Frisco, Colorado: A Marina in the Mountains
It’s got snow-capped peaks, a storybook Main Street, and miles of shoreline wrapped around a pristine alpine lake. Could the tiny town of Frisco be Colorado’s ultimate summertime playground?
Situated at the east end of town, the Frisco Bay Marina offers boat and paddle-sport rentals, a sandy beach and waterside dining. [Photo: Todd Powell]
Come June, when the last layer of ice melts into the navy blue ways of Dillon Reservoir, the Frisco Bay Marina comes alive. Situated nearly 2 miles above sea level and surrounded by mountain peaks, it’s the launch point for some of the most scenic flat-water adventures in the West, from power boating and sailing to fishing and paddling. It also bookends the town’s charming Main Street (10,500-foot Mount Royal is at the other end), where the on-shore fun ranges from beer tasting to glassblowing.
Dillon Reservoir offers world-class sailing at an elevation of more than 9,000 feet above sea level. [Photo: Todd Powell]
Dillon Reservoir’s lofty elevation and unpredictable weather make the boating season relatively short, typically running from early June to mid-September. The Frisco Bay Marina is where the locals moor their boats, and it’s also home base for just about any water activity imaginable. There are pontoons, runabouts, and fishing boats for rent (the reservoir is one of just two spots in the lower 48 where you’ll catch Arctic char), plus muscle-powered craft ranging from canoes and kayaks to stand-up paddleboards. A classic boat tour reveals the lake’s best secret spots, while the Lake Dillon Water Taxi offers a relaxing ride over to the nearby Dillon Marina.
Boats of all sizes dot the surface of the 3,233-acre Dillon Reservoir each summer, when the Frisco Bay Marina (and nearby Dillon Marina) offer boat and slip rentals and scenic tours. Summertime regattas, like the annual New Belgium Timberline Cruiser Regatta (on Saturday, June 25, this year), offer opportunities for experienced sailors to prove their mettle—and for landlubbers to take part in the fun from the shore. [Photo: Todd Powell]
Like your water a little rougher? Through July, the Frisco Kayak Park on Ten Mile Creek offers a class-3 creek section (with a manmade water feature) that ends at the lake; class-4 and 5 sections are located just above the park. Visit Ten Mile Creek Kayaks for gear and more info.
The Dillon Dam, shown under construction in a photo taken on August 30, 1960, diverts water from the Blue River Basin to the east side of the Continental Divide. [Photo: Courtesy Denver Water, 2016]
A LITTLE HISTORY
Dillon Reservoir, also known as Lake Dillon, may look like one of Mother Nature’s most inspired creations, but it’s not. Most of the 3,233 acres it covers was dry land until 1963, when the Denver Water Board finished construction of a dam that diverts high mountain water from the Blue River Basin—via a 23-mile tunnel under the Continental Divide—to the South Platte River Basin and eventually on to Denver Water customers, who currently number some 1.3 million. The reservoir draws thousands of tourists each summer who come to boat, fish and explore the 18-mile bike path that encircles the lake.
In Frisco, there’s plenty of adventure to be had on dry land too. Here’s what to do when you’re not on the water:
Set aside plenty of time to explore the Frisco Historic Park & Museum's 11 original structures, including a schoolhouse and the town’s first jail. Pick up the pace by biking or hiking the 8-mile Peaks Trail from Frisco to Breckenridge’s Peak 7, or just kick back with a cup of tea, a slice of fresh-baked pound cake, and a good book at Next Page Books & Nosh, one of Summit County’s last independent bookstores.
Beloved by locals and tourists, Butterhorn Bakery & Café is famous for its indulgent breakfasts and made-from-scratch baked goods.
Beat the crowds to Butterhorn for oversized helpings of Eggy Bread; rethink strip-mall dining after a gourmet reuben sandwich at Food Hedz; toast with Bavarian and Belgian beers and sausages at Prost; and satisfy your sweet tooth with homemade fudge and retro candies at Foote's Rest Sweet Shoppe.
Luthier Bevan Frost creates modern steel-string guitars with classic details from his small studio, Big Hollow Guitars, in Frisco. [Photo: Todd Powell]
Create a one-of-a-kind work of art with help from Frisco’s world-class craftspeople: Make an appointment to visit Big Hollow Guitars for gorgeous, custom-built acoustic steel-string guitars by luthier Bevan Frost. Stop by Diane Harty Millinery and browse sculptural Derby-worthy toppers, sun hats, and everything in between, all constructed on an antique straw machine.
GatherHouse Glassblowing Studio + Gallery serves as a retail store, classroom and working studio for glass artist John Hudnut. [Photo: Courtesy GatherHouse]
Or sign up for a hands-on class at GatherHouse Glassblowing Studio + Gallery and learn the trade from artist John Hudnut while creating a piece to take home.