16 Unmissable Lakes Near Denver, Colorado

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Looking for the best lakes near Denver? You’re in the right place!

People love to argue over what’s better: the east coast or the west coast? Have you heard of the saying “no coast, best coast”? You have now!

The lakes around Denver are so much fun to visit, and you will never have to worry about getting seasick or high tide. Another bonus? No seagulls, most of the time.

Denver’s lakes are freshwater and great for boating, fishing, and floating on rafts. During the winter, a select few freeze over, and you can go ice fishing.

Lakes are the unsung heroes of the Colorado landscape, and here are just some of the lakes near Denver that you should check out.

Best Lakes Near Denver CO

Cherry Creek Reservoir

A still lakes as the sun sets.

Conveniently in the middle of the Denver Metro Area is Cherry Creek Reservoir in Cherry Creek State Park. Cherry Creek Reservoir is convenient and a great place to keep a boat if you enjoy going out on the water!

This is one of the more family-friendly, accessible lakes near Denver and an excellent spot to celebrate holidays like the Fourth of July. This is more of a “beach” atmosphere than anything.

You’ll often find people tubing and water skiing, grilling, and running around playing frisbee.

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    City Park’s Ferril and Duck Lakes

    A park with a lake surrounded by trees with a city skyline in the distance.

    The lakes in City Park in Denver are a family-friendly social scene during the summer and a year-round respite from the city. If you don’t have time to journey outside of the city limits, this is a great place to take a break and a few deep breaths before going back to work.

    The lakes themselves still have all of the fun that lakes further from Denver boast, like paddleboarding and fishing, and if you are able to visit during the week, there’s a good chance you will have Ferril Lake almost to yourself.

    The perfect Sunday summer day would be taking a lovely walk around the lakes, maybe taking out a paddleboat, and ending with a citywide favorite event, Jazz in the Park.

    Boulder Lake and Upper Boulder Lake

    A lake with mountains behind it.

    First things first, Boulder Lake is by Silverthorne, NOT by Boulder, and that trips up a number of people who go expecting to hit up both the lake and the city of Boulder.

    Second, Boulder Lake looks like a postcard. You are able to camp near Boulder Lake with a permit, and spending the night in a magical place like this is special. Since it does involve a hike into the lake, it is not as crowded.

    There are two different lakes: Boulder Lake and Upper Boulder Lake. The hike to Boulder Lake is moderate; if you end up hiking to Upper Boulder Lake by accident, you will find yourself on a much more difficult hike.

    As someone who hasn’t had the stamina to make it to Upper Boulder Lake, I can only speak to the lower Boulder Lake, but both have the reputation of the hikes being well worth the time. This is one of the great lakes in Colorado near Denver.

    Dillon Reservoir

    A sandy beach in front of a lake with snow capped mountains in the distance.

    The Dillon Reservoir is a Colorado lake near Denver that locals love to utilize, and other people often just drive past on the way to other mountain towns. Technically, the reservoir is a water storage facility for Denver Water.

    Due to the water quality and the cold temperatures, swimming is not permitted. However, plenty of other water activities are okay’d.

    People love to boat on Dillon Reservoir, and you are surrounded by mountains. One of the best things to do around the Dillon Reservoir is to go to a concert at the Dillon Amphitheater. I saw Noah Kahan over the summer there and loved it!

    Aurora Reservoir

    A single canoe out on a lake.

    Aurora Reservoir is a relaxing lake near Denver that is another fun place for the whole family. It’s also typically a little less crowded than Cherry Creek, making it a peaceful environment.

    The beach here is well maintained, and there is a ton of equipment to rent and a shelter (kind of like a tent), which you can make home base for the day. This is the kind of place that you can go back to multiple weekends in a row and never get tired of it.

    Dream Lake

    A woman sitting on a rock looking out over an ice-covered lake in the mountains.

    Through the trees in Rocky Mountain National Park, you will stumble upon Dream Lake. You may recognize this lake from photos on Instagram.

