In Rio Blanco County, Colorado, the Chapman Reservoir is a peaceful, remote alpine lake located west of Yampa in the Routt National Forest. The Chapman Reservoir sits at 9,402 feet in elevation, offering a tremendous amount of outdoor activities, although it typically only sees light traffic throughout the year.
You can access the lake via the 2WD Flat Tops Trail, a national scenic byway connecting Yampa with Meeker, Colo. It’s an 82-mile drive that’s typically open from June through October.
To avoid confusion, it is important to know that there is another “Chapman Reservoir” in Colorado, which is located outside of Aspen. Here, the White River National Forest maintains the “Chapman Campground” southeast of Basalt, CO. Although they share a name, the two Chapman Reservoirs are over 100 miles apart.
The Chapman Reservoir bears the name of Oscar L. Chapman, a former Secretary of the United States Department of Interior. Chapman controlled the Park Service and the Bureau of Reclamation and was involved with the development of many western reservoirs and designated recreational areas throughout the 1950s.
The Chapman Reservoir is free to visit all year long, although the road is typically only open to cars from Memorial day to mid-October. To reach the reservoir, a short hike is required from the campground. Snowmobile access is permitted in the winter months, and there is also a dog sled operator located just north of the reservoir on County Rd 8.
Boating: Non-motorized boating is permitted in the Chapman Reservoir. The water is popular for kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards, and fishing rafts. All watercraft must be hand launched.
Birding & Wildlife: The Chapman Reservoir is located in a secluded part of the state, creating the perfect opportunity for birding and wildlife viewing.
Around the water, visitors frequently spot deer, elk, coyote, foxes, and even the occasional black bear. In the air, the Routt National Forest is home to eagles, hawks, owls, and more, with many more migratory bird species stopping by the Chapman Reservoir seasonally.
Camping: The US Forest Service Maintains the Chapman Reservoir Campground on the north side of the lake. Here, there are 12 first-come, first-served primitive campsites with parking, a picnic table, a fire ring, and access to a vault toilet. Most campsites can accommodate large trailers or RVs and horse stables are located onsite.
It’s important to note that there is no drinking water available at this campground. Beyond the Chapman Reservoir Campground, there are also opportunities for free dispersed camping in the surrounding Routt National Forest.
Read about the camping near Yampa and Flat Tops.
Fishing: Fishing is permitted in the Chapman Reservoir with a valid CO fishing license. Here, anglers have the chance of primarily bagging native rainbow trout.
Trails: The Chapman Reservoir is well connected to a large trail system for exploring the Routt National Forest and surrounding wilderness areas. There are opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, ATVs, and OHVs.
Address: Chapman Reservoir, Yampa, CO 80483
Season: Memorial Day to mid-October | Snowmobiles permitted when the road is snowed over
Maps: Yampa Ranger District MVUM (PDF)