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11 Top-Rated Lakes for Recreation near Pagosa Springs, CO

Pagosa Springs offers an excellent selection of lakes and reservoirs suitable for swimming, paddling, and boating. Trout and salmon fishing remain hugely popular here. Most of the lakes allow winter activities when weather permits.
itiswild.com Best Lakes near Pagosa Springs CO

Pagosa Springs area has a wide variety of lakes and reservoirs suitable for swimming, boating, and paddling.

Salmon and trout fishing are particularly popular activities here, with some lakes holding state records.

Most of the options have campgrounds and access to hiking and biking trails.

Two lakes that stand out are Navajo Reservoir and Vallecito Reservoir. These are hugely popular recreational hubs with water skiing, windsurfing, and sailing in summer.

In winter, many of the options allow ice fishing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.

With so many activities, the lakes around Pagosa Springs have something for everyone. Discover what the area has to offer!

Lakes near Pagosa Springs:

  1. Echo Canyon Reservoir
  2. Capote Lake
  3. Navajo Reservoir
  4. Williams Creek Reservoir
  5. Vallecito Reservoir
  6. Lemon Reservoir
  7. Alberta Park Reservoir
  8. Big Meadows Reservoir
  9. Beaver Creek Reservoir
  10. Pagosa Lakes
  11. Heron Lake
Lakes near Pagosa Springs Colorado Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Echo Canyon Reservoir

A mountain lake, near Pagosa Springs, Colorado, USA
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Echo Canyon Reservoir
  • Distance from Pagosa Springs: 5 miles (10 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Picnics, Ice Fishing

A short five-mile drive south of Pagosa Springs, Echo Canyon Reservoir was created in 1968 as a recreational lake for fishing. 

The 118-acre impoundment along a small creek sits on a 211-acre tract between US Highway 84 and the San Juan River. 

A coldwater lake, this body of water has a boat launch, steep shore banks, and an earthen isthmus and peninsula on the northern side that offer various areas for shoreline fishing. 

Anglers who come to this state-owned fishing access in Archuleta County will enjoy mountain views in an area known for its native grasses and ponderosa pine. 

With an average depth of 50 feet, the original ditch that crews dug for the lakebed accommodates species at different depths, giving anglers a chance to enjoy still fishing, drift fishing, trolling, and fly fishing. 

Fish found here include bass, channel catfish, and black crappie. A state record 11.38 lbs. largemouth bass was caught in this reservoir in 1997.

2. Capote Lake

Fisherman fishing in a belly boat
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Capote Lake
  • Distance from Pagosa Springs: 18 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Hiking, Camping, Picnics

Located 18 miles west-southwest of Pagosa Springs, Capote Lake is an easy drive along US Highway 160 (San Juan Street), with a turn onto Colorado State Route 151. 

The Lake Capote Recreation Area covers 400 acres at the intersection of these roadways. 

This reservoir, under the management of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, was created for recreational purposes on the Southern Ute Reservation in 1948. 

The 40-acre spring-fed lake sits near a campground and Stollsteimer Creek.

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s Division of Wildlife manages the lake, seasonal campground, and recreation area. A bait and concessions shop is available on site. 

Visitors may access the lake from the shoreline, a nature path, multiple docks, or on a boat through a launch area. Non-electric motors are permitted; swimming is not allowed. 

The stated mission of Lake Capote is to provide “quality camping, fishing, day-use and other outdoor recreational opportunities.” 

Those who fish here will enjoy a chance to catch seasonally stocked brown trout, rainbow trout, channel catfish, and largemouth bass. 

There are no limits on green sunfish and grass carp, both considered invasive species. 

3. Navajo Reservoir

navajo state park and reservoir
Source: wikimedia/public domain
  • Website: Navajo Reservoir
  • Distance from Pagosa Springs: 36 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Picnics, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing, Snowmobiling

A drive of 36 miles southwest of the city provides guest access to the northern portion of Navajo Reservoir at Navajo State Park in Colorado. 

A longer vehicle journey of 75 miles provides access to New Mexico’s Navajo Lake State Park, near the dam that creates this 15,610-acre impoundment of the San Juan River that spans portions of Colorado and New Mexico. 

In addition to the San Juan River, another primary inflow for this reservoir is the Piedra River. 

Designed as part of the Colorado River Storage Project, the Navajo Dam began service in the early 1960s to store water for local irrigation, flood control, and water supply. 

A hydroelectric dam went into service in the mid-1980s. The creation of this reservoir displaced many northern New Mexico farms and a few small settlements. 

