Wild Logo v4

12 Highly-Rated Recreational Lakes near Telluride, CO

Telluride offers an excellent choice of lakes and reservoirs. Visitors will find mountain lakes surrounded by thick fir forest, large reservoirs known for water skiing and windsurfing, as well as breathtaking hike-in lakes that Colorado is famous for.
itiswild.com Best Lakes near Telluride Colorado

The choice of lakes around Telluride is incredible. Visitors will find pristine lakes that require brutal ascents but pay back with jaw-dropping panoramas and life-long memories.

Those who enjoy power boating and water sports will discover large reservoirs where water skiing, wakeboarding, and windsurfing are possible.

Also, the area has several easy options with vehicle access and a quiet setting with campgrounds, fishing, and kayaking.

There is something for everyone here. Check out what Telluride has to offer!

Lakes near Telluride:

  1. Alta Lakes
  2. Trout Lake
  3. Blue Lake
  4. Silver Lake
  5. Woods Lake
  6. Lake Hope
  7. Blue Lakes
  8. Miramonte Reservoir
  9. Ridgway Reservoir
  10. McPhee Reservoir
  11. Clear Lake
  12. Ice/Island Lakes
Lakes near Telluride Colorado Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Alta Lakes

alta lakes colorado
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Website: Alta Lakes
  • Distance from Telluride: 13 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping

The three Alta Lakes are small bodies of water located 13.5 miles south of Telluride via established roadways. 

Vehicles follow Colorado State Route 145 south for 5.5 miles beyond the roundabout, then continue along the seasonally-open and rough Alta Lakes Road. 

Visitors to these lakes have a chance to visit the remaining structures of the ghost town of Alta, a mining community that existed from 1877 to 1948. 

Located in the Uncompahgre National Forest, these three lakes sit at 11,300 feet, more than 2,500 feet higher than Telluride. 

Those visiting this area need to pack potable water and carry out what they bring. The three lakes and dispersed primitive camping sites near them get a lot of traffic during the brief, busy season between mid-June and early September. 

The largest lake, Lower Alta Lake, gets the most traffic from those who come to kayak, fish, paddleboard, hike and swim. 

Upper Alta Lake and Third Lake have fewer visitors and are not stocked with fish, although trout are found in all three lakes.

Many who come to Alta Lakes bring their cameras and explore the area around the abandoned Alta settlement. 

Those who explore the lakes have views of Silver Mountain, Bald Mountain, and resorts at Telluride. 

2. Trout Lake

Morning scene at Trout Lake, located in the San Juan mountains near Telluride, Colorado
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Trout Lake
  • Distance from Telluride: 14 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking

Fourteen miles from Telluride along Route 145 brings visitors to Trout Lake. 

At an elevation of 9,716 feet in the Uncompahgre National Forest, this 110-acre natural body was a stopping point for fur trappers in the early 1800s. 

After the Rio Grande Southern Railroad came to the area in 1891, Trout Lake was a place where the steam-powered engines stopped for refueling. 

A local power company built a timber dam to expand Trout Lake in 1894 to supply water to the nearby Ames Hydroelectric Plant that was built in 1890. A soil and rock dam replaced the original dam after a 1909 flood. 

Trout Lake is a year-round destination for outdoor recreation. Paddling, fishing, hiking, birding, and cross-country are common activities. 

The Priest Lake Designated Camping Area is a half-mile north of Trout Lake, near the shallow Priest Lake, known for its brook trout. 

The clear and deep waters of Trout Lake make it a great place for anglers to cast a line. Native cutthroat, brook, and rainbow trout swim in this lake. 

3. Blue Lake

Telluride, Colorado in the Rocky Mountains on a Sunny Day.
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Blue Lake
  • Distance from Telluride: 2 miles (10 min) – to the Trailhead
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Picnics, Hiking, Biking

Blue Lake is a scenic body of water sitting in the shadows of Three Needles Peak and Bridal Peak – formerly “T11” – a summit of 13,510 feet.

The easiest point of access is a 2.2-mile drive from Telluride to the south-southeast to the Bridal Veil Trails

A parking area there offers the starting point for a moderately-challenging six-mile roundtrip route through an area popular for hiking, birding, and camping.

Access to this route to Blue Lake is most popular during the short summer season. 

