Summer’s end already looms near. How can that be? But it’s true – some kids go back to school in less than a month.
Have you been to the beach yet?
Even though Colorado is a landlocked state, plenty of Rocky Mountain lakes and reservoirs offer miles of shoreline for swimming, playing or just relaxing by a sparkling body of water.
Right here in Colorado Springs, we have Prospect Lake with a roped-off swim beach and lots of sand for building castles. They even supply the buckets. And if you’re unsure of your swim skills, there’s a lifeguard on duty.
But perhaps you’d like to go farther afield for your day at the beach – or maybe make a weekend of it.
Blue Mesa Reservoir west of Gunnison is the state’s largest body of water, which means not just fishing and boating, but also lounge-worthy beaches. It’s even swimmable in the middle of summer. That’d be now.
Grand Lake, set like a jewel in the town of the same name, has a swim beach and it’s always busy in summer, even though the water is pretty cold. Kids don’t seem to mind, though adults may be a bit more skittish.
Vallecito Lake near Durango may remind transplanted Midwesterners of those tree-lined lakes of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Though it’s generally too cold for swimming, it’s an ideal place to laze away a day or two on a pontoon boat, fishing or napping under a canopy in the high mountain air.
And don’t forget our state parks.
Lake Pueblo State Park offers not only boating and fishing, but six acres of sand beach and a designated swim area that bustles with activity on a hot summer day -- and they have plenty of those in Pueblo! Make a day of it: There are covered picnic pavilions, charcoal grills for cooking your burgers, plus showers, restrooms and big cottonwood trees for shade.
Jackson Lake –in northeast Colorado, near Fort Morgan – calls itself an “oasis on the plains”and has been ranked as one of the Top 15 Park Beaches by Reserve America.
It’s perfect for those who want to get away from the summer crowds of urban areas. It boasts clear shallow water, soft sand and plenty of room to play Frisbee. There’s swimming (with two designated swim beaches), boating, fishing and even water skiing. That’s way too much fun for just one day, so maybe plan to camp.
Sweitzer Lake State Park, 3 miles south of Delta in Western Colorado, may be one of the smallest of the state parks but its beach offers some of the best views in Colorado. To the north are the vast green flanks of the Grand Mesa; and to the southwest, see the peaks of the West Elk Range. It has a grassy area with picnic shelters and plenty of room to spread a towel.
Ridgway State Park, 15 miles south of Montrose on Highway 50, offers a large sandy beach located in a protected cove so the water stays calm and warms up nicely. There’s playground equipment nearby, so it’s great for kids -- and a volleyball net is always ready for some adult or family action.
There’s also a grassy area with picnic tables, a picnic shelter and barbecue grills. Change in the on-site locker rooms or wash off the sand at one of the outdoor showers at the end of the day. Camping is available, too, along with fishing, boating, full hook ups and fabulous views of the San Juan Mountains.
Steamboat Lake State Park is one of the true jewels of Colorado. This is likely one of the state’s highest beaches, too, at 8,000 feet. The water is usually between 70 and 80 degrees in the summer. The swim area features a sandy bottom and a beach perfect for kids to play on, or for lying in the sun. There are shaded areas nearby to tie up dogs. Dogs are not allowed on the beach in any state park.
If none of these satisfies your craving for a warm-water experience, there are always Colorado’s hot springs pools – but that’s a story for another day.
Visit the following sites to find out more about these Colorado beaches.
Vallecito Lake Chamber of Commerce, www.vallecitolakechamber.com
Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce,http://grandlakechamber.com
Blue Mesa Reservoir, http://thebluemesa.com/
Colorado State Parks, http://cpw.state.co.us/
--Linda DuVal is the former travel editor for The Gazette, a freelance travel writer and winner of several Lowell Thomas awards. She is the co-author of Insider’s Guide to Colorado Springs and writes a local Web site, Pikes Peak on the Cheap (www.pikespeakonthecheap.com).
Colorado Traveler airs Sundays before the Splendid Table and Wednesdays at 11:55 am.
Update 6/5/16: Colorado Traveler is no longer in production and the non-functioning WEB EXTRAS link was removed as well as a state park beach photo for coding issues.