The Best Swimming Holes in Colorado

Written by Kirstin Harrington
Updated: August 12, 2023
Share on:

When you’re standing at roughly a mile above sea level in Colorado, a high-elevation state, you’re significantly nearer to the sun. Fortunately, Colorado has a ton of fantastic swimming holes where you can escape the scorching sun or even fully immerse yourself in the warmth with hot springs. 

Overview of the Best Swimming Holes in Colorado

Nearly every location will be crowded if you’re within a two-hour drive of Denver. And besides, residents of Colorado are renowned for leading outdoorsy lifestyles. However, if you’re prepared to make a slight detour or go a short distance, you’ll find some serene swimming holes with breathtaking views. 

A few of Colorado’s swimming holes are designed for adventure-seekers. They are all ideal excursions for a hot summer day, and some even involve a short climb.

Blue Mesa Reservoir

One of the more interesting places to take a dip in the summer heat is the Blue Mesa Reservoir. This place takes pride in being Colorado’s biggest body of water. With inlets around the side of the canyon, it is similar to the more renowned Lake Powell. 

The reservoir, which is 20 miles long, draws sailors from all over the state. Meanwhile, swimmers should visit Windsurf Beach, Dry Creek, or the Old Highway 50 beach. For watercraft activity, certain locations are designated as “no wake,” making the water much calmer for swimmers.   

During your time here, you can give scuba diving a shot. There are relics of towns that are underwater, including a roadway as well as some arches. 

Blue Mesa Reservoir

Blue Mesa Reservoir is Colorado’s largest body of water.

©Bernadette Heath/

Missouri Lakes

Missouri Lakes is a less popular recreational spot in Colorado for folks who wish to go and get away from others and busy crowds. This is a spot best for those who are in great shape and don’t mind a hike. Seven miles roundtrip is a hard climb to the lakes, so you won’t want to carry a lot of gear. 

A half-mile or so from the trailhead’s beginning is a well-liked swimming hole, although the ideal location is at the lakes farther on. The trail levels off in a grassy field filled with wildflowers just before the treeline; in July, it is absolutely stunning. As you ascend the route, the primary lake will be on your right, however, you’ll first pass by a number of other smaller lakes along the way.

There are numerous places to pitch up camp for the day as well as cliffs from which to jump. However, use caution since the water’s potential coldness, as low as 45 degrees, can quickly send your body into distress.

Missouri Lakes Colorado

Missouri Lakes is a spot best for those who are in great shape and don’t mind a hike.

©Captain Colorado/

Paradise Cove

Take a soak in Paradise Cove following a great time in Manitou Springs or climbing Pikes Peak, which rises to a height of over 14,000 feet above sea level. It’s merely a short half-mile one-way stroll and is close to Cripple Creek. 

It includes a little waterfall and one of the most beautiful sandstone backdrops. There are various distinct cliff edges that can be used as your leaping platform if you have a brave spirit. 

Divers take note, however, that you are doing this at your own risk because no one is available to save you if anything really goes wrong. 

The water here is a refreshing temperature during the warm summer months in Colorado. Even though the water is rather deep, you should still swim in it first to ensure there are no obstructions that could get in the way of your dive. 

Paradise Cove

Paradise Cove includes a little waterfall and one of the most beautiful sandstone backdrops.

©Faina Gurevich/

Brainard Lake

The Brainard Lake Recreation Area is frequently highly crowded, particularly on the weekends, as a result of its relative quarters to Denver and Boulder. Merely a few miles of hiking separate the parking lot from a number of the prettiest alpine lakes. 

But Brainard Lake, which is the ideal location for a family day at the shoreline, is only a few feet away from where you park your vehicle. You’ll need to book a reservation ahead of time for the upcoming summer. Since the ranger station shuts down when the parking lots are full, there could be a slight delay on weekends to get there. 

