Get on Board: Top Five Places to SUP in Denver

July 29 2013, 11:32 AM

This summer, it seems everyone in the Front Range is trying stand-up paddleboarding (SUP). “The sport is absolutely exploding right now,” says Brad Modesitt, owner of Mountain Whitewater Descents in Fort Collins. “We’ve been offering SUP rentals for five years, but this is the first year we can’t keep them in stock—either the rentals or the retail boards.”

Get in on the action at any one of these prime Denver-area SUP destinations:

Aurora Reservoir 
5800 Powhaton Road, Aurora
Travel Time: 40 minutes
Cost: $10 vehicle entry fee

More than 800 acres of water surface make the Aurora Reservoir one of the city’s largest (and prettiest) parks. The setting is decidedly more prairie than mountain, but the fact that there’s no motorized boating makes up for the lack of vertiginous views. SUP rentals are first-come-first-serve and cost $10 per hour with a $20 deposit. Paddle and life jacket included. You’ll need your driver’s license to rent.

Boulder Reservoir 
5565 N 51st St., Boulder
Travel Time: 45 minutes
Cost: $6.25 entry fee per person

The 700-acre Boulder Reservoir is always a hot scene, from the beached-out sunbathers, to the water-skiers, to the triathletes swimming laps. The only thing missing are the dogs (no pooches permitted). SUP rentals go quick on weekends, making it a doubly good idea to go early and avoid the buzz kill afternoon lightening storms. Boards cost $15 per hour, with paddle and life jacket included. Bring an ID to rent.

Union Reservoir
0461 Weld County Road 26, Longmont
Travel Time: 45 minutes
Cost: $8 vehicle entry fee, cash or check only

Union Reservoir was once an actual lake, carved during the last glacial age. Today it’s a stunning 736-acre reservoir known for big mountain views and photo-worthy sunrises (and sets). Motorized vehicles are permitted, but can only travel 5 mph; the tranquility in the absence of speedboats and jet skies is notable. Union plans to start renting paddleboards in 2014, until then, it’s BYOB.

Horsetooth Reservoir
4200 W County Road 38 E, Fort Collins
Travel Time: 75 minutes
Cost: Free

At nearly seven miles long, Horsetooth has plenty of room for recreation, and feels way less crowded than the smaller, busier Boulder Res. It takes a bit longer to get here, but the serenity (and scenery) is worth it. Put in at the Satanka Cove boat ramp on the north end, and paddle counter-clockwise to the first cove for some cliff jumping. Rent from Mountain Whitewater Descents in Fort Collins, where it’s just $35 per paddleboard, per day. Reserve in advance—board rentals at that price sell out every weekend.

Dillon Reservoir
902 E. Main St., Frisco
Travel Time: 75 minutes
Cost: Free

With 25 miles of coastline, 3,300 acres of water, and numerous small islands, Dillon Reservoir— also called Lake Dillon—is a paddler’s dream. Surrounded by the 13,000-foot peaks of Breckenridge’s Ten Mile Range, this is the spot for mountain-majestic SUP photos. Dillon Reservoir can get windy as the day progresses, so go in the morning for the most calm. Rent a paddleboard onsite at the Frisco Bay Marina. Cost is $35 for two hours; $40 for three; and $7 for each additional hour.

A Word About Gear
A good stand-up paddleboard will cost less than your road bike and your downhill ski setup and will probably last longer. Go for an inflatable model—they perform just as well as the hard boards but are easier to maintain, plus they make storage and transportation simple. Any board from NRS is a safe bet; the industry leader has been around since 1972 and local experts swear by the products. The Earl 4 SUP ($995) is a good choice for Coloradans who want a solid all-around board that can handle whitewater river running in addition to paddling flat reservoirs.