Vallecito Lake, Colorado, USA

Also known as:  Vallecito Reservoir

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Vallecito Lake — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

Topics we cover in this article:

Looking for Vallecito Lake cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore our comprehensive list of favorite travel partners.

All About Vallecito Lake

The quest for a reliable source of irrigation water in Colorado’s dry Southwest Region brought Vallecito Lake into being. Twenty-two miles north of Durango, Vallecito Reservoir serves the water needs of approximately 55,000 acres of farmers and ranchers while providing recreation to thousands of visitors every year. The 2,720-acre lake was created in 1941 when a dam impounded the waters of the Pine River and Vallecito Creek. The Bureau of Reclamation contracted for the dam to be built but management of the water itself is assigned to the Pine River Irrigation District which apportions the water between several farmers’ cooperatives and the Southern Ute tribal government. Hydro power is produced by a generating plant at the dam. Vallecito, Spanish for “Little Valley,” is the area’s largest reservoir.

Because the lake is surrounded by the San Juan National Forest, supervision of recreation and camping facilities is split between the irrigation district and the United States Forest Service. The crystal-clear lake receives snowmelt in the spring from the steep slopes of the San Juan Mountains, providing an excellent cold-water fishery that supports rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout, northern pike, walleye, smallmouth bass and kokanee salmon. Colorado Dept of Wildlife stocks the lake yearly, leading to an abundant fish population. A pike tournament is held annually. The high altitude permits the lake to freeze over each winter and allows for ice fishing tournaments as well. Trout fishermen are often seen navigating the shallows in float tubes or casting their favorite flies on the two inlet streams.

The lakeshore has experienced very little shoreline development as nearly all of the 12-mile length is public lands. But, Vallecito Lake is anything but inaccessible; several public boat launch sites are located on the lake, and two marinas assure that fishermen or boating enthusiasts have everything they need for an enjoyable visit. Canoes, fishing boats, pontoon boats, buoy service, and fishing gear are available for rent. Bait, tackle, and gas are also available for sale. Vallecito Lake is an all-sports lake and extremely popular with boat owners who come to enjoy sailing, water skiing, tubing, wind surfing, pontooning, canoeing and kayaking. The 961 acres of public recreation land, managed by the US Forest service, holds several camping areas, hiking trails and picnic areas.

An additional two-and-a-half million acres are available in the San Juan National Forest, holding a wealth of hiking and back packing trails, off-road vehicle trails, mountain biking, river rafting and back-country hunting and fishing areas. Near Vallecito Lake, the Weminuche Wilderness Area is positioned along miles of the Continental Divide and offers dizzying heights, breathtaking views and trails that will challenge the most skilled mountain explorer. The roadless area serves as a refuge for wilderness-dependent species such as wolves, grizzly bears, lynx and wolverines. Elk, mule deer, turkey and black bear are hunted here in season, often by hunters traveling by horseback. The San Juan National Forest holds a wealth of unusual species of birds and mammals, making this a favorite of nature photographers.

Several lodges near Vallecito Lake provide vacation rentals to visitors. Most are open year round as the winter season is nearly as popular as summer. The surrounding area is a magnificent place for snowmobiling, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and sledding, There are major ski areas within a two-hour drive, and Durango maintains a year-round indoor ice rink. Vallecito Lake makes an ideal home-base for visiting the famed Four-Corners area where Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico meet. No visit would be complete without experiencing the breathtaking scenery of the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Train. The ancient cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park leave the visitor in awe of the little-known people who created these elaborate fortifications. Helicopter and glider rides can be arranged at Durango, as can hunting and fishing guide services and white-water rafting trips. Durango also holds the Henry Strater Theatre which produces live music acts from around the nation. The Children’s Museum will delight the youngsters and the eclectic shops and galleries are a joy to browse. Several golf courses are located in the Four-Corners area. Those with a penchant for pampering can indulge in a massage and a relaxing soak in natural hot mineral springs located at a lodge between Durango and Vallecito Lake.

Twenty-five miles from Durango, the little town of Ignacio comes alive each Labor Day week-end during Ignacio Bike Week. Not quite as large as Sturgis, Ignacio makes up in enthusiasm for what it lacks in size. Also in Ignacio, the Southern Ute Indian Cultural Center offers Native American dancing on Heritage Night and you can tempt the fates at the Sky Ute Casino.

Vacation lodgings aren’t difficult to find near Vallecito Lake. Several lodges are located near the lakefront, many with private cabins, boats or canoes. Many private residences are rented by the week or the season, often with beautiful lake views. There are many bed and breakfast facilities in the Four-Corners area and larger towns such as Durango are well-supplied with hotels and specialty lodgings. Real estate is often available, some with lake views and others featuring the mountains. There is never a shortage of things to entertain the visitor at Vallecito Lake; it’s a true four-season playground. Come and enjoy the best nature has to offer. Visit Vallecito Lake for the first time – it wont be your last.

Things to Do at Vallecito Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Fishing Tournaments
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Wind Surfing
  • Tubing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park
  • National Forest
  • Museum
  • Playground
  • Casino Gambling

Fish Species Found at Vallecito Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Kokanee Salmon
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Salmon
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Trout
  • Walleye

Find Places to Stay at Vallecito Lake

If you’re considering a Vallecito Lake lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Vallecito Lake Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Vallecito Lake lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Vallecito Lake Statistics & Helpful Links


We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

Shop Vallecito Lake Gifts

Custom Lake Tumblers

Captain / First Mate Custom 20 oz Tumbler

Custom Lake T Shirt

Personalized My Boat My Rules Unisex T-Shirt

Custom Lake Coffee Mug - On Lake Time

On Lake Time Custom Coffee Mug – 11oz or 15oz


Advertise Your Vallecito Lake Business or Vacation Rental

LakeLubbers will soon offer businesses the opportunity to advertise and homeowners and property managers the ability to showcase their vacation rentals to the thousands of lake lovers searching our site daily. If you would like additional details, please contact our advertising team.


Looking for the Vallecito Lake Forum?

LakeLubbers previously offered visitors the ability to create accounts and participate in lake forums. When we overhauled the site’s content management system in 2021 we had to disable those features. We’re evaluating options and welcome your comments and feedback here. We also encourage you to join our lake-lovin’ community on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest!

Vallecito Lake Photo Gallery

New photos coming soon!

Spread the word! Share our Vallecito Lake article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!