Just as it has across the country, stand-up paddleboarding has taken off in Aspen as of late. To the surprise of many, you don't have to trek all the way to the coast or settle for a serene lake to take your skills to the next level: There are plenty of spots where you can up your SUP in Aspen. Adding in a moving current will give you a better workout as you improve your balance and strengthen your core. You can get your bearings on a board, not to mention taking in the stunning views along the way.
As the Roaring Fork River flows from its headwaters to the Colorado River, there are some amazing opportunities for progression on a paddleboard. Once you have navigated the lazy river at Stillwater, you are ready for the slightly bubbly Carbondale sections. And for a little more challenge and a bit of an adrenaline rush, take your board to the Colorado River.
Pink to Black, on Roaring Fork River
In Carbondale, on the lower stretches of the Roaring Fork River, the riverbed widens and flows more smoothly than the whitewater rafting sections near Aspen. Pink to Black is the local beginner run, offering some little rapids that will only get you wet if you fall in. This section offers a nice float that's perfect on a hot summer day.
It's also a great section to get a feel for moving water. Stay in the current, which is the deepest part of the river, keeping in mind that in the shallower parts, you can snag your fin. In the current, the ride is smooth with a few waves; practice rocking side to side and absorbing the movement. This part of the river winds back and forth, which is a great way to practice making turns in the water.
The highlight of this section of river is the beautiful views of Mount Sopris and abundant wildlife. From fish to deer to bald eagles, there is something to see around every corner.
The parking lot is just below Highway 133; go to Satank Road and turn left to enter the lot. The takeout, just six miles down the road is at Iron Bridge, on Old State Highway 82.
Grizzly Creek to Two Rivers
Just 45 miles from Aspen is the stunning Colorado River, offering amazing sections to float and paddle in either direction. To the east of Glenwood Springs is the five-mile stretch from Grizzly Creek to Two Rivers Park, which is packed with bumpy Class II and III rapids.
Here the river winds through towering canyons cut by the river flowing through for a millennia. The water moves much faster, but luckily it’s also much warmer than the icy runoff of the Roaring Fork. The river is wider and deeper in this section, making for a perfect progression. The key here is to paddle firmly to move yourself across the surface, pulling from the nose of your board to level with your feet, for the most effective stroke. Keep your arms straight and use your core to paddle.
This section is an exciting way to challenge yourself to improve your paddleboarding skills. It will keep you on your toes and might make you take a swim. It’s never a bad idea to ride a rapid on your knees until you have a good feel for it, too. Remember to also wear a releasable leash attached to your PFD, not your ankle.
The Colorado River offers some of the most epic river SUPing in the country. Don’t forget to pull over and soak in the hot springs on the left just before you get back to town.
Also on the Colorado River, just 45 miles downstream from Aspen, is the Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park . This is a man-made feature, which manipulates the natural river, making for a unique wave park for all sorts of whitewater fun. As of late, paddleboarders have been taking over the north side of the venue to surf. At high water, the concrete that has been sunk below the surface makes for a perfect standing wave like you would find in the ocean, except it never stops.
Just like your downriver adventures on a SUP, the wave offers a great chance to try surfing and get a great workout. An ideal whitewater stance is with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent, with your back straight, not leaning forward. Use your paddle blade for more power and stability by planting it in the water before you take a stroke.
The wave offers a great opportunity for land-locked surfing. As you're getting the hang of it, you'll probably take a swim, but just head right back into the eddy and you are right back at the wave. After a couple tries, you'll be ripping it up like a pro.