor sports and recreation facilities that include an indoor and outdoor activities.

Memorial Park activities include an indoor and outdoor pool, a recreation center, trails, baseball and softball fields, a basketball court, boating, an exercise course, football and soccer fields, a playground, and more.

Prospect Lake Beach area features a historic beach house, picnic tables, volleyball, concessions and locker rooms.

Psst.. The YMCA of Pikes Peak Region even allows you to book kids birthday parties or large group reservations! Prospect Lake is located at 619 Prospect Lake Dr, Colorado Springs, CO 80910.

Prospect Lake. Photo Credit: ©YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region

Twin Lakes

Twin Lakes, located in Leadville, Colorado, are two naturally formed glacial lakes with the beautiful backdrop of Colorado’s highest mountain peak, Mount Elbert.

Although Twin Lakes are considered glacial lakes, their  water temperatures range from 65°-75° in the summer months, which allows for a comfortable swim.

Twin Lakes also feature a nearby quaint village and offer outdoor activities such as fishing, boating, hiking, camping, biking, horseback riding and more.

Twin Lakes is located at 6431 CO-82, Twin Lakes, CO 81251.

Twin Lakes. Photo Credit: ©Exit the Roundabout

Vallecito Lake

Vallecito Lake is located in the mountain valley town of Vallecito Lake, which is 18 miles northeast of Durango, Colorado. Vallecito Lake is situated 7,800 feet above sea level, and its name derives from Spanish, which translates to Little Valley.

Vallecito Lake offers a free public swimming area, with many fee-based swimming areas surrounding it as well. Water activities such as boating, paddle boarding, and fishing, are a great way to enjoy your visit.

Land activities are also available, and include hiking, hunting, ATV rentals, and horseback riding.Vallecito Lake is located at 18071 Co Rd 501, Bayfield, CO 81122.

Vallecito Lake. Photo Credit: ©OpenThreads

Wellington Lake

Wellington Lake, located in Bailey, Colorado, is a privately owned with 167 acres of surface water and a natural wilderness area. The lake is managed as a trophy fishery with an emphasis on conservation, and is a beautiful spot to enjoy a relaxing outdoor swim.

The lake area is also open to the public for camping, fishing, and hiking, and features 75 campsites furnished with fire pits and picnic tables. For all the photography lovers, the 9,691 foot Castle Mountain guards the western portion of the property and is often the most photographed landscape of the area.

Wellington Lake is located at 21843 Stoney Pass Rd, Bailey, Colorado 80421Psst it’s only a little over an hour drive from Denver.

Photograph courtesy of ©Wellington Lake Facebook Page

Originally written and posted by Mor Zucker, The Denver Ear, May 28, 2017.

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