Did you know there are more than 20 rivers whose headwaters are in Colorado? The state is rich in natural gifts, from dense forests to rushing whitewater to towering cliff faces. Colorado is an outdoor playground. If you’re looking for the best kayaking in Colorado, you don’t have to look far.

Best kayaking in Colorado

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs is about a one-hour and 45-minute drive from Central Denver. If you’re planning a few days in the area and want to rent a kayak from the Denver metro area, there are lots of companies to choose from. Find some adventure on the North or South Catamount Reservoir, or Eleven Mile Reservoir near Colorado Springs.

Mountains and forest as background to a lake
Peaks over the South Catamount Reservoir. | Photo: Ethan Beute

About two hours southwest of Colorado Springs by car, you’ll find the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area. This is one of the most exciting and popular whitewater areas in Colorado, with rapids that are accessible for beginner to expert paddlers in most conditions. This is a popular spot, especially on summer weekends, so plan accordingly if you can!

Pike’s Peak Outfitters

    • Pedal-drive kayak: $80 per half day, $90 per day
    • Fishing kayak: $60 per half day, $70 per day
    • Sit-on-top and sit-inside kayaks: $50 per half day, $60 per day
    • Tandem kayaks: $60 per half day, $70 per day

Underwater Connection

    • Kayaks: $65 per day
    • Accessories: $10 per day and under

REI

    • Hard-shell recreational kayak: $40 for first night
    • Hard-shell tandem kayak: $55 for first night
    • Inflatable single kayak: $55 for first night
    • Inflatable tandem kayak: $65 for first night

Denver

Denver has a great selection of paddlesports outfitters in the city, so you can gear up and hit the road to one of Colorado’s many great kayaking destinations.

Just outside of Denver you’ll find the South Platte River—this is a very urban section of whitewater, making it as accessible as it is beautiful. With an REI close by to get all your rental gear from, you can’t go wrong with a day trip here.

Just over two and a half hours’ driving time out of Denver is Granite. Granite has some excellent whitewater kayaking on the Arkansas River, ranging from class I to IV rapids. American Whitewater says this stretch of the Arkansas is “widely considered the best class IV run in the state of Colorado.”

Confluence Kayaks

    • Whitewater and recreational kayaks: starting at $40
    • Fishing kayaks: starting at $55
    • Smaller gear items: starting at $7.50

Adventure Shack

    • Lake/river kayaks: $40 per day

Renaissance Adventure Guides

If you’re looking to up your game with some private instruction, check these guys out for specific pricing.

Aspen

Options are the name of the game if you’re looking for kayaking in Aspen. You have the mighty Colorado River, Roaring Fork River and the Arkansas River to choose from.

There are lots of options for differing skill levels here. If you are an adventurous beginner, consider a guided inflatable kayak trip on Roaring Forks. Inflatable kayaks, or “duckies,” are a great option for beginners and paddlers looking to build confidence.

Inflatable kayaks are popular in this area, and you’ll find most rental companies offer both tours and day rentals for inflatable kayaks.

Blazing Adventures

    • Inflatable kayak tour: $113 per person

Aspen Rafting

    • Single kayak: $40 per day
    • Tandem kayak: $75 per day

Durango

Head out on the Animas River in Durango for some unforgettable kayaking in Colorado. Rentals in this area are more likely to be inflatable kayaks, as are the boats used by guide companies. If you’re looking for a whitewater kayak, you’ll have to rent outside of Durango.

Rippling river with mountains in background
The Animas River outside of Durango, Colorado. | Photo: adifferentbrian

Several tour companies in Durango offer the option of taking an inflatable kayak alongside the full size rafts, so you can get a whitewater kayaking experience while others in your group ride the rapids in a raft.

Durango River Trippers

    • Single kayak: $49 for two-hour trip, $69 for four-hour trip
    • Tandem kayak: $69 for two-hour trip, $130 for four-hour trip

Southwest Raft and Jeep

    • Single kayak upgrade: $58 per person
    • Tandem kayak upgrade: $54 per person

4Corners Riversports Rentals

    • Single kayak: $45 per day (for one to two day rentals)
    • Tandem kayak: $60 per day (for one to two day rentals)

Boulder

If you’re more in the intermediate class of paddler, check out Boulder Creek in the late spring. When runoff is high, this isn’t a beginner-friendly time, but if you’re a more seasoned whitewater paddler, hit the river here! Eben G. Fine Park in Boulder also boasts a 20-slalom-gate course where you can work on technique and get some river time in.

There are several rivers to choose from for a whitewater kayaking day near Boulder. RootsRated has an informative site that will give you some more specifics for put-in and take-out locations on some popular routes in the area. Clear Creek, Cache La Poudre and Boulder Creek (north and south) will set you up for some of the best kayaking in Colorado.

There are several tour companies in the area that specialize in package tours, canoeing and rafting experiences. For river kayaking, look at renting from the local REI store for a reliable selection that you can book ahead.

REI

    • Hard-shell recreational kayak: $40 for first night
    • Hard-shell tandem kayak: $55 for first night
    • Inflatable single kayak: $55 for first night
    • Inflatable tandem kayak: $65 for first night

 


 

Lakes to kayak in Colorado

Evergreen Lake

Near Denver and looking for a pristine Colorado lake kayaking experience? Evergreen Lake won’t disappoint. With a gorgeous log lakehouse, boat rentals, golfing, restaurants and endless scenery to relax your senses, this is an ideal spot for a getaway that isn’t a long drive from Denver.

You can rent kayaks directly from Evergreen Lake House for $17 per hour.

Navajo Lake

Navajo Reservoir spans the Colorado-New Mexico border and is an incredibly beautiful place to kayak in Colorado. Calm, blue water meets land that leans towards desert but hasn’t yet lost the evergreen trees of the mountains to the north. The reservoir is 35 miles long and offers kayakers plenty of room to play.

This is a great spot to set up a base camp for adventures in Southern Colorado. Slightly less than an hours’ drive from Durango, Navajo State Park offers campgrounds that are open year-round. If you’re an angler, you can expect to catch crappie, largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike, trout, bluegill and catfish in the reservoir.

Rentals aren’t common in this area, but Durango is close by and offers kayak rentals.

4Corners Riversports Rentals

    • Single kayak: $25 for two hours, $35 for four hours, $45 for a full day
    • Tandem kayak: $40 for two hours, $50 for four hours, $60 for a full day
    • Single pedal-drive kayak: $30 for two hours, $40 for four hours, $50 for a full day
    • Tandem pedal-drive kayak: $50 for two hours, $60 for four hours, $70 for a full day

 


 

Colorado kayak camping trips

Colorado has great kayak camping opportunities, and you should absolutely consider this option if your timeline allows. A few routes to consider would be:

Cisco to Dewey Bridge or Hittle Bottom

This offers a very beginner- and family-friendly stretch of water! No rapids here, just a serene and gorgeous float.

Lower Gunnison River, Delta to Whitewater

This is a beautiful and calm stretch to embark on for an overnighter, offering wonderful natural sights with no more than class II rapids. It’ll keep things interesting but shouldn’t be so challenging you can’t soak in the scenery on your way by.

[ Also read: How To Go Kayak Camping ]

 


 

Colorado kayak laws

In Colorado, you do not need to have a boating license for non-motorized vessels. Ensure, however, that your kayak does have your name and address if you’re the owner, or your rental company’s information. You are required to wear a PFD at all times in a kayak, and ensure that all children under the age of 13 are wearing the appropriate PFD for their size as well.

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