Denver, CO

Best places to stand-up paddleboard near Denver

Morgan Tilton

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SUPing on Carter Lake 54 miles north of Downtown Denver.(Photo by Visit Loveland.)

Best places to stand-up paddleboard near Denver

Stand-up paddleboarding remains one of the most increasingly popular outdoor sports nationwide -- and Colorado is speckled with picturesque lakes and rivers that boast jaw-dropping mountain views: a perfect pairing for the sport.

Also known as SUPing, the sport consists of paddling a long board made of solid or inflatable material. Albeit far from the ocean, Colorado offers paddlers ponds, lakes, reservoirs, rivers, and whitewater. Folks can blend other outdoor activities with paddling, too, like hiking with their SUP to a tarn, taking a multiday camping trip, or fishing from their board.

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Boyd Lake State Park is a go-to spot for stand-up paddleboarding 54 miles north of Denver.(Photo by Visit Loveland.)

It’s no surprise then that stand-up paddleboarding participation countrywide has consistently grown year-over-year, since 2010, and totals nearly 3.68 million according to the 2021 Outdoor Participation Trends Report, published by the Outdoor Industry Association, which is based in Boulder, Colorado, and Washington, D.C.

A handful of Colorado-based brands design the most-sought, innovative, and durable SUPs available including Badfish SUP, SOL Paddle Boards, and Hala Gear.

If you’re eager to get started, here are a handful of the best lakes with impressive shorelines, angling, and swimming beaches to go stand-up paddleboarding near the Mile High City.

Don’t forget your life jacket!

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Rower at Boulder Reservoir at sunset.(Photo by Matt Inden/Miles.)

Boulder Reservoir

This 700-acre body of water is a multi-use area including paddlers. There’s a designated area for swimming, and fishing is allowed.

  • Distance: 32 miles north of Denver
  • Fees: Daily fee ($5 to$11); an annual small-craft watercraft permit is required. The watercraft permit is first-come, first-served with limited quantity. The unclaimed permits went on sale Aug. 9. Each year, the first opportunity to purchase a permit is on February 2nd for that calendar year.
  • Season: 7 day a week, hours vary year-round
  • Rentals: None on site
  • Swimming: Allowed in designated swimming area from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily (except the swim area closes at 5:30 p.m. Thursdays) from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend
  • Location: 5275 Reservoir Road, Boulder, CO, 80301
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The marina at Chatfield Reservoir.(Photo by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.)

Chatfield Reservoir

Chatfield State Park is home to a reservoir as well as four campgrounds with a total of 197 campsites. The amenities range from electrical hookups to picnic tables, grills, flush toilets, hot showers, laundry, a fire rings.

For anglers, the lake is also full of trout, bass, walleye, channel catfish, yellow perch, crappie, bluegill, sunfish, and carp.

While you’re drying off, there are 26 miles of hiking trails, too (12 of which are paved).

Paddleboarding is allowed everywhere except the designated swim area. That said, the no-wake zones are typically the calmest place to paddle on the southwest and southeast ends of the reservoir.

  • Distance: 24 miles south of Denver metro area
  • Fees: $10 daily vehicle pass, $80 annual pass
  • Season: 7 a.m.to 8 p.m., 7 days a week (closed December 1 to March 1)
  • Rentals: Colorado Watersports provides SUP rentals
  • Swimming: Allowed at the swim beach seasonally from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend and daily from sunrise to sunset
  • Location: 11500 N. Roxborough Park Road, Littleton, CO, 80125
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Two stand-up paddle boarders at Rifle Gap State Park.(Photo by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.)

Big Soda Lake and Bear Creek Reservoir

Located in Lakewood, this collection of three lakes sits in the 2,624-acre park including Bear Creek Lake, which is the largest lake and on the east side of the park. On the park’s west side are the other two lakes, often referred to as Big Soda Lake (the east reservoir) and Little Soda Lake (the west reservoir).

The park is a great location to paddle in addition to swimming, picnicking, camping, and hiking. Paddleboarding is permitted on Bear Creek Lake, however, the water is open to motorized boating from March to November. Little Soda Lake is not open to public vessels.

  • Distance: Less than 20 miles southwest of Downtown Denver
  • Fees: $10 day pass, $80 annual pass
  • Season: Open year-round to paddlers, hours vary each season
  • Rentals: At the lake, Rocky Mountain Paddleboard Rentals offers SUPs plus SUP yoga and beginner SUP classes
  • Swimming: Available at the swim beach and lap lane
  • Location: 15600 W Morrison Road, Lakewood, CO, 80228
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Boaters at Cherry Creek Reservoir.(Photo by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.)

Cherry Creek Reservoir

Given its proximity to Denver, this 880-acre reservoir is incredibly popular and for good reason. Cherry Creek State Park boasts camping and picnicking in addition to water action. Fishing is also available.

  • Distance: 17 miles south of Downtown Denver
  • Fees: Daily vehicle pass $11, annual pass $83
  • Season: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., 7 days a week
  • Rentals: Pelican Bay Marina partnered with Rocky Mountain Paddleboard to offer classes and rentals (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
  • Swimming: There’s a sandy beach for swimming
  • Location: 4201 S. Parker Road, Aurora, CO 80014
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Many great SUP spots near Denver also have designated swim areas for after a paddle.(Photo by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.)

Boyd Lake

Boyd Lake State Park allows a range of watercraft from fishing boats and jet skis to sailboats and SUPs. The lake is 1,700 acres and surrounded by a sand beach, pavilion, fishing piers, picnic areas, and showers.

