The 17 Best Places To Kayak In Colorado

Colorado’s stunning landscapes and abundant waterways make it a paddler’s paradise, offering a diverse range of kayaking experiences for enthusiasts of all levels. From exhilarating whitewater rapids to serene alpine lakes surrounded by towering peaks, the Centennial State boasts some of the most breathtaking and sought-after kayaking destinations in the United States.

In this guide, we will take you on a journey through the 17 best places to kayak in Colorado, each offering its own unique blend of natural beauty, adventure, and outdoor exploration.

Let’s dive in!

Kayak in Colorado

The 17 Best Places to Kayak in Colorado

Are you ready to embark on an exciting kayaking adventure in the beautiful state of Colorado? Look no further as we present to you the 17 best places to paddle in the Centennial State. From tranquil alpine lakes to thrilling whitewater rivers, these stunning locations offer something for everyone, whether you’re a seasoned kayaker or just starting your journey.

#1. Brown’s Canyon – Arkansas River

Brown's Canyon – Arkansas River

Brown’s Canyon is a really exciting part of the Arkansas River, known for its fast-moving rapids and beautiful scenery. In 2015, it became a National Monument to protect its natural beauty. This canyon is famous for its interesting rocks. You can see special granite rocks sticking out and fascinating formations of rocks along the riverbanks. As you navigate through the rapids, you’ll be surrounded by towering granite walls and pristine waters that add to the area’s charm. Keep an eye out for the abundant wildlife that calls this place home.

Kayakers visiting Brown’s Canyon can expect an unforgettable experience. The best part is the section between Hecla Junction and Stone Bridge. Here, you’ll find tough rapids, beautiful canyon views, and fun waves to play in. This section offers a perfect blend of excitement and natural beauty.

For those seeking an adrenaline rush, tackling Class III rapids will provide just that. The continuous flow of water combined with the rugged terrain creates an exhilarating adventure for kayakers. Be prepared to paddle hard and make quick maneuvers as you navigate through these thrilling rapids.

#2. Colorado River – Shoshone Rapids

Shoshone rapids Colorado River

The Colorado River is a special river, not just an ordinary one. It flows through amazing canyons and stunning landscapes. One of the most exciting parts of this famous river is the Shoshone Rapids. These rapids are known for being thrilling and part of a dynamic river environment.

The Shoshone Rapids are in the beautiful Glenwood Canyon. They mix adventure and natural beauty in a unique way that’s hard to find elsewhere. When you paddle through these challenging rapids, you’ll be surrounded by tall cliffs and stunning views of the canyon. It’s an experience that really makes you feel connected to nature.

If you’re looking for an adventure that gets your adrenaline pumping, kayaking through Shoshone Rapids is a must. The rapids keep the excitement going, and experienced kayakers get lots of chances to show off their skills with cool moves.

Starting a 25-mile journey from Loma to Westwater will take you on an unforgettable multi-day kayaking adventure along the Colorado River. On this trip, you won’t just tackle exciting rapids, but you can also camp along the pretty riverbanks. This gives you many opportunities to be close to nature and enjoy the remote wilderness.

#3. Mishawaka to Ted’s Place – Poudre River

The Cache la Poudre River in Colorado is the only river in the state with a special “Wild & Scenic” designation. It’s a fantastic spot for kayakers looking for a diverse and exciting adventure. One particularly cool part of the river is the section from Mishawaka to Ted’s Place.

Here, you get a mix of exciting rapids and a feeling of being out in the wilderness. It’s a great place for kayakers to have both an adventurous time and experience the untouched beauty of nature.

Because it’s a “Wild & Scenic” river, the Poudre River shows off its unspoiled and pure natural beauty. For kayakers, this means you get a genuine wilderness experience. Going from Mishawaka to Ted’s Place takes you through amazing canyons and calm parts of the river. The untouched landscapes make it feel peaceful and quiet, which is something special and not easy to find in other places.

