Colorado Lakes & Canoeing

Anybody care to share a few of their favorite lakes to canoe and camp on in Colorado? I would prefer info on lakes that have mountains in view and the possibility of catching some fish for dinner.


Mountain views
A few:

Twin Lakes, near Leadville

Turquoise Lake, near Leadville

Blue Mesa Reservoir, between Gunnison and Montrose

The above three can get strong sudden winds even in good weather. Cold water and high altitude. Twin and Blue Mesa are known for good fishing; not sure about Turquoise.

Trying to remember if Ridgeway State Park’s lake had good mtn views. I think it did, but it’s been about 15 years since I went there (did not paddle at the time).

Dillon Reservoir, near Frisco and Dillon–but has views also of UGLY condo developments etc.

Pueblo Reservoir has some mountain views but it’s probably not what you are thinking of–and it, like the Granby complex, has zebra mussels. It’s not as bad as some other states’ situations, but they’re there.

Please, if you’ve been where there are zebra mussels, thoroughly decon your gear before entering any other waters. Thank you.

I pack a 14’ canoe and keep an eye out for those little varmits…they seem to really get around.

Of the 3 lakes you mentioned together, did you camp at those lakes? Were you able to slide you canoe right into the water from your campsite? Any luck with catching dinner?


Of the first 3 mentioned, I’ve only camped on Turquoise Lake. There are quite a few campgrounds there, but mostly are motor home friendly. There is one non-reservable walk-in campground that I stayed at, that was very nice and quiet. You can put your boat in the lake from your campsite, but you might have to walk 50 or a 100 yards to the water, depending on which site you get. Some of the other campgrounds have sites on the water also, but probably not within 50 yards? Fishing is supposed to be pretty good for Lake Trout - people are usually catching fish at the inlet also.

Forgot to mention Eleven Mile Reservoir
I have car-camped at Twin Lakes, and I have done an overnight kayak camping trip (as well as car-camping) at Blue Mesa, which allows “dispersed camping.” All 3 have numerous Forest Service campgrounds for car campers but Twin and Turquoise might not allow dispersed camping–call them and ask about it if that’s what you plan to do. Blue Mesa has designated boat-in campsites also (includes motorboats).

All of them have car campsites with access to the water, though not necessarily right from the campsite.

I forgot to add Eleven Mile Reservoir to the list. They have a few car campsites with easy water access right at them, PLUS they have an area devoted just to boat-in or hike-in users (this includes motorboaters).

I don’t fish. It looked like fishing was very popular at all of them.

Northern Colorado
I like Chambers Lake on the west side of the divide off of Highway 14 (north of RMNP). Pretty remote with nice campsites and nice trout. Lovely views. No canoe camping that I know of, but there is a nice Forest Service campground. The drive there is generally through the Poudre Canyon if you’re coming from the east, and the trip itself is great.

I also like Pearl Lake outside of Steamboat Springs. Decent fishing, nice views, and much, much quieter than the nearby Steamboat Lake. I do admit that Steamboat Lake has some nice fishing, but it’s wide open and has lots of motorboats. Some nice lakeside campsites at Pearl. Run by CO State Parks.

Red Feather Lakes (a number of small lakes relatively close together) has really good fishing, in my experience. Not quite as scenic, but still nice. A number of different lodging opportunities from relatively primitive campgrounds to B&Bs and lodges.

These are all places we’ve visited at least 2 times, and some of them more than that. I really like this part of the state.


Thanks CanoePam. Steamboat Springs area is beautiful. Was there 15 years ago…didn’t canoe/camp then. I’ll check out your lakes.

11 mile resevoir
There is a fantastic flat water lake called the 11 mile resevoir North of Manitu Springs over the Wilkerson pass. You can’t miss it on the left as you enter the valley. I have a buddy the owns all of the land in that valley. 50 square mile of land that he inherited.

The resevoir is on the west edge of his land and we use to kayak and trout fish there all day when we were stationed at Ft. Carson in CO Springs.

You can paddle all day on the 22 mile shore line below some of the prettiest mountain and with in view of Pikes Peak’s North face.

Check it out.

Eleven Mile

I can say I camped out at Eleven Mile Lake several June’s ago. The winds were relentless. I didn’t have my canoe with me and that’s just as well. Several fisherman tried to fish inside their inner tube fishing contraptions. Boy did they battle the winds to try to keep from being blown around.

The Eleven Mile Canyon was much more scenic and I would recommend it, the lake seemed barren though the facilities were nice.

I guess I’m looking for something like the Hwy 14 lakes described earlier. It’s worth a try anyway.

No mention of Horsetooth Reservoir!

I’ll mention that it costs $7 per day for your vehicle, plus $7 per day for your boat to paddle there

(unless you have anual passes for both)- which generally takes it out of “favorite” status for me

If you camp there you only pay for the nights camping and you can paddle for the whole weekend free.

twin Lakes
That lake would be really nice, though there are a lot of car camping USFS around the lakes. I don’t recall of any dispersed camping in that area, although I have seen some folks camped further west along the various trailheads such as Black Creek (on the southern approach to S. Elbert/Elbert) and places not on the lake.

If you have a map of Colorado, you can camp on any BLM land for free, although I forget what the limitations are, usually it’s like 150ft or something from water, roads, etc… We camped like that for a few days while peakbagging in the Sawatch range.