Although most travelers usually visit Colorado for the plentiful skiing the mountains have to offer, summer is a great time to ski Colorado in a completely different way. Water skiing, wakeboarding and jet skiing are just a few great ways to enjoy Colorado’s many lakes and reservoirs. Many hardcore water skiers choose to join one of many private lakes.
For those who don’t want to pay the fees or desire just a taste of the action, these five public lakes may be the perfect alternative. Soda Lakes at Bear Creek Lake Park, located just a few miles west of Denver, are close enough to make a convenient day trip, but far enough away for visitors to enjoy the surrounding views of Red Rocks and the foothills. This secluded suburban oasis also offers dirt trails for hiking and biking.
Visitors may choose to laze away the day in the sun at the sandy swim beach or gear up the boat and skis for a quick rush of adrenaline at the marina. Other water activities include paddle boating, canoeing, sail boarding, fishing and kayaking on the Soda Lakes, which were the site for the world’s first wakeboarding tournament.
For those who have never skied or wakeboarded, the Little Soda Lake Water Ski School offers lessons for adults and children. Slalom courses and pro-ski and pro-wakeboard clinics are also offered. Lessons range from $29 for a 10-minute session to $1,200 for 50, 10-minute sessions, or $155 per hour. Children’s classes are $115 for a small-group, eight-hour session. Bear Creek Lake Park is off C-470 and Morrison Road. Day passes cost $5 ($4 for seniors). Annual passes are also available.
The Soda Lakes are open Memorial Day to Labor Day, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., weather permitting. The rest of the Park is open year-round. Park hours are from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. May – September, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. March, April and October, and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. November – February. Bear Creek Lake Park 15600 W. Morrison Road Lakewood, Colorado 80465 303-697-6159 Bear Creek Lake Park Website
For a weekend, or even week-long trip for those who wish to bask in the sun and enjoy the mild climate, Lake Pueblo State Park offers a sandy swimming beach, camping, boating, hiking, fishing, sailing, horseback riding, whitewater rafting and jet skiing. Skiing with views of Pikes Peak, rock formations and the surrounding mountains in the background is the perfect way to enjoy a Colorado summer day. Educational programs are offered at the visitor’s center and amphitheater. Guided nature tours are also available, along with the park’s Star Light walks.
Lake Pueblo State Park is also open during winter, when America’s icon, the bald eagle, populates the park from mid-December to March, hunting for prey. The park holds the annual Eagle Day Festival for the return of the bald eagles in February.
To get to the park from Denver or Colorado Springs, take Interstate 25 south to U.S. Highway 50. Head west 4 miles to Pueblo Boulevard. Turn south and go 4 miles to Thatcher Boulevard (Hwy 96), then west for 4 miles to the south park entrance. Boat ramps are open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. (6 p.m. in the winter). Park passes cost $6. Annual passes are available.
Boat registration fees range from $35.25 to $75.25. Camping fees are $16 per night without electric hook up and $20 with electric hook up. Lake Pueblo State Park 640 Pueblo Reservoir Road Pueblo, Colorado 81005 719-561-9320 parks.state.co.us/parks/lakepueblo/pages/lakepueblostatepark.aspx
In scenic Navajo State Park at the very southern edge of Colorado is just as popular with house boaters as it is with skiers. Navajo Reservoir, extending into New Mexico, with its majestic cliff-lined shores and misty waters (during colder months, the water literally mists) entices visitors to stay here just a little longer. Navajo Reservoir is a long, narrow lake that boaters can enjoy navigating through and exploring. The park offers a full-service marina, camp grounds, hiking trails and rentable cabins and yurts.
To get there, take U.S. Highway 160 west from Pagosa Springs for 17 miles, then turn south on Colorado Highway 151 for 18 miles to Arboles. Turn left on County Road 982 and go 2 miles to the park. Daily passes cost $6. Camping fees range from $10 to $24. Cabin rentals are $80. Boats are also available for rent. Navajo State Park 1526 County Road 982 Arboles, Colorado 81121 9 70-883-2208 parks.state.co.us/parks/navajo/pages/navajohome.aspx
For those who simply can’t seem to leave the mountains — even for a summer water skiing escape — the lakes of Grand County are our choice picks. Even though Grand County is just a short drive (85 miles) west of Denver, it feels thousands of miles away. Picturesque water and mountain scenery makes the perfect backdrop for any summer vacation. Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Lake and Lake Granby are all interconnected. Boaters can pull up to the Grand Lake boardwalk and grab a meal or an ice cream cone.
This charming mountain community is sure to please. It is important to remember that Grand County is approximately 8,000 miles above sea level and the temperatures are almost always cooler. If you dare to take a dip in these waters, just remember one thing — bring a wetsuit.
To get there from Denver, Take Interstate 70 west to exit 232, then take U.S. Highway 40 over Berthoud Pass to Granby. Rental boats and lodging are available. Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Lake Grand Lake, Colorado 80446 970-627-3402 grandlakechamber.com Lake Granby Granby, Colorado 80446 970-887-2311 granbychamber.com
In water skier’s lingo, “glass water” refers to perfect ski conditions, when the water is as smooth as glass. There is no better place to find these conditions than the plains of eastern Colorado, home to Jackson Lake State Park. Eastern Colorado gets little credit as a vacation destination when compared to the mountainous, western half of the state. But Jackson Lake was ranked one of the “Top 15 Park Beaches” by ReserveAmerica, a leading campsite reservations service.
The park offers a sandy swim beach, jet skiing, hiking, hunting (in designated areas), fishing, camping, birding and, of course, water skiing. The park is also home to two geocaching sites. Geochaching (pronounced geo-cashing), for those who don’t know, is a GPS treasure hunting game, where players find a hidden container with any GPS enabled device and collect the contents. The rules are that players must replace the contents with something of equal or greater value. (Find more information at geocaching.com.)
To reach Jackson Lake State Park from Denver, go east on Interstate 76 to the second Wiggins exit. Turn north on Colorado 39/Colorado 52. Drive approximately 9 miles and turn left onto County Road Y.5. This will take you into the main park area on the western side. The daily pass is $6. Camping fees are $16 without electric hook up and $20 with electric hook up, plus a $10 camping reservation fee. Annual passes are also available. Jackson Lake State Park 26363 MCR 3 Orchard, Colorado 80649 970-645-2551 parks.state.co.us/parks/jacksonlake