Exploring 12 Lakes Near Durango: Can’t-Miss Colorado Experiences

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Daniel is a copywriter who has well and truly been bitten alive by the 'travel bug'. After ticking off several North American National Parks and exploring Europe by train, his sights are now set on South East Asia. Usually with at least one camera locked and loaded, you'll find Daniel wherever there are mountains, lakes or beaches.

Journey with us as we uncover 12 of Durango’s awe-inspiring lakes, each with its own charm and allure. From the tranquil waters of Emerald Lake to the historical richness of Haviland Lake, each stop on this journey promises a unique experience. For outdoorsy adventurers or those seeking solace in nature, these lakes offer something for every traveler.

Andrews Lake

Andrews Lake, Colorado - Lakes Near Durango
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Set amidst the splendid Weminuche Wilderness, Andrews Lake presents an inviting scene of seasonal wildflowers, lofty pines, and broad mountain panoramas. It serves as an ideal stop for a leisurely walk, picnicking, or fishing from the shore or pier. Bird watchers could spot a variety of species, including sparrows, warblers, and ptarmigan, making it an accessible and fascinating destination for visitors of all abilities.

Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake, Colorado
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Emerald Lake, situated in Rocky Mountain National Park, offers a well-worn 3-mile trail that is an exciting hiking experience about 100 miles from Durango. You’ll pass by the likes of Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and the scenic detour to Bear Lake, ultimately reaching the serene shores of Emerald Lake, nestled over 10,000 feet high among a riot of summer wildflowers.

Lake Nighthorse

Lake Nighthorse, Colorado
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Just southwest of Durango, Lake Nighthorse, shaped by the towering Ridges Basin Dam, stretches across 1,500 acres of inviting waters. This day-use recreation hotspot offers a swimming beach and a haven for both motorized and non-motorized watercraft. Stocked with kokanee salmon, rainbow trout, and brown trout, it’s a prime spot for both boating enthusiasts and eager anglers.

Potato Lake

Camping in alpine forest
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Tucked between Durango and Silverton in the San Juan National Forest, Potato Lake, also known as Spud Lake, offers more than just a picturesque setting. Despite the challenge of reaching it, the lake rewards visitors with crystal-clear waters, vibrant seasonal hues, and dramatic views of the 11,871-foot Potato Hill and the striking Needle Mountains. Whether you’re picnicking, fishing, camping, or exploring the area on foot or cross-country skis, this year-round destination promises an unforgettable experience.

Highland Mary Lakes

Highland Mary Lakes, Colorado
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Nestled in the Weminuche Wilderness, the Highland Mary Lakes, a chain of seven alpine lakes, sit at a dizzying height of over 12,000 ft. A popular summer spot, the 5-mile out-and-back hike offers sweeping views of the shimmering lakes and vast alpine tundra. As the elevation may challenge the unseasoned, experienced hikers will find the trek relatively easy, although it might be a bit crowded with nature enthusiasts.

The Ice Lakes

Ice Lakes, Colorado
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The Ice Lakes, situated near Silverton, are a collection of three distinct lakes: Ice Lake, Island Lake, and Fuller Lake, each offering its unique charm. The rewarding but strenuous 11-mile hike takes you on an ascending trajectory, starting from 9,840 feet and peaking at the 12,609-foot Fuller Lake, the height of two Empire State Buildings stacked on each other! Ensure to plan your hike to coincide with daylight hours and bypass the typical summer afternoon thunderstorms.

Vallecito Reservoir

Kayak on Vallecito Reservoir, Colorado
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Approximately 18 miles from Durango, lies Vallecito Reservoir — famed as one of Colorado’s most picturesque water bodies. Its 12-mile shoreline beckons visitors for a day trip filled with traditional lake activities, including camping, fishing, and boating. Convenient car access ensures that Vallecito Reservoir is easy to reach for all ages and abilities.

Lake Hope

Nature photographer
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High in the Uncompahgre National Forest’s mountains lies the serene Lake Hope, nestled amidst towering red cliffs and lush spruce-fir forests. A captivating hike through history, this 6-mile, breath-taking out-and-back trail climbs 1,515 feet, culminating in a stunning panorama of the Wilson Range and Lizard Head Wilderness. With an abandoned mining town adding a touch of intrigue, it’s an excellent spot for photographers, history enthusiasts, or those seeking an outdoor adventure.

Columbine Lake

Columbine Lake, Colorado
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Situated 57 miles north of Durango, Columbine Lake provides a demanding, steep trail, rewarding hikers with mesmerizing views of the basin and the lake itself. Despite the scarcity of water, the lake offers fishing opportunities, and there are a few camping spots. While the surrounding peaks appeal to experienced climbers, all visitors should check ahead for rapidly changing high-altitude weather.

Lemon Reservoir

Elderly Couple Hiking Nature
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Located a short 16-mile drive outside Durango, Lemon Reservoir is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Its icy waters, fueled by runoff and snowmelt, host a selection of aquatic activities from serene shoreline fishing to adventurous non-motorized boating. Surrounded by a canyon, the reservoir offers ample opportunities for hiking, camping, rock climbing, and off-roading, while winter ushers in activities like skiing, snowmobiling, and ice-fishing.

Molas Lake and Little Molas Lake

Molas Lake, Colorado
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Molas Lake, a charming 25-acre lake, is popular for its scenic beauty and activities such as kayaking, canoeing, and standup paddleboarding. The nearby Molas Lake Campground Store provides rental options for those in need. Little Molas Lake, its smaller 17-acre counterpart, offers a more private and less crowded experience, where you can still head out onto the waters to paddle.

Haviland Lake

Haviland Lake, Colorado
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Located about 20 miles north of Durango within a dense pine forest, Haviland Lake provides plenty of recreational activities. Campgrounds near the lake offer a convenient base for hiking, birdwatching, picnicking, and limited hunting with proper permits. Trails leading from the lake into the San Juan National Forest often feature mining and railroad history boards, enhancing the experience for both nature lovers and history aficionados.

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Miami Beach
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