Soak, splash, swim, sail, SUP and set a hook in Colorado’s Sweetheart City
Though situated in landlocked Colorado, Loveland is chock-full of a surprising concentration – and variety – of water options, and summertime is THE time to sample the goods. Local lore mentions Loveland once had the most complete reservoir system in Colorado, and those lakes remain a haven for anglers, paddlers, sunbathers, and adventurers. In fact, Stacker.com utilized 2020 data from WalletHub.com to identify the best lake towns in the U.S. and Loveland ranked 20th. NoCo’s Big Thompson River runs through the heart of Loveland, providing opportunities for riverside picnics, fishing, and watersports. And, then there are the pretty ponds and the splash parks scattered throughout the town. Don’t miss these perfect places to beat the summer heat in one of the state’s best-kept secrets for water lovers.
Lon Hagler Reservoir, a 150-acre lake located southwest of Downtown Loveland, offers excellent shore and drift fishing for a diverse mix of species. Non-motorized watercraft are allowed, so bring a kayak, SUP or belly boat and enjoy the peaceful beauty of this protected area. Arrive early to explore Lon Hagler State Wildlife Area, an excellent place to spot a variety of birds and waterfowl.
Other lakes for relaxing include Boedecker Lake, a state wildlife area that allows wakeless boating, warm-water angling, canoeing, kayaking and SUP; and Pinewood Reservoir, which only allows hand-launched watercraft, including rafts, kayaks, belly boats, canoes, windsurfers, sailboards and SUPs.
The city’s namesake lake, Lake Loveland, is located in the center of town and features public-access swimming and fishing on its South Shore. Cool off, cast a line and then stroll through the renowned Benson Sculpture Garden, a public garden bordering the lake that’s home to 182 unique sculptures on permanent display. Nearby North Lake Park features a swimming beach, fishing, train, playgrounds, tennis courts, picnicking, an amphitheater and more.
Other lakes perfect for fishing and family time include Flatiron Reservoir, a quiet, 47-acre reservoir surrounded by 200 acres of public lands. It’s a popular spot for anglers, picnickers and family camping, where swimming and boating are not allowed; and Houts Reservoir & Equalizer Lake, side-by-side lakes that are part of the High Plains Environmental Center. With a no-watercraft designation (including flotation devices), anglers will find excellent fishing conditions from the shoreline at either location or the fishing pier at Equalizer Lake. Families and fitness buffs can circle both lakes on the lakeside trail.
Loveland’s largest lakes, and the most well-known, offer a little bit of everything. Boyd Lake, located within Boyd Lake State Park, allows all types of watercraft – ski boats, fishing boats, jet skis, sailboats, canoes, SUPs – on its 1,700 surface acres of water. Visitors will also find a marina (for boat, canoe, kayak, paddleboat and waverunner rentals, gas and supplies), a sandy beach and pavilion, fishing piers and boat ramps, picnic areas and showers; and
Carter Lake is a 1,100-acre reservoir surrounded by 1,000 acres of public lands. Fish (for walleye, trout, largemouth bass), sail, water ski, picnic, SUP, swim, scuba dive and rock climb. Carter Lake Marina has a restaurant, supply shop and rental outfit for renting skis, boats and more.
River’s Edge Natural Area features five ponds ideal for fishing, and two of the ponds – Bass and Dragonfly – feature ADA-accessible fishing docks. This 163-acre Natural Area situated alongside the Big Thompson River also includes 3.8 miles of natural-surface trails for walking, bicycling, fishing access and wildlife viewing, as well as three picnic shelters, an amphitheater, environmental education stations and restrooms.
The three ponds at Simpson Ponds State Wildlife Area welcome anglers and float tubes and offer a variety of fish species. This peaceful pocket located between the Interstate and Downtown Loveland encompasses 66 acres and features hiking trails, picnic areas and restrooms. The Big Thompson River runs across the southern section of the wildlife area.
The Big Thompson River meanders through Loveland where visitors will find several access points. Try river wading (after spring runoff) at Fairgrounds Park. Remember, the Big Thompson is snow-melt-fed, meaning the snow melts from the high peaks and flows into the Big Thompson. This ensures a cool dip no matter the calendar date.
Elkhorn Flyshop, located in Loveland near the entrance to Big Thompson Canyon, offers guided fly-fishing trips in the canyon as well as on the Cache la Poudre River and in Rocky Mountain National Park. Be sure to purchase a Colorado fishing license before fishing anywhere in Loveland.
Looking for a river view without the cool dip? Visit Loveland’s Sweet Heart Winery, nestled alongside the river as it flows down from Big Thompson Canyon. Order a variety of flatbread pizzas and a charcuterie board, select a glass (or a bottle) of wine or an alt-beverage, and head out back to the banks of the Big Thompson for a peaceful nosh.
The Splash Parks
These FREE and fun finds will cool you down quickly. Loveland’s water zones are strategically located across the city, welcoming swimsuits and splashing around for all-ages fun in the summer sun.
- Main Plaza splash pad at the Promenade Shops at Centerra
- Foundry Plaza spray zone in Downtown Loveland
- Loveland Sports Park spray park
- Fairgrounds Park spray park (plus river access)
- Mehaffey Park waterfall
There’s nothing that says summer quite like a trip to the local swimming pool. Loveland has two great options, depending on personal preference and the Colorado weather. The Winona Pool is Loveland’s outdoor heated swimming pool and it’s a popular place to cool off from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The location also features an AquaClimb climbing wall and a concession stand. For a break from the sunshine (or the rain) head to Chilson Recreation Center, home to two indoor pools, a water slide, indoor and outdoor hot tubs, a steam room, and a variety of aquatics programs.
Wherever you drop a line or dip your toes, Loveland has plenty of places to go to recreate on the H2O. After a day of fun in the sun, it’s always nice to wrap it up with a nice cold one. Here are 10 Essential Loveland Breweries to check out after you get off the water.