This spot has something for everyone. There are Class II rapids that are fun for beginners, and there are more challenging Class IV rapids that will really test experienced paddlers. So, no matter your skill level, you can have a great time here.

#4. Silverton to Durango – Animas River

Animas River Colorado Kayaking

The Animas River, winding through the San Juan Mountains, offers kayakers a perfect blend of scenic beauty and mild rapids. Paddling from Silverton to Durango on the Animas River is a fantastic experience. You’ll be surrounded by beautiful landscapes and pass through historic towns.

One special thing about the Animas River is its strong connection to Colorado’s mining history. As you kayak through Silverton and Durango, you’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time and can learn about the state’s rich past while enjoying the stunning scenery. The river flows through the

The San Juan Mountains, giving you incredible views of tall peaks and a chance to visit historic towns.

This journey from Silverton to Durango on the Animas River has both calm sections and exciting rapids. The part between Silverton and Needleton has a great mix of thrilling whitewater and breathtaking mountain views. Summer is the best time to do this adventure because the water levels are just right, making it fun for paddlers exploring the river and historic towns.

#5. Lawson to Idaho Springs – Clear Creek

Clear Creek is a beautiful river that winds through the scenic mountains of Colorado. For kayakers, it offers both exciting rapids and stunning natural beauty. A particularly popular spot for kayaking is the part from Lawson to Idaho Springs. This section of Clear Creek has lively rapids and a captivating environment that will amaze kayakers.

When you start your journey from Lawson to Idaho Springs, get ready for a variety of rapids that will keep you engaged and excited throughout your adventure. Be prepared for thrilling Class III and IV rapids like “Nomad” and “Phoenix,” where your kayaking skills will be put to the test.

These rapids keep the excitement going, making it an adrenaline-pumping ride for those seeking an intense kayaking experience.

Convenience is key. Both Lawson and Idaho Springs can be easily reached from major highways, making it hassle-free for kayakers to begin and end their journey. Once you’ve conquered the rapids, take advantage of the nearby facilities and services in Idaho Springs. Refuel with a delicious meal or relax with a refreshing drink after an action-packed day on the water.

#6. Blue Mesa Reservoir

Blue Mesa Reservoir

Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado’s largest body of water, is a true gem for outdoor enthusiasts. The Blue Mesa Reservoir is a big lake created by the Blue Mesa Dam. It’s known for great fishing and water sports. If you’re a kayaker who wants peace and the chance to explore quiet parts of the lake, Blue Mesa Reservoir is perfect. The huge size of the reservoir makes it a great place for kayaking adventures.

One of the best spots to start your kayaking trip is from the Old Highway 50 bridge area. From there, you can go into the calm waters of the Iola Basin. As you paddle, you’ll see amazing views of mesas and mountains all around you. These mountain views make the landscape look beautiful as you move through it.

While kayaking on Blue Mesa Reservoir, you can find hidden coves and sandy beaches that are hard to reach by other ways. These quiet spots give you a chance to relax, enjoy nature, and be alone with it.

#7. Grand Lake

Grand Lake, the largest natural lake in Colorado, is a hidden gem nestled at the western entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. Grand Lake is a fantastic place for kayaking because it’s right at the entrance to a big national park. It’s perfect if you want a mix of water adventure and beautiful mountains.

When you paddle near the Adams Tunnel inlet, you’ll see amazing mountain views all around you. The calm water looks like a mirror and makes the place feel very peaceful. Grand Lake’s waters are super clear, so keep an eye out for animals like moose and elk. Wildlife lovers will have a great time watching these amazing animals up close.

If you love the outdoors and want some peace and quiet, kayaking on Grand Lake is a must. It’s so peaceful to glide on its clean waters, and it helps you take a break from your busy everyday life to connect with yourself and nature. Whether you’re really good at kayaking or just starting out, Grand Lake has something for everyone.

#8. Horsetooth Reservoir

Horsetooth Reservoir

Horsetooth Reservoir is a gem among Colorado’s best places to kayak. This recreation area is close to Fort Collins and is a favorite spot for outdoor fun like water sports, hiking, and camping. Because it’s easy to get to Fort Collins and has lots of things to do, it’s a great place for kayakers who want a mix of relaxation and adventure.

