9 Breathtaking Recreational Lakes near Grand Junction, CO

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Grand Junction is a getaway to a wide variety of lakes and reservoirs in Western Colorado, offering plenty of recreational opportunities year-round.

Some options are vast reservoirs with excellent boating, waterskiing, and camping. And others, like the famous Mesa Lakes, are tranquil spots with incredible kayaking, hiking, and spectacular mountain views.

And the best thing is, you don’t have to drive far to enjoy these gems as all of the lakes are within a 1 hour 15 minutes drive. And some are just on the doorstep.

Check out what Grand Junction has to offer!

Lakes near Grand Junction:

  1. Connected Lakes
  2. Corn Lake
  3. Highline Lake
  4. Sweitzer Lake
  5. Mesa Lakes
  6. Island Lake
  7. Vega Reservoir
  8. Rifle Gap Reservoir
  9. Grass Valley Reservoir
Lakes near Grand Junction Colorado Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Connected Lakes

  • Website: Connected Lakes
  • Distance from Grand Junction: 4 miles (10 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking

Connected Lakes occupies approximately 48 acres of a 120-park area a few miles west of downtown Grand Junction. Located immediately south of the curving Colorado River, these parklands are a section of the state’s James M. Robb – Colorado River State Park

A civic leader, Robb championed the idea of connecting these lakes and other spaces near the riverfront like a “string of pearls.” 

During the past decade, a Connected Lakes restoration project has removed invasive plants and reintroduced native species.

This day-use park includes tree-lined trails, places to fish, and a boat ramp access to the Colorado River. Just before the entrance to the state park, the Grand Valley Audubon Society has trails and shaded areas for bird and nature watching in a local Audubon Nature Preserve

The adjacent presence of these two natural areas has attracted a lot of interest from those who enjoy recreation near the Colorado River. 

Anglers who visit Connected Lakes can expect to see black crappie, bluegill, and largemouth bass. 

2. Corn Lake

Corn Lake near Grand Junction Colorado
Source: flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Website: Corn Lake
  • Distance from Grand Junction: 6 miles (10 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking

Located 6 miles east of downtown in the Clifton area, Corn Lake is another section of the state’s James M. Robb – Colorado River State Park

This day-use area is approximately 10 miles upriver from Connected Lakes. Floating from Corn Lake to Connected Lakes along the Colorado River is a way to experience some Class II rapids along a scenic section of the waterway. 

Once a gravel pit along the north side of the river, Corn Lake took its shape as groundwater filled the depression. 

The state acquired the land and added it to the state park system, with the Riverfront Trail offering walking, jogging, and biking opportunities, as well as a boat ramp along the Colorado River. 

Birdwatching, wildlife viewing, and fishing are popular activities at Corn Lake. The opening of additional parking near the Riverfront Trail in July 2021 offers improved access.

With a wheelchair-accessible fishing pier and plenty of good shoreline spots, Corn Lake has become a popular fishing destination. Channel catfish, crappie, bluegill, rainbow trout, and largemouth bass are commonly caught. 

3. Highline Lake

Highline Lake colorado
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Highline Lake
  • Distance from Grand Junction: 25 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

Highline Lake and its smaller neighbor, Mack Mesa Lake, are the top destinations in Highline Lake State Park. Known as an oasis in an arid area 25 miles northwest of Grand Junction, near Loma, these lakes provide year-round fishing. 

The state acquired these lands in 1966 and created the lake impoundments at this 565-acre state park in 1969. Highline Lake covers 150 surface acres. Slightly to the north, the 20-acre Mack Mesa Lake is the quieter sibling, a great fishing destination without motorboats.

The park offers year-round camping and many seasonal recreational activities, such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing during winter. 

Kayaks and paddleboards fill Highline Lake during the summer. Well-maintained paths allow hikers and mountain bikers to explore the terrain. 

Park management recently implemented “Wakeless Wednesdays” on Highland Lake during the regular boating season to create a more tranquil experience for visitors. 

Both of these artificial reservoirs are well-stocked with fish. Black crappie, rainbow trout, channel catfish, black bullhead, and largemouth bass live within these lakes.

4. Sweitzer Lake

Sweitzer Lake in Colorado
Source: flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Website: Sweitzer Lake
  • Distance from Grand Junction: 41 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

A drive 41 miles southeast and just beyond the municipality of Delta brings visitors to Sweitzer Lake. 

Created on land the Sweitzer family donated in 1953, this 137-acre artificial reservoir offers recreation to those who live in the region. 

Boating, fishing, picnicking, and warm-weather swimming are the top activities at this site, which has been managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife since 1972. 

Created for water recreation, Sweitzer Lake State Park is a destination for boaters and people who want to get more than their feet wet. Powerboats, sailboats, canoes, and kayaks share deeper portions of the lake. Water skiing is popular. 

Closer to the beach, waders, swimmers, paddleboarders, jet skiers, and sailboarders enjoy the lake when temperatures permit. The ice is generally considered unsafe in this lake for ice fishing.

Warm-weather fishing is popular, with an emphasis on providing a location for children to learn how to cast a line. 

