UPDATED NOV 11, 2019
Before you dive head-first into your local pool, consider this: CO's best swimming holes are only a day-adventure away. And we've put a list together with some of the best. Just pack a good pair of water shoes and be prepared to stay really cool (we mean snow melt cool).
Yup, you know it. This makes the top of the list for popularity. And while it’s popular by convenience, it’s also a natural beauty at the heart of Boulder. Sure, you may have to share the creekside with families cooking out, college kids (uhhh, drinking out?), and give way to some cyclists cruising up Boulder Creek Path. But that’s kind of the beauty of this place, right? Everyone can enjoy this slice of heaven, posted up on a rock, hanging ten on a slackline, or floating on a tube.
It no secret that on a hot summer day, Boulder Reservoir can feel a little cramped for space. So, if you’re not opposed to a drive and you’re looking for a bit more space, check out Chatfield State Park just southwest of Littleton. It’s still a bumpin’ spot for boats, paddleboards, and even hot air balloons, don’t get us wrong. But the views of the mountains are off the charts and there’s even more waterfront to explore either by boat or by bike. Fitt tip: there’s a trail to skirt the water if you’re looking for a warmup before your grand cooldown.
You may know the Poudre by its fierce reputation for strong currents. It’s true — like most canyon rivers, the Poudre is certainly no force to be reckoned with (unless of course you’re armed with a boat, paddle, and good senses). But, just because the spring season isn’t so kind to the leisurely swimmers, that doesn’t mean that the hotter months don’t also lend to milder currents. While we’d encourage you to keep your guard up, we’d like to steer your attention to some more mellow swimming spots, like Picnic Rock, only three miles up the canyon.
Need we say more? If you’re an adrenaline junkie who likes to get your heart pumping before leaping in, then check out this water hole for some of the best cliff jumping around Durango. And if it’s not adrenaline that you’re after, and you prefer to spectate the big air from a safe distance while keeping your cool, don’t get caught on the location’s name. There are some shallow pools and beaches for a more leisurely approach. Fitt tip: Be smart — spot your landing, or go with a vet before you jump from the high dive.
Fork and bowl. Roaring Fork and Punchbowl, that is. Somewhere near mile-marker 50 along Independence Pass is another spot deserving of a formal shoutout. You may quite literally shout out loud when your feet leave the ledge of the 30-ft. cliff. Should you be looking for a little less footage, consider the 18ft. drop as a still-thrilling alternative. One thing you can count on? Cold temperatures and relatively mild traffic. Just know the hike in from Grottos Trailhead is worth the extra grunt work when you can have the whole place to yourself. But be sure to note that this road closes soon after the leaves turn in the fall.
This cove is indeed a little paradise near Cripple Creek. With a mellow half-mile hike to the finish, this swimming hole can be a happening place on the weekends. But hey, sometimes you need a crowd to cheer you on. Yup, this is another one of Colorado’s prime cliff jumping spots. You can let out a big sigh of relief if you’re inclined to stay grounded — there’s a small beach too. Though, for you daredevils: be sure to scope out the rocks, current, and depth as you scramble to the top. ALWAYS.
King Solomon Falls is the legendary swimming hole on the middle fork of the Little Snake River. You’ll need a good pair of hikers, a solid chunk of daylight, and keen sense of direction to find this gem. Like most hidden treasures, the adventure starts long before you reach the falls, with ropes and some delicate balancing acts to get you to the main event. You’ll also likely need good clearance on your car once you leave CR 129. The main event? Well, it depends! Choose between a 20ft. cliff jump or a quick dip from the beach.
Next time you’re passing through Colorado National Monument, consider making a pit stop at The Potholes near Glade Park. Fitt Tip: While there is beach and some front seats to the main attraction, this drop is only for seasoned cliff jumpers and ONLY in the summer months. While the waterfalls break the surface tension for a soft(er) landing, it can also have the dreaded washing machine effect. The Potholes brings a crowd in the summer, but you’ll know why on the first sight of the falls. The scenery is pretty spectacular, both on the drive in and the short hike in. Bring your good senses.
Somewhere in that forgotten corner of Colorado—past Pueblo and east toward Kansas—you’ll find Two Buttes, Colorado. It is, indeed, very flat around these parts. The Two Buttes Reservoir and (for our purpose) The Black Hole are iconic in the area. The Black Hole is on the opposite side of the dam. While it may not be worth the trip alone, this swim and cliff jumping black lagoon adds a little bit of adventure to your boating weekend. The Black Hole resembles a quarry in some respects, with steep walls and sheer drops, but just know that the leap isn’t mandatory! But it’s certainly thrilling.
South of Gunnison, this water hole is not for the faint of heart. BUT, if you like a sweet reward after a few miles of blissful views, you’ll take this swim spot for its potential thrill. It’s not a walk in the park… it’s even better, and you should keep an eye out for petroglyphs along the way. The first of many swimming holes is roughly three miles from the Bridgeport trailhead, and hitting all the swimming spots could triple your milage, so stay a while! It’s simple — there’s established camping outside the wilderness area and backpacking is popular within the canyon. Fitt Tip: If you’re headed out for the day, bring lots of water and bring a map. This place gets HOT.
Strawberry Park is popular with the winter crowd and makes for one hell of an après-ski experience after a day on the slopes at Steamboat. But they’re still a hot spot (literally) in the summer too. These natural mineral hot springs clock in at a balmy 104 degrees, which make them a cozy spot year-round.
Just outside Aspen and coming in at 11,200 feet are Conundrum Hot Springs. Prepare to work for the incredible views and relaxing — you can only access it via an 8.5-mile hike with a 2,400-foot elevation gain on the Conundrum Creek Trail. Heads up: if you plan to camp, a permit is required. And another heads up: it’s clothing optional. But don’t worry — with views like these, nobody’s looking at what you’re wearing (or not).
Just outside Gunnison, spanning 20 miles in length and with 96 miles of shoreline, Blue Mesa Reservoir is the largest body of water in Colorado. There are no designated swimming beaches, but that doesn’t stop many people from getting in the water. And if you aren’t up for a dip, you can rent a paddleboard, canoe, kayak, or even pontoon. Any activity you choose will allow you to soak up some mountain sun while enjoying mountain views that make you wonder how far from home you really are.
Blue Mesa may be the largest body of water in Colorado, but Grand Lake is our state’s largest and deepest natural lake. It has over 60 miles of surface water length, all flowing from Rocky Mountain National Park. The park surrounds the lake on three sides, making for the perfect opportunity to start your day with some hiking or biking and end it with a dip in the snowmelt to cool off.
Hit up Great Sand Dunes NP for some outdoor adventure and then cool off at Medano Creek. It sits conveniently right at the edge of the dunes in Alamosa so you can lay on the beach or swim in the water while you soak in some stunning mountain views. This spot is pretty much everything you love about Colorado.
Situated in the sweet small town of Bailey, Wellington Lake is a serene spot for swimming and chilling. The 167-acre lake is everything you want, with blue waters and amazing views. Hang around for camping, hiking, mountain biking, and all things summer fun.
A word of caution: Rocks are hard and can hurt you. Please be extra careful out there!