When you visit Horsetooth Reservoir, you’ll be treated to a truly memorable kayaking experience. Glide along calm waters as you explore the many coves and inlets that dot the reservoir’s shoreline. The breathtaking foothill surroundings provide a picturesque backdrop for your journey, making every paddle stroke feel like a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

One of the must-visit spots at Horsetooth Reservoir is the Inlet Bay area. Here, you can bask in the sun while enjoying the serenity of calm waters. Paddle your way to sandy beaches that seem straight out of a postcard, where you can relax and soak up the beauty around you. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful afternoon on the water or an opportunity to capture stunning photographs amidst rock formations and cliffs, Horsetooth Reservoir has it all.

#9. Lake Dillon

Lake Dillon is a mountain reservoir that’s perfect for kayaking all year round. It’s surrounded by the beautiful Rocky Mountains, giving kayakers incredible views and a peaceful place to paddle.

If you love kayaking, Lake Dillon is one of the best spots for it. The water is usually calm, and the mountain scenery is stunning. It’s a great place for kayakers who want to relax and enjoy Colorado’s natural beauty.

Kayak lovers can have an amazing experience while exploring various bays and inlets with the Tenmile Range and the Gore Range in the background. Starting your kayak trip from the Frisco Bay Marina lets you fully enjoy Lake Dillon’s beautiful surroundings, with mountain peaks and charming towns by the water.

As you paddle across Lake Dillon, which is nestled in the Rocky Mountains, you’ll see panoramic views of snow-covered peaks that go on as far as you can see. The tranquility of these waters offers a perfect opportunity to escape from daily life and embrace nature’s wonders.

Exploring Lake Dillon by kayak reveals hidden coves and islands waiting to be discovered.

#10. Chatfield Reservoir

Chatfield Reservoir Colorado

Chatfield Reservoir is a hidden gem nestled near the bustling city of Denver, offering kayakers an urban escape like no other. With its calm waters, diverse wildlife, and range of water-based activities, this reservoir provides a well-rounded recreational experience for outdoor enthusiasts.

Chatfield Reservoir, found in Chatfield State Park, is a beautiful place for kayaking. It has facilities that make it perfect for both experienced kayakers and beginners. The peaceful water here lets you relax and enjoy the natural surroundings at your own pace.

A great part of kayaking at Chatfield Reservoir is the southern section near Kingfisher Point. It has calm waters and a shoreline you can explore. While you paddle along the calm surface, you’ll see amazing views of the nearby foothills, and you can feel the peacefulness all around you.

Besides its beauty, Chatfield Reservoir offers lots of other water activities besides kayaking. You can try paddleboarding or even fishing from your kayak, making your visit memorable with lots of fun options.

#11. Ruby Horsethief – Colorado River

Ruby Horsethief

Embark on a multi-day kayaking adventure through the stunning Ruby Horsethief section. This stretch of the Colorado River offers an unforgettable experience for kayakers seeking both tranquility and excitement. With its towering red rock canyons and breathtaking scenery, Ruby Horsethief is a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

Ruby Horsethief is a great place for kayaking trips from late spring to early fall when the weather is nice, and the water is good for kayaking. You’ll experience calm parts of the river and exciting rapids while enjoying the beauty of this remote wilderness area. The best time to go is during these months when the conditions are just right for a memorable adventure.

One of the coolest things about kayaking in Ruby Horsethief is exploring its amazing red rock canyons. These rocky formations create a striking background as you paddle along the river. The vibrant red and orange colors stand out against the clear blue sky, making it a visually stunning place. Take your time to enjoy this natural masterpiece as you navigate the winding river channels.

#12. Boulder Creek

Boulder Creek, running through the heart of Boulder, offers a unique urban kayaking experience that combines scenic beauty with the vibrant atmosphere of the city. One of the highlights is Boulder Creek’s Whitewater Park, located near Eben G. Fine Park. This park features specially designed whitewater features that provide an exhilarating kayaking adventure.

