Looking to visit some of the most beautiful lakes in Colorado? These bodies of water are so stunning that you won’t want to leave!
Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, this spectacular state boasts a wealth of natural treasures that will leave you spellbound. Today, we set our sights on the mesmerizing allure of Colorado’s most enchanting lakes.
Whether you’re an intrepid hiker seeking new challenges, a serene soul in search of tranquility, or simply someone who yearns to witness nature’s unparalleled beauty, Colorado’s lakes offer an escape like no other. From the serene, mirror-like surfaces reflecting towering peaks to the crystal-clear waters shimmering under the sun, these lakes are a testament to the artistic craftsmanship of Mother Nature.
Colorado has thousands of reservoirs and lakes to select from, making it tough to choose just a few favorites. It has over 4,000 natural and artificial water bodies to enjoy jet skiing, sailing, or simply a swim. And every lake has something unique to offer.
Whether you prefer trekking in the mountains or shopping in a nearby city, a Colorado lake is probably nearby. Several of them also provide a wide range of water sports as well ashiking opportunities, sunbathing, picnicking, camping, and sometimes even cottages.
However, these lakes aren’t only good for the summer! Several Colorado lakes provide ice fishing and skating in the winter.
The Best Lakes in Colorado
Here are the most gorgeous lakes in Colorado right now!
Shadow Mountain Lake is a stunning sight of two high alpine lakes connected by the Colorado River. There are plenty of fish at Shadow Mountain Lake like brown trout and rainboat trout, making this a great spot for fishing.
This alpine lake is a Colorado River extension of Grand Lake. With the Rocky Mountains as a background, its dazzling blue waters offer a year-round haven of fun activities.
With two boat launches on its south side, you can reach the lake with whatever boat ramp you choose. You can also have a picnic with your family at the Pine Beach Picnic Site on the lake’s southern coast.
On this coast lies Green Ridge Campground, where you can pitch your tent and watch the stars at night.
Summertime activities include boating, jet skiing, water skiing, sailing, and kayaking. Grand Lake and Granby, both close, have lots of hotel alternatives.
18. Dream Lake
This lake in Rocky Mountain National Park seems like a dream. The clean water body reflects the snow-capped highlands and pine trees – it’s one of the more popular hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park for a reason. Bring your cameras as there are many breathtaking natural sights to see.
Begin your journey early in the morning from the Bear Lake trailhead to Dream Lake. The stunning views of the neighboring cliffs, pine trees, aspen trees, and the gorgeous Bear and Nymph lakes will captivate you.
Sunrise on Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park paints it pink and purple, creating a dreamlike atmosphere. As a result, it is one of the park’s most popular hikes and a family-friendly trek.
The 2.2 miles out and the back trek begins at the Bear Lake trailhead. You’ll cross the lovely Nymph Lake on your route to Dream.
We personally love visiting Dream Lake in the warmer months because the hike is easier. However, Dream Lake is also a winter paradise when the mountains are snow-covered. The lake is high in the hills and is frozen or chilly almost all year. It is lovely and a must-see.
Another great spot in Rocky Mountain National Park is Sky Pond, a beautiful body of water. Check out more about this hike here.
17. Steamboat Lake
Steamboat Lake is located in northwest Colorado, north of Steamboat Springs. Near Hahn’s Peak, this lovely lake is open all year. Even in the winter, it rents out cottages and log cabins.
The surrounding hills and lush valleys contribute to its visual beauty. In the spring, look for sandhill cranes and bald eagles. The frozen lake welcomes ice fishing, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing in the winter.
Ice fishing is standard on the frozen lake in the winter. Whereas, during the summer, you can go jet skiing, boating, fishing, canoeing, or paddleboarding. There are also horse riding and mountain biking routes surrounding the lake.
Boulder’s artificial reservoir gives stunning views of the Flatirons, the area’s distinctive rock formations. You can sunbathe on the Colorado sandy beach while gazing at the majestic mountains. It’s a great place to go boating, swimming, fishing, and more.
