With autumn’s golden light shining on the horizon, it’s time to savor the last days of summer. One surefire way? Sluicing through the water on a stand-up paddleboard (SUP). SUPing is one of the best ways to soak up the fleeting sunshine, and Colorado’s Front Range boasts plenty of picture-perfect locations for novices and pros alike. Below, find five spots within an hour or so of Denver (plus one bonus getaway) where you can dip your paddle in the water and your toes in the sand—all before the snow flies.

Evergreen Lake

Hours: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Fee: $10 entrance fee
Rentals: Evergreen Boat House
If the mountains are calling, get thee to Evergreen Lake for a high-altitude fix at a fraction of the drive. Twenty minutes past Golden, this pine-framed lake feels alpinelike, with the Evergreen Lake House playing its log-cabin part in the background. The water is plenty tranquil for beginners, but the Evergreen Parks and Rec District also offers more energetic events like nighttime SUP, sunrise SUP, and more.

Smith Lake at Wash Park

Smith Lake in Wash Park, rimmed with greenery
Photo by Sarah Boyum

Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Fee: None
Rentals: None
There may be no better spot in the city for an afternoon SUP session than here, at one of the oldest parks in Denver. It’s a small lake and you may share the water with paddle boaters, but Smith Lake remains relatively calm—a good bet for beginners finding their sea legs. Put in near the boathouse (pictured above).

Cherry Creek Reservoir

Hours: 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Fee: $11 entrance per vehicle
Rentals: Rocky Mountain Paddleboards at Pelican Bay Marina
You’ll be hard-pressed to find solitude at Cherry Creek Reservoir, but the sweeping mountain views more than make up for the gaggle of enthusiastic paddlers. Motorized watercraft are also allowed on the 880-acre lake, so consider hitting the water before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m. to score a patch of calm. Or make your paddle part of a multisport adventure: Cherry Creek State Park offers great close-to-home fishing, hiking, camping, and biking, too.

Gross Reservoir

Gross Reservoir
Photo courtesy of Denver Water

Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Fee: None
Rentals: 5280 Paddle Sports
Tucked in the foothills beyond Boulder’s Flagstaff Road is Gross Reservoir, a good choice for paddlers who want to camp—or at least savor wilder scenery. A handful of first-come, first-serve campsites, a sprawling trail network, and nearly 11 miles of shoreline open the door for multisport adventures, or, for a quickie, put in near the north end parking lot and create a short loop.

South Platte River

Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Fee: None
Rentals: None
Ready for rapids? Not all SUP happens on lakes, and experienced paddlers seeking more action will love putting their boards on the South Platte River. Try starting north of Chatfield Reservoir, near C-470. From there, enjoy a few mellow drops (Class II waves) on your way to the takeout at Reynolds Landing. You’ll need a shuttle to make this work, and there’s a hairy section near the end, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a great spot to run some midday laps.

Arkansas River via the Salida Town Run

Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Fee: None
Rentals: Totally Tubular
Adventure seekers wanting a weekend getaway that doesn’t involve I-70 should take a flyer on the Salida Town Run, roughly two and a half hours southwest. This stretch of the Arkansas River (from the StoneBridge boat ramp to the Salida Whitewater Park downtown) is a local favorite for its consistent Class II and II-plus rapids amid calm stretches of moving water (always check the flow levels before heading out). This late in the season, you may have to walk a few sections (called “hike-a-board” in SUP parlance), but when the sunshine dances through the gilded aspens, we hardly think you’ll care.