Turquoise Lake is a 1,788-acre, boot-shaped reservoir on the Lake Fork of the Arkansas River west of Leadville. The high-altitude lake is part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas water development project, delivering water to Front Range cities from the western slope. Turquoise Lake lies in the shadow of high mountains, including Mount Elbert and Mount Massive, Colorado’s two highest peaks. A 4,928-acre Forest Service recreation area surrounds the lake and includes eight campgrounds with 269 campsites, picnic areas, and two boat launches. Campers and fishermen, who angle for brown, rainbow, cutthroat and lake trout, as well as hikers, primarily use the area. The 9,800-foot-high lake is a favorite summer camping spot with cool temperatures, although its short season runs from June to late September.
- Turquoise Lake is a prolific trout fishery, with abundant lake or Mackinaw trout up to 40 inches long as well as brook and rainbow trout. The best places to fish from the shore are the east and south sides of the lake, although anglers need a boat to catch lake trout in summer. Most lake trout are less than 20 inches and the bag limit is two with no size restrictions.
- Eight campgrounds with 269 campsites scatter along the east side of Turquoise Lake, offering a cool getaway in summer. Potable water, picnic tables, and vault toilets are at each campground, including Baby Doe, Silver Dollar, Printer Boy, Molly Brown, Belle of Colorado, and Father Dyer. Reservations are available; otherwise, sites are first-come first-served.
- Good hikes are the 1.2-mile Turquoise Lake Nature Trail, 6.4-mile Turquoise Lake Trail, and the Lake Fork Creek Trails that climbs two miles to Timberline Lake. The lake is a great base camp for hiking up nearby Mount Elbert and Mount Massive.
- After fishing, head up to historic Leadville and visit its charming downtown by visiting the famed Tabor Opera House or eating at the Gold Burro restaurant. Afterward take a scenic drive over 12,095-foot Independence Pass, and the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway on Tennessee and Fremont passes. Driving enthusiasts will want to creep over the rough 13,185-foot Mosquito Pass to Fairplay.
Recommended season(s): June to September.
—Stewart M. Green