Swimming is safe here since there are several lifeguards on duty. Children under 12 must pass a swim test before entering the lake. Also, Community Sailing of Colorado at Boulder Reservoir trains youth and adults interested in sailing. Here you can also borrow a sailboat.
Rocky Mountain Paddleboard also rents pontoon boats for fishing and relaxing on the lake. You can catch bass, crappie, catfish, rainbow trout, or walleye from the fishing pier or hike the Boulder Reservoir Loop Trail.
You must have your Colorado license to fish, and fortunately, you can order it online ahead of time.
Summer is off-limits to dogs. They are permitted here in the winter when the snowy mountains and frozen lake are particularly spectacular.
15. Lake Granby
Lake Granby, with a surface size of 7,256 acres, is the state’s third-largest lake. As a result, it is a popular tourist destination Lake Granby, located five miles outside of Granby, is on the Colorado River and Grand Lake.
During the summer, the Lake Granby Yacht Club offers three boat launches. The lake is surrounded by the Arapahoe National Forest and the Indian Peaks Wilderness, making it a popular spot for hiking, camping, and snowmobiling.
You will surely enjoy the lake region if you are a summer hiker or a winter outdoor enthusiast if you are a summer hiker or a winter outdoor enthusiast.
Horsetooth Reservoir is located in north-central Colorado, only minutes from Fort Collins. There is a distinctive rock feature that gives the reservoir its name. Wear your swimsuits to dive into the seas from its western coast. Local marinas lease boats for you to ride and explore the beautiful natural surroundings. You can also enjoy stand-up paddleboarding and waterskiing.
Lory State Park has a small visitor center on the northern side to learn about the local fauna. Bouldering is available at Rotary Park on the lake’s east shore. If you want to linger overnight, go camping or rent a room nearby.
Furthermore, there is a designated Swim Beach during the summer season. You can fish from boats or the shoreline, and there are hiking and cycling paths surrounding the lake.
13. Lake San Cristobal
In Lake City, Colorado, Lake San Cristobal reflects the mountains and hues of the sky, particularly in the early morning or late evening.
The lake is stocked with trout, and you can fish from some of the public access locations around the coastline. You can purchase a fishing license at the lake or in Lake City. Or you can go out on a boat and fish from the coastline.
You can also lease fishing boats, canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards in Lake City.
12. Two Rivers Lake
Two Rivers lake is located near the headwaters of Mill Creek, close below the Continental Divide. It’s a subalpine lake encircled by mountains considerably higher than it. The lake reflects the 12, 129-foot Notchtop Mountain on a bright day – absolutely gorgeous!
But all this beauty comes at a human cost – no driving allowed. Instead, use the Fern Lake or Bear Lake paths to go in and out. The 5.6-mile round journey to Bear Lake is the easiest option. However, the hike to the lake is still quite challenging, reaching 1,150 feet in height.
11. Monarch Lake
To get there, hikers of all kinds must travel the 4 mile Monarch Lake Loop Trail. The trek is ideal for families and passes through lovely meadows and forests. The route is home to several animal species, including squirrels, moose, chipmunks, and deer.
With no motorboats to annoy you, you can enjoy a serene afternoon kayaking, fishing, or simply relaxing. Wildflowers bring color to the natural surroundings, making a hike enjoyable. You can come with your pets, but keep them on leash. Camping is available nearby at Arapaho Bay Campground.
Once at the lake, there is decent trout fishing. But you’ll need a Colorado fishing license.
10. Chasm Lake
Chasm Lake, at 11,803 feet, is reached through a 4.2-mile climb from the Longs Peak Trailhead. The journey ascends over 2,300 feet, through upper and lower Columbine Falls and over open tundra to the stunning alpine lake at the bases of Longs Peak, Mt. Meeker, and Mt. Lady Washington.
Wear your hiking shoes since it is a 4.2-mile journey to get there. The stunning scenery of pine and fire woodlands, Columbine Falls, Longs Peak, and Peacock Pond will help you forget the road’s difficulty.
