Know BEFORE You Go

Plan to arrive before 10 a.m. or after 3 p.m. as the reservoir park will likely reach capacity, especially on weekends in the summer. Avoid the wait - come early or late!

Southwest of Loveland

Three miles long and about one mile wide, this beautiful 1,100-acre reservoir is surrounded by 1,000 acres of public lands. It's a great place for fishing, sailing, water skiing, camping, picnicking, swimming, scuba diving, and rock climbing.

As part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project to divert water from the west slope to the east slope for drinking water, irrigation, and hydropower generation, the reservoir is jointly operated by the Bureau of Reclamation and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District who manage water levels for irrigation, municipal, and industry use. Larimer County manages recreation.

Carter Lake requires entrance and camping permits, and is open year round. At 5,760 feet in elevation, it is nestled in the foothills southwest of Loveland, Colorado, and northwest of Berthoud, Colorado.

Sky View Campground Now Open - learn more



Accessible Activities
Drinking Water
Permit Required
Picnic Area
Reservable Pavilions



From Denver:

  1. Take I-25 North to the Berthoud Exit (Exit 250).
  2. Turn left (west) onto Highway 56 and continue for 9 1/2 miles. (You will pass through the town of Berthoud.)
  3. Watch for the Carter Lake road sign after a sharp curve to the north (right).
  4. Turn left (west) onto County Road 8E and continue for 3 miles.
  5. Stop at the entrance station to purchase Park Entrance Permits, Follow County Road 8E west to the intersection about halfway up the hill. A sign will direct you to continue straight to the South Shore Campground or to turn right to Carter Knolls Campground, the swim beach, Big Thompson Campground, Carter Lake Marina, Eagle Campground, Lowell's Campground and North Pines Campground. The Natural Resources Department is located about 2 miles north of Carter Lake at 1800 South County Road 31.

From Longmont or Boulder:

  1. Take U.S. Highway 287 north to County Road 56 west of Berthoud.
  2. Turn left (west) onto County Road 56.

    Follow direction from # 3 above

From Loveland:

  1. Drive west of Loveland on U.S. Highway 34 to mile marker #85. Watch for the "Carter Lake" sign.
  2. Turn left (south) onto County Road 29. Go 2 miles and turn right (west) onto County Road 18E. Go west another 2 miles. Watch for the park signs.
  3. At County Road 31 turn left and stop to purchase park entrance permits at the entrance station on your right or at The Natural Resources Department. Continue south on County Road 31 another 2 miles to Carter Lake, campgrounds, marina, and swim beach.

From Fort Collins:

  1. Take Taft Hill Road south from Fort Collins to U.S. Highway 34 (Eisenhower) in Loveland and turn right (west).

    Follow directions from Loveland above.


Note: Water temperature not collected October-May due to varying water/ice conditions. 

View current boat ramp hours.


BE BEAR AWARE: Avoid attracting bears to your campsite

  • Never leave food, cooler or trash unattended. Any food, coolers or trash left out may be confiscated.
  • Properly store your trash, food, beverages and toiletries in a locked hard-sided container constructed of rigid material. Keep anything with a scent in your vehicle or a bear-proof container. Put trash in dumpsters located at each campground.
  • Keep a clean tent. Don't bring anything with an odor into your tent. Don't sleep in the clothes you cooked in; store them in your vehicle.
  • Never intentionally feed a bear.


Active wildlife in the area - Please exercise caution and obey all posted speed limits as you approach the Carter Lake area. The wildlife in and around this area is very active and we experience numerous vehicle vs. wildlife accidents throughout the year.

Carter Lake Boat ramp days and hours vary on a seasonal basis. View current boat ramp hours.

Hunting is not allowed at Carter Lake.

For information regarding the swim beach, call 970-619-4570

Carter Lake water elevation is 5,759 feet full and 5,652 feet empty
Water Level Data courtesy U.S. Bureau of Reclamation