Parking beyond the ranger station costs money, but you can also use an America the Beautiful pass. Visitors can park in the lot just before the ranger station and hike the two miles to Brainard Lake if one does not wish to pay the entrance fee.

brainard lake

Brainard Lake is ideal for a family day at the shoreline, but you may need to book a reservation ahead of time.

©Sean Xu/

Pagosa Hot Springs

Are you looking for a fantastical outdoor place to relax and rest your body after a long week at work? Instead, visit a hot spring in Colorado if you’re in need of some restorative, healing waters. At 1,002 feet deep, Pagosa Hot Springs holds the distinction of being the deepest geothermal hot spring in the entire world. 

You can only access these hot springs by staying at the Pagosa Hot Springs Resort & Spa. The price of the day pass is very reasonable. You can also stay at the resort overnight to get access to the hot springs.  

There, you’ll find 25 different pools, each with a selection of temps to satisfy everybody. Your skin will be refreshed and silky after taking a bath in the mineral-rich waters. Be sure to have a massage or any other spa services for additional relaxation, then grab something to eat at the on-site restaurant.

Pagosa Springs, Colorado

©Victoria Ditkovsky/

Big Dominguez Canyon

Big Dominguez Canyon is the place to go if you seek a western swimming area in Colorado close to Grand Junction. As a protected area, it offers breathtaking walks, spectacular sandstone cliffs, and beautiful cave paintings. From the Bridgeport Trailhead, the swimming holes near the Gunnison River are tranquil and simple to get to. 

Additionally, it has warmer temperatures than most places in the state. In Colorado, the majority of lakes, creeks, and rivers are supplied by winter precipitation and move too quickly or are too deep to get extremely warm.

However, there are several locations near the Gunnison River that are too hazardous for swimming, particularly in the spring. You must never enter a particular location during this season, it’s hauntingly referred to as the “Death Hole.” The name speaks for itself. 

Big Dominguez Canyon

As a protected area, Big Dominguez Canyon offers breathtaking walks, spectacular sandstone cliffs, and beautiful cave paintings.

©Beth Harvey/

Medano Creek

Believe it or not, creeks make fantastic watering holes. The phenomena of the “surge flow” of Medano Creek at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is one of the greatest sights to witness in Colorado. Very few locations on Earth exhibit the surge flow because it requires three factors to occur: a high slope, a flat creek bed, and enough water. 

Together, these three enable a flow to have sufficient speed to produce surges. These waves behave rhythmically like tideless waves. In essence, little dams are built on the stream bed where the water begins to pool as a result of water flowing across the sand. The dams rupture when the water pressure is strong enough, allowing water to flow downstream.

Accordingly, Medano Creek is among Colorado’s top wading and tubing beaches. Create all the mud pies you like, or just climb the hills and ride down them. This is a unique and fun place to visit for people of all ages! 

The phenomena of the “surge flow” of Medano Creek at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is one of the greatest sights to witness in Colorado.

©Danita Delimont/

Summary of the Best Swimming Holes in Colorado

NumberSwimming Hole
1Blue Mesa Reservoir
2Missouri Lakes
3Paradise Cove
4Brainard Lake
5Pagosa Hot Springs
6Big Dominguez Canyon
7Medano Creek

Bottom Line

With all of the options listed above, you’re sure to have your choice of places to visit during summer in Colorado. It’s always a good idea to bring swimming shoes to prevent slipping on slick rocks or cliffs. Know that any place without a lifeguard involves swimming, diving, and tubing at your own risk. Anyone without much experience in water, and all minors, should wear life vests for extra safety. 

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Images by Dr. Alan Lipkin/

Share on:
About the Author

Kirstin is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering animals, news topics, fun places, and helpful tips. Kirstin has been writing on a variety of topics for over five years. She has her real estate license, along with an associates degree in another field. A resident of Minnesota, Kirstin treats her two cats (Spook and Finlay) like the children they are. She never misses an opportunity to explore a thrift store with a coffee in hand, especially if it’s a cold autumn day!

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.