Paddling down Boulder Creek allows you to immerse yourself in both nature and urban surroundings.Boulder Creek has some tough parts with fast-moving water right in downtown Boulder. It’s a favorite place for experienced kayakers who want an exciting adventure. When you paddle through areas with big rocks and thrilling drops, you’ll feel the excitement growing with each twist and turn.

For people who like competition, Boulder Creek hosts a kayak race every year. Skilled paddlers from all over the world come to compete. Being part of this event lets you show off your kayaking skills and meet other people who love this thrilling sport.

If you’d rather have a more relaxed time, there are also lovely parks along the calmer parts of Boulder Creek. Here, you can paddle at a slower pace and enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings.

#13. Gateway to Dewey Bridge – Dolores River

The Dolores River’s Gateway to Dewey Bridge area is a fantastic spot for people who love kayaking and want an exciting adventure in the wild part of Colorado. This part of the river has both tough rapids and amazing desert views, making it a must-visit place for skilled kayakers.

As you go through the Class III and IV rapids, you’ll see beautiful red rock canyons that make your adventure even more thrilling. Slickrock Canyon, in particular, is a spot where experienced kayakers can get a real adrenaline rush while tackling the challenging Class IV rapids in the stunning desert canyon.

What’s really special about this kayaking trip is that you get to paddle through unspoiled natural beauty and enjoy the peacefulness of the area all by yourself. As you make your way down this remote stretch of river, you’ll find yourself immersed in nature’s tranquility. The absence of crowds allows for a peaceful journey where you can truly connect with the natural surroundings.

The Dolores River caters to all skill levels, offering a mix of relaxing floats and thrilling rapids. Whether you’re a beginner looking for a leisurely kayak trip or an advanced paddler seeking an exhilarating challenge, there’s something for everyone along this remarkable waterway.

#14. Basalt to Carbondale – Roaring Fork River

The Roaring Fork River flows through the beautiful Roaring Fork Valley and provides kayakers with a peaceful and stunning experience. The part of the river that goes from Basalt to Carbondale is especially attractive because of its lush scenery and charming towns. Whether you’re a seasoned kayaker or a beginner looking for a relaxed adventure, this stretch of the Roaring Fork River has something enjoyable for everyone.

When you go kayaking in the Basalt to Carbondale area, you get to fully enjoy the valley’s beauty. While you paddle in the calm waters, you’ll be surrounded by breathtaking views and captivating landscapes. The lush greenery of the surroundings creates a calm and peaceful atmosphere, which is perfect for relaxing and feeling refreshed.

One of the best parts of this kayaking route is the chance to visit charming mountain towns along the way. Basalt and Carbondale have friendly communities, local stores, and tasty dining places. So, take a break from your kayaking adventure and explore these towns. You can experience their lively culture and warm hospitality, which makes the trip even more enjoyable.

Late spring and early summer are ideal times to embark on this kayaking expedition.

#15. Deckers to Chatfield – South Platte River

Going kayaking in Colorado can be super exciting, and knowing the best places to go is important. One amazing spot is the peaceful area from Deckers to Chatfield State Park along the South Platte River. This scenic route not only offers a relaxing trip but also shows you some stunning views of Colorado’s big Front Range Mountains.

As you paddle through the calm waters of the South Platte River, get ready to see lots of different animals. The river is home to some really cool creatures, like majestic bald eagles flying high in the sky and graceful deer drinking water from the river’s edges. It’s basically a paradise for people who love nature.

What’s great about this kayaking route is that the water is gentle, so you can take your time exploring without too much challenge. But don’t worry, there are still some fun parts with small rapids and riffles that add a little excitement. These playful sections make the kayak ride enjoyable as you twist and turn down the river.

One of the best things about this kayaking journey is the chance to watch birds. The South Platte River attracts a bunch of different bird species, so if you’re into birds, you’ll have a blast.

