Aerial view of colorful sky over the Sloan's Lake, one of the best lakes near Denver

15 Lakes Near Denver for 2023 (By a Local)

I’m a Colorado local living in the Denver area and in this post I’ve rounded up the best lakes near Denver.

Getting out on a lake is a fun thing to do around Denver, and these convenient destinations are easy to get to. They offer plenty to do, along with places to stay for a nearby getaway. Discover popular picks and my personal favorite lakes in this comprehensive guide.

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15 Best Lakes Near Denver

Chatfield Reservoir

Swim, boat, and fish at the biggest Denver-area lake

The Chatfield Reservoir under the clear blue sky in Colorado

📍 Google Maps | Chatfield State Park Website | 🅿️ Parking: $10 daily vehicle pass, can be crowded summer weekends & holidays | 🛎️ Where to Stay Nearby: Fairfield by Marriott Inn & Suites Denver Southwest

Chatfield State Park is 30 minutes southwest of Denver, set in the suburb of Littleton. Here, you can waterski, paddleboard, or take a larger boat out on the reservoir, the main draw of the park. You can also eat at the marina’s floating restaurant, experience some of the best camping near Denver, and explore more things to do in Littleton.

Cherry Creek Reservoir

Escape the city at this nearby lake

View of a boat at the middle of Cherry Creek Reservoir
(photo: Jim Lambert / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Cherry Creek State Park Website | 🅿️ Parking: $11 daily vehicle pass, can be crowded summer weekends & holidays | 🛎️ Where to Stay Nearby: DoubleTree by Hilton Denver Tech

The reservoir at Cherry Creek State Park is even closer to Denver, offering a great escape from the city. The swim beach is a popular place to hang out in the summer. You can also camp, boat, fish, or go horseback riding, making this one of the best state parks in Colorado

Bear Creek Lake

Go paddle boarding and swimming just a short distance from Red Rocks

Scenic view from the Bear Creek Lake

📍 Google Maps | Bear Creek Lake Park Website | 🅿️ Parking: $10 daily vehicle pass, can be crowded summer weekends & holidays | 🛎️ Where to Stay Nearby: Origin Red Rocks

This park actually has three lakes — Little Soda, Big Soda, and Bear Creek. Little Soda Lake is only used by a privately-owned waterski company. Big Soda Lake has a swim beach and allows non-motorized watercraft. Bear Creek Lake allows motorized boating in summer and is also used for fishing.

👉 Pro Tip: Many people make the mistake of thinking this is a state park. It’s a city park, and your state parks pass won’t work here.

Sloan’s Lake

A pretty lake near trendy restaurants & breweries

Colorful sky over the Sloan's Lake in Colorado

📍 Google Maps | Sloan’s Lake Website | 🅿️ Parking: Free parking in park lots | 🛎️ Where to Stay Nearby: The Crawford Hotel at Union Station

Sloan’s Lake is the biggest lake in Denver city limits, and you get great views of downtown here. It’s a good spot for a bike ride with kids or a leisurely walk. Around the lake, you’ll find several of the best restaurants and breweries in Denver.

Ferril & Duck Lakes

Paddle near Denver museums with views of the mountains

View of buildings from Ferril & Duck Lakes before nighttime

📍 Google Maps | City Park Website | 🅿️ Parking: Free parking in several lots | 🛎️ Where to Stay Nearby: The Maven at Dairy Block

Ferril Lake is the largest of the two lakes in City Park, one of Denver’s top neighborhoods. Here, you can rent paddleboats at the historic boathouse which was built in 1882. The lakes are also near one of the best museums in Denver — the Museum of Nature & Science. Nearby fountains run in the summer and are one of the fun things to do in Denver with kids.

Aurora Reservoir

Swim, sail, and even scuba dive at this reservoir southeast of Denver

View of fishermen in Aurora Reservoir
(photo: Jim Lambert / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Aurora Reservoir Website | 🅿️ Parking: $10-15 daily vehicle fee depending on the season | 🛎️ Where to Stay Nearby: SpringHill Suites Denver Parker

The Aurora Reservoir is a great spot to cool off during hot summers! There’s a swim beach, and if you visit, you can sail, fish, paddle, and even use a scuba diving area. There’s also an 8-mile trail for walking or biking around the reservoir. 

Barr Lake

Watch the eagle family at this bird lovers’ paradise

Sunrise over the Barr Lake in Colorado

📍 Google Maps | Barr Lake State Park Website | 🅿️ Parking: $9 daily vehicle fee | 🛎️ Where to Stay Nearby: Holiday Inn Express & Suites Brighton

Every year, an eagle family makes its home in a tree alongside Barr Lake. Viewfinders are set up so visitors can watch the eagles from afar, but if you have your own binoculars, you’ll want to bring them! There is (quiet) boating allowed, and fishing is also popular at this lake.

🦅 Love Birding? Check out this private birdwatching tour which, in true Denver fashion, includes a few stops at local breweries, too. 

Evergreen Lake

Paddle on this foothills lake that feels like an escape from the city

Colorful kayak boats in Evergreen

📍 Google MapsEvergreen Lake Website | 🅿️ Parking: Free but can be crowded on summer weekends & holidays | 🛎️ Where to Stay Nearby: Highland Haven Creekside Inn

Evergreen Lake allows non-motorized boats and on sunny days, is one of the most popular day trips from Denver! You can also walk around the lake and into downtown Evergreen. Here, you’ll find ice cream parlors, local shops, and more fun things to do

👉 Pro tip: Take this half-day mountain tour to see Evergreen Lake and Echo Lake, one of the best lakes in Colorado!

