Although Colorado is landlocked within the central western United States, it also offers ample opportunities for waterfront recreation due to a number of natural and manmade lakes and swimming beaches. Acclaimed fishing areas also abound, including prime salmon fishing areas at Blue Mesa Reservoir.
Boulder Reservoir is a scenic 700-acre manmade lake within the northern section of the city of Boulder, serving as the main water supply reservoir for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. The reservoir, which was constructed in 1955, serves as the anchor for Boulder Reservoir Regional Park, which is overseen by the city's Department of Parks and Recreation and offers a wide variety of seasonal outdoor activities. Public swimming beaches are offered during the summer months, along with day-use and rental picnic areas with picnic tables, charcoal grills, and horseshoe and volleyball courts. Populations of rainbow trout, saugeye, and black crappie are stocked at the reservoir for anglers, with ice fishing opportunities available during colder months when the lake is frozen over. Other popular activities at the park including boating, waterskiing, wildlife watching, sunbathing, and cycling.
5565 North 51st Street, Boulder, Colorado 80301, Phone: 303-441-3461
2.Blue Mesa Reservoir
Blue Mesa Reservoir is the largest body of water in Colorado, contained within the Curecanti National Recreation Area, which has been overseen by the National Park Service since 1965. The 29-mile reservoir is one of three reservoirs located within the recreation area, along with the Morrow Point and Crystal Reservoirs, and was constructed in the 1960s along the upper portion of the Gunnison River. It is home to the United States' largest cokanee salmon fishery, making it one of the state's prime sites for public fishing. Two marinas are also offered, along with boat launches and a variety of hiking and horseback riding trails. Windsurfing and waterskiing are popular activities during the summer months, while ice fishing is popular during colder weather conditions. Traditional and group campgrounds are offered at the site, including boat-in campsites.
102 Elk Creek, Gunnison, CO 81230, Phone: 970-641-2337 x205
Medano Creek is a unique seasonal location within Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, which spans more than 107,000 acres throughout the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range in southern central Colorado and preserves North America's tallest collection of sand dunes. The creek, which is named for the Spanish word for sand dune, receives surge flows from the snow melt of nearby peaks, which cascades onto the nearby dune ridges and produces high wave conditions throughout the spring and early summer months. At peak flow times, especially in May and June, the creek becomes a veritable paradise for beachfront activities such as inner tubing and wakeboarding, earning it the nickname "Colorado's Natural Beach." Hiking, sandboarding, sandsledding, and four-wheel driving are popular activities at the site during the off season, when creek conditions steady out to only a few inches deep.
11999 State Highway 150, Mosca, CO 81146, Phone: 719-378-6395
4.Chatfield State Park
Chatfield State Park is a lovely Denver-area state park that is open to the public year-round between 5:00am and 10:00pm, centered around the 1,423-acre Chatfield Reservoir, which receives waters from the South Platte River. The park is a popular spot for natural activities throughout the year and is home to the Audubon Center at Chatfield State Park, which offers workshops and nature programming for visitors of all ages. During the summer months, a public swimming beach is operated at the park, with a full-service marina offering boat rentals and boat launches. Fishing, jet skiing, waterskiing, and wildlife watching are popular activities during the summer months, with trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing offered for use during the winter. A number of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails are also offered, with 197 campsites and RV hookups available for overnight visitor stay.
11500 N. Roxborough Park Rd, Littleton, CO 80125, Phone: 303-791-7275
Grand Lake is Colorado's largest natural lake, located along the western edge of the beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park. The lake is home to the world's highest altitude yachting club and is a popular site for boaters, waterskiiers, and fishers throughout the warmer months. A full-service marina is offered, with boat and paddleboard rentals available for visitors, and a number of sandy areas offer opportunities for sunbathing, swimming, and beachfront activities. During the winter months, visitors can enjoy snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing, along with sleigh rides offered at the nearby Winding River Resort. The nearby mountain resort town of the same name is home to a number of bustling shops, restaurants, art galleries, and theaters, hosting annual special events such as a summer concert series.
Grand Lake Chamber Of Commerce, P.O. Box 57, Grand Lake, CO 80447, Phone: 970-627-3372
6.Jackson Lake State Park
Jackson Lake State Park is a popular state park located within Morgan County northeast of the city of Orchard, anchored around the 2,411-acre Jackson Reservoir, which was constructed in the early 20th century and receives its water from the nearby South Platte River. The park and reservoir, which should not be confused with Mancos' Jackson Lake, is home to beautiful spacious beachfront areas that have been named as one of America's top 15 park beaches by Reserve America. In addition to seasonal swimming opportunities, fishing, boating, canoeing, kayaking, jet skiing, and waterskiing are also popular activities at the reservoir. Land recreation opportunities include hunting, biking, hiking, and an OHV motocross track. 260 campsites are offered at the park, including ADA-compliant facilities and group campsites.
