Southwest Colorado Lakes

Southwest Colorado Lakes

Durango, located at 6,512 feet elevation in Southwest Colorado, has excellent access to many alpine lakes, man made reservoirs, and larger regional lakes. Our four seasons affect factors like the water levels and uses of these bodies of water. However, the abundance of this natural resource is something that makes Durango truly special.


In Town Durango

Lake Nighthorse

Just a 10 minutes drive from downtown Durango, Lake Nighthorse has become a wonderful local spot to enjoy during the warmer months. Operated by the City of Durango, a day or seasonal pass is required and there are many possible activities here including swimming, fishing, boating, and playing on the Wibit Aqua Pak. There is plenty of room to waterski, wakeboard, and paddle in the 1500 acre lake. 


Near Durango

Lemon Reservoir

18 miles northeast of Durango, up County Road 240, Lemon Reservoir is a gorgeous lake with the backside of Missionary Ridge as the backdrop. There are many parts of the bank perfect for fishing, as well as launching non-motorized boats such as paddleboards and kayaks. Miller Creek Campground is located right on the lake with Transfer Park Campground just north on the Florida River which feeds into the lake. Rainbow and brown trout are a common catch with Kokanee salmon also caught here. There is private property and residences, including vacation homes, around Lemon Reservoir.

Vallecito Reservoir

A 30-40 minutes drive northeast, just on the other side of the ridge from Lemon Reservoir, Vallecito Reservoir was completed in 1941 and has been serving as a recreation site, wildlife area, and home to primary and vacation residences since. There is a road allowing vehicles to drive all the way around the 2,720 acre surface area in the summer months. While there is only one marina for motorized boats, there are many spots to pull over and enjoy a secluded fishing spot. Trout, salmon, walleye, bass, and pike can all be found here with many of these species still biting for ice fishing fun in the winter. There is a small day use fee for the reservoir area, but there are many hiking, biking, horse, camping, hunting, and picnicking spots in the area at no charge. Graham Creek, North Canyon, Pine Point, and Middle Mountain Campgrounds are located on the east bank of the lake and offer seasonal campsites. There are additional campgrounds and dispersed campsites in the area as well.

Lemon Reservoir near Durango, CO

Electra & Haviland Lakes

The entrances to Electra and Haviland lakes are just two miles apart off of Highway 550 N just over 20 miles north of Durango. Both man-made dammed lakes, they provide a vast amount of opportunities for locals and tourists. Haviland, the smaller of the two, offers a serene non-motorized lake with campsites on the east side of the shore. Chris Park, which is adjacent to Haviland to the south, has hiking and horse trails, and also group campsites.  Electra, while privately owned, offers public day use with limited boat and fishing passes. With mountain cabin homes located in the neighborhood, this is a special location that showcases true Colorado living.


Andrew’s Lake

40 miles north of Durango, and only 9 south of Silverton, CO Andrew’s Lake is a small, dammed, alpine lake featuring stunning views of the San Juan Mountains. Situated at 10,800 feet elevation, the towering pines and seasonal wildflowers flourish. While there is no camping at the lake, there are trailheads for dispersed backpacking. Two paved parking lots allow most vehicles to enjoy this location. Boating of any kind is not permitted here, but two piers and trails around the shoreline are perfect to cast from.


Molas & Little Molas Lakes

Farther north, just after the Molas Pass Summit, Molas and Little Molas Lake are two natural alpine lakes to enjoy. On the west side of Highway 550 N, Little Molas Lake, aptly named as the smaller of the two, non-motorized boating and fishing (stocked brook and golden trout) are permitted here. Little Molas Lake Campground is the perfect place to set up camp for the weekend, and an additional parking lot is available for day use. 


On the east side of the highway, (Big) Molas Lake offers similar amenities with the addition of the small convenience store and bait shop. This lake is slightly larger and features sweeping views of the mountains and valleys below. Both of these lakes are accessed by dirt roads that take you about a mile off of the highway. The Colorado Trail, segment 24, passes by both of these lakes.

Molas Lake Near Silverton, CO


Navajo Reservoir

Navajo Reservoir contains 15,000 acres of water and is accessible from both Colorado and New Mexico. Open year round, boaters and campers can enjoy the beautiful views and activities available. The Two Rivers Marina, in Arboles, CO, and the Navajo Lake Marina in Navajo Dam, NM both offer houseboat mooring, general conveniences such as drinks, food, fishing equipment, etc., and boat rentals. Navajo Lake Marina, the larger of the two, also has an onsite restaurant and bumper boats! Houseboating, waterskiing, wakeboarding, swimming, kayaking, cliff jumping, and fishing are among some of the popular things to do here. Crappie, bass, pike, trout, bluegill, and catfish can all be caught here from the shore or a boat. There are many developed campsites to enjoy around the shoreline as well as a few cabins to rent as well. 

Waterskiing at Navajo Reservoir

McPhee Reservoir

Just east of Dolores, CO in the San Juan National Forest, McPhee Reservoir is a large lake offering many similar activities. Motorboating and associated water sports are popular with Docs Marina, which is open seasonally, but the lake itself is open year round for fishing. There are designated campsites, along with hiking and biking trails. Warm and cold water fish including crappie, trout, bass, pike, perch, and salmon are found here. A finger of the reservoir and the Dolores River meet on the town of Dolores’ southeastern border. An hour and a half drive from Durango, McPhee Reservoir is a great day trip or take the weekend and enjoy the drive along the San Juan Scenic Byway.


There are many other small alpine lakes to explore as well.  Please do not hesitate to contact The Durango Team for Max and Deven’s favorite local lakes and insight on some secret and off-the-beaten path lakes in the area.

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