SUP in Burlington: The Best Spots to Get on the Water

Relaxing paddle on the Waterbury Reservoir
Relaxing paddle on the Waterbury Reservoir Bridget Croke
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Burlington has jumped into the stand-up paddling (SUP) craze with both feet (and a paddle). And, it’s no surprise, with the waters of Lake Champlain lapping at its shores, whitewater rivers flowing down from the surrounding Green Mountains, and a handful of nearby reservoirs, lakes, and ponds, this little Northern city is actually a mecca for SUPers of all levels and abilities. And honestly, the scenery here can’t be beat. The lush green landscape, the Adirondacks, the Green Mountains, the wildlife, the surrounding forests—all of this, and more, combines to provide a one-of-a-kind experience on the water.

With the long hot days of summer rapidly diminishing and the cooler days of fall fast approaching, there’s no better time to SUP for your first time or your 500th. Here are three great spots for SUP in Burlington:

1. Lake Champlain

Heading out on the water at Oakledge Park in Burlington
Heading out on the water at Oakledge Park in Burlington Suzanne Loring

The obvious and easiest choice for Burlingtonians and those visiting the Queen City is Lake Champlain. This freshwater lake borders both Vermont and New York and dips a finger across the Canadian border. The water’s personality varies from day-to-day and location-to-location. You can easily find yourself paddling along serene glass-like surfaces or just as easily battling strong winds and rolling waves depending on the weather and number of boats in the area. Regardless, SUP on on the lake is not to be missed. The views are astounding with the Adirondacks on the New York side and the Green Mountains of Vermont on the other, the city of Burlington basking in the distance, and the sailboats cruising in and around the islands. Let’s not even get started on enjoying all this at sunset—unforgettable.

There are numerous places you can put in around the lake, and if you are looking to rent there is opportunity for that as well in spots like North Beach, on the island of North Hero, and in Oakledge Park. Local gear shops also hold a series of free demos at Waterfront Park throughout the summer. Paddlesurf Champlain rents paddleboards daily at Oakledge, and charges $15 for an hour. They open at 11am. You can also rent for full or half days, or weeks at a time. While it costs $6 to park at Oakledge, it’s worth it. You can start your paddle on the beach in a swimming area so you don’t have to worry about boats or too many waves, until you get a bit further out.

2. Waterbury Reservoir

Paddling the flatwater of Waterbury Reservoir
Paddling the flatwater of Waterbury Reservoir Matt Schrag

Slightly further afield, about 30 minutes from downtown, is the Waterbury Reservoir in Waterbury. This 850-acre reservoir is a flatwater enthusiast’s dream come true. It’s serene, except for the waves of passing motor boats and staying close to the banks allows for great fish sightings. Surrounded by Little River and Waterbury Center state parks and evergreen forests, the reservoir offers the potential for a wealth of wildlife sightings, including loons, eagles, hawks, herons, beaver, and moose, and SUP here is unforgettable. Whether it’s the priceless views of the surrounding mountains, the rocky beaches on which to enjoy a picnic or rest, or the handful of accessible-by-boat/paddleboard-only campsites, there’s something for every paddler to enjoy at Waterbury.

Bring your own paddleboard or rent one at the beach through Umiak Outfitters of Stowe. They charge $25 for two hours, $35 for four, or $45 for six. They are open daily from 10am-6pm through the end of August.

When you’re done, be sure to hit The Reservoir restaurant before you head back to town. They have the best local brew beer list in the area.

3. Green River Reservoir

The early morning mist lifting from the Green River Reservoir in Hyde Park, VT
The early morning mist lifting from the Green River Reservoir in Hyde Park, VT Paul Moody

The Green River Reservoir is another spot perfect for those who prefer SUP on flatwater. Located in Hyde Park, in the Green River Reservoir State Park, this 653-acre reservoir has 19 miles of undeveloped shoreline for exploration. And, it’s a “quiet” lake meaning there are no motor boats to challenge the stillness of the water. Because of this, the reservoir is one of the best places to feel close to nature—search the shorelines and numerous islands for birds and other wildlife or just enjoy the quiet as you paddle along this undisturbed landscape.

The other cool thing about this spot are the remote camping spots that can only be accessed by paddling to them and can be as far as a mile or two out. Talk about immersing yourself in the natural world.

There are no rentals here so be sure to bring your own gear. And, parking is very limited and on a first-come, first-served basis, so try to go mid-week or early in the morning to ensure a spot.

In addition to these great flatwater SUP spots in Burlington, it is well worth mentioning that there are also opportunities for whitewater SUP in and around town as well. Both the Winooski River and the Mad River are more technical and offer fast flowing water with rock gardens and drops. Check in with www.VermontSUP.com for more info on the best stretches of river to paddle on a stand-up paddleboard.   

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