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Updated: 9/17/2014

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Blue Mesa Reservoir

Blue Mesa Reservoir is the state's largest body of water, which means abundant recreation and lounge-worthy beaches.

As US Hwy. 50 winds through the pinyon-dotted, high-mountain desert between the rural communities of Montrose and Gunnison, it opens up into a broad landscape of sparkling blue water and talus-sloped hills.

While much of the shoreline is rocky, you’ll find good swimming areas at the Bay of Chickens, Dry Creek and Old Highway 50 beach. The water is always cool, and there’s nothing more refreshing on a hot day spent in the high-altitude sun.

The winding fingers of Blue Mesa Reservior, near Gunnison, CO
Medano Creek in Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Wakeboarding at Boulder Reservior, Boulder, CO
Soaking up the sun on the shores of Grand Lake, CO

Medano Creek, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Medano Creek is Colorado’s clandestine swimming beach. Every spring, the wide, shallow and gently flowing Medano Creek emerges from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains behind the sand dunes to form an oasis for those waiting to build sandcastles and cool off in its divinely chilly waters. Just as quickly, come late August, the creek disappears for another year.

Popular activities at Medano include swimming, sand sculpting, skimboarding and strolling along the world-famous dunes surrounding the water (médano is Spanish for sand dune). Be sure to check Great Sand Dune National Park’s website for updated information on the creek’s flow.

Chatfield State Park

Head on over to Chatfield State Park's reservoir when you’re craving a beautiful location to bask in Colorado’s warm rays. With pristine view of the Rocky Mountain foothills, Chatfield State Park is a beautiful setting for gathering with friends and family.

This state park is one of the most popular destinations in metro Denver, with plenty of activities to suit your beach-lubbin’ fancy. Whether it’s barbecuing, wildlife viewing, hiking or water sports.

If beach camping perks your interest, Chatfield doesn’t disappoint. All 197 campsites are within walking distance of the water and come equipped with picnic tables and grills.

Grand Lake

Surrounded by steep, pine tree-covered hills, Grand Lake’s sparkling blue water is the perfect beach destination for a day trip or weeklong getaway. Situated on the western edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Lake is Colorado’s largest natural lake — an idyllic spot for scenic lounging near glassy waters and poignant peaks.

When you’re not cooling off in the high alpine lake, check out the collection of boats skimming across the water. Speedboats, canoes, party and fishing boats are available for rental at the marina. Grand Lake is also appealing for the beach goer who appreciates a lively boardwalk. Stroll along historic Grand Avenue to peruse more than 60 shops and restaurants.

Boulder Reservoir

Unobstructed views of the Boulder foothills dominate Boulder Reservoir, making it difficult to believe that it’s only minutes from nearby cities like Boulder and Longmont. A popular day-trip spot for locals, this beachy reservoir is a favorite for runners, bikers, swimmers and beach loungers wanting to relish in the vacation atmosphere.

Boulder Reservoir is a diverse landscape, ranging from areas that feel like deserts to swampy marshes that will make you second guess that you’re in Colorado. The 700 acre state park provides many things to do and see while you’re not relaxing on the warm sands, including friendly encounters with furry and feathery wildlife.

Jackson Lake State Park

There’s no better description for Jackson Lake State Park than an oasis amid Colorado’s eastern plains. Its warm, South Platte River-fed water and sandy bottom beaches welcome swimmers and water skiers looking to cool off each summer.

Chosen as one of the “Top 15 Park Beaches” by Reserve America, Jackson Lake is must if you’re vacationing in the area or just passing through Colorado’s eastern plains.

There’s even treasure hunting at Jackson Lake. The state park is one of many secretive geocaching locations around the world. Geocaching is where participants use GPS to locate hidden containers with various treasures. You can register to participate at the official geocaching website.

Photos: Blue Mesa Reservoir, copyright flickr/Nature's Image; Medano Creek, copyright flickr/adventurejournalist; Boulder Reservoir