Within the San Isabel National Forest, Lake Isabel is a 40 acre reservoir on the border between Pueblo and Custer County near Rye, Colorado. The lake is dammed and receives a significant amount of snow each winter as a part of the Wet Mountains range.
The pristine alpine setting, towering pines, and nearby amenities make Lake Isabel a popular mountain retreat destination.
Lake Isabel History
Originally, the dam at Lake Isabel was built to store water for a steel plant in Pueblo during the 1930’s. The earthen dam was improved by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which expanded the reservoir for recreational use.
Activities at Lake Isabel
In the winter, the south shore of Lake Isabel is home to the San Isabel Snow Slide, which offers happy sledding opportunities for the whole family. Year round, the Lake Isabel Recreation Area is a popular destination for many outdoor activities, as it is easily accessed via Colorado State Highway 165.
Birding: Lake Isabel is a great place for birdwatching. The dense foliage and healthy ecosystem attract many migratory birds, waterfowl and interesting native species. Notably, the MacGillivray’s Warbler is often spotted in the area.
Boating: Non-motorized boats such as kayaks, canoes, and stand up paddle boards are permitted on Lake Isabel.
Camping: The National Forest Service maintains 4 campgrounds with electric, non-electric, RV, tent, group, and walk-in sites available. Drinking water and toilets are available for all campers and reservations can be made ahead of time. Alternatively, lodging is also available at both the Lake Isabel Cabin and in nearby, privately owned accommodations. Campgrounds include:
Read about the Camping near Westcliffe and Rye.
Fishing: Licensed fishing is available at Lake Isabel all year round. Anglers can catch rainbow, brook, and brown trout stocked by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Hiking & Mountain Biking: Lake Isabel can nearly be circumnavigated along a flat, easy walking path. Beyond this, there is an extensive system of well maintained hiking and mountain biking trails stemming from the Lake Isabel Recreation Area into the surrounding national forest. Notably the Cisneros Trail is a popular trail that is shared with ATV riders.
Horseback Riding: Many of the San Isabel National Forest trails surrounding Lake Isabel can be ridden on horseback. Consult a national forest office or trailhead signage before committing to a path.
Hunting: Licensed hunting is permitted in the San Isabel National Forest surrounding Lake Isabel. The area is popular for hunting elk, birds, and other game.
Picnicking: There are 40 picnic sites scattered around the Lake Isabel Picnic and Day Use Area, each with a fire ring and picnic table. Toilets are readily available around the lake.
Address: 9945 CO-165, Rye, CO 81069
Season: Year Round, Campground and Other Areas Close in Winter
Fees: Day Use & Campground Fees
Maps: Wet Mountain & Lake Isabel Recreation Area