Best Places to Kayak in Colorado

Paddling In Colorado River

Colorado is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, and kayaking is no exception. With its diverse terrain, Colorado offers a range of kayaking experiences, from calm and scenic lakes to thrilling whitewater rapids.  Whether you’re a seasoned kayaker or a beginner, Best Places to Kayak in Colorado has something to offer for everyone.

One of the most popular kayaking destinations in Colorado is the Arkansas River, which boasts some of the best whitewater rapids in the state. The river’s rapids range from Class II to Class V, making it suitable for kayakers of all skill levels. The Arkansas River also offers stunning views of the mountains and canyons, making it a scenic and memorable kayaking experience.

Another popular kayaking spot in Colorado is Lake Dillon, which offers calm and peaceful waters for kayaking. The lake is surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, providing a picturesque backdrop for kayakers. Lake Dillon is also an excellent spot for fishing and other water activities, making it a perfect destination for a day trip or weekend getaway.

 

Top Kayaking Destinations in Colorado

  • Arkansas River
  • Colorado River
  • Yampa River
  • Blue River

 

1. Arkansas River

Kayak paddling upstream Arkansas River

The Arkansas River is one of Colorado’s most popular kayaking destinations, featuring various rapids ranging from Class II to Class V. The river flows through the beautiful Arkansas River Valley, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The most popular section for kayaking is the Royal Gorge, which features Class IV and V rapids. The Browns Canyon section is another excellent option, with Class III and IV rapids suitable for intermediate kayakers.

 

Pros: Cons:
ProsYou can enjoy the picturesque beauty of canyons, cliffs, and forests as you paddle along the river. ConsChanging Water Levels
ProsBeginners can find calm stretches with gentle currents, while more experienced kayakers can tackle thrilling rapids and whitewater sections, such as the famous Royal Gorge. ConsLike any outdoor activity, kayaking is subject to weather conditions.
ProsThe river and its surroundings are home to diverse wildlife, including various bird species, fish, and mammals. ConsCrowded during Peak Season
ProsA popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, and kayaking is just one of many recreational activities. ConsSkill and Experience Requirements
ProsThere are several access points along the Arkansas River, making it relatively easy to find suitable spots for launching your kayak. ConsAs with any river, the Arkansas River carries specific hazards and risks.

 

2. Colorado River

Kayaking on the Colorado River requires

The Colorado River is one of the longest rivers in the United States, offering some of the best kayaking in Colorado. The river flows through the stunning Glenwood Canyon, providing kayakers with breathtaking views of the surrounding cliffs and rock formations. The Shoshone section of the river is a popular spot for kayaking, featuring Class III and IV rapids that are perfect for intermediate kayakers.

 

Pros: Cons:
ProsKayaking allows you to immerse yourself in the breathtaking natural beauty of the surroundings, offering incredible views and photo opportunities. ConsThe Colorado River has sections with strong currents, large waves, and potentially hazardous conditions.
ProsHome to a diverse range of wildlife, including bald eagles, bighorn sheep, and various fish species ConsThe Colorado River can be affected by weather changes, including sudden storms and flash floods.
ProsThe river offers varying difficulty levels, from calm sections suitable for beginners to challenging rapids for experienced paddlers. ConsThe popularity of the Colorado River means that certain sections, especially those near popular tourist destinations, can become crowded with other kayakers, rafters, and boaters.
ProsMany stretches of the Colorado River have campsites along the banks, allowing you to combine kayaking with camping. ConsKayaking on the Colorado River requires proper planning, equipment, and safety measures.

 

3. Yampa River

kayaking in Yampa River

The Yampa River is a lesser-known kayaking destination in Colorado, but it offers some of the most scenic kayaking in the state. The river flows through the Yampa River Canyon, offering kayakers stunning views of the surrounding red rock formations. The most popular section for kayaking is the Stagecoach to Steamboat section, which features Class II and III rapids suitable for beginners and intermediate kayakers.

 

Pros: Cons:
ProsThe Yampa River flows through picturesque landscapes, including canyons, forests, and open meadows. ConsIt’s crucial to check the water levels and flow rates before planning your kayaking trip to ensure a suitable and safe experience.
ProsIt offers various sections with different levels of rapids, catering to both beginners and experienced kayakers. ConsWeather conditions can be unpredictable, especially in mountainous regions like the Yampa River.
ProsIt provides a chance to escape into a remote and relatively untouched wilderness. ConsBeginners should stick to the calmer sections or consider hiring a guide to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
ProsAlong the Yampa River, there are several camping spots available for overnight stays. ConsLow flow rates may result in shallow water and increased exposure to rocks, potentially damaging your kayak or posing hazards to navigation.

 

4. Blue River

kayaking in Blue River

The Blue River is a small river that flows through Summit County, offering kayakers a unique kayaking experience. The river features Class II and III rapids for beginners and intermediate kayakers. The most popular section for kayaking is the Lower Blue, which offers kayakers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and a chance to see wildlife such as moose and beavers.

 

Pros: Cons:
ProsBlue River may offer various kayaking options, from calm stretches suitable for beginners to more challenging rapids for experienced paddlers. ConsDepending on the time of year and weather patterns, Blue River may experience unpredictable weather conditions.
ProsBlue River offers stunning natural beauty with crystal-clear waters, lush vegetation, and picturesque surroundings. ConsWhile Blue River may offer various paddling experiences, some sections may have strong currents, rapids, or obstacles.
ProsWildlife Viewing: The river ecosystem is often teeming with diverse wildlife. ConsLike any water-based activity, kayaking carries inherent risks.
ProsKayaking is a great way to stay active and enjoy a recreational activity. ConsBlue River is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, and certain sections may become crowded, particularly during peak seasons or weekends.
ProsThe peaceful ambiance of Blue River can have a calming effect on your mind and body.  

 

Why Colorado for Kayaking

 

Colorado is a popular destination for kayaking enthusiasts from all over the world. With its diverse landscape of mountains, rivers, and lakes, Colorado offers a wide range of kayaking experiences for both beginners and experienced kayakers.

One of the main reasons why Colorado is a great place for kayaking is its abundance of rivers. Colorado has over 100,000 miles of rivers, including some of the most famous in the country, such as the Colorado River, Arkansas River, and Yampa River. These rivers offer a variety of kayaking experiences, from calm and scenic floats to challenging whitewater rapids.

In addition to its rivers, Colorado also has numerous lakes that are perfect for kayaking. From the famous Dillon Reservoir to the lesser-known Lake San Cristobal, there are plenty of options for kayaking on tranquil waters surrounded by stunning mountain scenery.

Another reason why Colorado is a great place for kayaking is its mild climate. With over 300 days of sunshine annually, kayaking in Colorado is possible almost year-round. Summer is the most popular for kayaking, but spring and fall can also be great times to hit the water.

Colorado’s diverse landscape, abundant rivers and lakes, and mild climate make it a top destination for kayaking enthusiasts. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced kayaker, there’s something for everyone in Colorado’s waters.

 

Best Time to Kayak in Colorado

Colorado is a popular destination for kayaking enthusiasts due to its diverse and scenic waterways. However, the best time to kayak in Colorado depends on several factors, such as the location, weather, and water conditions.

Generally, the best time to kayak in Colorado is during the summer months, from June to September. During this time, the weather is warm and sunny, and the water levels are usually at their highest. However, it’s important to note that some rivers and streams may be too dangerous to kayak during this time due to heavy snowmelt and fast currents.

For those looking to avoid crowds, kayaking in Colorado during the spring or fall can be a great option. The weather may be more relaxed, but the water levels are still manageable, and the scenery can be breathtaking with the changing leaves in the fall.