Lake Dillon

Waterski, sail, and take in the gorgeous views at this lake located near Frisco

Overlooking view of the Lake Dillon

📍 Google Maps | Dillon Reservoir Website | 🅿️ Parking: $10-15 paid parking at Frisco Marina in summer, free in off-season| 🛎️ Where to Stay Nearby: Frisco Inn on Galena

Although many locals call this Lake Dillon, it’s technically known as the Dillon Reservoir. This Summit County reservoir is popular all summer long for boating, fishing, sailing, and camping. Check out the many things to do in Frisco nearby. 

Wellington Lake

A private lake located near Bailey that allows camping and day-use

Travel Lemming Editor Abigail with her husband in Wellington Lake
Travel Lemming Editor Abigail and her husband enjoying a Wellington Lake beach day!

📍 Google Maps | Wellington Lake Website | 🅿️ Parking: Per-person charge of $6-14 | 🛎️ Where to Stay Nearby: Bailey Lodge

Wellington Lake charges a per-person day-use fee, plus additional fees for camping. Though more costly than similar destinations, this tends to keep crowds down. It’s a pretty spot where you can go fishing, canoeing, paddling, and swimming. In the winter months, you can also cross-country ski or snowshoe. 

Horsetooth Reservoir

A reservoir located near Fort Collins with hiking trails, plus mountain biking, boating, and paddling

A man carrying his paddleboard in Horsetooth Reservoir

📍 Google Maps | Horsetooth Reservoir Website | 🅿️ Parking: $9 vehicle pass | 🛎️ Where to Stay Nearby: The Armstrong Hotel

Exploring Horsetooth Reservoir is one of the top things to do in Fort Collins! In fact, about one million people a year visit the reservoir for boating, fishing, swimming, and more. It makes a pretty winter spot also, as the area’s accessible hiking trails are a great way to get out during the colder months.

Grand Lake

Explore Colorado’s largest and deepest natural lake

Rocky mountain covered with snow in Grand Lake

📍 Google Maps | Grand Lake Website | 🅿️ Parking: Free, can be crowded summer weekends & holidays | 🛎️ Where to Stay Nearby: Grand Lake Lodge

Grand Lake is both Colorado’s deepest and its largest natural lake, which explains its absolutely breathtaking blue hue.

Grand Lake is on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. You can stop on your way to the park, but the lake has two full-service marinas, so there’s enough to do here that you may want to spend a day (or several!) exploring the area.

Blue Mesa Reservoir

Boat, swim, and fish in Colorado’s largest body of water

Clear blue sky over the Blue Mesa Reservoir

📍 Google Maps | Blue Mesa Reservoir Website | 🅿️ Parking: Free | 🛎️ Where to Stay Nearby: The Inn at Tomichi Village

Blue Mesa Reservoir is huge, but has lots of coves and areas where you can feel a little more secluded. In summer, the marinas have boat, kayak, and paddleboard rentals, and you can swim and fish as well.

This Gunnison-area reservoir is part of the Curecanti National Recreation Area, one of the best national parks in Colorado

Dream Lake

Catch several Rocky Mountain National Park lakes on the hike to Dream Lake

View of the clear water in Dream Lake

📍 Google Maps | Rocky Mountain National Park Website | 🅿️ Parking: $30 vehicle entrance fee, timed permit required | 🛎️ Where to Stay Nearby: Boulder Brook on Fall River

You reach Dream Lake via the Bear Lake trailhead, allowing you to see several alpine lakes in one trip. Stop at Bear Lake and pass Nymph Lake before reaching Dream Lake, one of the prettiest lakes in Colorado.

It’s also one of the best hikes in Colorado, and if you continue on the trail, you can also see Emerald Lake and Lake Haiyaha. 

Boulder Reservoir

Enjoy this Boulder spot that’s a popular place for races & triathlons

A Triathlon athlete in Boulder Reservoir
An athlete participating in the Tri Boulder Triathlon (photo: Adam Hodges / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Boulder Reservoir Website | 🅿️ Parking: $11/person in summer | 🛎️ Where to Stay Nearby: Hotel Boulderado

Swimming, fishing, boating, and waterskiing are among the many fun things to do in Boulder! All can be experienced at Boulder Reservoir, one of the best day trips in the area. The reservoir is also used for local triathlons and other races. 

FAQs on Denver Lakes

What is the biggest lake near Denver?

The biggest lake near Denver is Chatfield Reservoir. The reservoir covers 1,500 acres and can be used for boating, swimming, water skiing, fishing, and more.

Can you swim in Denver lakes?

You can swim in Denver lakes. Chatfield and Cherry Creek Reservoirs, as well as Big Soda Lake, all allow swimming. 

Does Denver have a beach?

Denver does have beaches if you count lakes and rivers. Several local destinations have swim beaches, including Cherry Creek and Chatfield State Parks. Their large reservoirs make them some of the best state parks in Colorado.

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There you have it — a list of Colorado lakes with plenty of lakes near Denver, perfect for a quick getaway! Check out our Ultimate Travel Guide to Denver for more things to do and tips to navigate the city.

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