Updated: 10/18/2017

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True, Colorado is a landlocked state, but plenty of Rocky Mountain lakes and reservoirs offer miles of shoreline to swim in and sun yourself by each summer. Blue Mesa Reservoir — part of Curecanti National Recreation Area — 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 community of Montrose and the mountain college town of Gunnison, it opens up into a broad landscape of sparkling blue water and talus-sloped hills. Here is the Blue Mesa Reservoir, where the waters of the Gunnison River gather before carving through the steep walls of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

Boaters love the 29-mile-long reservoir, which has several arms that lead into secluded canyons. The fishing is legendary, as it’s stocked with millions of fish each year, and it is home to the largest cokanee salmon fishery in the US.

Colorado's Blue Mesa Reservoir, near Montrose and Gunnison, CO
Colorado's Blue Mesa Reservoir, near Montrose and Gunnison, CO

And, with camping, windsurfing, waterskiing, hiking, horseback riding and boat tours also vying for attention, it takes a few days to experience it all.

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.

Other Relaxing Colorado Beaches

All of these Colorado beaches have plenty of camping nearby — so you never have to be too far from the water during the hot summer months.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve: Enjoy the sandy expanses at the base of the tallest dunes in North America near Alamosa. In springtime, splash away in the gently flowing Medano Creek.

Boulder Reservoir: One of the larger beaches in Colorado, the swim area is 300 yards of clean sand with views of the famously picturesque Boulder Flatirons.

Chatfield State Park: Nestled at the base of the foothills, this reservoir offers a recreation haven just 30 minutes from downtown Denver in Littleton

Jackson Lake State Park: This Fort Morgan-area “oasis on the plains” is quite shallow, allowing it to warm quickly during the summer. 

John Martin Reservoir State Park: This low-traffic Lamar lake offers a peaceful escape perfect for picnicking, swimming, fishing and boating.

Grand Lake: This massive, glassy lake on the western edge of Rocky Mountain National Park has something for everyone and is popular with boaters, waterskiers, anglers and sunbathers. 

Want More?

Plan a two-day itinerary around Gunnison and Crested Butte >>

Discover more great places to drop a fishing line in Colorado >>

Photo Courtesy of the National Park Service/Lisa Lynch.