Kayaking In Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs lies at the foot of the famous Front Range of the Rocky Mountains and is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts thanks to its innumerable hiking trails and multitude of lakes and rivers for paddling. Whether you love diving into massive holes in your playboat or prefer tranquil sunset paddles on a calm lake, you’ll find a waterway to suit your needs near Colorado Springs. Additionally, if you hate kayaking solo, there are lots of Meetups and organized adventures where you can meet fellow paddlers and take on the water together.
1. Quail Lake
This scenic little lake sits just south of the city and is the perfect place to paddle when you don’t have a lot of time. Quite a few Colorado Springs residents like to come here to get a sunset paddle after work during the summer months. The calm water is great if you just want a little exercise or a place to work on your rolling technique too. It’s also quite popular for SUP and there’s even a weekly paddleboard yoga class put on by SUP Colorado Springs.
Put in at the docks on the northeastern corner of the park and then it’s about a mile to paddle the circumference of the lake. If you’ve got a Colorado fishing license, the lake is stocked with Rainbow Trout and you’ll occasionally catch some catfish or pike too.
Where to Rent a Kayak: SUP Colorado Springs in Colorado Springs
2. Rampart Reservoir
This 500-acre lake is about an hour’s drive to the northwest of Colorado Springs and is a favorite among residents looking for an easy paddle with beautiful mountain scenery – Pike’s Peak is clearly visible from the reservoir. Rampart is only open to non-motorized traffic so you won’t need to worry about noisy outboard engines or aggressive jet skis ruining your Zen moment here either.
Its chilly waters are a trout haven; Rainbow, Brook, and Lake can all be found here. Fishing aside, Rampart is a popular destination for flatwater paddlers as it has dozens of glassy coves to explore. The only feature you’ll need to watch out for is the dam on its western edge, which boats must remain 500 feet from.
The reservoir is open from about the middle of March until the middle of October but varies with Colorado’s erratic weather patterns. For a multiday trip, consider camping at the Meadow Ridge or Thunder Ridge campgrounds on the western shore of the reservoir.
Where to Rent a Kayak: Underwater Connection in Colorado Springs
3. Eleven Mile Reservoir
Another great lake about an hour’s drive from Colorado Spring is Eleven Mile Reservoir. The reservoir serves as the centerpiece of Eleven Mile State Park and covers a massive 3400 acres. Its shores are also lined with spectacular granite rock formations that are very popular with Colorado’s climbing community.
A boat ramp and parking can be found near the southeastern corner of the lake, near the marina. An end-to-end round trip paddle of the reservoir is a little over 12 miles, so plan for a whole day out on the water if you want to see everything. If you’re interested in making this a two-day trip, Spillway Campground on the southeastern corner of the reservoir is an excellent place to pitch a tent.
The lake’s immense area means that you’ll see some pretty big waves if you’re paddling on a windy day. Beginner kayakers should avoid open water and stick closer to shore in case the weather turns. Unlike Rampart Reservoir, Eleven Mile is also open to motorized boats, so it’s best to steer clear of the traffic further out in the lake. As the lake is a drinking water source for the city of Denver, you will need to stay in your boat when paddling here – no swimming allowed.
Where to Rent a Kayak: Eleven Mile Marina on the reservoir.
4. Royal Gorge
No Colorado paddling list would be complete without some whitewater and fortunately, you only need to drive an hour and fifteen minutes from Colorado Springs to reach it. The Royal Gorge it’s the state’s premier whitewater section as the ten-mile-long canyon formed by the Arkansas River has more rapids than anywhere else in Colorado.
There’s no way around it, this section of the river is for experts only; you’re looking at over a dozen Class III to V rapids centered in a steep-walled granite canyon. Portaging around the tougher spots is going to be difficult or downright dangerous, so don’t go if you don’t think you can handle it. Additionally, it’s probably not a bad idea to take the trip with an experienced outfitter that can help out should you run into trouble.
Where to Rent a Kayak: Pike’s Peak Outfitters in Colorado Springs
5. Browns Canyon National Monument
Another beautiful whitewater section on the Arkansas River is in the newly designated Browns Canyon National Monument. It’s considered the most popular whitewater destination in all of the United States, and it’s not hard to see why: a long string of moderately challenging rapids in the most beautiful mountain landscape you’ve ever encountered. This section is also not as difficult as the Royal Gorge, having fewer and less dangerous rapids to contend with, so it’s an excellent choice for non-experts who want to push themselves a little bit.
Most kayakers will put in near the US Highway 285 Bridge just east of Johnson Village. From there it’s nearly twenty miles to the take-out point at the Route 295 Bridge. In between are four major rapids: Pinball, Zoom Flume, Widowmaker, and Seidel’s Suck Hole. These are all Class III or IV, depending on the water levels and are doable if you have some prior experience with whitewater.
Again, if you’re unsure about your ability to read the river, execute a bombproof roll, or check yourself with a well-timed brace, going with an experienced guide is the right choice. The nearby Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center also runs tons of kayak clinics so you brush up on your skills.
Where to Rent a Kayak: Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center near Nathrop