The 11 Best Colorado Lakes: Fishing, Swimming, Camping, and even Ice Skating!


Colorado is a very beautiful state. The mountains and skyline look like a Bob Ross painting. The state is full of large and small lakes. Almost all of the lakes offer terrific fishing and camping.

Some of the lakes sit on top of plateaus. Other lakes sit high in the Colorado mountains and are only accessible by foot. Colorado also has fantastic lakes that are relatively close to the cities.

Whatever your speed is there is most likely a lake that will suit your fancy in Colorado. Spend a lunch at Chatfield for a quick visit. If you want a world-class angling experience consider booking a guided tour and going to Spinney Mountain. If you want to go ice skating, check out Palmer Lake. There is a wide range of lake options available.

1.   Pueblo Reservoir

Pueblo Reservoir
Pueblo Reservoir and called Lake Pueblo is a wonderful, wildlife and fish-filled body of water in southern Colorado offering outdoor recreational activities for the entire family

iStock.com/Hudsonmarsh

  • Surface Area: 5,399 acres
  • Max Depth: 135 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Excellent Black Crappie & Largemouth Bass Fishing

Built in the early through mid-seventies Lake Pueblo is a premier summer destination for locals and Colorado visitors. From sailing, motor boating, waterskiing, wakeboarding, wake surfing to river tubing, and of course prime fishing Pueblo Reservoir pretty much has it all.

Nearby Rock Canyon Swim Beach just below Pueblo Dam is a popular swimming spot to beat the summer heat. The park is surrounded and filled with a host of different animals and wildlife. Some of the species you might see include mule deer, coyote, cottontail rabbit, red fox, gray fox, beaver, raccoon, skunk, prairie dogs, and badger.

In addition to the wide array of mammals in the area, many different types of reptiles are also present including bull snakes, rattlesnakes, sagebrush lizards, coach whips, and box turtles. If you’re heading out to fish you might hook one of the many fish species including Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass, Walleye, Crappie, Trout, Channel Catfish, and Wipers.

2.   Twin Lakes Reservoir

Twin Lakes Reservoir
Record-breaking Trout, Ice Fishing, awesome mountain biking trails, and unbelievable beauty, it’s all at Twin Lakes Reservoir!

iStock.com/SeanXu

  • Surface Area: 2,700 acres
  • Max Depth: 92 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: State Record Brown Trout, Great Mountain Biking Trails

Twin Lakes Reservoir is actually two natural glacial lakes that have been enlarged by humans. Visitors can enjoy the two campgrounds, holding nearly one hundred campsites and two launch ramps for boats. At the time of Colorado’s mining boom, the area served as a transportation center between Aspen and Leadville.

Anglers can enjoy fishing for several species that are stocked in Twin Lakes Reservoir including Brown, Rainbow, and Cutthroat Trout. The lake offers many great trails that are excellent for hiking and mountain biking. The trails range in levels of difficulty providing opportunities for expert and novice riders.

If you’re looking for other non-fishing options kayak, canoe, and standup paddleboards are available for rent. For the extreme angler Twin Lakes Reservoir offers some amazing ice fishing. Stop by the Twin Lakes Visitor Center to get even more information to maximize your time at the lake!

3.   Elevenmile Canyon Reservoir

Elevenmile Canyon Reservoir
Trophy-winning Trout, amazing beauty, nearby Spinney Mountain Reservoir, and a really neat dam make Elevenmile Canyon Reservoir one of my personal favorite lakes of all time

Sherry Saye/Shutterstock.com

  • Surface Area: 3,405 acres
  • Max Depth: 109 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Superb Dry Fly Fishing, Nearby Spinney Mountain Reservoir

Out of all the lakes in the US that I’ve written about this is one I’ve personally been to many times. I grew up camping, boating, and fishing Elevenmile, and every memory I have is filled with fun and joy. Nearby Spinney Mountain Reservoir and the river in between it and Elevenmile is one of the most amazing fishing spots I’ve ever personally been to.

Elevenmile is the kind of lake that’s near civilization but also far enough away that you can leave the city life behind and forget it exists for a bit. There are muskrats on the shoreline that dig holes all over the place; so be careful walking around when close to the water.

Rainbow, Brown & Cutthroat Trout regularly swim the lake, and kokanee or pike are also commonly pulled from the waters. Elevenmile is also frequented by sailors and windsurfers when the winds start whipping across the lake. Ice fishing is popular during the winter months but as always check local rules and regulations as it can be dangerous. An insider tip from a CO native who grew up fishing this lake says that bobbers, weights, and earthworms are an excellent choice for trout, even from the shore!

