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Colorado boasts some of the best kayaking in the nation — dare we say, in the world? Year round, there’s no place quite like colorful Colorado. Amidst towering pines, gigantic boulders, and rustic hillsides, pristine paddling is right at your fingertips. And, you don’t need to own your own gear. We’ve scouted the best lakes, reservoirs, and rapids near Denver to help you get your fix. Now, let’s get kayaking.
Built for canoeing, kayaking, paddling, and more, this park is one of Golden’s most unique recreational attractions. This innovative spot is divided into sections: flat, broad, and shallow surf waves, huge boulders, wave drops, and quick rapids. Best of all, there are no drop-in usage fees. They do offer rentals if need be, though. Oh, and you may see the US Olympic Kayak Team practicing here. Your Olympic dreams are only a paddle away.
Minutes from downtown Denver, the South Platte is a hopping spot for bikers, sunbathers, kayakers, and professional water splashers. This is one of the best urban rivers in the state, offering recreational activities for city dwellers. Plus, it’s within eye’s view of REI and Starbucks, just in case you need a cup of coffee along with your kayak rental.
With new recreational areas available, bring your kayak and your camping tent. While this is one of Colorado’s most overlooked stretches of river, it is one our favorites. It’s a quiet spot for floating, paddling, and fishing. With mellow Class-II rapids, you can easily take in the mountainous scenery while improving your kayaking skills.
Looking for epic, challenging rapids? Look no further. Wild Poudre, as it’s known, is quintessential Colorado. It’s outstandingly scenic, offering everything from Class-II to Class-V whitewater. Slice through granite corridors and gaze at falcons soaring above. Some years, the Poudre may feel like a bony creek run. Not recently though. There’s plenty of water to go around. Trips to the upper section are rowdier, so expect adrenaline-surging drops and waterfalls. Fitt Tip: wear a lifejacket. Really.
A one-stop shop for any whitewater aficionado, the Arkansas River has it all. From Granite to Cañon City, you’ll find a sea of rafters, kayakers, and river rafting guides meandering down the river. And this stretch of water is one of the busiest in the country — Unlike most other spots, this stretch of the river allows for year-round paddling. Yep, you read that right. Even in the winter, pass through granite boulders and enter into the town of Buena Vista. Their river play park is a haven for paddlers. Just make sure to bring your mittens.
While many of Colorado’s lakes look the same, Pueblo Lake is the exception. Sitting 110 miles south of Denver, this lake offers stunning, desert-like surroundings, crystal clear water, and some of the best fishing in the state. So, bring your kayak but don’t forget your fishing pole. Also, there are two marinas with boat ramps and several campgrounds. When you’re done kayaking, throw out your rod, hike in the surrounding area, or roast up a s’more.
Amidst towering pines and very few residents, Evergreen Lake is a sight to behold. Truly. Plus, it’s only 45 minutes from downtown Denver. Rent a kayak and get your fitness on, or leisurely paddle across the lake and breathe in that beautiful mountain air. Keep in mind that Evergreen Lake is open to both non-motorized and motorized watercraft, so stay towards the perimeter. Wakeless kayaking is where it’s at.
You’ll probably find yourself amidst a group of friendly CU Boulder students (#skobuffs!), but Boulder Reservoir is just as welcoming to families and athletes. Oh, and your average kayaker. This 700-acre, multi-use recreational watering hole has it all. Launch your kayak from the southeast or southwest beaches, and keep close to the shore to avoid motorized traffic. Also, dogs are allowed after Labor Day. So, bring your pup. We all know that man’s best friend loves a good windy adventure.
Alright, hear us out. Horsetooth Reservoir is about an hour from Denver, but it deserves a spot on this list. In terms of size, it’s 6.5 miles of pristine water — sights worth a postcard (or at least an IG post). Launch your kayak from one of the boat launches or rent from Inlet Bay Marina. Get ready to explore — there are plenty of coves and fingers to satisfy your inner-adventurer.
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