Views along Bridle Veil Creek and the Black Bear Pass switchbacks along Black Bear Pass Road are especially enjoyable. 

The elevation gain on this trail is approximately 1,843 feet. 

4. Silver Lake

  • Website: Silver Lake
  • Distance from Telluride: 2 miles (10 min) – to the Trailhead
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Picnics, Hiking, Biking

Silver Lake is another body of water south of Telluride that is accessible from the zigzagging Black Bear Pass Road – the same starting point as Blue Lake.

A 2.9 round trip trail begins at the Bridal Veil Trail #636 and continues on a somewhat challenging route with an elevation gain of 1,466 feet to the lakeshore at approximately 11,775 feet above sea level. 

The trail usually opens after snow and ice start to clear in June. Rugged hikers may set out earlier, perhaps March, and the trail is usually in good condition through October. 

Usage along this trail is generally considered light, since a substantial elevation gain occurs at a short distance. 

Hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding are permitted on this trail. 

Early along the trail, hikers will come close to Bridal Veil Powerhouse, a privately owned structure. 

Along with Silver Lake as a destination, a side road offers access to Blue Lake. 

5. Woods Lake

Woods Lake on a stormy fall afternoon with Wilson Peak and changing yellow aspen trees reflecting in the water
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Woods Lake
  • Distance from Telluride: 22 miles (45 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping

Easily accessible by vehicle, Woods Lake is a 22-mile drive southwest of Telluride. 

Those who wish to visit this lake should take State Route 145 north at the roundabout as the road follows the San Miguel River for approximately 12 miles. Then take a left onto the National Forest Road that offers Fall Creek access. 

A nine-mile drive south from this point provides access to Woods Lake on a road that generally follows Fall Creek to the lake.

At approximately 9,800 feet in elevation, this 20-acre lake receives inflow from Muddy Creek and Fall Creek from the south and southwest, respectively. 

The aspen and spruce-fir forested area around the lake offers seasonal Woods Lake Campground – a place for overnight stays between June and early October. 

Hikers, mountain bikers, and those who enjoy fishing will enjoy this relaxing location. Popular water activities include kayaking and paddleboarding, while motorized boating is prohibited. 

Views of Mount Wilson immediately to the south are pleasing. Cutthroat trout are found within the lake. 

6. Lake Hope

  • Website: Lake Hope
  • Distance from Telluride: 18 miles (40 min) – to the Trailhead
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Picnics, Hiking, Biking

A few miles southwest of Trout Lake, adventurous hikers can ascend a trail alongside the Lake Fork stream to reach Lake Hope, a six-mile round-trip with an approximate 1,515-foot change in elevation and impressive mountain views. 

This trail is moderately challenging and covers an area known for bird-watching opportunities. 

Trail access is best between March and October, though those planning to visit early in the season should be prepared to pack snowshoes and may need to cross-country ski along a section of Hope Lake Road. 

The hike to the lake will pass through areas with colorful summer wildflowers and spruce-fir forests.

7. Blue Lakes

Blue Lakes Near Telluride Colorado Mountain Wilderness crystal clear fresh water lakes
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Blue Lakes
  • Distance from Telluride: 44 miles (1hr 15min) – to the Trailhead
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping

Different from the Blue Lake near Telluride, Blue Lakes are accessible from the Blue Lakes Trailhead that begins by East Fork Dallas Creek.

These lakes are immediately east of Mount Sneffels, a majestic fourteener with a summit reaching 14,155 feet above sea level.

The best access point to the Blue Lakes involves a drive of 44 miles from Telluride along Route 145, turning onto Route 62 at Placerville. Then following for approximately 18.5 miles before turning right (south) onto the gravel County Road 7 for the final nine miles. 

From the Blue Lakes Trailhead, an 8.7-mile roundtrip hike, somewhat challenging in scope, provides access to the three lakes after an elevation gain of 2,509 feet. 

Similar to glacial paternoster lakes, Upper, Middle, and Lower Blue Lake are connected by an intermittent stream that ultimately becomes the East Fork Dallas Creek. 

Surrounded by evergreens and mountain peaks, these lakes offer impressive views to those who make the journey. 

The primitive campground is available at Lower Blue Lake.

8. Miramonte Reservoir

White kayak on a reservoir in Colorado
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Miramonte Reservoir
  • Distance from Telluride: 42 miles (1hr 15min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

A drive of 42 miles west of Telluride, Miramonte Reservoir is a 405-acre impoundment known as an excellent year-round angling destination for brown and cutthroat trout. 