26363 County Road 3, Orchard, CO 80649, Phone: 970-645-2551
Horsetooth Reservoir is an expansive reservoir within Colorado's Larimer County, located above the western edge of the city of Fort Collins along the Dakota Hogback. The reservoir, which was originally constructed in 1949 as part of the Bureau of Reclamation's Colorado-Big Thompson Project, stretches for 6.5 miles from north to south, spanning approximately one mile across. It serves as a municipal water source for area communities such as Fort Collins and Greeley, named in honor of the nearby Horsetooth Mountain. During the summer months, the reservoir serves as a popular outdoor recreational destination, attracting more than 570,000 visitors each year. A designated swimming beach is maintained seasonally, with opportunities for boating, canoeing, kayaking, and shore fishing also offered. On the shoreline, visitors can hike and mountain bike in areas such as the Foothills Trail.
4200 W County Rd 38 E, Fort Collins, CO 80526, Phone: 970-498-5610
© Bernie Duhamel/stock.adobe.com
Dillon Reservoir, also known as Lake Dillon, is a manmade freshwater reservoir in Summit County bordering the towns of Dillon, Frisco, and Silverthorne. The reservoir, which was constructed in 1963, serves as a municipal reservoir for the city, operated under the supervision of Denver Water. Visitors can enjoy a plethora of outdoor activities at the site throughout the year, including boating, kayaking, canoeing, and fishing at the beachfront areas of the reservoir. Seven miles of hiking and biking trails are offered throughout the recreational area around the reservoir, with more than 350 campsites available for tent and RV hookups. Waterfowl hunting and cross-country skiing are permitted at designated areas, with a number of special events hosted at the reservoir each year, including an annual Fourth of July fireworks display.
9.Ridgway State Park
Ridgway State Park is a beautiful state park in Ouray County, located approximately 14 miles northeast of the city of Ouray and four miles north of the city of Ridgway. As Colorado's westernmost public park, the park offers stunning scenery and ample opportunities for water activities at Dallas Creek and Pa-co-chu-puk, including excellent fishing conditions for rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout. Swimming is permitted during the summer months at beachfront areas, along with a marina providing lake access for boats, canoes, and kayaks. Limited hunting opportunities are also offered, along with hiking and biking trails, volleyball courts, and opportunities for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing during the winter months. 283 campsites are offered, including several yurts and rental cabins.
28555 Hwy. 550, Ridgway, CO 81432, Phone: 970-626-5822
10.John Martin Reservoir State Park
John Martin Reservoir State Park is a popular state park located approximately 17 miles east of the city of Las Animas, anchored around Colorado's second-largest body of water by capacity, created by impacting at John Marin Dam. The park serves as one of Colorado's best birdwatching locations, with more than 400 species of birds documented within the surrounding Bent County area. Fishing and watersport opportunities abound during the summer months, including swimming opportunities at posted swimming beach areas and opportunities to catch saugeye, bass, crappie, catfish, perch, and bluegill. Day-use picnic sites are available throughout the park, with 213 tent and RV campsites available for overnight visitor stay. Other attractions include the 4.5-mile Red Shin Hiking Trail, which offers opportunities to see indigenous rock art, historic canals, and a wide variety of native wildlife.
30703 County Road 24, Hasty, CO 81044, Phone: 719-829-1801
Ruedi Reservoir is a manmade reservoir located along the Continental Divide's West Slope at the Fryingpan River, approximately 15 miles from the town of Basalt within the White River National Forest. The reservoir is located at the former site of the town of Ruedi and was constructed between 1964 and 1968, owned and overseen by the United States Bureau of Reclamation. Visitors can enjoy boating, kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, tubing, and sailing on the reservoir's 102,000-acre water surface throughout the summer months. The downstream area of the Fryingpan River is also acclaimed as a Gold Medal fishery, with endangered fish species in the area protected since the 1980s by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Overnight campsites are offered nearby at the Ruedi Marina Campground, which is situated at an elevation of more than 7,800 feet above sea level.
11 Best Colorado Beaches
- Boulder Reservoir, Photo: slavonstok/stock.adobe.com
- Blue Mesa Reservoir, Photo: teesixb/stock.adobe.com
- Medano Creek, Photo: Sarah/stock.adobe.com
- Chatfield State Park, Photo: arinahabich/stock.adobe.com
- Grand Lake, Photo: Lucy/stock.adobe.com
- Jackson Lake State Park, Photo: schankz/stock.adobe.com
- Horsetooth Reservoir, Photo: MarekPhotoDesign.com/stock.adobe.com
- Dillon Reservoir, Photo: Bernie Duhamel/stock.adobe.com
- Ridgway State Park, Photo: PlanetEarthPictures/stock.adobe.com
- John Martin Reservoir State Park, Photo: t_o_r_q_u_e/stock.adobe.com
- Ruedi Reservoir, Photo: Kristen/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Colophotos/stock.adobe.com