Vallecito Reservoir is a scenic mountain lake located approximately 18 miles northeast of Durango, Colorado. Known for its clear blue water and breathtaking views of the surrounding San Juan Mountains, the reservoir offers a variety of recreational activities year-round. Visitors can enjoy fishing, boating, and swimming during the summer, snowshoeing, ice fishing, and cross-country skiing during winter. The area surrounding Vallecito Reservoir is also famous for camping, hiking, and wildlife watching, making it an excellent destination for outdoor enthusiasts. With so much to offer, it's no wonder that Vallecito Reservoir is a beloved destination in the Durango area.

Vallecito Reservoir offers a wealth of recreational opportunities and is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in high-alpine fun. Here are nine reasons why you should make a trip to Vallecito Reservoir.

#1 Fishing at Vallecito Reservoir

Vallecito Reservoir’s fishing is second to none. It’s one of the most popular destinations for fishing enthusiasts due to its diverse range of fish species and picturesque location. The lake is home to northern pike, walleye, smallmouth bass, brown trout, rainbow Trout, and kokanee salmon. The best time for fishing at Vallecito Reservoir is summer, as fish are more active and plentiful. However, ice fishing is also popular during the winter months. Anglers can fish from the shore or rent a boat to venture out into the deeper parts of the lake. The lake is known for its robust fishing community, who are willing to provide tips and tricks for the best catches. 

Fishing Fees & Regulations


Fishing Through the Seasons

Ice Fishing on Vallecito Reservoir During Winter


#2 Boating Adventures at Vallecito Reservoir 

Boating on Vallecito Reservoir during Summer Via Drone

Vallecito Reservoir is an exciting boating destination offering a range of rental options to help you realize your wildest nautical dreams. At the Vallecito Marina and Yacht Club, indulge in the excitement of pontoon boats, fishing boats, kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards. Boat owners can rejoice, too: Private launches await your vessel, and remember the mandatory aquatic invasive species inspection for motorized boats. Boaters can also experience the thrill of wakeboarding and waterskiing in designated areas while staying mindful of wind and weather conditions. 

Boating Rentals


Bring Your Own Boat

  • Motorized water vehicles require permits & a free inspection by authorized personnel before they can be launched at the lake:

  • Kayaks, paddle boards, canoes, etc., can also be used on the lake, but no permits are required.


#3 Lodging Tailored to Your Tastes

Vallecito Reservoir and its surrounding area offer a range of lodging options that cater to every budget and preference. Cabins and campgrounds are close to the reservoir for those seeking a rustic and immersive experience. RV enthusiasts also have various sites to choose from. Visitors looking for more modern and comfortable accommodations can find plenty of rental properties, hotels, bed and breakfasts, and cabins in the nearby towns of Bayfield and Durango. Some properties have private boat docks or lakefront access, while others offer hot tubs, fireplaces, and stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Whatever your preference, there are plenty of options for a comfortable stay in the Vallecito area.



RV Parks


Cabin Rentals


#4 See the Sights by Horseback

Vallecito Reservoir offers scenic horseback riding trails perfect for exploring the beautiful San Juan Mountains. Vallecito Lake Outfitters provides guided trail rides, from half-day trips to full-day excursions. These experienced outfitters will provide all the necessary equipment and match riders with a horse that suits their experience level. Experienced equestrians can also bring their mounts, provided they have adequate transportation. You can explore trails that wind through the stunning pine forests, around the lake, and along mountain ridges with spectacular views. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced rider, a horse-riding adventure in Vallecito Reservoir is an excellent way to experience the beauty of the San Juan Mountains with their trusty steed. 

Vallecito Lake Outfitters


Elk Point Lodge


#5 Awesome Hiking Trails

Vallecito Reservoir in the Spring

The hiking trails in the Vallecito Reservoir area offer an awe-inspiring outdoor experience that captivates nature enthusiasts. Nestled amidst the breathtaking scenery of southwest Colorado, these trails wind through dense forests, meandering streams, and stunning mountain vistas. Whether you seek a stroll or a challenging ascent, the 75-mile Vallecito trail system caters to all skill levels. The diverse ecosystem teems with abundant wildlife, from majestic elk to elusive mountain lions, providing an unforgettable wildlife viewing opportunity. Immerse yourself in the serenity of the wilderness, breathe in the crisp mountain air, appreciate Colorado’s erratic weather pattern, and let the Vallecito hiking trails transport you to a place of natural beauty.

