Jackson Lake State Park
When: Any time of the year you need to cool off
Where: Just north of Fort Morgan and east of Greeley, about a 90-minute drive from Denver
Why: Fishing, boating, and water sports abound on a reservoir named in Reserve America’s “Top 15 Park Beaches.” It’s also great for birding. And on Sept. 21, the beach hosts its annual Dutch Oven and Chili Cookoff.
Medano Creek at Great Sand Dunes National Park
When: May and June
Where: Take I-25 down to US-160 and then keep following the signs to the Great Sand Dunes Center, where you can park and walk to the “beach,” about four hours from Denver.
Why: What other dune field turns into a massive bathing, swimming, sandcastle-building beach for a couple of months every year? Follow the creek flow here.
Blue Mesa Reservoir
When: Late summer for the warmest water.
Where: Take US-285 south to US-50 west to the Curecanti National Recreation Area, about four hours from Denver.
Why: At 29 miles long, Blue Mesa is Colorado’s largest body of water, so you may be able to find a solitary spot for your chaise and umbrella. A good swimming spot is the Old Highway 50 beach, neighboring the Elk Creek Campground.