As summer temperatures start to climb, our bracingly refreshing local waterways have a magnetic pull. Want to go at a more relaxed pace than whitewater rafting or kayaking? A stand-up paddleboard (SUP) gives you flexibility to explore and offers a relatively quick learning curve.
The Paddle Spots
Lazy River: Stillwater, North Star Nature Preserve
This section of the Roaring Fork River through the preserve has a well-deserved rep as a perfect gentle paddling destination. Put in at the Wildwood School, just a few minutes out of town off Highway 82 toward Independence Pass. Groups of locals trade off float and shuttle laps between the school and the bridge downriver (with limited parking, taking turns minimizes hassle), while savvy visitors rent SUPs (including a life jacket and dry bag) from local outfitters that provide a guide and shuttle service for a stress-free experience. Pack a picnic in your dry bag to enjoy at “the beach,” and keep your eyes peeled for great blue herons, mule deer, and muskrats along the way.
Big Water: Twin Lakes and Ruedi Reservoir
Find the first destination, a pair of glacial lakes ringed with small beaches, on the east side of Independence Pass (visittwinlakes.com). One lake even has a former resort on its shores—Interlaken, built in 1879 and now on the National Register of Historic Places, makes for a fun destination paddle. Bonus: the amazing views of Mount Elbert, Colorado’s highest peak, as you paddle. To access Ruedi, drive 15 miles up the Fryingpan Valley from Basalt and put in at Dearhammer Campground to enjoy shoreline exploring. Mountain lakes are known for afternoon winds; plan to go in the morning or evening when the weather is calmer.
Intro to Whitewater: Colorado River from No Name
For a river experience without the risk of big rapids, head to No Name (exit 119 from I-70) in Glenwood Canyon. From the put-in, travel a relatively mild section of river with enough riffles and rocks to keep you on your toes, plus plenty of stunning canyon views and the occasional train passing by. Navigate Glenwood Springs’s own “Horseshoe Bend” before taking out at Two Rivers Park in town.
A hat, sunscreen, water shoes (like Chacos or Tevas), and an extra layer are about all you need, according to Jim Ingram, owner of Aspen Whitewater Rafting. His advice for beginners: Start out by kneeling on your board as you paddle. “With a lower center of gravity, you’ll be more stable as you get comfortable with the board and learn to negotiate rocks and slots,” he says.
Aspen Whitewater Rafting rents gear from its locations in Aspen and Twin Lakes and also runs shuttles and guided tours of North Star Nature Preserve from Aspen. 970-920-3511
Aspen Kayak and SUP, led by river SUPing pioneer Charlie MacArthur, offers guides, instruction, and rentals. 970-925-4433
Reserve a rental board through local SUP manufacturer Shaboomee, then pick it up at the Whole Foods parking lot in Basalt. 970-315-2224