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There are few more idyllic summer activities than floating with your toes in the water, sunshine on your face, and a cold refreshment in hand. And in Colorado, June is the perfect time to hit the calmer water, inflatable unicorn in tow. (Always check a river’s cubic feet per second, or CFS, before jumping in. Target 100 to 200 CFS for max relaxation in most water.) Most rivers and creeks will continue to slow (or even dry) as summer progresses, so keep an eye on conditions, and when you’re ready to cool off, hit one of favorite tubing spots below.
(Read More: 5 Fun Places to Raft in Colorado Right Now)
1. South Platte River, Littleton
Route: Blackrock Lake Park to Reynolds Landing (2 hours)
Prime Tubing CFS: 100 to 500
Pre-Float: Snag a tube rental and return shuttle from Adventure West (starting at $36) to make your life easy. Arrive at the Adventure West Tube Trailer (2920 Brewery Lane in Littleton) 15 minutes before your scheduled departure time, and staffers will transport you to the put-in.
Experience: Great for families or beginners, this scenic, 2.5-mile float lazily winds through the Carsen Nature Center, so keep your eyes peeled for rad birds. Large double-crested cormorants and colorful belted kingfishers hang near the banks, while raptors like orange-and-black kestrels and brown-and-white ospreys perch on branches scanning for snacks. You’ll wrap the trip near Breckenridge Brewery’s Farm House restaurant—perfect for replenishing lost stores after all the direct sunshine.
2. Yampa River, Steamboat Springs
Route: Fetcher Park to West Lincoln Park (1.5 hours)
Prime Tubing CFS: 100 to 700
Pre-Float: If you’ve got your own tube, park your car at the Stockbridge Transit Center and catch the Red Line bus upstream to Fetcher Park. If you don’t have a float, rent one at Backdoor Sports ($25), but note that renters can only launch at the 5th Street bridge, which shortens your trip by a couple of miles.
Experience: Let yourself relax during this 3.2-mile trip, but don’t allow the serene Yampa to lull you to sleep. You’ll want to be wide awake to enjoy a boozy hurricane in the Sunpie’s backyard—a locals’ spot in the Boat.
3. Upper Colorado River, Dotsero
Route: Dotsero Landing to Bair Ranch (3 hours)
Prime Tubing CFS: 1,000 to 2,500 (it’s wide—don’t worry)
Pre-Float: Book a “drive-and-meet” with Turtle Tubing (starting at $82), then park in the designated lot. Meet the team at the put-in, collect instructions, then plan on hooking up again at the take-out at Bair Ranch, where you can nab a ride back to your car at Dotsero Landing.
Experience: Unlike many of the other hot spots near the Front Range, this section of the Colorado is relatively quiet. Bring a soft cooler to attach to your craft and some cordage so you can construct a flotilla with your pals. Sit back and relax—this is some of the state’s finest eye candy.
4. Cache La Poudre River, Fort Collins
Route: Gateway Natural Area to Picnic Rock (1.5 to 2 hours)
Prime Tubing CFS: 200 to 700
Pre-Float: Bring your own tube and two cars. Park one at Picnic Rock and the second at Gateway Natural Area.
Experience: It’s no wonder this waterway is protected under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (the only river in Colorado with that designation). During the three-mile journey, swirl around small eddies as you admire Poudre Canyon’s breathtaking granite cliffs and craggy rock formations (pull over for some jumping when it’s safe). It tends to be warmer up here, so plan on sharing the water with other enthusiastic paddlers and craft—the stoke is always high on the water.
5. Colorado River, Palisade
Route: Riverbend Park to Corn Lake (2 hours)
Prime Tubing CFS: 1,000 to 2,500 (yes, it’s also very wide)
Pre-Float: While there are plenty of guided kayak and SUP tours here, there aren’t any for tubing. Better bet: Rent a tube or ducky at Paddleboard Adventure Company ($25), then park at James M. Robb Colorado River State Park near Corn Lake and shuttle back to Riverbend Park with a second vehicle. Launch at the boat ramp called Harky’s.
Experience: Score an eyeful of vibrant rock plateaus and desert landscapes on this lazy float, which wends through topsy-turvy Western Slope topography. When you’re done, clink glasses at a wine tasting at any of Palisade’s 30 wineries like Carlson Vineyards.
5.5 Boulder Creek, Boulder
It’s no far-off destination, but if you’re willing to fight for elbowroom with college kids, the Creek is a no-frills tubing hot spot. Also fun: Boulderites will don their best business-casual on July 14 and commute to their offices via the Boulder Creek on the city’s annual Tube to Work Day celebration.