    It is one of the more popular lakes near Denver, and sometimes, the crowds can put a damper on your experience. The hike is short enough, though, that you can get up there early, visit Dream Lake, and continue to a second location!

    Lake Haiyaha

    A blue-green lake in the rocky mountains.

    Lake Halyaha is another rare find in Rocky Mountain National Park, and it is a well-trafficked area. It makes sense so many people want to come here; the hike into the lake is pleasant despite the slight incline.

    One of the highlights of the hike to Lake Haiyaha is the glaciers you get to see along the way, a rare chance without having to hike to higher elevations. This is one of those cases where the journey is just as great as the destination.

    You will love your hike to Haiyaha and appreciate the value of your physical work when you arrive at the lake.

    For a real treat, hike up for sunrise. I’ve done this before and absolutely loved it. There’s really nothing like it!

    Soda Lakes

    Soda Lakes is a well-known spot in Lakewood with the rule that the first person who gets to a picnic shelter is the one who gets to chill there that day. The lake is well-regulated, so even though it can get crowded, it never feels like too much.

    If you want to get away from people on the beach, there are paddle board rentals, and it is tranquil out in the middle of the water.

    Wheeler Lakes

    A still lake with tall trees along the back of it on a sunny day.

    Wheeler Lakes by Frisco is for someone who wants more hiking and less laying out at a lake. The trail that goes by the lakes is listed as “moderate,” but I would caution you that “moderate” is for people used to hiking, so don’t think it’s going to be an easy walk.

    The whole trail is a little over 6 miles out and back, and if you leave early, you can have a quiet lunch next to the lakes before heading back. I admit that I have had “The Lakes” by Taylor Swift on repeat during some points of this hike.

    Horsetooth Reservoir

    A person paddle boarding on a lake in the mountains.

    Horsetooth Reservoir near Fort Collins is one of my favorite places to spend the weekend. It is popular, so you should plan your trip over in advance, but once you’re there, you’re in for a treat.

    Horsetooth has lightly challenging hiking, and you don’t get that option by the lakes closer to Denver.

    Another fun fact is that there is an actual town at the bottom of Horsetooth Reservoir. The lake is nearly 200 ft deep, though, so don’t go looking for it.

    Sloan’s Lake

    A large lake surrounded by a city at sunset.

    Sloan’s Lake isn’t just a lake; it’s a whole neighborhood. Taking walks around Sloan’s Lake is one of my favorite ways to pass time in Denver, and I love asking friends to grab coffee and walk around and chat.

    There are such fun restaurants and bars right across the street from the lake. The Patio at Sloan’s Lake is a place where you can sit and hang out alone or with friends for hours and just look at the water.

    Emerald Lake

    A glacier lake with rocky tree covered mountains surrounding it.

    Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park is a gem (get it?!). This lake is a showstopper.

    Depending on when you hike to Emerald Lake, the color of the water will always look a little different, and it’s hard to say when the best time is to go because it’s pretty much always spectacular.

    This isn’t a watersport spot, but fishing is allowed. You do not need a permit to hike to the lake during the day, and you can get a permit to backpack overnight.

    This is one of the most extraordinary sites in Colorado, and it’s hard to believe that it is so near Denver.

    Chatfield Reservoir

    A small path leading to a picnic area overlooking a lake.

    Chatfield Reservoir in Littleton is always lively, and there is no lack of activities. If you are looking for a lake in Colorado near Denver to hold a family reunion or a birthday party with your friends, Chatfield is an excellent choice.

    There are spots to rent on the beach, nearly 200 individual campsites, and plenty of options for people of all ages and capabilities.

    Chatfield Reservoir is also easily accessible. You don’t have to journey through a forest. You can just drive up, park your truck, grab a cooler, and head to the water’s edge. You’ll likely stay here and be in the sun for a few hours; don’t forget your sunscreen!

    Final Thoughts: Colorado Lakes Near Denver

    From hiking to laying out on a beach, Colorado lakes near Denver provide enough diversity that you can choose a different activity each weekend and always be pleased. Keep our lakes clean, always be safe, and find a lake where you can try something new!

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