Moreover, the stunning alpine lake will undoubtedly capture your heart. If you want to do additional hiking and exploration the following day, you can sleep at Battle Mountain, a couple of kilometers away.
This enormous reservoir in Summit County, Colorado, is owned and administered by Denver’s water company. It has 26.8 miles of shoreline between Keystone and Breckenridge ski resorts.
The reservoir is always open. Two marinas provide motorized and non-powered boat rentals for fishing during the summer. In the winter, ice fishing and skiing all around the lake are available.
In both Frisco and Dillon, there are several accommodations and dining choices for all budgets and families.
Lake Isabelle is an 8.6-mile out-and-back walk from the quirky alpine hamlet of Nederland. The hike gains 987 feet in height and is best done between June and October, whenever the snow has mainly gone. It’s gorgeous in October when the leaves change colors.
The lake offers activities like nature gazing, wildlife watching, and hiking.
From the Long Lake Trailhead on Brainard Lake Road, it is roughly 5.5 miles to Lake Isabelle. On your way to Isabelle Glacier, continue along the Pawnee Pass Trail. In winter, the route is snow-covered, making it a moderate trek. Remember to bring your snowshoes. Navajo, Apache, and Shoshoni Peaks are seen from the road. Moose on the route is frequent here.
When you approach the lake, you must take a moment to absorb its beauty. You can also bring your pets on leash.
To enjoy a peaceful trek and avoid parking difficulties, go early in the morning. The Brainard Lake Recreation Area has a parking lot that costs about $12 per day.
This reservoir is located in north-central Colorado, near the Gore Mountain and Williams Peak mountains. Its name comes from the mighty Green Mountain on its northeastern side. On its northwest side, the community of Heeney has private dwellings.
The Heeney Marina welcomes both motor and non-motorized boats. Surrounding the lake are primitive campsites, which allow for near closeness.
On the Blue River in Summit County, Green Mountain Reservoir is a great site to organize a summer camping vacation with friends or family. The weekend can become jam-packed from June to August as city dwellers flock to the high alpine campsites and lodges or utilize the RV hookups.
You can observe elk, bald eagles, deer, and ospreys while you’re here. There is a swimming beach, fishing, boating, and climbing nearby mountains for leisure.
6. Crater Lake
Crater Lake is one of Colorado’s most magnificent natural scenes, framed by the purple-hued Maroon Bell peaks and reflected in its crystalline surface. Crater Lake is a 3.8-mile round-trip trek from Aspen.
The moderately challenging trek is best done in the summer or early autumn since November will snow-covered path. In early October, the view is even more stunning once the aspen trees encircling Crater Lake turn golden due to the lack of rain and snow. Ready your camera to photograph the lake at this time.
Hiking is required to access this picturesque natural lake. The Maroon Bells frame these beautiful waters. Also, you can anticipate muskrats and squirrels in the neighborhood. Additionally, you can see several seasonal waterfalls along the way.
Picnicking here while admiring the colorful sails on the calm seas is excellent! Camping beside the lake is an option for those seeking to spend more time in nature.
5. Grand Lake
Grand Lake, Colorado’s most prominent natural lake, is located at 8,369 feet in the Rocky Mountains. The surrounding mountain view is stunning.
Grand Lake, Colorado’s most stunning natural lake, is also its most significant and deepest. The surrounding mountains and pine trees add to its attractiveness. Boaters can lease a boat at Grand Lake Marina and enjoy the beautiful waters.
Annual Regatta Week is a fun-filled event conducted in mid-August. Besides that, the swimming beach encourages tourists to cool themselves in its icy waters. Along the lake’s edge, Point Park includes a picnic area where you can eat and watch the water.
The western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park is about a mile away from Grand Lake. You can walk down the old wooden boardwalk to town to shop or eat.
Grand Lake has something for everyone, including a historic boardwalk from the late 1800s. If you want to explore the lake by boat, go to the Grand Lake Marina.
Water activities like waterskiing and wakeboarding are also available.
