What to Know About Dillon Reservoir Before You Go

Want to visit Dillon Reservoir? This large freshwater reservoir in Summit County, Colorado, also sometimes known as Lake Dillon, is just outside of Denver. The reservoir itself is owned and operated by Denver water, and serves as a popular recreation area.

Dillion Reservoir is perfect for day trips to escape the heat of Denver in the summer and enjoy a fun-filled time outdoors. If you want to visit and want to learn more about Dillion Reservoir, find out the things you need to know about the Dillon Reservoir before you go!

Where is Dillon Reservoir?

Dillon Reservoir is located between Frisco and Dillon in Summit County, CO. It?s 70 miles from downtown Denver, 9 miles from Breckenridge, and 28 miles from Vail. All in all, it?s about an hour?s drive from Denver.

It?s encircled by the Swan Mountain and the Gore and Ten Mile Mountain ranges. The Reservoir covers 3,300 acres with 25 miles of pine-forested shoreline. This makes it a perfect location to experience nature just outside of the city and enjoy both the water and the mountains!

What is the History of Dillon Reservoir?

Dillon Reservoir is owned & operated by the Denver Water Board, and it is the largest water storage facility for the organization.

The Dillon Dam was built between 1961 and 1963, with the reservoir being filled with water for the first time in 1964.

Water is diverted from the Blue River Basin through the Harold D. Roberts Tunnel under the Continental Divide into the South Platte River Basin and Denver?s storage facilities on the Front Range.

What Is There to Do at Dillon Reservoir?

The recreational facilities at Dillon Reservoir include:

  • Two full-service marinas ? Dillon and Frisco Bay
  • Two boat launching sites
  • National forest campgrounds for R.V. and tent camping

Boating and fishing are two of the most popular activities on Dillon Reservoir, but there?s a lot more to explore. There are 325 campsites for camping, 12 miles of paved trails within the Dillon Recreation Area for hiking or bicycling, and designated areas for waterfowl hunting.

What Are Some Rules & Regulations at Dillon Reservoir?

There are a few rules and regulations for everyone to follow at Dillon Reservoir for personal safety and to protect the area. Here are a few things to be aware of:

  • There is a 30-mph speed limit for all boat vessels traveling on the water
  • Wakeboarding, waterskiing, paraskiing, paragliding, and parasailing are prohibited
  • Campfires are only allowed to campsite locations where fireplace grills and fire rings have been provided
  • Is Dillon Reservoir dog friendly? Pets are allowed, but must be kept on a leash and cleaned up after.
  • Due to cold temperatures, wading and swimming in the water is prohibited

The Summit County Sherriff?s Department patrols the water surface and campgrounds to enforce these rules and ensure the safety of all those who visit Dillon Reservoir.

What?s the Best Way to See Dillon Reservoir?

Adventure Paddle Tours offers guided kayak tours out of the Frisco Bay Marina on the Dillon Reservoir.

Our expert guides can help you navigate through the waters and see the mountains, wildlife, and experience the beautiful scenery the area has to offer. Our tours are true eco tours that are rooted in conservation, designed for small groups to give you that intimate nature experience.

We have a range of tours available to suit your groups needs! Click here to take a look at our guided kayak tours offered in the Dillon Reservoir and book with us today.

Planning a Weekend Trip to Lake Dillon

Looking for the perfect weekend getaway in Colorado this summer? Lake Dillon is located in the heart of Summit County Colorado, which is just over an hour away from Denver, making it the perfect location to escape to the mountains for the weekend and enjoy the warm summer weather.

As local experts in the area, we have the ultimate guide to the steps you need to take to plan the perfect weekend trip on Lake Dillon.

Find Lodging

Before you take the weekend trip to Lake Dillon, you have to find a place to stay for the weekend.

If you want to experience things like a local, try to find an Airbnb or VRBO around Summit County ? there?s many options for condos or homes that you can rent out, with a variety of numbers of bedrooms depending on the size of your group.

If you don?t want to go that route, there?s a number of hotels in the area ranging from cheaper motels if you want to keep it simple, to luxury hotels if you want a more high end experience. Because summer is a busy season in this area, we recommend booking in advance to get the best deals.

Packing List

If you?re just taking a weekend trip, you can pack light, but there are a few essentials you don?t want to forget. Summer temperatures are usually predictable, but thunderstorms can come through in the summer, so it?s important to pack layers and have all the fundamentals you need for you outdoor adventures.

When it comes to clothing, you want to make sure you have everything you need to brave the outdoors depending on the weather.

