Length: 6 miles, out and back
Why we love it: It’s a mellow hike shaded by beautiful pines.
When to go: In summer, when you’ll enjoy taking a post-hike dip
Pre-hike Buzz: Grab an iced cold brew and a pastry at Da Bean, a local coffee joint on Berthoud’s quaint Mountain Avenue
Restrooms: Outhouse at the trailhead
Dogs: Allowed on leash
As the summer temps continue to drive us into shade, head up to Carter Lake for a pleasant, tree-filled hike that ends with a splash in the reservoir. With no major elevation gains, this rolling, single-track trail hugs the western edge of the reservoir, granting you tantalizing views of the water and Longs Peak, which towers above.
From the South Shore—where there are picnic tables and grills for a prime post-hike, post-swim BBQ—the trail heads north. The first quarter-mile is well-developed, packed-down gravel that is handicap accessible. This beginning section brings you to a picnic table tucked in the woods for a more intimate rest stop or snack spot.
From there, the trail continues, though the track narrows slightly and is less groomed. For the remaining 2.75 miles, you’ll continue on this singular path, which, thanks to the mild grade, is well equipped for kids, those with dogs, or trail runners. As you near the end, you’ll reach the North Shore, where Carter Lake Marina is located. Here, you can rent fishing boats and small pontoons. Once you’ve had your fill of the northern view, head back the way you came and jump in the water at your earliest convenience.
Bonus: Stick around to catch the sunset. With Longs Peak dominating the skyline, this makes the southeastern shoreline one of the best spots to catch a classic Colorado pink-and-orange spectacle.
Getting There: From Denver, take I-25 north and exit onto CO-66 after about 30 miles. After about 6.5 miles, turn right onto US-287 N. Follow this road seven miles, then follow signs west to Carter Lake. There’s a $7 entrance fee per car. Park on the South Shore.