Even in the summer, people risk the cold water to swim, and there is a swimming area with picnic tables. Grand Lake has excellent fishing too.
With 96 miles of waterfront, you can have a whale of a time. Boaters can easily reach the lake from Elk Creek and Fork Marina. Also close is Pappy’s Restaurant, where you can eat delicious food while seeing the lake.
There are no beaches along its rocky coastline, but you can swim at the Bay of Chickens, Dry Creek, and Old Highway 50 Beach. Also, Blue Mesa, with its 20 miles of beach, is a summertime delight. Two full-service marinas lease out kayaks, powerboats, and stand-up paddleboards.
Guided fishing expeditions are provided for the gold medal and wild trout in these waterways, but you can also fish along with a valid state fishing license.
3. Piney Lake
At Piney River Ranch, Piney Lake is one of Colorado’s most beautiful and unique spots located near Vail. A ten-mile winding dirt road leads to the lake and property from Vail. A clean lake reflects the Colorado Rockies’ Gore Range. Relaxing in nature and hiking are ways to appreciate the area’s splendor.
You can nearly be alone as the sun sets or rises in one of Colorado’s most gorgeous locales. The travel is undoubtedly worth it, as the weekend traffic proves.
Piney Lake is also a great place to stay the night and enjoy the earlier mornings.
2. Manitou Lake
Unlike the other Reservoirs on this list, Manitou Lake is not swimmable, and dogs must be leashed. However, the lake offers kayaking, fishing, ad canoeing.
You may lease the Pavilion for $50 per day or one of the numerous picnic sites.
As a nature enthusiast, you will definitely enjoy the wildlife and birdwatching.
The Manitou Lake and Recreation Area charges $7 per car each day.
Lake Pueblo Reservoir is another gorgeous Colorado lake. The summer weather and water temperature are ideal, making it one of the best fishing sites in the state! It is situated in Lake Pueblo State Park about west of Pueblo.
Waterskiing and tubing are popular watersports in the area.
Lake Pueblo has almost 4,600 acres of water, 60 miles of coastline, and over 10,000 acres of land and open space.
It is open year-round, 24 hours a day. You must buy day tickets for $10 per car to access the lake and campsites. While the camping and facility fees start at $22 per night, with yearly tickets available for $80.
Two full-service marinas and several campsites are available.
Other Worthy Lakes to Mention
Chambers Lake: This reservoir in Larimer County is part of Roosevelt National Forest. The lake offers several leisure activities such as boating, fishing, camping, hiking, etc. Chambers Lake Campground, on its banks, has several amenities and a magnificent view.
Lake Agnes: This alpine lake in Colorado State Forest State Park is about a mile away. It’s a beautiful route with wildflowers, mountain peaks, and moose. The lake perspective is more enticing with the pine and aspen trees and Nokhu Crags around it.
You can enjoy a quiet day of trout fishing here.
Lake Sylvan: The White River National Forest’s tranquil alpine lake offers stunning views of aspen trees, pines, and mountains. Recreational activities include boating, fishing, camping, hiking, and picnicking. Wildlife sightings include elk, bear, mule deer, and pine marten.
What is the best time of year to visit lakes in Colorado?
The best time of year to visit lakes in Colorado largely depends on your preferences and the activities you wish to indulge in. Each season offers its own unique charm and experiences. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect during each season:
Summer (June to August): Summer is the most popular time to visit Colorado’s lakes. The weather is generally warm and pleasant, making it perfect for water activities such as boating, kayaking, paddleboarding, and swimming. The mountainous landscapes surrounding the lakes come alive with vibrant wildflowers and lush greenery, offering excellent hiking opportunities. However, keep in mind that this is the peak tourist season, so popular lake destinations can get crowded.
Fall (September to October): Fall is a magical time to visit the lakes in Colorado. The foliage transforms into a breathtaking tapestry of golden hues as the aspen trees turn. The crowds start to thin out, providing a more peaceful and serene experience. Fall also offers fantastic photography opportunities, capturing the lakes amidst the stunning autumn colors.