4.   Spinney Mountain Reservoir

Spinney Mountain Reservoir
World-class, trophy-winning trout fishing at Spinney Mountain Reservoir is top-notch! Combined with nearby Elevenmile this is a top pick!

Arina P Habich/Shutterstock.com

  • Surface Area: 2,500 acres
  • Max Depth: 46 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: No
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes, Bait Fishing & Snagging Prohibited
  • Best For: Best Still Water Fishery In Colorado, World Class Gold Medal Trout Fishing

This is another amazing lake I’ve personally been to a number of times and can personally recommend with flying colors. The lake is known by anglers for its Brown, Rainbow &  Brook Trout, Kokanee Salmon, Northern Pike, Longnose, and White Suckers. It’s basically a fly fishing dream come true!

Spinney is open to fishing, and boating during the day only and doesn’t allow camping or access onto the water past sunset. Visitors can stay at any of the awesome campsites at nearby Elevenmile and make the quick trip over to Spinney in the early morning to catch a record-winning trout. Spinney Mountain Reservoir is close to the public during the winter months.

Belly boating, picnicking and bird watching are other popular activities at the lake. The kind of fishing Spinney offers is the main attraction though. Between nearby Elevenmile and the river between them, this is my personal top pick for lakes in Colorado.

5.   Shadow Mountain Lake

Shadow Mountain Lake
Shadow Mountain Lake is known for producing record-breaking Mackinaw and providing a full-service lake experience for non-anglers

Greens and Blues/Shutterstock.com

  • Surface Area: 1,345 acres
  • Max Depth: 24 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Breathtaking Views, Best Mackinaw Fishing in the US

Shadow Mountain Lake, and neighboring Grand Lake, are another one of the best areas in Colorado for lake-seeking adventurers. Anglers heading to Shadow Mountain Lake can expect to find Kokanee Salmon, Rainbow, Brown, Mackinaw & Cutthroat Trout. Shadow Mountain Lake is known for producing record-breaking Mackinaw and other species.

Visitors who aren’t looking for a fishing expedition can enjoy a host of other outdoor recreational activities from picnicking and bird watching to hiking and water skiing. There’s a channel in between Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Lake so boaters can travel from one lake to the other in search of that elusive record-breaking Mackinaw. To kick the fishing up another notch anglers can try fly-fishing one of the many creeks around the area.

For visitors of the lake looking for non-fishing-related activities, there are plenty of other options from horseback riding to hiking and even just enjoying a relaxing stay in one of the seventy-five campsites available. Lake Granby is also very close making the whole area basically a Disneyland of lakes.

6.   The Grand Mesa Lakes

The Grand Mesa Lakes
The Grand Mesa Lakes are a collection of nearly three hundred bodies of water on top of a giant plateau creating a unique laking experience

iStock.com/Paul Hamilton

  • Surface Area: 3 to 200 acres
  • Max Depth: 77 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Unique Multi-Lake Experience, Grand Mesa National Forest

The Grand Mesa Lakes are multiple bodies of water as the name might imply. There are actually over two hundred, and maybe close to three hundred, small and medium pools of water in the area. Most of the lakes at Grand Mesa are within walking distance from one another creating an unbelievable experience for anglers and lake goers alike.

The lakes sit atop a plateau that’s ten thousand feet in elevation. The Grand Mesa Lakes are surrounded by the gorgeous Grand Mesa National Forest. Grand Junction is roughly forty miles from the Grand Mesa Lakes area so it’s a pretty quick drive.

This won’t be the typical lake experience, the waters are stocked and there are boat ramps available at many of the lakes as well. For a bit of a different kind of trip to the lake head out toward the Grand Mesa Lakes and start exploring!

7.   Chatfield Reservoir

Chatfield Reservoir
Anglers head out to

iStock.com/SeanXu

  • Surface Area: 4,822 acres
  • Max Depth: 154 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Outstanding recreational opportunities near Denver

Another seriously awesome lake in Colorado is Chatfield Reservoir near Denver. This is one more lake that I can personally say is a really fun time, very beautiful, and has some decent fishing. Chatfield was originally created to help with flood control in the Littleton and surrounding areas and now serves the Denver area with fantastic outdoor recreational activities.

Chatfield has nearly two hundred campsites providing more than ample opportunity to overnight guests. Bicyclists, walkers, and hikers take advantage of the twenty-six miles of trails around the lake, almost half of them paved. Chatfield Reservoir is a hotspot for dog lovers who take advantage of the hundred-acre off-leash dog park.

Another cool attraction is the pilots who gather at Chatfield to fly model airplanes providing visitors with mini airshows. I remember the sights and sounds of model airplanes from when I was a child and have very fond memories. Chatfield Reservoir is a beautiful, full-service lake for locals, natives, and tourists.

