Whether you're looking to get lost in miles of wilderness, tear it up on some singletrack, shoot the chutes, huck the drops, or take in the views from any of over 50 14ers, Colorado feels like a land of limitless possibility. Surfers may be the only folks who have a hard time pursuing their passions in the Centennial State, but with the emergence of river surfing, even those options are in the mix. When it comes to high mountain lakes and reservoirs, the surfeit continues to impress. Paddleboarders, water skiers, shorebound icy-drink-sippers rejoice...this state has some amazing options for cooling off lakeside in the summer. There are, of course, too many to list here, but a modest beginning is something we can deliver. Here's a look at some of our favorites.
Bird enthusiasts flock to Steamboat Lake State Park, where over 200 species of migratory and resident birds call the park home. Boats and paddleboards are available for rent at the marina. Over 180 campsites between two campgrounds offer plenty of places to host visitors who enjoy trout fishing, stargazing, and strolling among wildflowers.
For those in the Northern Front Range looking to get on the water, look no further than the doorstep of the Rocky Mountains and Horsetooth Reservoir County Park. The 1,900-acre park features 81 miles of trails, campgrounds, cabins, boat ramps, fishing, a marina and more than 100 bouldering routes.
The Denver metropolitan area is home to nearly 3 million people, and with that kind of population density you'd think that finding a slice of nature would be difficult. Except that’s not the case. With the downtown skyline as a backdrop, Sloan’s Lake Park is a convenient place to get on the water without getting out of the city. Boating, fishing, paddling and hiking are popular lake activities, along with the most anticipated event of the year: the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival.
Located in the heart of Summit County, the 3,233-acre Dillon Reservoir not only serves as Denver’s water supply, it hosts recreational opportunities from sailing to fishing and paddling. Rentals are available at one of two marinas: Frisco and Dillon. There are also several campgrounds surrounding the lake, making it the ultimate base camp for adventure.
With a skyline dominated by Colorado’s tallest peak, Mount Elbert (14,433 feet), Twin Lakes boast an almost equally impressive size at 2,700 acres. Located between Leadville and Aspen, the lakes feature camping, boating, fishing, mountain biking, horseback riding, and, of course, the chance to make the trek to the summit of the tallest peak in Colorado, Mount Elbert.
If you’re seeking an alpine adventure where you can stay at one of many developed campgrounds and play on a boat or bike, then Turquoise Lake, at an elevation of 10,000 feet, should be on your list. With nine campgrounds to choose from along with fishing, nature viewing, picnicking and more, the lake’s amenities are as grand as the elevation where it sits.
Lying in the shadows of the Diamond face of Longs Peak, Chasm Lake Trail will take hikers to a gem of a lake within Rocky Mountain National Park. At 11,803-feet, hikers must tackle 2,398-feet of elevation gain over 11 miles to reach the lake, but the views are worth it.
For family-friendly options, check out Sprague Lake Loop and Lily Lake Loop, both of which are short lake trails within Rocky Mountain National Park. Each hike is less than a mile in length on a well maintained path, making them ideal for anyone. As a more challenging bonus, from Lily Lake, take Lily Ridge Trail for a steep climb to an impressive boulder field known as Jurassic Park.
There’s a reason the Maroon Bells are the most photographed mountains in the U.S. With the peaks reflecting off Maroon Lake, the picture postcard scene is always photogenic, which is why so many flock to this location with their cameras in hand. Taking the Maroon-Snowmass Trail 4.2 miles round trip will provide an escape from a majority of the masses and offer a glimpse of Crater Lake a couple miles into the wilderness.
One of the marquee hikes of the San Juans, the Blue Lakes Trail is challenging yet rewarding as hikers are treated to spectacular scenery along the 7.6-mile hike. Backcountry camping is allowed and during the summer months, when wildflowers dominate the landscape and make this hike a must-see.