Summer is never long enough. Before we know it, the leaves will be exploding in yellows and oranges, and our warm-weather adventuring will transition into skiing and snowshoeing. Instead of complaining about the heat, take advantage of this time to journey to a few of Colorado’s best swimming holes. Many of them are only accessible during summer, and boast picturesque scenery, chilling refreshing water, and countless opportunities for fun.
Sure, community pools are great (and Fort Collins has its fair share), but we Coloradans are drawn off the beaten path. Natural hot springs and little known swimming holes are more fun — and better for stories. Whether you’re looking to dip a toe, plummet feet first from a cliff, or relax in shallow waters, there’s sure to be something on this list that strikes your fancy. Take the plunge, and enjoy your summer!
Before you Go:
If you’re adventuring to an outdoor oasis, there are dangers you should be aware of! Check the water levels and current before you swim, and certainly before you jump. If there’s any doubt about the condition of the water, play it safe.
Driving Distance from Fort Collins: In Town
Photo courtesy of Paul Wozniak via Tri 102.5
We’re lucky to have one of the best outdoor swimming spots in the state right at our doorstep! Between Shields Street and College Avenue, you’ll find several spectacular swimming holes on the La Poudre River. The water is frigid and the currents can catch you off guard if you’re not expecting it, but it offers a welcoming break from hot summer temperatures. Our favorite spots are Picnic Rock, which has a small beach and a rock to jump from, or Legacy Park, which can be accessed by the Poudre River bike trail and offers a rope swing and calmer currents.
Driving Distance from Fort Collins: Just outside of town | 8 miles | 18 minutes
The Poudre River feeds into nearby Horsetooth Reservoir, an expansive body of water, and a little slice of heaven for Fort Collins residents. The 6.5-mile-long reservoir is a great spot for boating, fishing, water skiing, sailing, stand up paddle boarding and (of course) swimming. You can hike around the surrounding trails before cooling off in the water, and if you’re looking to extend your stay, camp on the shores.
Driving Distance from Fort Collins: In Boulder | 60 miles | 1 hour and 10 minutes
If you’re looking for a more easily accessible, urban experience, splashing around in Boulder Creek might be your best bet. The creek runs through the city center and is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike to wade, sit, relax, play and soak in the sunshine. You can also bring or rent a tube for a natural, lazy river experience.
Driving Distance from Fort Collins: Near Florissant | 176 miles | 3 hours
Paradise Cove is a charming little swimming hole near Cripple Creek. It’s the perfect spot to spend a summer afternoon, offering cliff jumping (three different heights), as well as a good area to swim, hang-out and enjoy the scenery. Here you’ll find gorgeous granite walls and a variety of colorful wildflowers. The trek in is an easy ½ mile walk over some rocks, and shouldn’t take more than ten minutes or so — just make sure to bring hardy sandals or tennis shoes, and leave those flip flops at home.
Driving Distance from Fort Collins: Near Carbondale | 220 miles | 3 hours and 45 minutes
Photo courtesy of Uncover Colorado
The six pools that make up Penny Hot Springs are relaxing, beautiful and easy to get to — which of course means they can get pretty crowded. To get there, drive 15 minutes or so north of Carbondale to mile marker 55 along Highway 122. You’ll find an unpaved turnoff, where you can park and make your way down to the river. The pools sit alongside the rivers, sheltered from the colder river water by large rocks. The largest is just 20 feet in diameter and two feet deep, but you’ll enjoy relaxing in the hot waters and taking in the incredible scenery.
Driving Distance from Fort Collins: Near Aspen | 209.8 miles | 3 hours and 48 minutes
Devil’s Punch Bowl is another prized cliff-jumping spot in Colorado, offering an 18-foot and 30-foot jump into refreshing, crystal-clear water. There’s also plenty of room for non-jumpers to splash around near the waterfalls, and the sculpted rocks and bright blue water make for some fantastic photos! To get there, drive from Aspen towards Independence Pass, stop at the Grottos trailhead, and hike to the Ice Caves. Once you find it, the splash is well worth the journey!
Driving Distance from Fort Collins: Near Steamboat Springs | 180 miles | 4 hours
This fun but tricky-to-find hike is a favorite for Steamboat Springs locals, and offers a rewarding splash for your troubles! You’ll hike along the middle fork of the Little Snake River, maneuvering down ropes and balancing across river crossings, until you reach your destination. You can stop at the first waterfall, which offers shallower cliff jumping and a refreshing basin to soothe your tired muscles — then dry in the sun on the nearby rocks. However, adventurers will enjoy hiking further to find the second waterfall, which offers a scarier jump (around 60 feet or so), sculpted rocks, and turquoise waters. Here are some helpful tips for navigating your way to this summer hot spot. If you remember anything, just remember to leave the sandals at home.
Driving Distance from Fort Collins: Near Moffat | 235 miles | 4 hours and 5 minutes
This natural sanctuary in Saguache County is a wonderful spot for a weekend adventure. Visitors can hike around the area and choose a camping spot, or else stay in the cozy lodge of their choice. And of course, you won’t want to miss out on a soak in the gorgeous natural hot springs — small pools surrounded by rocks with warm waters bubbling directly from the gravel below. While the ponds are a short and steep trek away, you’ll be rewarded with a serene environment, spectacular views, and the company of birds and wildlife. Reservations are recommended for both day and overnight access.
Driving Distance to Trailhead: Near Aspen | 258 miles | 4 hours and 23 minutes
Photo courtesy of Jake Wheeler via Roots Rated
This gorgeous grouping of pools near Conundrum Peak overlooks some of the most spectacular views in Colorado. Of course, this means you’ll have to work a bit harder to get there. Park at the trailhead just 15 minutes from the heart of Aspen and get your booty in gear. You’ll hike a little over eight miles until you reach your destination, where you’ll find a smattering of primitive camping sites surrounding the breathtaking hot springs. Get there early if possible to ensure a good spot, and then let your muscles relax in the pools. Just a heads up — these ones are clothing optional.
Driving Distance from Fort Collins: Near Grand Junction | 332 miles | 5 hours and 41 minutes
Just south of Grand Junction, you’ll find Big Dominguez Canyon. While the site is known for hiking, primitive camping and petroglyph hunting, there is also an impressive grouping of waterfalls and swimming holes. You can hike along the canyon, working up a sweat before cooling off in the pool of your choice.
Driving Distance from Fort Collins: Near Silverton | 396 miles | 7 hours
Fed from waterfalls near the Chicago Basin in the San Juans, Needle Creek is a semi-secret haven for locals. The water is clear and chilly (like most Colorado watering holes), and shaded by the surrounding pines. Nonetheless, it’s a fantastic spot to cool off after tackling one of the nearby fourteeners — namely, Windom, Sunlight, Eolus and North Eolus. This swimming spot can be found off of Needle Creek Trail in Chicago Basin, and is not to be confused with the Needle Creek Reservoir.
Driving Distance from Fort Collins: Near Durango | 396 miles | 7 hours and 32 minutes
The name says it all — Adrenaline Falls is a coveted spot for daredevil cliff jumpers. Located near Durango at the bottom of Molas Pass, the falls draws adventurers from all over the state to hunt for the gorgeous waterfall and swimming hole. If you’re not in the mood to jump, simply relax in the turquoise waters and enjoy the scenery.
Can’t get enough of the water? Here are some lakes near Fort Collins you should visit pronto.
There are countless opportunities for summer splashing in Colorado. What are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments!