Why we love it: This is what summer in Colorado should be: an alpine lake, a pontoon boat, stunning 360-degree mountain scenery, grilling burgers on board, and kicking back in your flip-flops and shades with a cold beverage and the breeze in your hair.
Having grown up on the East Coast, summertime, in my mind, has always been synonymous with boats and harbors and sailing. It’s the one thing I’ve had a hard time with in Colorado: the feeling that part of summer was missing. But one summer, a friend suggested we go boating on Lake Dillon. What? I thought…How? We don’t have a boat. We don’t know how to sail. Do we need a captain?
Turns out, it’s super easy and loads of fun. No boating license required. We reserved a 22-foot pontoon on the Dillon Marina’s website, corralled a group of eight, and headed west one weekend for a lazy afternoon on the lake. We pulled up to a scene at the marina that was bustling with jubilant lake-goers in sundresses, bathing suits, and board shorts, plus a crowd of onlookers chilling on the deck of the marina’s tiki bar. We walked down the dock to our trusty steed carrying a cooler full of tasty beverages and snacks for grilling, and settled ourselves onto the cushy seats. After a rundown on the rules—no swimming, no diving, no speeding—and a reminder that someone had to be the designated boat driver, the deck hands sent us off into the open water. For hours, we cruised the lake, sunbathed in the balmy summer afternoon, and appreciated scenery we’d never before seen. Suddenly, there was nothing missing. Colorado had it all.
Getting there: Take I-70 west to exit 205 for CO-9 N toward US-6 E/Silverthorne/Dillon. Stay left at the fork, turn left onto Blue River Parkway, and continue onto US-6 E. After 0.7 miles, turn right onto Dillon Dam Road and take your first left onto W. La Bonte Street. Then take your first right onto W. Lodgepole Street, continue for 0.4 miles, and turn right onto Marina Drive.
Cost: For a 22-foot pontoon (capacity 12 people): $135 (2 hours); $175 (3 hours); $200 (4 hours); $20–$25 extra for grill rental.
—Image courtesy of Shutterstock