Best Mountain and Plains Park (2012)

Carter Lake, Loveland

There's basically just a tall ridge separating Carter Lake Park from the great expanse of the plains. And it's actually not a lake so much as a reservoir, supplied by water diverted from the Western Slope to keep the engines of Front Range commerce churning. But when you see this park, you will forget all that immediately, because Carter Lake is stunning. At three miles long and a mile wide, it offers plenty of room for boating plus a couple of manmade beaches, but if you really want to suck the awesome out of Carter Lake, you'll hike up one of the trails to a more secluded part of the shore, where the sandstone boulders tumbling into the water provide the seating and half-submerged aspens provide the shade. And unlike lakes at higher elevations, this one's always warm enough to swim in.


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