Winter (December to February): If you’re a fan of winter sports and dream of a winter wonderland, visiting the lakes in Colorado during winter is your ideal choice. Many lakes freeze over, offering opportunities for ice fishing, ice skating, and even ice climbing in certain areas. Surrounding mountain resorts offer skiing, snowboarding, and other winter activities.
Spring (March to May): Spring brings a burst of life and renewal to Colorado’s lakes. As the snow starts to melt, the lakes begin to fill up, creating a wonderful spectacle of cascading waterfalls and gushing streams. Spring is ideal for hiking and witnessing the region’s wildlife awakening from hibernation. However, be aware that the weather can be unpredictable during this time, and some areas may still have snow on the trails.
What are the best Colorado lakes for swimming?
Colorado is home to some stunning lakes that offer fantastic opportunities for swimming. While many lakes are suitable for swimming, a few stand out for their clear waters, scenic surroundings, and amenities. Here are some of the best Colorado lakes for swimming:
Grand Lake: Located near the western entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Lake is Colorado’s largest natural lake. The water here is clean and inviting, perfect for swimming on hot summer days. Visitors can enjoy picnicking on the sandy shores, and the charming town of Grand Lake offers a variety of dining and recreational options.
Blue Mesa Reservoir: As Colorado’s largest body of water, Blue Mesa Reservoir, situated near Gunnison, is a great spot for swimming. The reservoir’s vast expanse allows for plenty of space to swim and enjoy the water. Besides swimming, visitors can engage in water sports like boating, jet skiing, and fishing.
Hanging Lake: While swimming is not allowed at Hanging Lake, it is worth mentioning this unique and picturesque natural wonder located in Glenwood Canyon. Its turquoise waters and hanging gardens of moss make it a must-visit destination for hikers and nature lovers.
Sylvan Lake State Park: Nestled in the White River National Forest near Eagle, Sylvan Lake offers a serene setting for swimming. Surrounded by lush forests and towering mountains, the lake’s clear waters are perfect for a refreshing dip. The state park also provides camping facilities for those who wish to extend their stay.
Horsetooth Reservoir: Just west of Fort Collins, Horsetooth Reservoir is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. With its sandy beaches and inviting waters, it’s an excellent place for swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking. The reservoir also offers opportunities for boating, fishing, and hiking.
Lake Dillon: Located in Summit County, Lake Dillon offers beautiful vistas of the surrounding mountains. While swimming is allowed, the water can be quite chilly due to its high elevation. Nonetheless, it’s a pleasant spot to enjoy the outdoors, with opportunities for sailing, kayaking, and fishing.
Chatfield Reservoir: Situated south of Denver, Chatfield Reservoir is a favorite spot for water enthusiasts. The lake’s sandy beaches and clear waters make it perfect for swimming and various water sports. The state park surrounding the reservoir also offers camping and hiking options.
What are some of the best Colorado lakes for fishing?
Colorado is a haven for anglers, offering a wide range of lakes and reservoirs teeming with various fish species. Here are some of the best Colorado lakes for fishing:
Blue Mesa Reservoir: As the state’s largest body of water, Blue Mesa Reservoir is renowned for its excellent fishing opportunities. Anglers can find various species, including trout, kokanee salmon, and trophy-sized lake trout (mackinaw). The reservoir’s sheer size allows for plenty of spots to cast a line.
Spinney Mountain Reservoir: Known for its superb trout fishing, Spinney Mountain Reservoir attracts anglers seeking rainbow trout, brown trout, and cutthroat trout. The reservoir is catch-and-release only for trout, ensuring a sustainable fishery.
Lake Pueblo: Located near Pueblo, this reservoir offers diverse fishing opportunities, including bass, walleye, catfish, and various trout species. The warm waters make it a popular spot for boating and fishing year-round.
Eleven Mile Reservoir: This scenic reservoir offers fantastic fishing for rainbow trout, brown trout, kokanee salmon, and pike. It’s a popular destination for both boat and shore anglers, and the surrounding mountain views add to the allure.
