Outdoors

Get Outside: Ten Colorado Mountain Beaches You Need to Visit This Summer

Shoreline across from the Dillon Marina.
Shoreline across from the Dillon Marina. Abigail Bliss
When most people think of beach destinations, Colorado isn’t the first state that comes to mind. But locals know that we have plenty of options, from swimming in icy alpine lakes to cool summertime dips in deep reservoirs. The water may be chilly, but with activities such as paddleboarding and even boating, it's worth visiting a mountain beach. And during the hottest months of the year, you're likely to find yourself jumping in.

Get a taste of lake life in the Rockies at these ten Colorado mountain beaches:

Dillon Reservoir
Dillon
Sandy beaches are found all around Dillon Reservoir, a go-to summer destination in Summit County. Located at 9,000 feet above sea level, frigid water temperatures prohibit swimming. But to enjoy the lake, you can rent kayaks, paddleboards and pontoon boats, or discover private lounging spots while pedaling the scenic Lake Dillon Loop.

Horsetooth Reservoir
Fort Collins
South Bay at Horsetooth Reservoir is an ideal location for swimming and taking in mountain views. Given its proximity to Fort Collins, the beach fills up quickly on hot afternoons. To break away from the crowds, go for a hike, discover great bouldering routes, or paddle to one of the quiet coves.

Sandbeach Lake
Allenspark (Rocky Mountain National Park)
As many outdoor enthusiasts in Colorado know, you often have to earn peace and solitude. But if you're willing to put in a strenuous 8.8-mile trek, that’s exactly what you’ll find at Sandbeach Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail gains 2,020 feet in elevation, leading to the sandy shore of a 16.5-acre lake with a backdrop of Mount Meeker and ponderosa pine forests.
Late season at Medano Creek, one of few Colorado mountain beaches that permit dogs.
Abigail Bliss
Medano Creek
Mosca (Great Sand Dunes National Park)
Brought to life by seasonal snowmelt, Medano Creek provides a refreshing and relaxing way to enjoy Great Sand Dunes National Park. When you're sunning and splashing, the Sangre de Cristo Range and North America’s tallest dunes are in full view. To explore everything this park has to offer, camp overnight and experience one of Colorado’s best stargazing destinations.

Blue Mesa Reservoir
Gunnison
Set in the Curecanti National Recreation Area, Blue Mesa Reservoir doesn’t have a designated swim beach, but there are several “no wake” areas that are great for taking a dip. Head to Windsurf Beach, Dry Creek or the shoreline across from the Elk Creek Campground. Campsites are abundant in this area, so consider extending your stay to boat, fly fish and experience the Morrow Point and Crystal Reservoirs nearby.

Ridgway Reservoir
Ridgway
Anyone can enjoy the reservoir at Ridgway State Park, but it’s an especially ideal choice for families. Swimming is permitted in two areas, and next to the designated beach are a playground, volleyball nets and picnic areas. A beach day here can even involve fun, hands-on learning: If you have young children, stop by the visitor center for a free “family activity backpack" filled with binoculars, magnifiers and guidebooks.

Steamboat Lake
Steamboat Springs
Tucked away in the Routt National Forest, Steamboat Lake State Park is home to a bustling marina. Locals and visitors stop by to rent pontoon boats, canoes and even waterfront cabins to make the fun last all weekend. From building sandcastles on the swim beach to telling ghost stories around the campfire, it’s easy to make memories at this popular summer destination.
Motorboats on Lake Granby.
Abigail Bliss
Grand Lake
Described by Wild at Heart author Stacy Gold as “a little resort town still trapped in the ’60s,” Grand Lake is one of the best romantic, outdoorsy getaways in Colorado. Book a cozy cottage and admire mountain views while swimming, lounging on the boat dock or sprawling out on the beach. Travel by land or rent a watercraft to explore the other beautiful bodies of water nearby, including Shadow Mountain Lake and Lake Granby.

Twin Lakes
Dramatic scenery makes Twin Lakes one of Colorado’s peaceful places to paddleboard, swim or sun on the beach. The glacial lakes are located just south of Leadville and at the base of Mount Elbert, the state’s tallest mountain. With so many opportunities for outdoor adventure, it’s easy to spend a weekend exploring this gorgeous area. Rent a kayak, hike a section of the Colorado Trail and camp under the stars.

North Star Beach
Aspen
Just west of Twin Lakes lies North Star Beach, accessed via a scenic drive along the iconic Independence Pass. It’s found in the North Star Nature Preserve, an area rich in wildlife such as elk, moose and beaver. Spot trout in the clear water as you paddle along the Roaring Fork River; you’ll find some deep sections that are perfect for a swim; afterward, you can dry off on a sandy beach drenched in Colorado sunshine.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.