Denver sits in the middle of a landlocked state, at the confluence of the dry Southwest, the Great Plains and the massive Rocky Mountains. It comes as no great surprise then that the city is not a tropical, sugar sand beach destination. Nevertheless, there are some appealing beaches in close proximity to the city. Their under-the-radar status means they won't be crowded with spring breakers and other revelers. Instead, you'll likely find a few families and sun worshipers taking advantage of a warm day by the water.
Cherry Creek State Park
Cherry Creek State Park is a favorite summer destination for Denver residents hoping to beat the heat. The park is located in Aurora, just 15 miles south of Denver on I-25. The main attraction is an 800-acre reservoir surrounded by golden prairie and backed by the towering Rocky Mountains. The park has a small sand beach for sunbathing or diving into the lake's refreshing water. The beach is backed by trees that provide some shade if the afternoon sun becomes too intense. Visitors come for a range of other activities, like sailing, boating, fishing and jet skiing. Hikers can access more than 12 miles of trails through the rolling landscape.
Bear Creek Lake Park
Bear Creek Lake Park surrounds a small lake in Lakewood, 14 miles southwest of Denver. The lake, situated in rolling terrain, sits close to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. There is a small, semicircular swimming beach on the lake surrounded by deciduous trees that burst with color in the fall. The lake is popular with fishers, who angle for rainbow trout, saugeye, small-mouth bass and yellow perch. The park hosts a water ski school in summer, and visitors can take lessons or rent equipment for their own use. The park's 2,600 acres are crisscrossed by multi-use trails for hikers, bikers and horseback riders.
Chatfield State Park
Also southwest of Denver, Chatfield State Park encompasses a horseshoe-shaped lake that backs up to the Rocky Mountain foothills. The lake is about 20 miles from Denver, in Littleton. The narrow beach, open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, leads gently to the shallow lake, making it ideal for visitors with small children or dogs. Other lake activities include water skiing, boating, fishing and model airplane flying. Visitors can rent boats or park their own at the marina. The park also features a floating restaurant in the middle of the lake; kayaks, canoes and motorboats can moor at the restaurant.
There are several beaches in Colorado located farther away from Denver. Blue Mesa Reservoir, a 20-mile-long lake near Gunnison, is a welcome oasis in this dry part of the state. Grand Lake, near Rocky Mountain National Park, is a scenic spot for swimming in warmer months, after the lake has thawed from a cold winter. Medano Creek, in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, sports a seasonal beach among the sand dunes; it is accessible after the snow melts. Boulder Reservoir, near the town of Boulder, is backed by the stunning Flatirons, a series of rock formations. Jackson Lake State Park offers one of the few places to swim in arid eastern Colorado.