Hike-in Required
ADA accessible
Guided tours
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Tucked away among the 14,000-foot collegiate peaks lies Cottonwood Lake, a gem among giants. Cottonwood Lake is situated at 9,550-feet and offers countless outdoor activities during all four seasons of the year.

Fisherman can cast their lines for northern pike or brook, rainbow and brown trout either from the shore by boat or kayak using the lake’s launch ramp. For off-roading, unpaved County Road 344 transports adventurers deeper into the woods where several forest roads lead to endless exploration. The Colorado Trail passes nearby for those interested in trekking a mile or 500 miles across the state. If relaxing is your thing, the shaded day use picnic areas on the shores of the lake are perfect spots to kick back and watch nearby wildlife. After a day of play, Cottonwood Lake Campground is conveniently located just west of the lake. Even further down the road are dispersed camping spots for self-contained campers.

In the winter, the nearby trails can be explored by snowmobile or cross-country skis. After the lake freezes over, it is popular ice fishing spot. Just watch out for flying pucks, because the lake is also used to for ice hockey.

With easy access from Buena Vista and year-round recreation, Cottonwood Lake remains a popular place to play in the heart of the mountains.

Join the effort to protect these places

Conservation Colorado has worked with communities around the state for over 50 years in pursuit of its mission - to protect Colorado’s environment and quality of life by mobilizing people and electing conservation-minded policymakers. It fights to protect the air, land, water, and people of Colorado. Their collaborative approach and focus on electing pro-conservation officials has yielded successes in addressing climate change, supporting clean energy development, conserving water resources, and protecting our public wildlands and rivers.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Not Required


Many options for recreation. Scenic.


Can get crowded during the summer.

Pets allowed



Big vistas


Nearby Adventures

Sawatch Range + Elk Mountains, Colorado
Sawatch Range + Elk Mountains, Colorado
Sawatch Range + Elk Mountains, Colorado

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Sawatch Range + Elk Mountains, Colorado
Sawatch Range + Elk Mountains, Colorado
Sawatch Range + Elk Mountains, Colorado


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