The park is also home to 148 campsites. A paved 21-mile recreation trail parallels the west shore of the lake, too.

  • Distance: 53 miles north of Downtown Denver
  • Fees: $10 vehicle day pass, $80 annual pass
  • Season: 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
  • Rentals: Mountain Rentals offers SUP rentals at the swim beach pavilion at Boyd Lake
  • Swimming: Only allowed at the Boyd Lake Swim Beach on the south end, North No Wake Area, and East No-Wake Area 1 and 2 areas from sunrise to sunset (check out the map)
  • Location: 3720 N County Road 11-C, Loveland, CO, 80538-2307
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A stand-up paddleboarder enjoying Carter Lake.(Photo by Josh Hardin.)

Carter Lake

Located southwest of Loveland, this large, 1,100-acre reservoir offers not only paddleboarding but also scuba diving, rock climbing, sailing, and swimming, too. Note: Vessels need to stay at least 100 feet away from the flag of scuba divers and the west side of the lake is the wake-free zone.

The lake is three miles long, one mile wide, and surrounded by 1,000 acres of public land. With five campgrounds—Big Thompson, South Shore, North Pines, Eagle and Carter Knolls—there are plenty of reservable sites including electrical hookups.

  • Distance: 54 miles north of Denver
  • Fees: $10 per vehicle, annual permit $100 to $130
  • Season: Open year-round
  • Rentals: What’s Up Stand Up Paddleboarding offers rentals at the south shore of Carter Lake
  • Swimming: Allowed
  • Location: 4011 S County Rd 31, Loveland, CO, 80537
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Certain paddling hubs allows dogs, too.(Photo by Visit Loveland.)

Pinewood Reservoir

Because there are no motorized watercraft, the waters of Pinewood Reservoir are calm, serene, and surrounded by Pine-covered hills.

Pinewood Reservoir is also nine miles west of Carter Lake, so if you plan to camp out, you could explore both bodies of water in a single trip.

The 100-acre reservoir also offers fishing and a namesake campground on the northeast edge.

  • Distance: 63 miles from the heart of Mile High City
  • Fees: $10 per vehicle, annual permit $100 to $130
  • Season: Open year-round
  • Rentals: Nearby rentals are available from What’s Up Stand Up Paddleboarding at the south shore of Carter Lake
  • Swimming: Not allowed
  • Location: Pole Hill Rd, Loveland, CO, 80537
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Paddlers at Boedecker Reservoir State Wildlife Area.(Photo by Visit Loveland.)

Boedecker Reservoir State Wildlife Area

Also known as Mariano Reservoir, this 17-acre natural area features a body of water surrounded by cottonwoods, chokecherry, wild rose and currant bushes. A one-mile trail follows the eastern edge of the reservoir through the Boedecker Bluff Natural Area.

The water is wake-free and allows both paddling and angling including walleye and white bass. SUPs are launched from the parking lot on County Road 21, on the northeast edge of the water.

As a State Wildlife Area, visitors must have either a State Wildlife Area Pass or a Fishing or a Hunting License for day access.

  • Distance: 55 miles from the heart of Mile High City
  • Fees: State Wildlife Area Pass ($9 per day, $36.71 annual)
  • Season: 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily
  • Rentals: None available
  • Swimming: Yes
  • Location: Mariano Reservoir, Loveland, CO, 80537
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Boyd Lake with pristine water.(Photo by Dick Knapp.)

Lon Hagler Reservoir

This 181-acre reservoir is a getaway for nonmotorized boaters including stand-up paddleboarders and drift fishers. The best spots to catch fish are near the steep shore banks and gradual shorelines, according the Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The surrounding Lon Hagler State Wildlife Area is home to the Dennis Hansen Archery Range, which requires a State Wildlife Area Pass or a Fishing or a Hunting License to access.

A level 2.4-mile trail rings the lake.

  • Distance: 54 miles from the center of Denver
  • Fees: State Wildlife Area Pass ($9 per day, $36.71 annual)
  • Season: year-round
  • Rentals: Not available
  • Swimming: Yes
  • Location: 4401 W Co Rd 16, Loveland, CO, 80537
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No lifeguards are on duty at Colorado State Park beaches reports Colorado Parks and Wildlife.(Photo by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.)

Aurora Reservoir

In addition to SUPing, this reservoir property also hosts the Senac Creek Nature Center, a learning center focused on the Aurora ecosystems.

There is a scuba diving area and nearly 8.5 miles of trails surround the water.

  • Distance: 31 miles southeast of Denver
  • Fees: $10-$15 day pass, $75 annual pass
  • Season: Open year-round and hours vary
  • Rentals: Available at the reservoir
  • Swimming: Allowed at a designated swim beach Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (then the beach is without a lifeguard until September 30)
  • Location: 5800 S. Powhaton Rd., Aurora, CO, 80016

Colorado safety and regulations

According to Colorado state law, paddleboarders are required to have one wearable Coast Guard-approved life jacket, also known as a personal flotation device (PFD), for each person aboard.

Children 12 years of age or younger are required to wear a PFD while on the vessel on water.

Each PFD must be the proper size for the intended user.

And don’t forget to carry a fishing license if you plan to toss a line.

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Adventure journalist Morgan Tilton covers the outdoors with a focus on travel, industry news and human endurance. Featured in more than 70 publications, she’s a recipient of more than a dozen North American Travel Journalists Association awards.

Crested Butte, CO
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