Trailheads for Beginners to Experienced Hikers


#6 Vallecito Reservoir: The Tour of Carvings

Vallecito Reservoir is home to an intriguing historic site known as the Carvings. It is a collection of over 14 wood carvings by artist Chad Haspels. Haspels was inspired to create these works after the 2002 Missionary Ridge fire and created carvings representing the community’s rebirth. Visitors can take a self-guided tour through the woods to discover these unique carvings, each with its own story and meaning. The carvings depict the wildlife and the people affected by the wildfire. The carvings are strewn about the lake, and it's a must-see attraction for history and art enthusiasts.

Rising from the Ashes

In the wake of the 2002 Missionary Ridge Fire that affected the Durango & Vallecito Lake areas, local artist Chad Haspels created carvings from the burnt trees to help the community heal:

#7 A Bountiful Hunting Season

Young Buck Deer at Vallecito Reservoir During Summer

Vallecito Reservoir is a haven for hunters, providing ample opportunities for big and small game hunting. The nearby Weminuche Wilderness is a popular area for elk hunters. Moreover, the reservoir and surrounding areas have abundant mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and black bears. Most hunting seasons start from late September through early October, though you may want to check the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website for more information. Small game such as rabbit, squirrel, and turkey are also abundant in the area. Hunting regulations and licenses are required for hunting in the Vallecito Reservoir area, and hunters are advised to check local regulations before hunting.

Bringing Home the Elk-Game


#8 Cruising Through Land on ATVs

If you want to cruise under blue-bird skies on rocky terrain, the Vallecito Reservoir area offers plenty of chances for off-roading enthusiasts to sail through its varied landscapes. Visitors can rent off-road vehicles like ATVs and UTVs from local rental services or bring their own to explore the surrounding trails. The area has a range of terrain, including rocky and steep areas, making for an exciting and challenging ride. Guided off-road full-day and half-day tours are also available for those who prefer a more structured experience or are unfamiliar with the area. With stunning views and varied terrain, the Vallecito Reservoir area is an excellent destination for off-roading adventures.

Jeep Tours


ATV Rentals and Trails


#9 Chill Snowmobile, Snowshoe and Ski Trail

Snowshoeing at Vallecito Nordic Ski Club Area During Winter | Ben Brashear | Visit Durango

The Vallecito Reservoir area offers “chill” winter adventures with snowmobiling opportunities for guided tours and solo expeditions. Visitors can rent snowmobiles and gear from local outfitters and easily explore the backcountry. One notable snowmobiling destination is the 10-mile Vallecito Middle Mountain Trail, which weaves its way to Tuckerville, an abandoned mining town. Snowmobiling offers a unique perspective of the scenic winter landscape, and thrill-seekers will enjoy the exhilarating experience of speeding through snow flurries. 

Vallecito Reservoir also offers fantastic Nordic ski opportunities with its picturesque surroundings and pristine winter conditions. The area features trails maintained by the Vallecito Nordic Ski Club, which are suitable for all skill levels, making it an ideal destination for beginners and experienced skiers. Visitors to Vallecito Reservoir can also check out the world-class Purgatory Ski Resort, which offers Nordic and downhill skiing opportunities. 

High-Speed Winter Fun



Vallecito Reservoir During Fall by Drone | Rhyler Overend

Vallecito Reservoir is a remarkable destination that offers a wide range of recreational activities and natural beauty. From fishing in its clear blue waters to boating adventures, horseback riding, hiking trails, and winter activities like snowmobiling and skiing, Vallecito Reservoir caters to outdoor enthusiasts throughout the year. The area surrounding the reservoir provides various lodging options, ensuring every visitor's comfortable stay. Additionally, the presence of the Carvings and its proximity to Mesa Verde National Park adds cultural and historical significance to the region. Whether you're seeking adventure, relaxation, or a combination, Vallecito Reservoir is a beloved and must-visit destination in the Durango area.