Spectacular mountain views reflected off of still waters are quite a sight. Add fishing, boating, paddle boarding and a variety of other water sports to the mix and it makes these stunning lakes in Colorado an ideal vacation spot.
With thousands of reservoirs and lakes to choose from in the state of Colorado, it is quite difficult to narrow our favorites down to only a handful. Every lake has something different to offer its visitors. Whether you enjoy an alpine hiking trip or a city in close proximity that has a number of shops for you to visit, there’s a Colorado lake for you. You’ll also find that several of them offer just about every kind of water sport that suits your fancy. Here are a few of our favorite lakes in Colorado.
Shadow Mountain Lake
With the beautiful Rocky Mountains in the backdrop, Shadow Mountain Lake is a body of water that promises some exceptional views, especially around sunset. Fishing is popular there, with rainbow trout, brown trout, and salmon teeming in the lake. There’s also fly fishing, sailing, kayaking, jet, and waterskiing, along with plenty of wonderful lodging options in the towns of Granby and Grand Lake.
Green Mountain Reservoir
If you’re thinking about doing any summer camping may we suggest you pay a visit to the Green Mountain Reservoir, which offers plenty of things to do for the whole family? There’s a beach area where you’ll find swimming, fishing, boating, and plenty of hiking trails in the surrounding mountainous area. Just be aware that this destination does become fairly busy during the summer season.
Located within the Rocky Mountain National Park itself, the crystal clear waters of Dream Lake that are surrounded by alpine scenery is a dream come true for lake goers. It’s actually one of the most popular photographed destinations in the park. The Bear Lake trailhead to get there is an easy 2.2-mile round trip hike that’s suitable for most families. You’ll also pass the Nymph Lake along the hike, but make sure you continue on.
Two Rivers Lake
Another Lake located within the Rocky Mountain National Park is the spectacular Two Rivers Lake. It offers majestic mountain scenery along with tranquil clear waters that reflect some amazing views. You won’t be able to reach it by car, so a moderately difficult 5.6 mile round trip hike awaits you on the Bear Lake trail, but it’s worth every step of the way.
Crater Lake is nothing short of a postcard-worthy lake destination but you’ll have to do a bit of hiking to get there. The Crater Lake Trail is a moderate 3.8-mile round trip hiking trail that offers amazing and stunning views. When you’ve reached the lake you’ll loose your breath when you see the Maroon Bell mountain peaks mirrored in the glassy water.
Swimming at Crater Lake is only permitted at the end of the Cleetwood Cove Trail down near the lakeshore. Fishing is also allowed and encouraged.
Grand Lake happens to be Colorado’s largest natural lake while providing some of the most beautiful lake scenery in the state too. You’ll find it near the western gateway to the Rocky Mountains National Park, where it’s nestled between spectacular mountain views and a boardwalk that stretches all the way into the town of Grand Lake.
The water temperature is chilly even during the summer, but there are those that brave the cold waters for a dip in the lake. If you plan on taking a boat out on the lake, get started at Headwaters or Grand Lake Marina, where there are all kinds of boats including pontoons and kayak and paddleboard rentals for you to choose from. Wakeboarding and waterskiing are also popular water sports to do there along with fishing. Because of the motor boats it is a little rough for paddleboarding. You may be best served to get our early for calmer waters and fewer crowds.
Insider Tip: Be sure to spend a night or two at the historic Grand Lake Lodge with stunning views of the lake. And, make sure to plan a sunset dinner from Huntington House Tavern at Grand Lake Lodge.
Located just 15 miles from Grand Lake, Lake Granby is another beautiful area of Colorado surrounded by Arapaho National Forest and bordering Rocky Mountain National Park. Lake Granby is known for its fishing but is also home to Lake Granby Yacht Club. There are all kinds of boat rentals out of the marinas here both in summer and winter.
One of our favorite places to stay in Colorado is located very near here. Snow Mountain Ranch at YMCA of the Rockies is a huge property offering camping, yurts, cabin rentals, lodge rooms and the very best dog park you’ve ever seen.
Piney Lake, located in Vail, Colorado about a half hour or so up a bumpy dirt road is one of the most beautiful sights in the state. The lake is not large, nor are motorized boats allowed. But you can canoe, paddle board or fish while taking in one of Colorado’s most iconic views.
Sylvan Lake State Park
This small lake set with the backdrop of the Gore Range is in our backyard. Once you arrive to Eagle it is still a good half hour or so drive, part of which is on a dirt road. It is fairly rustic. The lake has a hiking trail around it that is about a mile long. So, it is a small lake. It is beautiful and on weekdays often quiet. Bring a paddle board, duckie or other type of non-motorized boat. You can fish and enjoy paddling on the water. But sadly no swimming.
Camp sites, RV sites, cabins and yurts are available for rent in advance.
Located a few miles outside of historic Leadville, the community of Twin Lakes was formed around two large pristine glacial lakes. These lakes boast reflections of some of the highest peaks in Colorado. Here you can get away from it all, or take in history touring what remains of one of Colorado’s luxury resorts from the late 1800s. Twin Lakes is a popular camping area.
Insider Tip: Twin Lakes also makes our list of top 11 camping lakes in Colorado.
Lake Dillon is most commonly seen by vehicles passing through on I-70. Best known for its sailing, but here you can also fish, rent boats, take out a stand up paddle board or rent a kayak.
Blue Mesa Reservoir
Blue Mesa is in the Curecanti National Recreation Area, near Gunnison, Colorado. Here at the largest lake in Colorado, visitors can fish, boat, stand up paddle board and more.
Chatfield State Park
Located in the Denver area, Chatfield State Park offers water skiing, sailing, fishing and paddle boarding. There’s even a swimming beach and an off leash dog walking area.
John Martin Reservoir
Located in Southeastern Colorado, John Martin Reservoir offers waterskiing, as well as a wide variety of wind water sports. It is also a birdwatcher’s haven as a winter nesting spot for Bald Eagles.
Curecanti National Recreation Area
Located on the Gunnison River, Curecanti is operated by the National Park Service. It is actually a series of three reservoirs popular for fishing.
Just west of Ft. Collins, Horsetooth Reservoir offers fishing, boating, camping, picnicking, swimming and water skiing.
The Boulder Reservoir offers boating, swimming, sunbathing and enjoying a picnic. But this summer be sure to check before going as to what is available.
Red Feather Lakes
Located not to far from Ft. Collins, the Red Feather Lakes area is popular for camping and recreation.
Our Favorite Lakes in Colorado
If you’re into watersports, majestic mountain scenery, or camping, at least one of these lakes on our list we’ll guarantee will be right up your alley. If you’ve visited a Colorado lake or two, but it didn’t make it on our list, we’d love to hear what you thought about it and how your experience was.
Insider Tip: When summer comes to a close in Colorado, think about visiting some of the fun Texas lakes in Dallas.