Grab a fishing pole, a kayak and paddle out onto on of Custer County’s lakes for an hour or a day’s escape into nature.

Most trails into the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness Area lead eventually to high-alpine basins and lakes. Many, along with the creeks they feed, harbor native trout. In addition, Custer County hosts two lakes managed by Colorado Parks & Wildlife.

DeWeese Reservoir State Wildlife Area

Reflecting our magnificent peaks, DeWeese Reservoir State Wildlife Area backs up behind an impressive dam at the head of Grape Creek Canyon, just a half-dozen miles north of Westcliffe. The wildlife area encompasses 2,336 acres, with the reservoir covering 208.

Anglers seek lake, cutbow, brown and brook trout, as well as smallmouth bass – with the adventurous casting for huge tiger muskies. The fishing continues from spring through winter, with ice huts and vehicles dotting the lake on frigid winter mornings. Hunters seek duck and goose in the fall, while coyote, cottontail rabbit, antelope and deer explore the shore.

DeWeese also draws bird watchers to search out warblers in the willows, flocks of dabbling and diving ducks, white pelicans, grebes, avocets, and more—many nesting nearby.

Darting through the willows at the lake’s head and hopping through nearby sagebrush prairie, you’ll find busy sparrows, passing warblers and a host of songbirds.

Mountain bikers can cruise around the east end of the lake on a rolling gravel road with a couple of challenging hills. Camping is free around the lake or in the designated campground, with pit toilets available. Boating is allowed only for fishing and hunting, and all visitors to the area must have a Colorado fishing or hunting permit, or secure an annual permit for Lake DeWeese. License vendors in Westcliffe include Antler’s store, Lowe’s grocery store and Valley Ace Hardware.

Lake Isabel

Lake Isabel, 35 miles southwest of Westcliffe and less than 30 minutes off I-25, attracts folks who love to hike, paddle, fish and bird watch.

The lake welcomes non-motorized boats for fishing in waters stocked with brown and brook trout.

Nearby Snow Slide and Cisneros trails offer hiking and biking. Cisneros Trail is also open to ATVs.

Campers can pitch a tent at La Vista Campground, set in a meadow overlooking the west side of the lake. RV-ready Southside Campground accepts rigs less than 30 feet long with no hook-up requirements at pull-through sites.

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