The Outdoors,  Travel Guides

Discover the 14 Best Lakes Near Denver for Boating

These days, the flooding in Denver is over…or so we thought. Either way, the weather finally took the left turn we’d all been waiting for and it officially feels like summer in Denver, Colorado. Of course, it’s now 95 degrees and sweltering which leaves Denverites pining for some cooling relief. If the AC just isn’t cutting it for your adventurous side, then you might be interested in spending time on one of the many lakes near Denver. Whether you plan to dip your toes, hang on the shore, or enjoy the lakes in Colorado for boating, spending time on the water can be one of the best things to do in the summer in Denver. With options ranging from your backyard in Denver Parks to Colorado reservoirs scattered throughout the mountains, these lakes near Denver are sure to satisfy your sweat this summer.   

City Lakes

First of all, if you’re in search of lakes near Denver that offer boating, look no further than the city itself. Denver Parks and Recreation allow for free “hand-launched” boating in 5 Denver lakes without a permit. Hand-launched boating refers to non-motorized boats like stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, and canoes. This includes Sloan’s Lake, Rocky Mountain Lake, Berkeley Lake, Smith Lake in Washington Park, and Ferril Lake in City Park. If you have your own watercraft, then head to Sloan’s, Rocky Mountain Lake, and Berkeley Lake. However, both Smith Lake and Ferril Lake offer boat rentals. If you’re looking for something romantic and corny, then head to Ferril Lake and rent a swan pedal boat. They also host night tours where the swan boats light up the lake as you pedal across. 

Cherry Creek Reservoir

Cherry Creek Reservoir is located in Cherry Creek State Park. It is the closest Colorado reservoir to the city and sits just South of Denver in Aurora. The best part is that you will truly see it all here. From sailboats to jet skis, kayaks, and canoes, Cherry Creek offers all types of boating activities. Check out regulations for any watercraft you own here. Visit Pelican Bay Marina for boat rentals or Rocky Mountain Paddle Board for stand-up paddle boards only. Pelican also has a pub and summer concert series to enjoy. If it’s too hot on your boat, feel free to take a dip in designated swimming areas too!    

Chatfield Reservoir

This lake near Denver offers another easy commute to Chatfield State Park. Chatfield Reservoir is open to all boating, so feel free to slap on your water skis. The Chatfield Marina offers motorized boat rentals while you can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards from Colorado Water Sports. Swim Beach is a designated swimming area on the Chatfield Reservoir where you can spend your day soaking up the sun, swimming, and picnicking. 

Evergreen Lake

Just 35 minutes away, Evergreen Lake is an accessible lake near Denver with astounding mountain views. Kayak, canoe, and stand-up paddleboard rentals are available from 9 am-7 pm Monday through Friday, and 8 am-7 pm on Saturday and Sunday. You can also bring personal watercraft to the lake with a permit. After your float around the lake, head into downtown Evergreen for some beers and food at Revival Brews or some wine at Creekside Cellars.  

Carter Lake

Carter Lake sits just outside of Loveland, Colorado making this lake near Denver just a quick 1-hour drive. Both motorized and nonmotorized boats are permitted on the Colorado reservoir with boat rentals available at the Carter Lake Marina. Honestly, I’m unsure if the marina rents out paddle craft as well, but you can certainly rent gear in Loveland as an alternative. 

Horsetooth Reservoir

Located just over an hour from Denver, Horsetooth Reservoir is one of my favorite lakes near Denver. Partially because I lived in Fort Collins when I first moved to Colorado, and also because it is absolutely breathtaking. Anyway, Horsetooth is equipped for both motorized and non-motorized boating and offers multiple locations to rent boats. If you’re bringing your own boat, check out everything you need to know here. You can rent at Inlet Bay Marina, Little Big’s Market, or Paddleboard at the Comedy Overlook. Horsetooth is a great place to try out paddle boarding in Colorado for beginners as the water is usually glass. You can also swim, hike and hang on the shores at Horsetooth, so make a day of it! 

Dillon Reservoir

Located conveniently off of I-70 in Dillon, CO (near Frisco) is the Dillon Reservoir. This Colorado reservoir is just 90 minutes from Denver and offers 2 marinas (Frisco Bay and Dillon Marina) to rent the watercraft of your pleasure. Although you can’t swim in the Dillon Reservoir, soaking up the sun on a pontoon full of your besties definitely doesn’t suck. When you’re done boating this gorgeous lake near Denver, reserve a shoreside campsite, or head into Dillon for food and drinks that overlook the reservoir. Recommendations include the Arapahoe Cafe & Pub and Dillon Dam Brewery. Also, don’t miss the lakeside tiki bar

Green Mountain Reservoir

A Colorado Reservoir without all of the frills. Green Mountain is a lake near Denver that sits just off of highway 9 near Kremmling, CO in Granby County. The Heeney Marina offers pontoon, fishing boat, and paddleboard rentals. Last year, we spent my boyfriend’s 30th birthday and the 4th of July celebrating on this beautiful Colorado reservoir with a dog-friendly pontoon. It was an absolute blast and a breeze. We booked the boat just a week before arrival so if you’re looking for last-minute plans then check it out! Green Mountain Reservoir is an incredible place to camp as well. Check out all the available camping sites here.  

