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“Shhhh! Let this be our secret!”
5 of 5 bubbles Review of Cottonwood Lake

Cottonwood Lake
Ranked #12 of 28 things to do in Buena Vista
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Denver, Colorado
Level Contributor
23 reviews
10 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
“Shhhh! Let this be our secret!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 12 September 2013

I found Cottonwood Lake by looking an aerial photo on Google maps while trying to find interesting places to visit along a route my husband and I were going to drive for a day trip. We drove on up the washboard dirt road, walked around the lake a little, then drove further on and scoped out the campgrounds. We decided that we would have to come back and camp at this place.
The first time we went was a Wednesday afternoon right after Labor Day and there were only a few people out fishing. Those who were floating in the middle of the lake had to come in because a thunderstorm started rolling in over the mountains, but it was really amazing to listen to the thunder echoing all around. Even with the few people who were there, we felt like we had found a hidden gem, our own secluded sanctuary.
A week later we went to camp. My husband's work schedule gives him a "weekend" of Tuesday and Wednesday, so we camped Tuesday night the second week in September. Again, very few people. We decided not to stay in the campground and instead found one of the MANY dispersed camping sites, and we highly recommend it. If you keep driving past the campground, you will begin to see places where others have obviously driven a little ways off the road and map camps, usually most visible by the fire pits. There are several places that are large enough for RVs, particularly this one large group site that looks like it could hold probably a dozen. There are also numerous smaller group sites, where there are multiple fire pits within close proximity to each other. One place we almost settled on had three fire pits and looked like it could hold at least half a dozen tents with a couple of cars. It was right by the creek, even.
The place we finally decided on also had several separate places nearby so that we could imagine a couple of scout troops using the location. We pulled very far back and found a place where someone had leveled it off and laid down hay. Since it was raining and the forecast was for continued rain and lows in the 40s, we decided this would be a really nice spot.
It was very peaceful at night, with the pitter patter of the rain on the tent and the distant white noise of the creek. It did get cold, a lot colder than people not used to the mountains might be used to for September, so keep that in mind for this location if camping. We went back into town the next day for lunch and remarked on how much "warmer" the temperature was - 59F, at noon, in September.
The lake is absolutely gorgeous and it is close enough to Buena Vista to go into town if needed. It is also very close to the Mt. Yale trailheads. We had planned to hike Mt. Yale, but the clouds were just too low for us.
I've heard that Cottonwood Lake can be very crowded in the tourist season (Memorial Day to Labor Day), but after Labor Day, at least in the middle of the week, it is apparently much calmer and easier to find a secluded campsite or fishing spot.
There were also some trails around the area which we wanted to explore but didn't have time for. I would like to try them out some time, but we spent most of our day at the Chaffee County Shooting Range (another place that I'd like to keep a secret!).

Visited September 2013
5 Thank HomesteadingHoney
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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86 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Erie, Colorado
Level Contributor
8 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
“great place to canoe”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 24 July 2013

We have camped by this lake several times in the past couple of years. We took our canoe there and the lake is perfect for this. Not to large, not to small. The lake seems to get stocked often and have no trouble catching fish when we go there. There is free camping in national forest above lake or a paid campground near by.

Visited June 2013
3 Thank mike m
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Mountain Home, Arkansas
Level Contributor
45 reviews
12 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 22 helpful votes
“Always come back for more!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 11 June 2013

Crystal clear water, amazing mountain views, picnic spots... just so in love with this little lake! We like to kayak and rent SUPboards and just paddle around- the water is cold!

Visited June 2013
1 Thank KaiyaMarie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Boulder, Colorado
Level Contributor
12 reviews
6 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
“October at Cottonwood Lake”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 17 October 2012

The drive there was as good as arriving. This would be a wonderful place to spend a few weeks in the summer and there are cabins all around.

Visited October 2012
2 Thank Kalexander70
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Broomfield, Colorado
Level Contributor
12 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
“Amazing for fall colors”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 25 September 2012

The weather was unsettled in Buena Vista, varying between sun and very threatening clouds. We were looking for something to do where we would be close to the car if the storms came in. This was the perfect activity for a couple of hours. The drive to the lake was beautiful and easy. The last three miles was unpaved but not bad at all. The reward was a lake with towering cliffs and the most amazing spread of golden aspen at the far end of the lake. Go a little past the lake and the aspen just get better. There is also an area you might see mountain goats on the cliffs but we didn't see any today.

Visited September 2012
1 Thank Debbie447
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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