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4 Ways to Enjoy Water in Colorado This Summer 

Nothing feels more “summer” than to get outdoors and enjoy some cool, refreshing water. Imagine taking a relaxing paddle on a calm lake surrounded by mountain views, bringing the kids to a sandy swimming beach and enjoying their laughter, or braving a thrilling rafting adventure on some rapids. In Colorado, visitors can explore over 2,000 lakes and reservoirs, plus more than 90,000 miles of rivers. 

From boating and paddling to rafting, fishing, and relaxing in hot springs, Colorado is the perfect place to splash and soak. Discover the endless opportunities for water recreation that abound in this state and why they should absolutely be on your summer bucket list, if they’re not already.

Here are some of the best ways to enjoy the water in Colorado, plus some tips on where to go.

Presented by Visit Colorado

1.Boating and Paddling

Colorado water activities
Courtesy of Visit Colorado

No matter what type of vessel you prefer—motorboat, sailboat, SUP (stand-up paddleboard), or kayak—Colorado is a wonderful place to get out on the water. There are alpine lakes and vast reservoirs across the state perfect for a peaceful experience or a heart-pounding one.

For both boating and paddling, check out Horsetooth Reservoir near Fort Collins for some truly incredible views of the Rockies. Prospect Lake near Colorado Springs is another great option, especially if you prefer a spectacular backdrop. Spend the day sailing through the water while you bask in the splendor of one of Colorado’s famous 14ersPikes Peak.

Cherry Creek Reservoir outside of Denver has plenty of ramps for all your favorite boating activities. Spend the morning making waves on the back of a jet ski, and when you’re ready to slow things down, relax on the sandy beach and cool off with a dip in the roped-off swimming area. With just under 900 acres of water, this reservoir is set in a beautiful state park, and it’s the perfect place to enjoy a warm summer day.

Finally, Evergreen Lake (near the town of Evergreen) is a particularly picturesque spot for kayakers and paddleboarders, and you can even take a serene night excursion under the stars during the summer months. Check out all of your options for boating and paddling in the Centennial State using this interactive map of the boatable waters of Colorado.

2. Rafting 

Colorado water activities
Courtesy of Visit Colorado

Choosing a place to go rafting in Colorado is no easy feat—but not for a lack of options. In fact, this state is one of the best in the nation for whitewater rafting, and there’s a stretch of river for every rafter, no matter his or her skill level. 

Rafting enthusiasts can easily find organized trips with a certified guide for beginners, intermediate level, and advanced-level rafters, too. Clear Creek’s class-1 and II rapids are great for novices and families with children. Cruise through relatively slow-moving currents with few or no obstacles to worry about as you make your way downstream. Take in sights of the craggy rock canyon and lush trees while paddling through the light tussle of white water. Or, opt for a more technical stretch of the creek for those who want to take it up a notch.

If you’re looking to get soaked from head to toe, carve through narrow waters on the San Miguel River near Telluride. With multiple stretches of various levels to choose from, the upper San Miguel is perfect for those seeking a mix of laid-back, yet thrilling fun. Course through swift-moving water and currents on a class-II and III run, cresting medium-sized waves and maneuvering around boulders and logs in the red sandstone canyon. 

For a more advanced option, consider a rafting trip on the Arkansas River, departing from Cañon City. Here, guided treks take you through the famed Royal Gorge Canyon with walls towering over 1,000 feet tall to rugged sections with class-IV rapids. Feel a burst of adrenaline as you paddle through near-continuous white water and dive through technical drops and steep plunges that are bound to get your heart pumping.

Check out state-certified rafting guides to help you select the perfect trip for your group.

3. Fishing

Colorado water activities
Courtesy of Visit Colorado

From rainbow trout to kokanee salmon and largemouth bass, there are dozens of species for fishers to angle throughout Colorado’s many lakes and rivers, including 322 miles of Gold Medal streams—fishing areas the Colorado Wildlife Commission has designated as great spots for catching large trout. Just be sure to pick up a Colorado Fishing License first!

Fantastic fishing options include Spinney Mountain Reservoir near Hartsel, which is one of the best spots in the state for trout fishing, and Blue Mesa Reservoir near Gunnison, which is home to the nation’s largest kokanee salmon fishery. Anglers should also consider visiting the Grand Mesa Lakes, which feature seven trout species. 

In the southern portion of the state, check out Martin Lake at Lathrop State Park in the southeast and Vallecito Lake in the southwest. Get even more recommendations here.

4. Hot Springs

Colorado water activities
Courtesy of Visit Colorado

Feel relaxation set in and rejuvenation take over as you soak in one of Colorado’s 30 picturesque hot springs scattered across the Rocky Mountains. Whether you’re looking for a luxury-style resort or a family-friendly retreat, find the perfect spot to take a dip. 

For an upscale experience in the mountains, the Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort near Nathrop is a fantastic place for a refreshing stay. Rest in a private cabana between dips in the various soaking and infinity pools. Or, get your thrills soaring down the highest hot springs water slide in Colorado. 

Dunton Hot Springs is another extravagant option set amongst the revitalized 1800s ghost town of Dunton in a stunning alpine valley. Book a natural spa treatment onsite, then unwind in the healing calcium bicarbonate waters of the 19th-century bathhouse or in one of the outdoor options under a blanket of stars. 

Home to the world’s largest hot springs pool, Glenwood Hot Springs Resort never disappoints. New additions to this getaway include its Yampah Mineral Baths, a collection of five “baths” offering a variety of temperatures and water features. 

Other popular options include Strawberry Park Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs, where you’re surrounded by enchanting forest, and the family-friendly Ouray Hot Springs nestled in a box canyon with 360-degree mountain views. While the kids splash and play on the facility’s obstacle course and slides, the adults-only soaking area and lap lanes offer a scenic retreat.

Find a full list of Colorado’s hot springs here.

Splash Around in Colorado This Summer

Colorado is a top U.S. destination for water sports—from boating and paddling to rafting, fishing, and soaking in hot springs. Whether you choose just one activity or do a little bit of everything, there’s no wrong way to soak up the water in Colorado (as long as you’re safe). Pick a body of water and spend the day exploring the possibilities or build a whole vacation around your favorite water activity. Either way, it’ll be a trip to remember.

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