Skip to Content

DU Field Notes: A Splash of Colorado, Denver Metro Area's Greatest Lakes

Back to News Listing


Nika Anschuetz





Feature  •

Known for its picturesque landscape and high altitude, Colorado is a place to explore. More than 4,000 lakes and reservoirs dot this landlocked state, and some are just a short drive from DU’s campus. Whether you like water sports or lying by the lake, you have plenty of local spots to check out.

Smith Lake/Grasmere Lake

Wash Park

Smith and Grasmere lakes are in Washington Park, one of Denver’s favorites. The 155-acre park is an eight-minute drive, 30-minute walk or quick light rail ride away, at 701 S. Franklin St.  It offers plenty to do, with paddleboarding and fishing on the lakes, trails to run and cycle, plus picnic tables, horseshoe pits, lawn bowling and lolling, basketball and tennis courts. Check out the historic Boat House on Smith Lake and then inhale the sweet fragrances and eye the colorful blooms at the park’s expansive Rose Garden.

Sloan’s Lake

Sloan's Lake

Sloan’s Lake is Denver’s largest, set in the city’s second-biggest park at 1700 N. Sheridan Blvd. You can’t swim here, but you can kayak, paddleboard or canoe. Rent a vessel or bring your own. Sloan’s Lake is an 18-minute drive from campus or an hour trip by light rail or bus. Watch for the magical Colorado Dragon Boat Festival set for Sept. 25-26. If you can’t wait, see the Nichi-Bei-GO Dragon Boat Practice on the lake from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 26 and 8 to 10 a.m. Sept. 18.

Cherry Creek Reservoir

Cherry Creek

Cherry Creek Reservoir, part of Cherry Creek State Park, is a 20-minute drive southeast of DU at 4201 S. Parker Road in Aurora. A daily vehicle pass costs $11, but it provides access to 880 surface acres for swimming, boating, fishing, paddleboarding, jet skiing, sailing and more. The park also boasts an off-leash dog area, trails through cottonwood stands, marshes and grasslands, plus year-round camping. A human-caused fire in February, algae blooms and other problems can stymie park uses, so check first at Creek.

Ferril Lake and Duck Lake

City Park

Ferril and Duck lakes offer great birding, fishing and boating in Denver’s City Park, about a 20-minute drive from DU. But the park is best known as home to the Denver Zoo and the renowned Denver Museum of Nature and Science with its IMAX theater. City Park is free and open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. year-round. In summer, free jazz concerts feature top acts such as Nelson Rangell (Aug. 1) and the Cast Iron Queens (Aug. 8). As with all lakes on this list, the waters at City Park provide plenty of recreation.

Bear Creek Lake Park

Soda Lakes

Lakewood’s Bear Creek Lake Park covers more than 2,500 acres, and it’s nestled near the beloved Red Rocks Amphitheater. Drive about 30 minutes to the park and plunge into the lake from the swim beach, which is open through Labor Day. Or hike, bike, paddleboard, kayak or canoe, with rentals available for $25/hour. A day pass costs $10 per vehicle, so load your friends and head to 15600 W. Morrison Road.

Evergreen Lake

Evergreen Lake

Evergreen Lake is farthest from campus, a drive of about 40 minutes west to Dedisse Park, 29200 Upper Bear Creek Road. The lake is a popular ice-skating destination in winter, and it offers all the usual recreational opportunities on water – or on foot. A trip to the lake is also a great excuse to visit the charming city of Evergreen, with its cool cafes, high-elevation hiking through pine and spruce forests, and Little Bear Saloon and Restaurant, a hot venue for great music.