Kayaking is a wonderful way to spend a summer day taking in Colorado’s breathtaking beauty.
And much like our abundance of hiking trails, the state is full of places worth spending a few hours in a kayak exploring.
All of these locations are either lakes or reservoirs, and make for great options for those new to the sport. It’s also worth mentioning that many of these places are located on or near some pretty nice camping spots.
Make sure to bring a life jacket and some sunscreen!
This kayak spot in Summit County is one of my favorites to do during the early summer months. In addition to being less crowded than spots closer to Denver, kayakers here get to take in lovely views of the snow-capped mountains surrounding the lake.
Pine Cove Campground, Prospector Campground and Heaton Bay Campground all have spots where you can launch a kayak straight from your campsite. Stay close to shore to avoid motorized traffic on the water.
Distance from Denver: About 1 hour 15 minutes (can be more depending on traffic)
Big Soda Lake in Morrison is a nice option if you’re looking to stay a little bit closer to Denver. But its close proximity to the city also means the lake can get pretty busy, especially on weekends, with paddleboards, canoes and other water recreation sports vying for a spot on the lake.
That said, Big Soda's no motor status makes it so you don’t have to worry about boats getting in your way on the water. Kayakers who choose this spot are rewarded with views of rolling hills and Red Rocks Amphitheater in the distance. There’s also rentals available onsite from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Distance from Denver: About 25 minutes
Pack a picnic, load up the kayak and enjoy a day at Chatfield Reservoir in Littleton. This massive reservoir is both close to Denver, and a great place for a beginners to test the waters. There are spots all around the reservoir to launch from.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, try the 15-mile float down the South Platte River that starts below Chatfield Dam in South Platte Park and ends at Confluence Park in downtown Denver. If you don’t own a kayak, there are several places nearby where you can rent one for the day.
Distance from Denver: About 45 minutes
This is another great reservoir for taking in delightful views of the Rocky Mountains. Located near Heeney, Colorado just off of Highway 9, this kayak location even has a few islands you can paddle to and take a break while checking out the scenery surrounding the reservoir.
Several camping spots, like Cow Creek South Campground, have kayak launch spots right next to the water. There’s also a marina that serves as a good place to put in.
Distance from Denver: 1 hour and 40 minutes
Evergreen Lake is a place worth a visit that’s under an hour from downtown Denver. While the scenery isn't as spectacular as other spots in Colorado, the plus side to this location is being able to rent a kayak, canoe or paddleboard right at the lake for under $20 per person, per hour. If you bring your own boat, there's a $8 daily fee to access the lake. Once your arms are tired from paddling, take the Evergreen Lake Trail for a 1.3 mile stroll around the perimeter of the lake.
And if you're feeling hungry after your day on the water, stop by the Willow Creek Restaurant along the lake for some unique eats and tasty cocktails.
Distance from Denver: 45 minutes
This medium-sized reservoir located near just off of Highway 285 near Jefferson, Colorado is about as quiet and peaceful as it gets. On the two occasions I've kayaked here, there's only been a handful of other people on the water, and most are fishing.
Surrounding the pristine body of water, are 17 first-come, first-served campsites. If you're lucky enough to snag one, you can do so for free!
Distance from Denver: 1 hour 45 minutes
Twin Lakes sits at an elevation of about 9,200 feet, meaning you’ll want to dress warm (and maybe even pack an extra pair of clothes) while kayaking this majestic body of water in Lake County.
At the same time, the snow-covered mountain caps in the distance make it a wonderful, relatively solemn place worth the more than two hour drive from Denver.
The White Star Campground is one of several campground surrounding the lake that is a short haul from the reservoir. If you don’t own a kayak, you can rent one nearby.
Distance from Denver: 2 hours 16 minutes
Located just a stone's throw from Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Lake is the state's largest and deepest natural body of water. In addition to the picturesque views of the Rockies, Grand Lake also boasts about 260 campsites on or near the shoreline.
Opt for an early morning kayak session to capitalize on glassy, calm conditions along lake. Grand Lake Marina is a good spot to rent a kayak or canoe from. Nearby, you'll find Shadow Mountain Lake and Lake Granby -- two other scenic destinations worth exploring in a kayak.
Distance from Denver: Just over 2 hours.
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Probably not surprisingly, Colorado’s largest reservoir by volume also happens to be a pretty wonderful place to kayak. Located in western Colorado, this massive body of water near Gunnison spans 20 miles and boats over 96 miles of shoreline.
And this year's heavy snowpack should result in the reservoir bouncing back from drought conditions that haven't been seen since 1987. Pick nearly any spot along the shoreline to put in, and you're bound to have a fun time.
Distance from Denver: About 4 hours, depending on where you go
BONUS location – Guernsey Reservoir
OK, so this one isn’t technically in Colorado, but Guernsey State Park – located about three hours north of Denver in Wyoming – is a dream spot to kayak. The scenery is wildly different than most of what you see while kayaking in Colorado, with steep cliffs lining the robust 6,227-acre park.
Guests can also rent a yurt and spend a couple days enjoying the expansive reservoir. It’s situated along the Oregon Trail – so you can take in some history – including Register Cliff, where migrants once carved their names along the trek west.
If you’re more of a thrill-seeker, be sure to check out this guide of places to whitewater kayak.
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