It’s crucial to check the weather forecast and water conditions before embarking on any kayaking trip in Colorado. Sudden weather changes can be dangerous, and water levels can rise rapidly, making navigating difficult. It’s also essential to wear proper safety gear, such as a life jacket and helmet, and bring a first-aid kit.

In summary, the best time to kayak in Colorado is during the summer months, but it’s essential to consider the location, weather, and water conditions before planning any kayaking trip. With proper preparation and safety precautions, kayaking in Colorado can be a thrilling and unforgettable experience.

 

Beginner-Friendly Kayaking Spots

Colorado has various kayaking destinations, from calm lakes to rushing rivers. Several spots offer calm waters and easy access for beginners looking to dip their paddle into the sport.

 

  • Boulder Reservoir  – is a popular spot for kayaking in Boulder County. The reservoir covers 700 acres and offers calm waters perfect for beginners. The reservoir is also surrounded by beautiful mountain views, making it a scenic spot for a day on the water.Kayakers can rent equipment from the reservoir’s marina, which offers a variety of kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. The marina also offers classes and guided tours for those looking to improve their skills or explore the reservoir with a knowledgeable guide.
  • Cherry Creek Reservoir –  is an 880-acre park located in Aurora, Colorado. The park offers a variety of recreational activities, including kayaking and paddleboarding. The reservoir’s calm waters make it an excellent spot for beginners, while more experienced kayakers can explore the reservoir’s many coves and inlets.

    Kayakers can rent equipment from the park’s marina, which offers a variety of kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. The marina also offers classes and guided tours for those looking to improve their skills or explore the reservoir with a knowledgeable guide.

 

Kayaking Events in Colorado

Colorado is a haven for kayaking enthusiasts, with many events occurring yearly. These events allow kayakers to explore new waterways, connect with other paddlers, and compete in challenging races. Here are some of the best kayaking events in Colorado:

 

  •  FIBArk Kayak Festival: This annual event, held in Salida, is the oldest whitewater festival in the country. It features a variety of kayaking events, including freestyle competitions, downriver races, and slalom races. The festival attracts top kayakers worldwide and is a must-attend event for anyone serious about kayaking.
  • Gore Canyon Whitewater Festival: This event, held in September, is a challenging race through the Class V rapids of Gore Canyon. It’s not for the faint of heart, but for experienced kayakers looking for a thrilling challenge, it’s an unforgettable experience.
  • Animas River Days: Held in Durango, Animas River Days is a family-friendly event that offers a variety of kayaking events, including a freestyle competition, a downriver race, and a boatercross. The festival also features live music, food vendors, and other activities.
  • Yampa River Festival: This event in Steamboat Springs celebrates the Yampa River and the surrounding natural beauty. It features a variety of kayaking events, including a downriver race, a slalom race, and a freestyle competition. The festival also includes live music, food vendors, and other activities.
  • Paddlefest: This event in Buena Vista celebrates all things paddling. It features a variety of kayaking events, including a downriver race, a slalom race, and a freestyle competition. The festival also includes clinics, demos, and other activities for kayakers of all skill levels.

The river is my happy place

 

Conclusion

Colorado offers an abundance of stunning lakes and rivers perfect for kayaking. Plenty of options exist whether you’re a beginner or an experienced kayaker. Throughout this article, we have highlighted some of the best places to kayak in Colorado. Colorado has something for everyone, from the serene waters of Blue Mesa Reservoir to the thrilling rapids of the Arkansas River.

When planning your kayaking trip, it’s essential to consider factors such as water conditions, weather, and difficulty level. Always check the weather forecast and water levels before heading out, and bring appropriate safety gear, such as a personal flotation device. In addition, it’s essential to respect the environment and wildlife when kayaking in Colorado. Leave no trace and follow any posted regulations to help preserve these beautiful natural areas for future generations.

Overall, kayaking in Colorado is a fantastic experience that offers breathtaking scenery and exciting adventures. With so many options, it’s no wonder that Colorado is considered one of the top kayaking destinations in the world.

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