8.   Dream Lake

Dream Lake
Dream Lake presents the perfect opportunity for hikers looking to find a beautiful alpine lake to enjoy a picnic or spend an afternoon fly-fishing for Cutthroat Trout

iStock.com/Gerald Zaffuts

  • Surface Area: 840 acres
  • Max Depth: 328 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: No
  • Boating/Docks Available: No
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Barbless Hook Catch & Release Only

If you’re looking for a nice hike, lake, and fishing trip combined into one Dream Lake might be the perfect option. This smaller-sized alpine lake is about two miles from the Bear Lake trailhead. The hike is moderate in non-snowy conditions and increases in difficulty and danger with worsening weather.

The lake is a picture-perfect mountain lake tucked away from the crowds of the larger, more popular lakes; several of which are nearby. For anglers, this is a dream lake as the name implies. It’s very popular for fly-fishing with Cutthroat Trout being the prize catch.

Because of the remote location of the lake boating and camping aren’t permitted or really an option. Day trips to this lake are very popular for hikers, sightseers, picnickers, and bird watchers. If you head out in the winter absolutely double-check the conditions of the lake and area first as it’s prone to avalanches.

The Largest Lake Entirely In Colorado

9.   Lake Granby

Lake Granby
Lake Granby is known to have the most Mackinaw of any lake in Colorado drawing out anglers hoping to hook a giant one!

mredd/Shutterstock.com

  • Surface Area: 7,257 acres
  • Max Depth: 221 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: No
  • Boating/Docks Available: No
  • Swimming Permitted: No
  • Fishing Permitted: No
  • Best For: Trout & Salmon Fishing, Third Largest Body of Water in Colorado

Lake Granby is an awesome lake in its own right, but a really convenient aspect is its proximity to Grand and Shadow Mountain Lakes right next door. Lake Granby is the largest of the three offering full-service amenities including boat ramps and camping. It’s an excellent lake for fishing many species, trout being the primary target for anglers.

The lake sports two hundred and sixty campsites providing a fantastic range of places for your overnight stay. Camping at Lake Granby has been described as a “must-do”. Despite the size of the lake and the number of campsites, it’s still a very serene atmosphere.

Lake Granby is known to have the most Mackinaw of any lake in Colorado making it a hotspot for anglers. Largemouth Bass, Kokanee Salmon, Rainbow, and Brown Trout are also popular species that swim Lake Granby making it another angler paradise!

Colorado’s Largest Natural Lake

10. Grand Lake

Grand Lake
Grand Lake is the largest and deepest lake in Colorado known for top of the line, world class, gold medal Mackinaw, Kokanee Salmon, Rainbow, Brook, German Brown, & Cutthroat Trout fishing

Markel Echaburu Bilbao/Shutterstock.com

  • Surface Area: 661 acres
  • Max Depth: 400 Feet
  • Camping/Overnight Available: Yes
  • Boating/Docks Available: Yes
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For:

Anglers seeking top-of-the-line, world-class, gold medal Mackinaw, Kokanee Salmon, Rainbow, Brook, German Brown, & Cutthroat Trout fishing should immediately set their sites on Grand Lake. In addition to the extraordinary angling opportunities presented by Grand Lake nearby Shadow Mountain and Granby Lake sport unbelievable fishing as well. This area of Colorado is seriously an angler’s dream!

The Colorado River system is responsible for creating Grand Lake. It’s the largest and deepest lake in Colorado. The lake offers many different campgrounds and options for overnight stays. The nearby town of Grand Lake also offers many types of activities and amenities.

Colorado’s Natural Ice Skating Rink

11. Palmer Lake

Palmer Lake
Gather the family and head to Palmer Lake for a day of ice skating on a natural rink

Billy Hathorn / Creative Commons – License

  • Surface Area: Fluctuates
  • Max Depth: Fluctuates
  • Camping/Overnight Available: No
  • Boating/Docks Available: No
  • Swimming Permitted: Yes
  • Fishing Permitted: Yes
  • Best For: Ice Fishing, Ice Skating

In between Denver and Colorado Springs sits a small town called Palmer Lake. There is a body of water in the town that goes by the same name. Both the lake and town are very small and quaint.

When the lake holds enough water and freezes over in the winter months Palmer Lake becomes an ice skating rink. It’s common for families to head to Palmer Lake to get a natural, outdoor ice-skating experience. Ice fishing for trout is also popular at the lake.

Palmer Lake is also known for a huge star lighted on one of the hills behind town each winter. If you’re looking for a classic winter holiday experience round up the children and skates and head out to Palmer Lake.

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