Standup paddleboarding is one of the fast-growing sports out there, offering a fun way to explore and get a workout on the water. With just a little practice, you can paddle anything from lakes to gentle streams to thrilling rapids.
Even better for Aspenites: SUP, once primarily an ocean-centric sport, has now made its way to the high-alpine lakes of the Rocky Mountains. Here, our picks for the top five spots for paddleboarding near Aspen.
Lost Man Reservoir
Eleven miles east of Aspen, near the top of Independence Pass, is a hidden gem near the Continental Divide for paddlers to savor. Tucked away a little off the road, Lost Man Reservoir takes a little bit more effort to reach, but the well hike is worth it. Starting at Lower Lost Man campground, take the path about a quarter-mile to the reservoir, where you'll find breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, meadows, and forest-covered peaks. Minimal wind and waves mean you can focus on keeping your balance while taking in the serene reflections on the glassy water. Bring a picnic for post-paddle enjoyment of the solitude and high-alpine views.
Nestled high in a tundra bowl just below the Continental Divide, this large reservoir is a great spot to explore. The reservoir is calm and serene, with some small creeks flowing in on the south shore that beckon for further exploration. Grizzly Reservoir is also stocked with trout, so it’s a perfect locale to drop a line and try a little fishing off your board for added fun and a bit more technical balancing.
To find Grizzly, drive 9.5 miles from Aspen, turn right onto Lincoln Creek Road and follow the rugged four-wheel drive road another six miles to the stunning reservoir.
About 16 miles upstream from Basalt, on Fryingpan River Road, Ruedi Reservoir beckons with 997 acres of water to explore from a meandering shoreline of dense conifer pine forest. Start out from the boat ramp and paddle in either direction following the shoreline. Keep an eye on boats and yachts and be sure to wear bright colors (but don't worry too much about that traffic, as it stays in the middle of the reservoir).You can also drive around the reservoir to Dearhammer Campground and launch from there. There are more meadows along the shores there, and a little less boat traffic, making it a great place to get your sea legs under you.
To get there, you’ll drive about a mile past the Ruedi Reservoir dam and turn right into the campgrounds and the boat Ramp and picnic Ground. Drop your board off at the boat ramp and then park above.
For SUPing close to Aspen, head to Stillwater, just east of downtown. You’ll float down the Roaring Fork River from the Wildwood School downstream to the lower end of the North Star Nature Preserve, with a takeout at the Rainbow Bridge. You will want to run a shuttle, leaving some sort of vehicle (car, scooter, or bike will do) at the takeout.
Tubers, kayakers, and other human-powered watercraft take to these peaceful waters. The river runs from the bottom of the valley through a wild marsh, the North Star Nature Preserve, filled with birds and animals. Keep in mind that since the land is preserved, you’ll need to stay in the water; no walking on the land.
Stillwater is the ideal section to try out SUPing in a current. While this section is a true lazy river, with a slow, smooth meander, it will give you a sense of what running rivers feels like.
An hour-long journey through spectacular scenery over Independence Pass leads you to Twin Lakes, Colorado's largest glacial lakes. As their name suggests, Twin Lakes is a pair of lakes connected by a tiny water bridge that seems to flow upstream. The lakes reflect some of the nation's highest peaks: to the north, the tallest summit in Colorado, 14,439-foot Mount Elbert; to the west, La Plata and Rinkler Peak, and the to the south, the Collegiate Peaks stretch into the sky.
There are very few other craft on the water, making it perfect to paddle across and explore the distant shore, far from the highway and the campgrounds. These lakes are calm and wide, though the occasional windy days will make your work a little harder. In the fall, the lake is ringed with golden yellow and orange Aspen trees, making this a memorable SUP whenever you visit.