We recommend packing hiking shorts, short sleeved shirts, long pants, long sleeve shirts, a waterproof jacket, comfortable walking shoes, broken in hiking shoes, bathing suit, sunglasses, and a wide brim hat.

Of course, you want to bring all your normal toiletries like toothbrushes, deodorant, and shampoo and conditioner, but don?t forget a high SPF sunscreen, lip balm, aloe lotion, and bug spray. Some electronics essentials to bring are a camera to document your adventures, a flashlight, extra batteries, an external phone charger.

Plan Your Weekend Activities

Our latest blog post outlines some of the best activities for you to do on Lake Dillon. Some of the things you can do include a fishing trip, sailing lesson, camping, hiking, mountain biking and more.

Because your time is so limited on a weekend trip, we recommend sitting down with your group and putting together an itinerary of the activities you want to do while your there. Decide the top things you want to do and book the activities in advance so your plans are set, and you can make the most of your weekend trip.

Book A Guided Kayak Tour with Adventure Paddle Tours

Kick off your weekend trip on Lake Dillon by taking a guided kayak tour through the Dillon Reservoir with Adventure Paddle Tours!

We offer a range of guided kayak tours that can fit different size groups and different experience levels. Our guides are also experts in the area that can give you a true local experience and can give you recommendations on more things to do and see around the area. Book a tour today to get the best Lake Dillon weekend experience.

The Perfect Day on Lake Dillon

Imagine a crisp, clear, spring day on Lake Dillon. It is just starting to get warmed by the cresting sun over the eastern mountain line. ?The skies are bluebird and the day is abound with possibility. ?What should we do on Lake Dillon today?

Walk the Dog on Lake Dillon

Fido at the beach on Lake Dillon

First, on the must-to-do list is walk/run the dogs, what better place than the 20-30 minute loop trail around the iconic Sapphire Point up on Swan Mountain road which connects Highways 6 by Keystone/Dillon/Silverthorne, Highway 9 and Breckenridge/Frisco. Don?t forget to look for Golden Mantle Squirrels. ?These guys are a rare little critter that inhabits the point. ?If you want to stay in Frisco, bring your dog down to the Frisco Bay Marina. ?The newly constructed sand beach has proven to be an excellent spot to encourage Fido to jump into Lake Dillon.

Eat Breakfast in Frisco

After that, it might be time for breakfast. Just down the hill and around one of the fingers of the lake is the thumb of the lake, a historic town called Frisco, Colorado. It is named after the first railroad whose tracks made its way through town along the line from St. Louis to San Fransisco. With a well established main street. ?There are many gems off the beaten path. There are tons of options to break the fast like; Abby?s Coffee, Butterhorn Bakery, or grab a breakfast burrito at the Log Cabin. ?Abby's Coffee is literally 100 yards away from the Frisco Bay Marina. ?You will often find Adventure Paddle Tours owneroperatort Kyle Mckenzie drinking multiple cups of amazing coffee!

Kayak Lake Dillon

Kayaking Lake Dillon
Kayaking Lake Dillon

Nothing complements a good breakfast like paddling around a glass calm alpine lake surrounded by mountains. Located at the end of Main Street is the Frisco Marina, which is a beautiful area to relax and enjoy the pristine surroundings. Walking around the marina you might see other people approaching the docks to go out fishing or take the ferry to Dillon, or even the rowing club carrying their streamlined rowboats out for practice. By now if the views and experience aren?t enough and you want the full experience from the water, take a tour with us at Adventure Paddle Tours located on the pier for a guided family-friendly nature tour to find the secret spots and maybe see the animals waking up.

Eat Lunch in Frisco

After a great paddle around the lake, it is time for lunch, The Island Grill located at the Frisco Bay Marina overlooks Lake Dillon and they?have amazing Fish Tacos. ?Perhaps a short walk down Main Street in Frisco for mac & cheese at Ollies or burgers and sandwiches at Silverheels Bar and Grill. ?All three restaurants are within walking distance of Lake Dillon

Bike Vail Pass

After lunch maybe take a bike shuttle up Vail pass. ?From the top, you can ride the paved bike path downhill for miles and miles past Copper Mountain and into Tenmile Canyon. Arriving back in Frisco gather up the family and head on over to Silverthorne via i70 or the Dillon Dam Road to The Mint restaurant for a unique grill your own steak at the oldest restaurant in Colorado, and one of the buildings that was moved along with the rest of the towns across the area that is now under Lake Dillon. Right next to The Mint are the outlets in Silverthorne stop for ice cream or a Colorado T-shirt and then off to the Dillon Marina for one of the best sunsets you will ever see, with the sun setting over Frisco and the islands you've kayaked and mountain trails you?ve hiked and biked!