Since high levels of selenium are present in the fish caught in these waters, this is a catch-and-release lake. Those who want to catch and release will find bluegill, catfish, carp, and green sunfish.

5. Mesa Lakes

Grand Mesa Lake in Colorado
Source: flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0
  • Website: Mesa Lakes
  • Distance from Grand Junction: 44 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Camping

A drive 44 miles east of Grand Junction provides access to many recreation opportunities at locations such as the Mesa Lakes in the Grand Mesa National Forest

Known as the largest flat-top mountain in the world, the Mesa has a total of more than 300 alpine lakes within an area of 500 square miles and is part of the three-million-plus acres in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests.

Lakes include reservoirs and named lakes, such as Beaver Lake, Glacier Springs, Sunset Lake, Mesa Lake, South Mesa Lake, and Lost Lake. 

Cabins and campgrounds are located near some lakes, with year-round access possible for parts of the forest, though winter can be treacherous for those unfamiliar with cold weather at elevations near 11,000 feet above sea level. 

Cool evenings are the norm during the warmer months. 

Hiking, mountain biking, and four-wheel-drive adventures are popular. Nature is everywhere: mule deer, black bears, elk, moose, lynx, bighorn sheep, cougars, bald eagles, Mexican spotted owls, and peregrine falcons are among the species that live in this area. 

Anglers will enjoy trout and other mountain fish breeds. 

6. Island Lake

Mountain lake in Colorado
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Island Lake
  • Distance from Grand Junction: 54 miles (1h 10min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Camping

A scenic, 11-mile drive east of the Mesa Lakes along the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway offers an opportunity to experience Island Lake. 

Similar to the other high-elevation lakes along Mesa, this cold-water source offers excellent fishing and recreation opportunities. 

Trailheads offer access to mountainous forest hikes.

Fish available in Island Lake are similar to those found at the other nearby Mesa Lakes. 

The Island Lake and Little Bear campgrounds near the waterfront offer unparalleled views during their short, warm-weather operating seasons that run from June through September.

7. Vega Reservoir

Vega Lake in Colorado
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Vega Reservoir
  • Distance from Grand Junction: 52 miles (1h 10min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

Traveling 52 miles east from Grand Junction allows visitors to experience the 900-acre Vega Reservoir. This year-round destination, at 8,000 feet above sea level, sits within the 1,823-acre Vega State Park

An earthen and rockfill dam impounds the lake, creating one of the most productive Western Slope cold-water sites for rainbow trout. 

The montane meadows and the reservoir attract a variety of visitors. Campsites are available. Those who enjoy bird and nature-watching should bring their cameras. 

In addition to trails and hiking paths within the park, this location has become a popular spot for snowmobile enthusiasts and off-road vehicle drivers. For those who want a slower ride during warmer weather, the park offers horse corrals for rent. 

The reservoir has three boat ramps and a handicap-accessible fishing pier available for use. 

In addition to rainbow trout, anglers will find cutthroat, brown, and brook trout in these cold waters. Winter ice fishing is popular when conditions permit. 

8. Rifle Gap Reservoir

Rifle Gap Reservoir and State Park Colorado
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Rifle Gap Reservoir
  • Distance from Grand Junction: 72 miles (1h 15min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

A 72-mile drive along Interstate 70 to an area just north of Rifle offers access to the Rifle Gap Reservoir. Created after the construction of the earth-fill Rifle Gap Dam, this long-and-narrow, 350-acre reservoir within Rifle Gap State Park offers great waterskiing, swimming, boating, windsurfing, and fishing, as well as year-round camping.

Lower water levels in recent years have caused some concern, with longtime visitors noting that the swimming area has declined. Canoeing and kayaking remain popular, however, and ice fishing at 6,000 feet above sea level continues to attract anglers during the winter. 

Fishing is the top reason many people visit Rifle Gap Reservoir. Brown trout, northern pike, walleye, yellow perch, and smallmouth and largemouth bass are common catches. 

If you decide to visit this lake, don’t miss the famous Rifle Falls State Park, just 5 miles away. It offers magnificent waterfalls, cooling caverns, and miles of fantastic hiking trails.

9. Grass Valley Reservoir

Grass Valley Reservoir in Harvey Gap State Park
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Grass Valley Reservoir
  • Distance from Grand Junction: 72 miles (1h 15min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Camping

A drive 72 miles east of downtown and just six miles east of Rifle Gap Reservoir brings visitors to Harvey Gap State Park and its alpine, turquoise-colored Grass Valley Reservoir. 

Available for year-round day-use, this park does not permit guests to bring their pets. No camping is allowed, but the nearby facilities at Rifle Gap offer an option. 

The 190-acre reservoir offers swimming, boating, and fishing options similar to those at Rifle Gap, although there is a 20 HP engine restriction in place. 

A popular area to photograph is the Harvey Gap Falls along a canal on the reservoir’s western side. 

Sagebrush, cedar, and cottonwood trees define the landscape. Anglers enjoy winter ice fishing here, and some of the common species caught throughout the year include crappie, perch, northern pike, catfish, bass, and rainbow trout. 

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