Best Watering Holes and Swimming Spots in Colorado

Devil’s Punchbowl in Aspen. Photo by Mike Payne.

We may not have the ocean in Colorado, but don’t worry — you can still get your tan on and pretend you’re in paradise without having to fly out.
Here is the list of Colorado’s favorite and best watering holes and swimming spots.

Note: Swim at your own risk and consider the current and water levels before entering. Springtime or high water times can be particularly dangerous. Obey all signs and do not swim in restricted areas. 

Paradise Cove

Paradise Cove via All Trails

Near: Guffey, Colorado
Directions: HERE

If jumping off a diving board is a little too tame for your daredevil personality, this neat watering hole find close to Colorado Springs should be your destination. After a short 0.5 mile one-way hike near Cripple Creek, adventurous visitors can choose from three different cliff faces to jump into a small, but deep pool fed by a waterfall.

Warning: Be careful when cliff jumping. This is a swim at your own risk site.

Needle Creek

Near: Silverton, Colorado

This unheard-of creek is only frequented by locals, and this spot fed by waterfalls near the Chicago Basin in the San Juan National Forest is at the base of four 14ers: Windom, Sunlight, Eolus and North Eolus. If you decide to make the trek to any of these peaks, Needle Creek is the best place to cool off after your journey.
Directions: HERE

Big Dominguez Canyon

Big Dominguez Canyon via Go Hike Colorado

Near: Grand Junction, Colorado
Directions: HERE

If you decide to visit the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area for a nice day-hike in the canyon, be sure to cool off at the swimming pools connected by the Gunnison River. These calm and peaceful watering holes feature waterfalls and gorgeous rock formations and the temperature is usually warm so you’ll be able to relax without freezing.

Note: Certain areas in the Canyon are too dangerous to swim, especially during springtime or when the water is high — specifically in the potholes in an area called “Death Hole.” Please proceed with caution and obey all signs if and where swimming is discouraged or illegal.   

The Black Hole

Near: Two Buttes, Colorado
Directions: HERE

If you’re looking for the watering hole rebellious teenagers flock to when the first summer heat wave hits, look no further. The Black Hole was created when a dam was erected at Two Buttes Creek, creating the Two Buttes Reservoir on one side and on the other side, the perfect place for cliff diving. Show off your best flipping or diving moves at this adrenaline-pumping location meant for thrill-seekers.

Warning: Be careful when cliff jumping. This is a swim at your own risk site.

Jackson Lake

Photo courtesy of

Near: Orchard, Colorado
Directions: HERE

This large reservoir in the northeast corner of Colorado is sometimes known as an oasis in the plains, and it makes sense since there’s no body of water elsewhere for miles. You’ll be shocked when you visit this man-made lake that actually has sandy beaches and campsites — the perfect beach vacation far away from the coast.

Blue Mesa Reservoir

Photo via Thinkstock

Near: Gunnison, Colorado
Directions: HERE

As the largest body of water in Colorado, the Blue Mesa Reservoir located near Gunnison offers fjord-like views you really just have to see. An astonishing 20 miles long, Blue Mesa boasts fresh blue waters surrounded by beautiful mesas and canyons. It is even a great place to scuba dive. Blue Mesa is also the largest producer of lake trout and Kokanee salmon in Colorado, so make sure you taste some freshwater fish if you visit.

Big Soda Lake

Photo by Ken Papaleo.

Near: Lakewood, Colorado
Directions: HERE

Close to Denver, Big Soda Lake lies in Bear Creek Lake Park in Lakewood for the perfect beach getaway. The sandy swim beach on the largest of the two Soda reservoirs is great for swimmers of all ages, so take out your sunscreen and bask not far from the city.

Ruedi Reservoir

Photo courtesy of Ruedi Reservoir on Facebook.

Near: Basalt, Colorado

Directions: HERE

Ruedi Reservoir, located just outside Basalt, is a campers paradise. With four campgrounds, the area has plenty of space to spread out and enjoy the surrounding mountains. Whether you take a hike up Red Table Mountain for a panoramic view or lounge at the beach, it’s a great place to enjoy the outdoors.

Grand Lake

Grand Lake via All Trails

Near: Grand Lake, Colorado
Directions: HERE

As Colorado’s deepest and largest natural lake, it’s no surprise Grand Lake is on our list. This popular swimming destination is roughly a mile in length and width, making it just the right size for boating, bathing and sailing.

Horsetooth Reservoir

Horsetooth Reservoir via Facebook

Near: Fort Collins, Colorado
Directions: HERE

This is where CSU students get their beach on, and so can you. After heading up to Fort Collins, be sure to check out this man-made lake created by four dams and surrounded by 2,000 acres of public land. At the reservoir, you’ll find native Coloradans soaking up the sun on the beach, water-skiing, boating and fishing.

Devil’s Punchbowl – Aspen

Devil’s Punchbowl in Aspen. Photo by Mike Payne.