Congratulations, you just had a perfect day around Lake Dillon!

Dillon Reservoir Kayak and SUP Launch Sites

Updated 4/142022: The Frisco Bay Marina construction is definitely winding down! Fingers crossed it will be up and running by this summer! I’m not 100% sure if the parking spaces will start to free up, but I would imagine there will be less work traffic using their spaces.

Construction at the Frisco Bay Marina is expected to go on until June 1st. As a result, it made sense to write the first blog post on the different access locations for kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) on Dillon Reservoir. There are two towns that sit on Dillon Reservoir. Frisco is our favorite, but Dillon is great too. These two marinas are the only two launch sites that provide ANS checks. Therefore, if visitors plan to use a trailer or launch a motorboat, they must launch from these marinas. ANS stands for Aquatic Nuisance Species and boats and trailers must be checked for these species. Here are the 5 best areas to launch your kayak or stand-up paddleboard on Lake Dillon. Remember, hand launching only if you are not launching at Dillon or Frisco. Please remember before leaving any body of water, drain all remaining water left in your watercraft and be sure not to transport any aquatic hitchhikers!

Dillon Dam Rd Kayak and SUP launch

Updated on 4/14/22 This area has definitely seen a huge increase in traffic and parking is limited. If you park on the side of the road you will be ticketed!

This is my second favorite and the closest site to Frisco for kayaking and paddleboarding. There are multiple areas off of Dillon Dam Road, where you can walk down, but in my opinion, the best option is the day-use area about .5 miles from Highway 9 in Frisco. This launch site provides kayakers and paddleboarders access to Giberson Bay within minutes of kayaking. Giberson Bay is full of smaller islands and is fairly shallow, providing you safe kayaking on Dillon. You can also access the larger part of Lake Dillon from Dillon Dam road if you follow the north shore and kayak between Sentinel Island and Heaton Bay Campground. Heaton Bay Campground is a Forest Service campground with great access to the water. If you camp here you can leave your kayak or paddleboard near the water’s edge and from certain campsites launch directly from your site.

Snake River Inlet Kayak and SUP Launch

The second launch site for a kayak or SUP is from the Snake River Inlet. This is a unique part of Dillon Reservoir and probably the least used of all kayak and paddleboard launch sites. The Snake River Inlet is located south of the Town of Dillon about halfway between Dillon and the Keystone Ski resort. The Snake River inlet is a long, narrow small canyon carved out by the Snake River for over 1,000s of years. Wind will typically blow from the west straight towards the launch site. However, if you launch your kayak or SUP early and are off the water by 11 am you should be ok or run a shuttle with your companion and kayak from the Snake River to say the Blue River arm.

Blue River Inlet Kayak and SUP Launch

The Blue River arm is the third access point on Dillon Reservoir and is sandwiched between Breckenridge and Frisco. This is another lesser used spot on Dillon and offers a ton of shoreline access connected to the Frisco Recreation peninsula and some cool steep shoreline on the Swan Mountain side. There is one island located on this stretch called Silver Dollar Island and is a great spot to land your kayak or paddleboard and have lunch or take a break.

Dillon Marina Kayak and SUP Launch

The fourth launch site for your kayak or SUP on Dillon reservoir would be out of the Dillon Marina. If you plan on launching your kayak or SUP early the Dillon Marina is a great option. Remember this is only one of two launch sites where powerboats can access Dillon Reservoir. When launching from the Dillon Marina you are immediately on the largest part of Dillon but during the morning hours, this area provides you with an amazing kayaking experience. However, please remember, the Dillon Marina is located on the east side of Dillon reservoir which will give you a ton of fetch (open water) during windy days in the afternoon.

Frisco Bay Marina Kayak and SUP Launch

The fifth and my favorite launch site on Dillon Reservoir is the Frisco Bay Marina. Initially, you’ll encounter some boat traffic and crowds. However, from here you can kayak north into Giberson Bay or paddleboard east following the Frisco Recreation peninsula. This is where we start all of our kayak tours. Usually, we follow the Frisco Recreation Peninsula out to Sentinel Island. From Sentinel, we then kayak back through Giberson Bay crisscrossing through the 10 to 15 islands. Once through the islands, we are back just in time for lunch at the Island Grill.

Hopefully, this article was helpful. If you plan on kayaking or paddleboarding on Dillon Reservoir, don’t hesitate to give us a call. ?We are here for questions or you can book a tour! After that, you’ll learn about all of our little secret spots that only kayaks and paddleboards can reach!