Colorado’s Best Lakes with Campgrounds

Blue Mesa reservoir. Photo via Thinkstock

Throughout Colorado — there are many breathtaking campgrounds situated along the edge of lakes. These unique campgrounds give you the chance to lie on a beach, swim, or even boat while camping. If you’re looking for a change of pace from the normal forested campgrounds — these five Colorado lakes will add an exciting element to your next outdoor stay.

Grand Lake/Granby

Photo Courtesy of Visit Grand Country Website

Where: Grand Lake is a short two-hour drive from Denver. Just take I-70 west till you hit US 40. Follow that north to Granby and then Grand Lake is just a short drive north up US 34.

Campgrounds: Spread around near Grand Lake and Granby are many campgrounds directly on the lakes. Stillwater Campground has a whopping 129 sites — 21 of which have electrical hookups — and is located directly on Lake Granby. Willow Creek Group Campground has 35 nonelectrical sites and one group site that can hold up to 20 people which will need to be reserved in advance. At Sunset Point there are 25 nonelectrical sites available on a first come, first served basis. Cutthroat Bay has two group campsites which can hold up to 30 people and require a reservation.

The Lowdown: While camping near Grand Lake there are hundreds of things to do. Rocky Mountain National Park is a short drive away and offers hundreds of trails to explore. If you prefer to stay around your campground — take a boat out on Grand Lake or Lake Granby and water ski or just soak up the sun while navigating these beautiful mountain lakes. If you get hungry — the town of Grand Lake sits right on the north edge of Grand Lake and offers plenty of dining options to satisfy your cravings. After enjoying the high alpine lake, you can even take the beautiful Trail Ridge Road back to the Front Range to finish your trip with sweeping vistas of the Rocky Mountains.

READ: The Ultimate Colorado Road Trip Made Entirely of Scenic Byways and Detours

Turquoise Lake

Photo by Kamal Hamid via Flickr Creative Commons.

Where: Turquoise Lake is two hours west of Denver near Leadville. Just take I-70 west till you hit Copper Mountain then follow Colorado 91 till you hit Leadville.

Campgrounds: Huddled on the east edge of Turquoise Lake are many campgrounds directly on the lake or tucked back into the trees. Matchless Campground has 17 spots available on a first come, first served basis. Nearby, the Molly Brown Campground has 47 sites that are available for reservation or by walk up. Lastly — Baby Doe Campground has 48 single family sites that can be reserved or paid for by walking up.

The Lowdown: Located near Leadville — Turquoise Lake offers a lot of different recreational activities to enjoy while camping along its shores. From the Matchless campground, you are able to launch a boat and spend your day exploring the deep blue waters of this lake or enjoy any of the hundreds of trails surrounding it. The town of Leadville is just a short drive away from the campsites and offers restaurants, history and other attractions to discover.

Lake Navajo

Lake Navajo — Photo by Ken Lund via Flickr Creative Commons

Where: Lake Navajo is located in southern Colorado. It is roughly five and a half hours from Denver but the trip is worth it. Follow US 285 south till you hit US 160. Follow that till you see Chimney Rock and Colorado 151. From there it’s just a few minutes before the lake comes into view.

Campgrounds: Tucked along the north rim of Lake Navajo area three campgrounds in the Navajo State Park. Caraccas campground has 41 sites, Rosa campground has 39 sites, Tiffany campground has 25 sites and there are 19 primitive campsites at Windsurf Beach and Arboles Point.

The Lowdown: Located just barely north of the Colorado-New Mexico border, Lake Navajo offers you multiple fun activities to enjoy while camping. Take your boat out on the lake and go just two miles south and you’ll cross the border into New Mexico. You can drive all the way down the lake to Navajo Dam on the far south end. The nearest town — Pagosa Springs — has hot springs and many restaurants that you can enjoy while visiting civilization.

READ: 5 Colorado Hot Springs You’ve Yet to Discover

Blue Mesa Reservoir

Blue Mesa Reservoir. Photo by Dave Dugdale from Flickr Creative Commons

Where: Blue Mesa Reservoir is just four-hours from Denver. Head into the mountains along US 285 till you reach Poncha Springs. Then just head west along US 50 past Monarch and Gunnison to reach Blue Mesa Reservoir.

Campgrounds: Dotted along Blue Mesa Reservoir are many campgrounds giving you access to this beautiful reservoir. Elk Creek Campground is located on the North side of Blue Mesa and has 160 sites spread across four loops. Loops A and D are reservable — but B and C are first come, first serve. Lake Fork Campground is located almost at the very end of the reservoir — just a few hundred feet from the dam — and has 90 sites available. The upper and middle sections are reservable while the lower section is first come, first serve. On the opposite side of the lake from Lake Fork is Stevens Creek Campground. Stevens Creek has 53 spots available spread across three loops — but only loop A is reservable.

The Lowdown: Blue Mesa Reservoir spans 20 miles and is filled to the brim with activities. Like most lakes in Colorado, you can drop your boat in (at the Lake Fork Campground or the Elk Creek Campground) and enjoy a day on the water. From these two marinas you are able to rent pontoon boats and kayaks if you can’t bring your own. Blue Mesa Reservoir has over 90 miles of shoreline for you to explore or relax on while you soak up the sunny mountain air at 7,500 feet. The town of Gunnison lies just a quick 20-minute drive east of Blue Mesa Reservoir if you need a taste of society while you’re away. This is also an area known for its stargazing, so make sure to stay up late enough to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way.

READ: A Mapped Guide on Where to Find the Best Stargazing in Colorado

Rampart Reservoir

Photo Courtesy of Manitou Springs website.

Where: Just a short drive south of Denver lies Rampart Reservoir. Take I-25 south to Colorado Springs. Turn west and follow US 24 up to Woodland Park. From there you’ll take Rampart Range Road to your campground.

Campgrounds: Rampart Reservoir has two campgrounds that you can stay at. Meadow Ridge Campground has 19 sites available and is available for both reservations and walk-ups. The other campground — Thunder Ridge — has 21 sites available and is also available for both walk-ups and reservations.

The Lowdown: Situated high above Colorado Springs lies Rampart Reservoir. The nearest town — Woodland Park — has a population of 7,600 people, but the amount of recreational activities in this area is enormous. From these campgrounds, you can hike around the reservoir, paddle board, kayak and explore the surrounding natural scenes of Colorado. If you’re itching to get away from your campsite for a bit you can drive up Pikes Peak — one of Colorado’s most famous 14ers.

All across Colorado, there are beautiful lakes lined with campgrounds. Wherever you and your friends end up camping make sure to respect your neighbors and take the time to preserve the natural beauty that Colorado offers use each and every day.

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