Lake Granby

Grand County is full of lakes in Colorado for boating and is just a 2-hour mountain drive from Denver. From Denver, Lake Granby will be the first you see. It is Colorado’s 3rd largest body of water. It lies just outside the quaint town of Granby which made my epic Colorado road trip itinerary. Lake Granby is so popular and large that it has 3 marinas equipped to launch your personal boats and rentals. There’s Beacon Landing, Highland Marina, and Indian Peaks Marina which has a restaurant and bar.    

Grand Lake

Just a stone’s throw away from Lake Granby you’ll find. Grand Lake is a gem and Colorado’s largest natural lake. With direct access and proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park via the epic Trail Ridge Road as well as an adjoining mountain town, this lake near Denver has it all. Check out my Colorado road trip itinerary for the perfect route through Grand Lake and RMNP. Grand Lake allows all types of boating and the Grand Lake Marina and Headwaters Marina rent both paddle sport and motorized boats. Do not miss out on the Town of Grand Lake and all of the attractions it has to offer.  

Shadow Mountain Lake

Shadow Mountain Lake near Denver sits right next to Grand Lake. Actually, the two are connected. Shadow Mountain is a man-made Colorado reservoir that can be a nice alternative to the popular Grand Lake. It offers many of the same amenities including the Trail Ridge Marina where you can rent both motorized and nonmotorized boats and fishing gear. Of course, after your day on the water, you can head into the nearby town of Grand Lake. 

Turquoise Lake

Turquoise Lake near Denver is a Colorado Hidden Gem. It is located just outside of the popular town of Leadville and provides some incredible views of the Rocky Mountains in addition to camping on its shores. Turquoise Lake camping was my favorite trip from last summer, I have lots of tips and tricks on how to snag one of these sought-after Turquoise Lake camping sites here. While Turquoise Lake does not offer a Marina with rentals, the Matchless Boating Site allows you to drop in both motorized and non-motorized vessels. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any boat rentals in Leadville. So, if you’re heading to Turquoise Lake you can plan to swim in the ice-cold waters, rent from a shop in Denver, or maybe purchase one of those inflatable paddleboards. I was happy as a clam just sitting on the shores and admiring the scenery. 

Twin Lakes

At 2 hours and 45 minutes from Denver, Twin Lakes remains a perfect weekend trip from Denver. At Twin Lakes, you’ll get views of the massive Mt. Elbert while touring what was once claimed “the most charming summer mountain resort in Colorado”. There’s endless camping and cozy stays near Twin Lakes, so plan to stay the weekend. You’re also just a scenic drive along Independence Pass to the Continental Divide. Anyway, the boating options on Twin Lakes are plentiful. You can bring your own or rent nonmotorized boats at Johnny Canoes Boat Rental or Twin Lakes SUP & Cycle. Motorized boats (pontoons and fishing boats) can be rented from Twin Lakes Resort. Also, don’t miss out on the Interlocken Boat Tour which takes you across the lake to the spooky abandoned lakeside resort of Interlocken… 

Blue Mesa

Rounding out the list at a solid 4-hour drive from Denver is the Blue Mesa Reservoir. This Colorado reservoir is popular for all types of boating including windsurfing. You can rent your preferred vessel at Elk Creek or Lake Fork Marinas. Swimming and watersports are permitted, but not until the lake starts to warm up in July and August. We camped and hung on the shores of the Blue Mesa Reservoir during our trip to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. It was a gorgeous and relaxing way to end our trip. This reservoir provides some sweet relief from the Southwest Colorado heat. Nearby towns include Gunnison, Almont, and Montrose. 

Summer in Denver, Colorado can feel stifling. And while Denver doesn’t have white sand beaches and warm ocean waters, the cool Colorado reservoirs are full of adventurous things to do in the summer in Denver. Whether you’re on the hunt for the perfect paddleboarding in Colorado or Lakes near Denver with room for waterskiing, you’re sure to find it. Don’t miss out on making your trip to one of these incredible Lakes near Denver a full camping weekend.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *