April 09, 2021 5 min read

The Ultimate Guide to Paddle Boarding in Colorado

With Denver already matching records for high temps, the time for summer activities in Colorado is right around the corner. If you haven’t already, put check out the best paddle boarding in Colorado on your summer bucket list! While it might be landlocked, thanks to the many amazing lakes scattered throughout the state, there’s no shortage of places to go paddleboarding in Colorado. Want to make the best of SUP’ing in the Centennial State this summer? We’ve got you covered with everything from the best hidden lakes to paddleboard on to the SUP rules and regulations you’ll want to watch for.

Here’s What You Need To Know About Paddle Boarding In Colorado

Paddleboarding is a fantastic summer activity for all ages of groups and activity levels. Here in Colorado, we have calm, flatwater lakes perfect for a day of relaxation and moderate to advanced rivers that are great for those seeking a paddleboarding challenge! Whatever your preferred method of SUP’in is, there are a few things you’ll want to know before heading out to paddleboard in Colorado this summer.


Essential Paddle Boarding Gear

You’ll need a few essential pieces of gear forpaddle boarding in Colorado, so make sure you’re covered before heading out.


Stand Up Paddle Board

If you’re just getting into paddle boarding, you can first try out the sport by renting a paddle board for a few hours or part of a day.  Many popular spots for paddle boarding in Colorado, such as Bear Creek Lake or Chatfield State Park, have rentals on-site.  But make sure to call ahead and ensure there’ll be a board available on the day you want to get on the water. After a day or two on a SUP, you’re likely to want one of your own.  If you’re thinking of purchasing a paddle board, there are two main types of SUP’s to choose from: solid paddle boards or inflatable paddle boards. Solid paddle boards are typically made from either foam, carbon, or fiber, and are fairly lightweight. They’re slightly more sturdy than inflatable SUP’s, but they take up a lot more space. Inflatable paddle boards are well suited for those that want to get out into a bit more of the adventure that Colorado paddle boarding can offer. Inflatable SUP’s store compactly and they typically fit into a storage bag that can be carried as a backpack, making them ideal for those who want save space in their house or apartment. And, they’re ready for hikes to alpine lakes or paddle boarding spots in Colorado that are off the beaten path.

Paddle

You won’t get far without a paddle for your paddle board! When picking a paddle, the most important aspect is the size.  You’ll want a paddle that’s the right height for you, or else paddling will quickly become cumbersome. To find the right size paddle, stand it up next to you with the teardrop shaped paddle touching the ground.  The top of the paddle should hit right at the bend in your wrist.

Personal flotation device (PFD)

When you’re heading out on the water, don’t forget a PFD, also know as a life jacket. This extra safety measure might seem silly on calm waters, but strapping it on to your SUP will only take a few extra seconds. And it’ll be well worth it in am emergency. If you’re got kids going along for the ride, make sure you’ve got child sized PFD’s on hand as well.

Wetsuit or Drysuit

If you’re causallypaddle boarding in Colorado in the summer, you most likely won’t need a wetsuit or a dry suit.  But if you’re heading out in colder weather or to more extreme water, you’ll want to keep yourself warm and safe.

Helmet

Just like a wetsuit, casual SUP users won’t need to worry about a helmet. If you’re going to use your paddle board to explore some of the rapids in Colorados rivers, you’ll want a helmet.

Sun Protection

Don’t forget to protect your skin when you’re paddle boarding.  Colorado is know for it’s sunny weather, and the summertime sun can get intense. Keep yourself covered with reef-safe sunscreen, a hat, or sun protective clothing.


The Best Paddle Boarding in Colorado

From Fort Collins to Durango, Colorado is full of great spots to paddle board at. Check these out to get an idea for your next SUP adventure.

 

Paddle boarding near Denver

Looking for a quick getaway, but don’t have all day? There’s quite a few paddle boarding spots near Denver that offer easy access. 


Chatfield State Park offers a lot of water to cover, and you’ll be surprised by the serenity you can find so close to the city. If you need to rent a SUP, Chatfield also has on-site paddle board rentals.


Another great spot nearby Denver isBear Creek Lake. Located near the beginning of the foothills of the Front Range, you can enjoy mountain views while still havinga quick drive back home. There are also SUP rentals available there.


Hidden Paddle Boarding Spots Around Colorado

If you’re up for a drive (or a hike), check out off-the beaten path spots for some of the bestpaddle boarding in Colorado.


Lake Vallecito is located between Bayfield and Durango in southern Colorado. About a six hour drive from Denver, you’ll be rewarded with a lake that’s likely to be empty except for your group and one or two others. With many cabins for rent on the edge of the water and a few small restaurants, a weekend trip to Lake Vallecito is the perfect paddle boarding escape!


If you’re looking for some of the most picturesquepaddle boarding in Colorado, head up to Rocky Mountain National Park. You might be surprised to find out that paddle boarding is allowed in almost all lakes in the National Park. The only exception is Bear Lake. A great mountain paddle boarding spot is Sprague Lake.  You’ll find amazing views and be able to get in the water just a short walk from the parking lot. A more adventurous SUP adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park would be a hike to paddle board in Loch Vale, often know as the Loch. A 6 mile round trip hike will bring you to a beautiful alpine lake located at an elevation slightly more that 10,000 feet


Colorado Paddle Boarding Rules + Regulations

Last but not least, don’t forget that pesky legal stuff when you head out for a day on the SUP. Be aware of paddleboarding rules in Colorado so that you can enjoy your day (and stay safe).


At most public paddle boarding areas in Colorado, SUP’s are considered vessels. Similarly to kayaks or canoes, vessels must comply with several rules.


First, for every person on a paddle board, there must be a PFD on board for them. Anyone on a paddle board that’s under the age of 13 must wear their PFD at all times.  Older paddle boarders are free to leave their PFD off as long as it’s available if needed.


Another thing to keep in mind is that you are required to have your contact information (or the info for the SUP owner) somewhere on the paddle board. And, if you’re paddling at night, you’ll need to have a light on board with you to ensure you’re visible to others on the water.


With a little info and a few pieces of equipment, you’ll be set to enjoy a summer filled with the bestpaddle boarding in Colorado!


Protect your face from the sun and spread the Colorado water lover vibe with the Surf Colorado Trucker Hat.

Karen Williams
Karen Williams


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