During the heat of summer in Northern Colorado, there’s nothing quite as refreshing as heading to the nearest body of water — specifically, a lake! And there is no shortage of sparkling lakes in Northern Colorado, from secluded glacial lakes to lakes nestled alongside a bustling mountain town.
And the possibilities for recreation at these lakes is endless, whether you prefer boating, swimming, jet skiing, fishing, paddleboarding or simply lying out in the sun. See how many of these incredible lakes you can check off your bucket list this summer!
NOTE: Check the website for each lake to see the latest information about hours, rules and potential closures due to COVID-19.
Photo Courtesy of EPIC Paddleboards of Colorado
Maintained by Colorado Parks & Wildlife, Boyd Lake State Park is one of Loveland’s best outdoor recreation destinations—especially during the summer months when you can jet ski, try stand up paddleboarding, or splash in the water at the swim beach. The lake itself offers more than 1,700 acres of water with areas designated for open swimming and wake and no-wake boating. Both on and off the water, other activities include fishing, seasonal hunting, biking, hiking and camping. And you can even ice fish and camp during the winter! In short, it’s the perfect place to opt outside in Northern Colorado, and a daily vehicle pass is just $10. To get the details on what you can do in the park, where you can rent boats, and more, check out our guide to everything you can do in Boyd Lake State Park!
Boulder Reservoir is certainly worth the drive to Boulder — for its massive size and endless options for recreation alongside and within the waters. In fact, the swim beach at the reservoir is one of the largest swimming beaches in all of Colorado with a seasonal lifeguard presence, and even includes a shallow roped-off area perfect for small children to splash around in. Head to the middle of the lake via boat if you have a boat permit — or borrow one from Rocky Mountain Paddleboard, which has paddleboards, kayaks, canoes and more available for rent.
COVID NOTE: At this time, Boulder Reservoir is open to all 2020 watercraft permit holders, those with existing reservations at Rocky Mountain Paddleboard, and a limited number of passive shore recreational users per day. No swimming/tubing or rafting in the reservoir is allowed; and gathering places in the managed recreation areas of the south shore, including the beach, lawns and picnic areas are limited to groups of 10 and fewer. Click here for more details.
Reaching an elevation of 5,760 feet, Carter Lake is nestled in the foothills between Loveland and Berthoud. This beautiful 1,100-acre reservoir is surrounded by 1,000 acres of public lands managed by Larimer County. Visitors love this lake for fishing, sailing, water skiing, camping, picnicking, swimming, rock climbing, and even scuba diving! Keep in mind that you’ll need to purchase an entrance permit upon arrival, costing $9 per vehicle or $18 per vehicle and boat with a trailer.
Grand Lake, Colorado
Nestled along the quaint, historic town with the same name, Grand Lake is a large natural lake known for its incredible views and water sports. It is actually the largest and deepest natural lake in the entire state! Visitors head to Grand Lake in the summer for kayaking, boating, fishing, swimming and much more. And all year long, there is no shortage of things to do around the lake, including hiking, snowmobiling, picnicking and simply taking in the views of mountains reflected on the glassy water. In fact, head to Point Park for the best view of Mount Craig, also known as Mount Baldy, a distinctive 12,007-foot peak. Grand Lake is not far from Rocky Mountain National Park, which provides even more opportunities for outdoor recreation and awe-inspiring views.
Fort Collins, Colorado
Horsetooth Reservoir is a popular body of water in the Fort Collins area, known for its proximity to the city and secluded natural setting. Surrounded by 1,900 acres of public land, the 6.5 miles of water are teeming with activity, where you can go fishing, boating, camping, picnicking, swimming, scuba diving and water skiing. Not to mention, Horsetooth Reservoir is an excellent place to go hiking and camping! A daily entrance permit is required at Horsetooth as well, costing $9 per vehicle or $18 per vehicle with a boat trailer. Fun Fact: There is actually an underwater city beneath the reservoir! Learn all about it here.
Estes Park, Colorado
Lake Estes encompasses 185 surface acres to the east of downtown Estes Park. Stop by the Lake Estes Marina situated along Lake Estes for everything you’ll need to enjoy this lake to the fullest. Here, you can rent boats, including paddle boats, single and double kayaks, canoes, fishing boats and several pontoon boats. Or you can opt to enjoy the lake from the land with a leisurely bike ride upon one of their rented bicycles. You may even enjoy a picnic in the open-air pavilion or let the kids splash around in the marina’s wading area! Lake Estes is ringed by a 3.75-mile trail named Lake Estes Trail, perfect for taking in views of the water and the Continental Divide.
Lake Loveland is the center of activity in the summer for both Loveland residents and visitors. The lake itself is reserved for the use of surrounding homeowners, but the south shore allows guests to fish and enjoy a beautiful Rocky Mountain view. North Lake Park is a common gathering space, with a swim beach, a park with a train, playgrounds, tennis courts, basketball courts, picnic area, an amphitheater and more! The park offers free guarded lake swimming from Memorial Day through Labor Day (weather and water levels permitting), and swimming is not allowed when guards are not on duty.
Tucked away in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area west of Boulder, Trappers Lake is a secluded natural lake often cited as the third largest in the state. Reach the lake by way of Flat Tops Trail, a national scenic byway connecting Yampa and Meeker. Reaching an elevation of 9,600 feet and extending over 302 surface areas, the lake is secluded and peaceful. The surrounding land is scarred by wildfire, but the scenery is breathtaking nevertheless and new trees are beginning to populate the area. Known as the “Cradle of Wilderness,” Trappers Lake is a popular destination for camping, fly fishing, horseback riding, and kayaking. Motorized boats and wheeled carts for boat transport are prohibited at Trappers Lake.
Windsor Lake is a small reservoir in the irrigation system of Weld County just north of Windsor. Take in the beauty of the lake from the 2.25-mile Windsor Lake Trail surrounding its perimeter, or from within a boat floating across its peaceful waters. You can even go swimming at the lake’s swim beach or take your dog to the dog park located on the north side of the lake. Windsor Lake will provide a picturesque backdrop for any activity!
COVID NOTE: As of June 8, Windsor Lake reopened the beach and boat rentals to the public, with consideration to safety restrictions imposed by the state, including reduced facility capacities, limited gatherings, enforced social distancing guidelines and enhanced cleaning and sanitizing efforts. See more details here.
What Northern Colorado lake is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!