Beaches in Denver? Yep. And we’re not talking about water parks.
We mean real, toes in the sand, sail boating, swimming, splashing-in-the-surf-with-your-dog beaches. The water may not stretch on to the horizon, but Colorado beaches have mountains in the background, so that makes up for it.
Some of these Denver “beaches” are technically reservoirs, and some reservoirs come with “No Swimming” signs guarding their borders. But the beaches below are open for swimming, boating, and other water fun.
Just remember to apply sunscreen—the elevation in Colorado is higher than along the coasts, which means the sun is a little closer and it’s easier to get burned.
Grand Lake and Lake Granby
Camping with Wildlife
Grand Lake gets top billing in our best beaches in Denver list, even though it’s actually about two hours northwest of Denver. It’s the largest, and deepest, natural lake in Colorado. The water is chilly—chilly enough that the local Ute tribe believed it was inhabited by the spirits of the dead, and called it Spirit Lake—but that’s to be expected since it’s fed by glacier runoff. It’s right on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, and near the towns of Grand Lake and Estes Park. So in addition to all the traditional beach activities, there’s camping, hiking, 4-wheeling, wildlife watching, shopping and restaurants within hiking distance, and even the highest-altitude golf course in the US!
This area actually has several beaches. Grand Lake, Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain Lake and Reservoir, and Lake Dillon are all in close proximity to one another
Boulder Reservoir is about 45 minutes northwest of Denver, but it can get busy in the summer, so if you’re heading out for a day trip, be sure to start early and claim your patch of sand. While this isn’t exactly a camping beach, it is a popular spot for locals, who come here to boat, swim, kayak, ski, and picnic. There’s even a supervised swimming area with a lifeguard on duty (which you won’t find at most other beaches in Colorado).
Chatfield State Park
Weekend Camping and Swimming
Chatfield State Park is about 45 minutes from Denver in the opposite direction of Boulder—southwest, in the city of Littleton. Chatfield Park is popular with locals who are looking for a little more than just hiking and swimming. Here you can find popular water sports like skiing, kayaking, and fishing, but you can also find hot air ballooning and horseback riding.
It’s close enough to Denver to be a great day trip, but it’s also got beautiful campgrounds, which makes it perfect for weekend camping getaways. The campgrounds have showers and flush toilets, and even a floating restaurant.
Jackson Lake State Park
The “Oasis in the Plains” is the largest body of water in Colorado. Located an hour and a half northeast of Denver, it’s has been rated among the top land-locked beaches in the country. The beaches are sandy, and there are over 260 campsites. It can get pretty windy on the plains, so Jackson Lake is a popular spot for sail boating. But despite the wind, this beach has some of the warmest waters on our list. It’s relatively shallow, which means it soaks up the sun easily. Campers also have fun hiking, dirt biking, and 4-wheeling.
While most beaches in Denver are popular for wildlife viewing (with the possible exception of Boulder Res.), Jackson Lake is a particularly exciting destination for bird watchers.
Fishing Day Trip
Aurora Reservoir is often overlooked in favor of more dramatic Colorado beaches, probably because it’s more of a day trip destination than a camping ground. But it has over 800 acres of water surface, and has been named (by local publication Westword) as “The Best Park for Fishing.” Fishing tournaments are commonly hosted here.
The Aurora Reservoir serves as drinking water storage for the city of Aurora. There’s plenty to do here, like hiking and boating, but swimming is only open during the summer, and all boats must be non-motorized.
Lake Pueblo State Park
Bear Creek Lake Park (which has three lakes: Bear Creek Lake, Big Soda Lake, and Little Soda Lake)
Blue Mesa Reservoir
Medano Creek, Great Sand Dunes National Park