Colorado’s 2,100-acre Navajo State Park provides access to the northern portions of the reservoir, with trails, campsites, fishing, and boating. This park opened in 1964. 

The second largest lake in New Mexico, this body also has a wide variety of recreational facilities available at that state’s Navajo Lake State Park.

With multiple docks and locations for fishing, Navajo Lake is a great destination for fishing in both states. 

A highly regarded fly-fishing destination, this reservoir is home to crappie, northern pike, channel catfish, bluegill, sunfish, trout, Kokanee salmon, and bass. 

4. Williams Creek Reservoir

  • Website: Williams Creek Reservoir
  • Distance from Pagosa Springs: 27 miles (50 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Picnics

Williams Creek Reservoir is 27 miles north-northwest of downtown. Created by an impoundment of Williams Creek in 1958, this 343-acre reservoir sits within San Juan National Forest. 

With an elevation of 8,250 feet, this reservoir occupies forested, mountainous land, 1,120 feet higher than Pagosa Springs. 

Two seasonal campgrounds offer great destinations for overnight stays near the reservoir and night sky viewing. Teal Campground, situated on the reservoir’s western end, is a short walk to the boat launch area and spots for bank fishing. 

Williams Creek Campground, located approximately one mile south of the earthen dam, has additional camping sites, including those suitable for larger RVs. 

Visitors to Williams Creek Reservoir enjoy impressive mountain views and opportunities for hiking, fishing, and accessing ATV trails. The reservoir is stocked with trout and Kokanee salmon.

5. Vallecito Reservoir

A picture of Vallecito lake in Colorado.
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Vallecito Reservoir
  • Distance from Pagosa Springs: 55 miles (1hr 5min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Picnics, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing, Ice Fishing, Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing, Snowmobiling

A drive of a little more than 55 miles northwest of the city allows for a visit to Vallecito Reservoir. The 2,803-acre impoundment was created in 1941. 

A popular spot for those who come from Durango, 18 miles to the reservoir’s southwest, this year-round location offers a variety of outdoor activities. 

Those who travel to Vallecito Reservoir have opportunities to enjoy biking, hiking, camping, fishing, picnicking, boating, wildlife viewing, horseback riding, and a wide variety of winter sports. 

Numerous federal campgrounds are located along Vallecito Reservoir’s eastern shore. Graham Creek Campground and North Canyon Campground have ponderosa pines nearby and pathways through willows to the lake. 

Pine Point Campground and Middle Mountain Campground are located near the Pine River and offer great mountain views.

When the lake freezes in the winter, the Vallecito Sporting and Conservation Association hosts ice fishing tournaments. 

Throughout the year, anglers journey here to cast a line. Common species located in the reservoir include smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, brown trout, northern pike, and occasional walleye. 

6. Lemon Reservoir

Lemon Reservoir in Colorado in Fall
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lemon Reservoir
  • Distance from Pagosa Springs: 55 miles (1hr 5min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Picnics, Ice Fishing

Another body of water 55 miles northwest of Pagosa Springs and five miles west of Vallecito Reservoir is Lemon Reservoir. 

Created by an earth and rockfill impoundment of the Florida River and smaller creeks, the 622-acre Lemon Reservoir was completed in 1962. 

At 8,148 feet above sea level, this reservoir offers hiking, fishing, and camping opportunities within the San Juan National Forest. Those who fish here will find rainbow trout, brown trout, and Kokanee salmon. 

Federal campsites offer seasonal overnight destinations. Two campgrounds offer access north of the reservoir. Florida Campground and Transfer Park Campground are located on the Florida River, a short distance north of the reservoir. 

Camping access is generally available from May through September. Miller Creek Campground, on the reservoir’s eastern shore, is open until October. 

Despite its size, Lemon Reservoir allows only non-motorized boating.

7. Alberta Park Reservoir

Fly fisher in the lake in Colorado
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Alberta Park Reservoir
  • Distance from Pagosa Springs: 26 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Picnics

Located 26 miles northeast of town, Alberta Park Reservoir was created in 1953. 

The impoundment averages 50-60 acres and is surrounded by a 180-acre conifer forest and grassy meadow site. 

Located in the mountains, this lake sits at 10,259 feet, with access provided by a narrow roadway that is usually inaccessible by November and well into spring.

The approach to this reservoir passes the Wolf Creek Ski Area, a popular wintertime destination. 

Known as a place to catch trout, anglers who visit this reservoir will find both brook and cutthroat trout.