Also known as the Dan Noble State Wildlife Area, the reservoir is a popular destination for those who enjoy boating, canoeing, sailboating, water skiing, wakeboarding, paddleboarding, and windsurfing.

Boats may safely operate in the Miramonte Reservoir between the middle of April and November, depending on the arrival of early or late winter weather. There are two boat ramps available. 

The size of this reservoir does make it a windy destination, especially during the spring, as winds coming into the area are amplified along the flat surface area of the water. 

9. Ridgway Reservoir

Aerial of Ridgway State Park and Reservoir, Ridgway Colorado with white puffy clouds
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Ridgway Reservoir
  • Distance from Telluride: 45 miles (1 hr)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Ridgway Reservoir is a drive of 45 miles from Telluride, six miles beyond Ridgway along US Highway 550. 

This reservoir, expanding to 1,030 surface acres after snowmelt, is an impoundment of the Uncompahgre River and is surrounded by Ridgway State Park

The year-round park offers camping, fishing, hiking and biking along 14 miles of trails, as well as power boating and paddling.

Located on a section of highway between Ridgway and Montrose that is generally accessible without difficulty during winter months, Ridgway Reservoir is a popular location for fishing. 

Anglers will find smallmouth bass, Kokanee salmon, splake, rainbow trout, brown trout, and yellow perch. 

10. McPhee Reservoir

USA, Colorado, Montezuma County, The largest lake in Colorado McPhee Reservoir
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: McPhee Reservoir
  • Distance from Telluride: 74 miles (1hr 30min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

A 74-mile drive southwest of Telluride, McPhee Reservoir is accessible by taking Route 145 south beyond the Town of Dolores. 

During much of this drive, the road follows the downward path of the Dolores River. The McPhee Dam creates a 4,470-acre impoundment of the river and offers recreation opportunities along both sides of the reservoir. 

Along the southern shore, the McPhee Recreation Complex includes a seasonal boat ramp, campground, and other facilities generally open from mid-April into October. 

On the eastern shore, the House Creek Recreation Complex also has a boat ramp and picnic area. 

Species found within the reservoir include black crappie, yellow perch, rainbow trout, Kokanee salmon, walleye, and largemouth bass. 

11. Clear Lake

clear lake in San Juan Mountains Colorado
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Website: Clear Lake
  • Distance from Telluride: 75 miles (1hr 55min) or Ophir Pass
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Off-Roading

The easiest journey to see the alpine, turquoise-colored Clear Lake involves a drive to Ridgway, turning on US Highway 550, and following Million Dollar Highway before turning right towards the South Mineral Campground

Alternatively, those with capable 4×4 vehicles can cross the famous Ophir Pass when weather permits. This journey will save miles but is unlikely to save time because of the rugged conditions.

From South Mineral Campground, most visitors chose to hike or mountain bike to Clear Lake. However, it is possible to drive along Clear Lake Road – also known as Forest Road 815. 

This steep and narrow route has many switchbacks and drop-offs, requiring great care to ascend to the lake at 11,984 feet in elevation. 

A trial for drivers, hikers will find this 9.4-mile roundtrip route with an elevation gain of 2,654 feet to be a serious challenge.

Those who reach Clear Lake will be rewarded with jaw-dropping panoramas of San Juan Peaks, waterfalls, the refreshing lake, and a sense of accomplishment.

12. Ice Lake and Island Lake

Beautiful Island Lake in San Juan Mountains near Silverton, Colorado
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Ice Lake/Island Lake
  • Distance from Telluride: 75 miles (1hr 55min) or Ophir Pass
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping

Ice Lake and Island Lake is a two-in-one hike-in destination that begins at South Mineral Campground, where the ascent to Clear Lake starts.

Those who journey on the 6.9-mile loop trail in the San Juan National Forest will be rewarded with impressive views of Island Lake, known by that name for the flat-topped rock within this glacial body of water. 

Continuing beyond Island Lake, Ice Lake is another pristine body of water above the treeline and a popular photography spot.

Those who stay at South Mineral Campground during clear summer evenings will enjoy seeing the star-studded skies above. 

More Lakes in Colorado:

Hikes in Colorado:

You Might Also Like: