If you’re craving a summer water vacation, head inland. What Colorado lacks in ocean, it makes up for in crazy swimming holes, alpine lakes, waterfalls, and hot springs.
Although you can’t go surfing, there are plenty of different ways to get wet. If you want adventure, we’ve got cliff jumping (leap at your own risk). If you want relaxation, we’ve got a dip in the vapor caves. Outdoor enthusiasts can hike to their own chilly waters. Or if you’d rather splash around indoors, we’ve got indoor water parks and slides, too.
Here are the 18 best places to go swimming in Colorado in the summer.
Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop
Colorado’s mountains contain an underground secret: natural, thermal hot springs that occasionally bubble to the surface and form mineral-rich pools. The state has dozens of hot springs of various kinds, from large, formal swimming pools to tiny, hidden, outdoor ponds.
Can’t decide which to visit? Go hot springs hopping. One popular pathway is the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop, which will take you on a 720-mile journey between 19 different hot springs.
Along the way, you’ll experience vapor caves and aquatic centers. You’ll swim in the popular, outdoor Strawberry Hot Springs in the forest of Steamboat Springs (where you can swim nude after dark). You’ll see the world’s largest mineral hot springs pool, Iron Mountain Hot Springs, complete with underwater jet chairs, in Glenwood Springs.
You’ll also visit Pagosa Springs, home to the world’s deepest hot springs (at least 1,002 feet), although swimming in this extremely hot pool is off limits and not safe. Not to worry. Pagosa has a ton of other pools to choose from, including the extra hot Lobster Pot.
Grand Lake, a mountain lake located in the town by the same name, is Colorado’s biggest, deepest natural lake. Grand Lake, surrounded by tall trees and rolling hills, is impressive to look at and even more exciting to boat on.
It also has a great swim beach, with a sandy beach, a short walk from the boardwalk and an old-fashioned downtown lined with more than 60 stores and restaurants. Rent stand-up paddleboards, canoes or go fishing for other ways to experience Grand Lake.
Go swimming in a hidden waterfall when you’re in southern Colorado. Zappata Falls is one of our favorite places to cool off in San Luis Valley, but make sure you’re visiting when the run-off isn’t too fast, or it won’t be safe to make it all the way to the falls.
Zappata Falls is located near the Great Sand Dunes National Park at the top of a winding road (you’ll probably think you’ve taken a wrong turn and are lost, but keep going). The view from the parking lot is already breathtaking, but head up the trail until you find a private, 25-foot waterfall tucked away in a rocky valley. You can only access it by wading through the tree-shrouded Rio Grande river, one of the longest rivers in the nation.
The water still provides a beautiful view, even if it’s running too quickly to get in, but if you can time it during the later summer months when the temps down here can hover as high as 100 degrees, a splash underneath this waterfall is the perfect way to cool down, Colorado style.
Conundrum Hot Springs
Conundrum Hot Springs is a destination worth its own designation, mainly because it’s one of the world’s highest hot springs. At 11,200 feet above sea level, this is a uniquely Colorado experience, not far from Aspen.
It’s not easy to get here, though. You’ll have to hike about nine miles each way along the Conundrum Creek Trail before you reach the natural watering hole. It’s worth the work, though. Clothing is optional and the pools are totally immersed in nature. Fortunately, this water is naturally heated (unlike non-geothermal bodies of water in the mountains, which can get pretty frigid, even in summer).
Bring a tent and camp nearby, because it can be tough to rally for that long hike back after you’ve unwound your muscles in the healing waters.
Colorado has two different bodies of water both named the Devil’s Punchbowl, and they’re both worth visiting for similar reasons.
The first Devil’s Punchbowl, near Aspen and the Grottos on Independence Pass, is for adrenaline junkies. Here, you’ll find waterfalls that spill into a stunning watering hole embraced by huge, 20-foot cliffs. Brave (or crazy, depending on your perspective) swimmers go cliff-jumping here. It’s best to swim here later in the summer when the run-off is slower and the Roaring Fork River isn’t as roaring.
The second Devil’s Punchbowl is closer to Marble and Crested Butte, also near a mountain pass (Shofield Pass). Like Aspen’s punchbowl, this pool is fed by a waterfall and you can go cliff-jumping here, too (at your own risk). It’s no easy hike in, the water’s cold and the jump can be dangerous. Still, people love it.
Yampah Vapor Caves
A dip in the water can be relaxing, too. Head to the Glenwood Springs for the Yampah Vapor Caves, a natural, underground, steaming rock cave that has been converted into a full-service day spa. Float in the mineral-rich, hot springs water and combine your soak with spa treatments, such as mud baths, massages, reflexology, and body wraps. Indulge in a steam treatment in the cave and stretch out on the marble benches hidden in the dark alcoves.
More Places to Swim
Medano Creek is a creek cutting through the amazing Great Sand Dunes National Park. Winding through southern Colorado’s sand dunes is Medano Creek. You can’t exactly swim here, as the water often runs at more of a trickle than a surge, but it’s a unique oasis for sandcastle building and splashing in the water in the shadow of the towering tunes.
Water World, located in Federal Heights (the Denver area), is Colorado's most popular water park. It claims to be America's biggest water park.
This 64-acre water amusement park has slides, lazy rivers, gondolas, wave pools and all kinds of creative water adventures. It boasts 49 rides and slides. Rent a cabana or party shack. There are attractions for people of all ages and adventure levels.
Mystic Island Lake
Love alpine lakes? Then head to Mystic Island Lake, near Eagle (not far from Vail). Station in the Fulford Cave Campground and explore the trails that will lead you to this alpine lake, perched at 11,400 feet above sea level. There's something magical about a lake in the clouds. Even if they're typically way too chilly to dip a toe in.
Chatfield State Park
Looking for a water adventure near Denver that still feels like you are 1,000 miles from the city? The answer is Chatfield State Park in Littleton. Go swimming, waterskiing, boating, fishing and more in this popular lake close to the city. You can even camp here, making it a destination not far from the comforts of Denver.
Lost Man Lake
If you are visiting Aspen and craving the water, this destination is for you: Lost Man Lake, near Independence Pass (by Aspen). You’ll have to hike Lost Man Pass to get here. Pass one body of water, Independence Lake, and keep going until you cross the pass. On the other side of the mountain, you’ll see this small lake, at 12,450 feet above sea level. Prepare for a polar plunge.
Eldorado Springs Pool
Eldorado Springs Pool in Eldorado Springs is the closest natural hot springs to the city of Boulder. This historic, natural pool in Eldorado Canyon State Park has relaxing mineral water or an exciting diving board and water slide. Pick your potion. One thing that this pool is known for is its intensely blue waters, naturally occurring. They're so vivid that it's hard to believe that's how Mother Nature painted them.
Big Dominguez Canyon
For water fun not far from Grand Junction, venture to the Big Dominguez Canyon, south of Grand Junction. Lovers of remote watering holes will enjoy these three, peaceful bodies of water connected by the Gunnison River (another great water spot). Hit up each one and cool off in the water in between the trek.
Active, outdoorsy Boulderites love to visit the popular Boulder Reservoir in the college town of Boulder. This man-made body of water offers excellent swimming and non-motorized boating, with views of the foothills. Sporting events often center around this reservoir, which is surrounded by hundreds of acres of open space, just a short drive from Boulder. Rent a stand-up paddleboard and do paddleboard yoga on the calm waters for an oh-so-Boulder experience.
Paradise Cove, near Florrisant, is located about an hour from Colorado Springs. Find a popular watering hole near Cripple Creek with deep waters fed by a waterfall and dramatic cliffs to match. If you’re brave, take a leap into the water. Even if not, the views are amazing and the cool water is refreshing in the summer.
There's always something going on at Boulder Creek in Boulder. This mountain creek runs down the canyon and through the popular college town of Boulder. Grab a tube and hop on the water for an adventure through the trees and the town. Go for a stroll along the water when you’re done. One of the quirkiest annual events on this water is the Tube to Work Day. It's like Bike to Work Day, but a bit splashier. As it sounds, people rent tubes and take them down the creek to work. Well, theoretically people go to work afterward. Although this holiday is much more like a big city party.
Blue Mesa Reservoir
Blue Mesa Reservoir, Curecanti National Recreation Area, spreads out near Montrose and Gunnison. This is Colorado’s largest body of water (20 miles long), complete with beaches (although much of it is rocky), incredible swimming, good fishing, and stunning views. You can even go scuba diving here. It's a Colorado bucket list item because of its size; many people don't expect a 20-mile body of water in this landlocked, mountain-filled state.
Great Wolf Lodge
The Great Wolf Lodge in Colorado Springs is a popular place for families. This is Colorado’s first indoor water park hotel, ideal for families. Stay where you play, regardless of the weather outside. Sit under fake palm trees and sip a local brew while watching your kiddos splash in the wave pool, or join them on a four-person tube ride down the wild water slide. There are all kinds of water-centric activities for kids of all ages. The Great Wolf Lodge is a chain.