Grand Lake: Known for its beautiful scenery, Grand Lake is also a prime location for fishing. The lake is home to various trout species, including rainbow trout, brown trout, and lake trout. It’s a great spot for fishing from the shore or a boat.
Taylor Park Reservoir: Nestled in the Rockies, Taylor Park Reservoir is a favorite among anglers seeking trophy-sized lake trout. It’s also home to rainbow trout and brown trout. The stunning mountain vistas make the fishing experience even more memorable.
Chatfield Reservoir: Besides being a popular spot for water sports, Chatfield Reservoir offers excellent fishing opportunities. Anglers can catch largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, and various panfish.
What are the best lakes in Colorado near each major city?
Here is a list of some of the best lakes in Colorado near each major city:
Denver: Cherry Creek Reservoir – Located southeast of Denver, it offers fishing, boating, and a sandy beach for swimming and picnicking.
Colorado Springs: Rampart Reservoir – Situated in the Pike National Forest, it’s a serene spot for fishing, kayaking, and hiking.
Aurora: Aurora Reservoir – A popular location for fishing, sailing, and paddleboarding, with beautiful views of the Front Range.
Fort Collins: Horsetooth Reservoir – Known for fishing and boating, surrounded by picturesque hills and offering camping facilities.
Boulder: Boulder Reservoir – Ideal for fishing, swimming, and various water sports with a scenic backdrop.
Greeley: Boyd Lake – Close to Greeley, it’s a great place for fishing, boating, and water recreation.
Pueblo: Lake Pueblo – A large reservoir with excellent fishing for bass, catfish, walleye, and trout, along with water sports options.
Grand Junction: Highline Lake – Near Grand Junction, it offers fishing, kayaking, and bird-watching in a peaceful setting.
Durango: Vallecito Reservoir – A lovely lake surrounded by mountains, perfect for fishing and water-based activities.
Aspen: Ruedi Reservoir – Located near Aspen, it’s an angler’s paradise with opportunities for boating and camping.
Do any of these Colorado lakes have waterfalls?
Yes, some lakes in Colorado are associated with waterfalls, creating stunning and picturesque landscapes. One notable example is Hanging Lake, located in Glenwood Canyon, near Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Hanging Lake is renowned for its crystal-clear turquoise waters and a stunning waterfall that cascades into the lake from above.
Hanging Lake is a unique geological wonder formed by the dissolution of the limestone rocks, which led to the creation of the travertine shelves and the delicate ecosystem surrounding the lake. The waterfall that feeds into Hanging Lake originates from Spouting Rock, where water gushes out of the rock face, creating a magnificent display of natural beauty.
It’s important to note that Hanging Lake is a fragile and protected ecosystem. Due to its popularity and the need for preservation, visitors are required to obtain a permit and follow specific guidelines to help maintain the delicate balance of this extraordinary site.
While Hanging Lake is the most well-known lake with a waterfall in Colorado, there are a few other lakes in the state that also feature waterfalls or cascades. These lakes offer enchanting vistas and the soothing sounds of falling water, creating memorable experiences for visitors. Here are a couple of examples:
Adams Falls at Grand Lake: Grand Lake, Colorado’s largest natural lake, is located near the western entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. A short hike from the East Inlet Trailhead will lead you to Adams Falls, a beautiful waterfall that cascades over the rocks into a pool below. The trail offers picturesque views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
Cornet Falls at Cornet Creek Falls, Telluride: While not directly a lake, Cornet Creek Falls near Telluride is still worth mentioning. It’s a serene spot with a cascading waterfall, and the nearby Cornet Creek flows through a picturesque valley.
Box Canyon Falls at Ouray: Ouray is known as the “Switzerland of America” due to its stunning mountain scenery. Box Canyon Falls Park features a breathtaking 285-foot waterfall that drops into a narrow box canyon. While there’s no lake associated with the falls, the experience is well worth the visit.