Megan Bryant is a passionate writer and traveler who has combined her two loves to help others fulfill their traveling dreams. When she isn’t writing, she’s usually curled up with her 3 Dachshunds and a good book or planning her next adventure—wherever that may be.
Nestled amidst the breathtaking landscapes of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado is not typically associated with sun, surf, and sand. However, this landlocked state harbors a surprising secret: a collection of stunning lakes, reservoirs, and riverfront areas that offer pristine beachfront escapes.
While Colorado may lack oceanfront shores, its beaches provide a unique and picturesque backdrop for those seeking a refreshing retreat from the arid plains and rugged mountain terrain. Whether you’re a Colorado local or visiting the area on vacation, you won’t want to miss these 11 spectacular Colorado beaches.
The Aurora Reservoir, roughly 45 minutes southeast of Denver, is open from Memorial Day through to the end of September, offering residents the chance to swim, fish, and sunbathe on its expansive sandy shores.
Throughout the summer months, lifeguards keep watch of the waters at Aurora Reservoir, making it the perfect place for families with little ones who are looking to cool off from the hot summer sun. Aurora Reservoir also offers the chance to kayak, canoe, windsurf, and scuba dive. Plus, there is even an 8-mile-long bike path for those who prefer to stay dry.
Blue Mesa Reservoir
The Blue Mesa Reservoir is Colorado’s largest body of water, making it the ideal place to get involved with recreational activities like kitesurfing, paddleboarding, and boating. With over 100 miles of shoreline for visitors to relax on, the Blue Mesa Reservoir, which was created by the damming of the Gunnison River, has quickly become a popular hang-out spot for both tourists and locals alike.
Whether you enjoy fishing, soaking up the sun, hiking, camping, or swimming, Blue Mesa has you covered. And for the reservoir’s best stretches of sand, be sure to head to the Bay of Chickens, Old Highway 50, and Dry Creek.
Another expansive lake with beautiful beaches in Colorado is Boulder Reservoir, which spans 700 acres in the city of Boulder. The reservoir, which is primarily used as a water supply for Boulder, has also doubled up as one of the best swimming spots in Colorado, with shallow sections for little ones to enjoy.
In addition to sandy shores and excellent swimming conditions, Boulder Reservoir offers the chance to paddle board, fish, hike, bike, and sail, with pontoon boats and sailboats available for rent.
Chatfield State Park
Just outside of Littleton, Colorado, is the Chatfield State Park, which plays host to the 1,500-acre Chatfield Reservoir. Initially, the reservoir was created to control flooding; however, today, it acts not only as one of the main water supplies for Denver but also as an outdoor recreational site for visitors to enjoy.
The beach at the reservoir is open all throughout the summer, and its grills, picnic tables, and beautiful surrounding nature have made it one of the most visited bodies of water in all of Colorado. With opportunities to fish, boat, swim, camp, hike, and bike, there really is no end to the amount of fun that Chatfield Reservoir has to offer.
Many people flock to the town of Grand Lake, as it’s often referred to as the “Western Gateway” to the Rocky Mountain National Park, however, there is also another reason why the town sees a heavy amount of traffic, and that’s its namesake: Grand Lake.
Grand Lake is a 500-acre lake that takes the title of one of the largest, deepest natural bodies of water in all of Colorado. Fed by the Colorado River and snowmelt from the Continental Divide, Grand Lake with its Rocky Mountain backdrop serves as the perfect location for sunbathing, swimming, kayaking, and paddle boarding. And if you didn’t bring your own equipment, then not to worry, you can rent everything you’d possibly need from the Grand Lake Marina.
The Horsetooth Reservoir in Larimer County is a natural playground for visitors of Colorado as you can swim, boat, ski, rock climb, camp, and scuba dive in and around the 6.5 mile waters.
For one of the best areas for swimming, head to the reservoir’s South Bay which offers protected waters as well as fire rings, picnic tables, a boat ramp, and outdoor showers for the public to enjoy. In the summer months, the beaches do fill up fast, so it’s best to get there early or camp the night before.
Jackson Lake State Park
Jackson Lake in northeastern Colorado boasts one of the best beaches in the state so it probably comes as no surprise that its wide sand, and excellent swimming conditions draw in thousands of visitors throughout the summer months.
One of the best activities at the lake, however, is actually camping, as the state park the lake sits in was designated as one of Colorado’s first International Dark Skies Park meaning you’ll get to experience one of the best starry nights in the entire country.
Jackson Lake is also a great place for fishing, boating, waterskiing, hiking, biking, and birding, so you truly are guaranteed an action packed adventure out by the water.
Did you know that the Great Sand Dunes National Park isn’t just full of sand dunes? Well, thanks to snowmelt from the Sangre de Cristo mountains, the park is also home to one of the best beaches in Colorado, Medano Creek.
Medano Creek is best visited in the spring when snowmelt is at its peak as the water creates a wave pool that is perfect for tubing. By the end of summer, the water at Medano Creek is largely dried up, so timing your visit just right is crucial.
In the town of Ridgway lies the Ridgway State Park and one of the best beaches in the state that you can find on the banks of the Ridgway Reservoir. Although the reservoir contains 1,030 acres of water, only two beaches are suitable for swimming: Dutch Charlie and Dallas Creek.
While visiting Ridgway, you can also take part in fishing, hiking, biking, and camping, with year-round campgrounds that even have yurts that you can rent!
One of the highlights of the Steamboat Lake State Park is Steamboat Lake itself, which offers visitors 1,000 acres of water for boating and swimming. Plus, thanks to the lake’s elevation of 8,100 feet, you’ll have uninterrupted mountain views in every direction, which only enhances the level of relaxation.
Once you’re finished up relaxing by the water, you can the set off on one of the nearby hiking trails or pitch a tent in the state park’s campgrounds.
Leadville, Colorado, is the highest populated town in the entire continent, and as a result of its elevation, you’ll find one of the best beaches in all of Colorado. The Twin Lakes, which are two glacial lakes nestled below Mount Elbert, offer visitors the chance to boat, kayak, fish, swim, and paddle board in the lake’s crystal clear, reflective waters.