#16. Northgate Canyon – North Platte River

Northgate Canyon is a special place tucked away in the northern part of Colorado. It’s a fantastic spot for kayakers who want an exciting and memorable adventure. This remote area has a wild river and beautiful natural scenery that’s untouched by people. If you’re a skilled kayaker who loves excitement, you definitely need to try tackling the exciting rapids in Northgate Canyon. The North Platte River here has a bunch of Class IV and V rapids, making it perfect for people who want a challenging experience on the water. It’s like a fun playground for experienced kayakers looking to test their skills.

As you navigate through the canyon’s rushing waters, be prepared to face Class III and IV rapids that will put your skills to the test. The intense whitewater will demand precision maneuvering as you navigate through narrow channels and dodge imposing boulders. It’s a heart-pounding experience that will leave you with a sense of accomplishment and awe.

But it’s not just about the adrenaline rush; Northgate Canyon offers much more than just challenging rapids. As you paddle downstream, take a moment to soak in the breathtaking beauty of this remote wilderness area. Towering cliffs rise majestically on both sides, creating a dramatic backdrop for your adventure.

#17. Chatfield Reservoir

Chatfield Reservoir is a hidden gem nestled near Denver, offering a perfect escape for urban dwellers seeking outdoor adventures and water sports. With its convenient location, this reservoir provides a quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life.

One of the main attractions at Chatfield Reservoir is kayaking on its calm waters. Whether you’re a seasoned kayaker or new to the sport, this spot caters to all skill levels. You can rent a kayak or bring your own and spend a leisurely day exploring the reservoir’s tranquil beauty.

For those looking for an urban oasis, Chatfield Reservoir delivers just that. As you paddle along, you’ll be surrounded by stunning natural scenery while still being close to Denver’s vibrant cityscape. It’s the perfect blend of peacefulness and convenience.

If you’re in search of an exciting paddling experience, head over to the Kingfisher Point area within Chatfield Reservoir. Here, kayakers are treated to a delightful combination of paddling opportunities, relaxation spots, and shoreline exploration. It’s an ideal spot for spending a fun-filled day on the water with friends or family.

Things Not To Miss In Colorado

Colorado offers a plethora of recreational opportunities that cater to everyone’s interests. In this state, there are lots of great things to do outdoors. If you love activities like hiking, camping, watching wildlife, or riding horses, you’ll find everything you could wish for here. Although kayaking might not be the main thing to do in every part of this state, there are lakes and rivers nearby where you can have a fantastic time paddling.

  1. Hiking, Camping, and Biking: Colorado boasts an extensive network of trails that wind through breathtaking landscapes. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just starting out, there are trails for every skill level. Pitching a tent under the starry sky is an unforgettable experience, with campgrounds offering various amenities to ensure visitors have a comfortable stay. Avid bikers can explore scenic routes across the state while enjoying stunning mountain views.
  2. Iconic Landmarks: No visit to Colorado would be complete without witnessing its iconic landmarks. Rocky Mountain National Park is a must-see destination, encompassing majestic peaks, alpine meadows, and pristine lakes. As you hike through the park’s trails, keep an eye out for elk herds grazing in the valleys or soaring eagles above.

Final Words

As we wrap up our look at the 17 best kayaking spots in Colorado, we hope you’re excited to go kayaking in this amazing state. Colorado has gorgeous landscapes and a variety of places to paddle, making it perfect for all kinds of kayakers.

You can experience the thrill of wild rapids, enjoy the calm of mountain lakes, try kayaking and camping together, and even spot wildlife in their natural homes. Colorado has something for every outdoor enthusiast to enjoy.

About Addison

Hark! Fellow seekers of adventure! 

I'm Addison, a passionate adventurer from Oregon's captivating Pacific Northwest. Alongside my brother Ronin, we founded PaddleWiggle, a kayaking website. On my page, you'll find thrilling stories of my kayaking expeditions.

So, join me as I explore wild rivers and hidden coves, sharing the raw beauty of nature through PaddleWiggle's expedition section.

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