Near: Aspen, Colorado
Directions: HERE

Daredevils rejoice. Devil’s Punchbowl is right outside Aspen and it’s the perfect place for cliff jumping and proving to your friends you have no qualms about heights. Near The Grottos along Independence Pass, a series of waterfalls create a crystal clear watering hole surrounded by 20-foot cliffs. Freezing temperatures in the icy pool make this popular swim spot only for the absolute bravest. Do it only if you dare.

Warning: Be careful when cliff jumping. This is a swim at your own risk site. Water may be dangerous in spring and early summer due to the strong currents of the Roaring Fork River. 

Cherry Creek Reservoir

Cherry Creek Reservoir via All Trails

Near: Aurora, Colorado
Directions: HERE

Don’t want to travel far from Denver, but want a picturesque lake view? Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora features an 880-acre reservoir and surrounding natural prairie environment with views of the Rockies. Take a paddleboat out or lay on the sandy swim beach on the northwestern shore for a perfect summer day not far from the Mile High City.

Conundrum Hot Springs

Conundrum Hot Springs. Photo by Maggie Dickman.

Near: Aspen, Colorado
Directions: HERE

At 11,200 feet elevation, the Conundrum Hot Springs outside Aspen are some of the highest hot springs in the continent. To reach this gorgeous view of the valley and soak in the therapeutic heated pools completely isolated in nature, you must hike roughly nine miles one-way on the Conundrum Creek Trail. Since the journey to the springs is such a trek, many people camp near the springs before they head back the next day, and because there’s no one to stop you — clothing is optional. The only conundrum about this watering hole is why more people haven’t heard of it.

Cache La Poudre River

Near: Fort Collins, Colorado
Directions: HERE

Just like Horsetooth Reservoir, the Cache La Poudre River near Fort Collins is a popular destination for Coloradans looking for a quick place to cool off. In the mid to late summer months, this scenic river is perfect for tubing and swimming. At Legacy Park or at Picnic Rock northwest of Fort Collins near the Poudre Canyon, you can find rope swings and a beach area — the perfect lazy summer day ingredients.

Warning: Do NOT swim in the Poudre in the spring and early summer months since currents are strong. Tubing especially can be extremely dangerous.

Strawberry Park Hot Springs

Near: Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Directions: HERE

It might be popular in the winter, but Strawberry Springs also comes to life in the summer too. At a more-than-cozy 104°, these natural hot springs are hidden in the magical forest near Steamboat Springs and host a number of visitors who spend the night under the stars in rustic cabins and take a dip in the nude since there’s only flashlights and it’s completely allowed.

Medano Creek

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve via Facebook

Near: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado
Directions: HERE

If you’re covered in sand and sweat from a hot day at the Sand Dunes near Alamosa, be sure to cool off at this creek that often gets overlooked, Medano Creek is a perfect place to dip right at the edge of the dunes where the mountains start. If you want to experience all the environments, Medano Creek is pretty much the magical oasis you’re looking for.

Pagosa Springs Hot Springs

Pagosa Springs via Facebook

Near: Pagosa Springs, Colorado
Directions: HERE

For centuries, Native Americans have spoken of the great healing powers of these naturally therapeutic hot springs, and we agree — you will definitely feel better after a 10-minute soak. With beautiful summer sunsets looking over the horizon on the town and resort of Pagosa Springs, this steamy swimming spot is romantic, breathtaking and a relaxer’s paradise. Fun fact: Pagosa Springs is the deepest hot springs in the world, according to Guinness. It is at least 1,002 feet deep, but it could be deeper because every time it is estimated, the measuring line runs out before reaching the bottom.

Boulder Creek

Near: Boulder, Colorado
Directions: HERE

If you’re looking for a fun, laid-back swimming spot not far from Denver, Boulder Creek has you covered. Fun for the whole family, this large creek draining the Rockies is a popular place for cooling off, fly fishing and tubing.

Warning: During certain parts of the season, the tubing can get extreme, so make sure to come properly equipped (helmets are preferred) and don’t go in if the currents are too strong. 

Wellington Lake

Photo by Sarah Stapley.

Near: Bailey, Colorado
Directions: HERE

If you’re headed up to Kenosha Pass, make sure you stop in the adorable small town of Bailey, Colorado and visit Wellington Lake. A great spot for canoeing, swimming, fishing or just getting some peace and quiet, this serene 167-acre lake offers blue waters and fantastic views.

Adrenaline Falls

Near: Durango, Colorado
Directions: HERE

Located in the San Juan National Forest, Adrenaline Falls earns its name with being the unheard-of cliff jumping location you must check out for well — a real adrenaline rush. Surrounded by beautiful pine trees, this watering hole features a rather large watering hole engorged by massive rock formations you can jump off from in every direction. Don’t miss out on Adrenaline Falls. This is a summer-must for those looking for adventure.

Warning: Be careful when cliff jumping. This is a swim at your own risk site.

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