In semiarid, landlocked, drought-plagued Colorado, water is almost as precious as the metals that brought miners to Aspen in the 1800s. Fortunately, with its rivers, reservoirs and high- alpine lakes, Aspen is something of an oasis in the Rockies. Here, four local favorite bodies of water.
Kodiak Ski Lake
Opposite Highway 82 from Willits Town Center and unbeknownst to most Roaring Fork Valley commuters, a 225-foot-long lake offers water skiers a world-class facility at 6,500 feet. Around 30 members share access to the private ski lake with a slalom course and two competition ski boats, so be sure to search out a local for an invite.
American and Cathedral Lakes
A 3.2-mile hike through aspen groves, dark spruce and open meadows leads to American Lake (fs.usda.gov)—small, emerald green and surrounded by scree and cliffs on one side and grassy marshes between picnic-friendly rocks on the other. The 5.6-mile round-trip hike to Cathedral Lake is more exposed and steeper, but awards a bigger, deeper lake in a dramatic alpine (above treeline) setting.
Ruedi Reservoir and Chapman Dam
Around 15 miles up from Basalt on the Fryingpan River, Ruedi Reservoir (recreation.gov) occupies nearly 1,000 acres and satisfies the “lake life” cravings of waterskiers, wakeboarders, tubers, fishermen, wake surfers and even sailors. (Did you know Ruedi boasts its own yacht club?) Four campgrounds surround the lake. Farther up the drainage, Chapman Reservoir is popular with stand-up paddlers and fishermen, and Chapman Campground has been unofficially named Aspen’s favorite family spot.
On the eastern edge of Marble, the 20-acre reservoir known as Beaver Lake (marbletourismassociation.com) lures fishermen (stocked with trout), canoers and stand-up paddlers with its views of the nearby high peaks and, perhaps, its proximity to the legendary Slow Groovin’ BBQ.