Lakes near Denver: A summer guide to boating, beaches, rentals and swimming

Boulder Reservoir. (Richard Saxon/Flickr Creative Commons)
Chatfield Reservoir. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) chatfield; reservoir; water; lake; denver; littleton; denverite; kevinjbeaty
Chatfield Reservoir. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

It’s unofficially summer, and that means it’s time to get lakeside.

But what’s easily accessible from Denver, and what can you do there? It turns out that you have plenty of options within about an hour or less of the city.

Inside Denver:

Swimming is not allowed at any of the lakes within city limits.

Sloan’s Lake is the only Denver lake to allow motorized boats; jet skis and motorized personal watercraft are not allowed on Sloan’s.

You can take non-motorized boats (kayaks, paddle boards, canoes) out on Sloan’s, Rocky Mountain Lake, Berkeley Lake, Smith Lake at Washington Park, and Ferril Lake at City Park.

If you bring your own vessel, you’ll need to pay for an annual permit, which can run from $49 for a paddleboard or kayak to $245 for a motor boat. Prices are higher for non-residents.

You do have the option of renting non-motorized boats without a permit at City Park and Wash Park.

Ferril Lake in City Park. skyline; cityscape; city park; ferril lake; pond; water; clouds; landscape; denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty;
Ferril Lake in City Park. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Swimming and fun outside Denver:

If you’re looking to get outside of Denver for a bit, try one of these lakes and reservoirs with beaches, more boating options, camping, and more.

Water birds at the Cherry Creek Reservoir. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) nature; animals; kevinjbeaty; denver; colorado; denverite;
Water birds at the Cherry Creek Reservoir. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
20 minutes from Denver: Cherry Creek State Park

Swimming: Only allowed during the summer in the designated swim beach area
Boating: Power boats, sailing, sailboarding, paddle boarding, jet skiing, canoeing
Other activities: Fishing, hiking, horseback riding, horseback riding, biking, birding
Rentals: Pontoons, jet skis, paddleboards, kayaks and more
Entrance fee: $9 per day per vehicle
Alcohol: 3.2% beer only (no glass)
Grilling: Available
Concessions: Open to the public on select days
Dogs: Allowed on a leash or in the designated off-leash area (which costs $2 per day)
Camping: 135 sites available
Address: 4201 S Parker Rd, Aurora, CO 80014
Summer hours: 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Boulder Reservoir. (Richard Saxon/Flickr Creative Commons)
Boulder Reservoir. (Richard Saxon/Flickr Creative Commons)
40 minutes from Denver: Boulder Reservoir

Swimming: Only allowed in the designated swim beach area from Memorial Day to Labor Day
Boating: Sailboats, power boats, kayaks, canoes, kite boards, sail boards (permits required)
Other activities: Fishing (with some restrictions) and biking
Rentals: Sailboats, kayaks, standup paddle boards and more
Entrance fee: $7 per adult (children and seniors cost less)
Alcohol: Allowed (no glass)
Grilling: Rent for $40 per day
Concessions: There is a food, snack and drink concession stand near the swim beach
Dogs: Not allowed May 15 through Labor Day
Camping: None
Address: 5565 N 51st St., Boulder, CO 80301
Summer hours: Memorial Day to Labor Day, 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Moody skies over Chatfield Reservoir. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) chatfield; reservoir; water; lake; denver; littleton; denverite; kevinjbeaty
Moody skies over Chatfield Reservoir. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
40 minutes from Denver: Chatfield State Park

Swimming: Only allowed in the designated swim-beach area from Memorial Day to Labor Day
Boating: Power boats, sailing, sailboarding, paddle boarding, jet skiing, canoeing
Other activities: Fishing, hiking, horseback riding, hot-air balloon rides, biking
Rentals: Fishing boats, pontoons, kayaks, canoes, paddle boards and more
Entrance fee: $8 per day per vehicle
Alcohol: 3.2% beer only (no glass)
Grilling: Available
Concessions: Fast-serve and dine-in options
Dogs: Allowed on a leash or in the designated off-leash area (which costs $2 per day)
Camping: 197 campsites, all with electrical hookups
Address: 11500 N Roxborough Park Rd, Littleton, CO 80125
Summer hours: 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. (with 24-hour access for campers)

Aurora Reservoir (Courtesy of the City of Aurora)
Aurora Reservoir (Courtesy of the City of Aurora)
45 minutes from Denver: Aurora Reservoir

Swimming: Only allowed in the designated swim-beach area from Memorial Day to September 30
Boating: Electric motors only, hand-propelled boats, sailboats, kayaks and paddle boards (see full regulations and information about required permits here)
Other activities: Fishing and scuba diving (with some restrictions)
Rentals: Single and tandem kayaks and paddle boards are available for $15 per hour
Entrance fee: $10 per day per vehicle
Alcohol: 3.2% beer only (no glass)
Grilling: Allowed outside of the beach areas
Dogs: Allowed on leashes (not on the beaches or in the water)
Camping: None
Address: 26000 E. Quincy Ave., Aurora, CO 80016
Summer hours: June-July, 5 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
August, 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
September, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Horsetooth Reservoir (AJ Schroetlin/Flickr Creative Commons)
Horsetooth Reservoir (AJ Schroetlin/Flickr Creative Commons)
75 minutes from Denver: Horsetooth Reservoir

Swimming: Only allowed in the designated swim beach area
Boating: Power boats, sailing, sailboarding, paddle boarding, jet skiing, canoeing (permits required)
Other activities: Fishing, scuba diving, rock climbing, water skiing
Rentals: Pontoons, fishing boats, ski boats, group boats, jet skis, paddle boards, kayaks and more
Entrance fee: $7 per day per vehicle
Alcohol: 3.2% beer only (no glass)
Grilling: Bring your own
Concessions: Options at the Inlet Bay Marina and a convenience store on the south end of the reservoir
Dogs: Allowed on a leash (not at the swim beach)
Camping: Sites available
Address: 4200 W County Rd 38 E, Fort Collins, CO 80526
Summer hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. (24-hour access to campers)

Jackson Lake State Park (Courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife)
Jackson Lake State Park (Courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife)
75 minutes from Denver: Jackson Lake State Park

Swimming: Only allowed in the designated area on the west shore
Boating: Power boats, sailing, sailboarding, paddle boarding, jet skiing, canoeing (permits required)
Other activities: Biking, fishing, geocaching, hiking, volleyball, water skiing, sailboarding
Rentals: Wake boards, water skis, boats, jet skis, and more
Entrance fee: $7 per day per vehicle
Alcohol: 3.2% beer only (no glass)
Grilling: Can be reserved
Concessions: Options at the Shoreline Marina
Dogs: Allowed on a leash
Camping: 260 sites available
Address: 26363 Co Rd 3, Orchard, CO 80649
Summer hours: 24 hours a day

Stephanie Snyder

Author: Stephanie Snyder

Stephanie Snyder is Denverite's engagement specialist — focusing on social media, audience development and finding creative ways to connect with readers. Like many, she is an enthusiastic Denver transplant after working as a journalist in New York City, Southern California, Washington, D.C., and her hometown — Phoenix.