8. Big Meadows Reservoir

Sunset at Big Meadows Reservoir, Colorado
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Big Meadows Reservoir
  • Distance from Pagosa Springs: 32 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Picnics, Ice Fishing, Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing, Snowmobiling

Thirty-two mountainous miles northeast of Pagosa Springs, Big Meadows Reservoir is a 600-acre impoundment of the South Fork Rio Grande River, with additional inflow from Black Creek and Spruce Creek. 

The subalpine meadow site around Big Meadows Reservoir, located on the northern side of the mountain peaks, offers opportunities for camping in an area known for aspens and seasonal wildflowers. 

Anglers fishing at this site in the San Juan Mountains will find brook, brown, and rainbow trout. 

In addition to fishing and boating, hunting and camping are popular options here. 

9. Beaver Creek Reservoir

Kayaking on a lake on clear calm day with the lake stretching off to distance
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Beaver Creek Reservoir
  • Distance from Pagosa Springs: 46 miles (1hr 5min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Picnics

A drive of 46 miles northeast to an area near South Fork, Beaver Creek Reservoir provides outdoor recreation within Rio Grande County. 

This 102-acre impoundment of Beaver Creek sits within Beaver Creek Reservoir State Wildlife Area, a destination for picnicking, boating, hunting, fishing, and camping, approximately 8,765 feet above sea level. 

Visitors will find the Upper Beaver Creek Campground less than a mile north of the reservoir and the Beaver Creek Reservoir Boating Site on the eastern shore. 

Sandy beaches and rocky shorelines greet anglers who come to Beaver Creek Reservoir in search of trout and Kokanee salmon.

10. Pagosa Lakes

Spring morning view of a lake in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, USA
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Pagosa Lakes Association
  • Distance from Pagosa Springs: 5 miles (10 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing

Four lakes a little west of the center of Pagosa Springs are notable but situated on private property generally not open to the public. 

The Pagosa Lakes Property Owners Association received a deed of ownership from the developer of the Pagosa Lakes that allows for limited access by property owners and guests. 

Those who rent cottages and cabins on VRBO or Airbnb for vacations are able to access the lakes.

An online form is provided for eligible parties to secure permits. Members of the general public are cautioned not to fish in these lakes without proper permission.

Lake Pagosa, with member access on Cloud Cap Avenue, spans 106 acres, and has trout, sunfish, bass, bluegill, yellow perch, crappie, western white sucker, and grass carp. This is a lake with a recreational designation. 

Lake Hatcher, the northernmost lake, has a convenient access point along its eastern shore at Piedra Road for eligible users. 

Also known as Hatcher Reservoir, this 133-acre impoundment serves as the development’s primary source of drinking water. 

A popular fishing destination, those who cast a line here will find rainbow trout, brown trout, yellow perch, and largemouth bass.

Village Lake, with an access point along North Pagosa Boulevard, contains 70 surface acres of water. Species in this lake include rainbow trout, channel catfish, crappie, green sunfish, largemouth bass, bluegill, carp, western white sucker, and yellow perch. 

Nearby Lake Forest, the smallest of the four with 42 acres, is shallow and hosts bluegill, black crappie, western white sucker, yellow perch, rainbow trout, and largemouth bass. 

11. Heron Lake

  • Website: Heron Lake
  • Distance from Pagosa Springs: 66 miles (1hr 15min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Boating, Sailing, Windsurfing, Hiking, Camping

Heron Lake is a large 5,900-acre reservoir near Los Ojos, over an hour’s drive from Pagosa Springs. It’s a tranquil spot with stunning ponderosa pines, breathtaking views, and excellent campgrounds.

Heron Lake State Park manages this lake and offers boat ramps, a courtesy dock, a swimming area, and a campground with RV sites. It’s a developed park with well-kept facilities.

Despite its vast size, Heron Lake is a no-wake lake. Sports like wakeboarding, water skiing, and jet skiing are not allowed here. 

Instead, it offers excellent kayaking, paddleboarding, and sailing. There are plenty of beach landings for boat-in picnics and an island to explore.

Even when the water is low, this destination is still worth visiting, especially for its tranquility. The park has several trails for hiking and biking, and there is plenty of wildlife to spot and photograph.

And when it comes to fishing, Heron Lake has seen better days. It still holds the state record for lake trout set in 1999 (31 lbs 6 oz), but recent droughts put pressure on the fishing population, so the yields are not what they used to be. 

Anglers can expect rainbow and lake trout, kokanee salmon, as well as carp and perch.

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