Last summer my friend Heather invited me along to Rocky Mountain National Park to SUP some of the lakes in the Park. She started Alpine Sup and hiked her heavy board into alpine lakes around Colorado. I was immediately hooked on paddle boarding the first time I got on her board. It felt natural, like I’d been doing it for years. It reminded me of paddling around the ocean on my grandpa’s windsurfing boards as a kid.
A little more than a year later I finally got my own paddle board. We decided to test it out by exploring lakes around Leadville: Turquoise lake, Twin Lakes, and Clinton Reservoir. It’s amazing how many beautiful lakes you can pull your car up to in Colorado and paddle. The town of Leadville, Colorado certainly doesn’t disappoint. Below I’ve included some beta for each lake we paddled.
After a weekend of paddling I’ve discovered that what I love most about SUP is exploring. Driving up to a lake and paddling is just like going skiing at a ski resort. Some of the best days I’ve had on skis were at a resort, but some days I want to head into the backcountry and earn my ski turns. So, with that said, I think it’s time to earn some paddles. Wish me luck, even with a board called the Alpine Explorer, SUP just isn’t made for lugging into the backcountry.
This is my second time I’ve been to Twin Lakes and I’d do it again. At the entrance of Independence pass you’re greeted with beautiful views of Colorado’s tallest mountains. If you’re willing to paddle in chilly water, I’d suggest visiting in the fall so you’re surrounded by yellow aspen leaves.
Drive time from Leadville: about 27 minutes.
Take Highway 24 to 82, towards Independence Pass. You can see the lakes from highway 24 and the pull-off is before Twin Lakes the city.
Put in: Easy, we choose to park in day parking and hike a short distance down to the lake, but boat ramps exist for easy access.
This seems to be a pretty popular spot for paddling, kayaking, and fishing. Following along the edge of the dam and lake shore gives you clear views of the lakes rocky floor and the fish swimming below you. In addition, views of some of Colorado’s highest peaks, Mount Elbert and Mount Massive surround you.
Distance from Leadville: about 13 minutes. From 24 take County Rd 4.
Put in: Easy, we choose to park and hike a short distance down to the lake, but boat ramps exist for easy access.
I saw this one from the road the weekend before and knew I had to paddle it. Stunning views of an alpine valley and the jagged peaks from the Tenmile Range sit behind it. The reservoir is also home of cutthroat trout, so bring your fishing pole!
Drive time from Leadville: About 18 minutes from Leadville on Highway 9 , this one is actually closest to the Front Range.
Put in: Moderate, if you don’t mind a 3 minute hike and you can easily get your board down to the shore. You’ll likely see folks with kayaks dragging their boats down to fish.
On top of a great paddling weekend, we nailed the ultimate campsite. Lately, finding a campsite has felt like half the battle here in the Front Range of Colorado, so I didn’t take this one for granted. We continued up a dirt road, further and further, until we came across an empty pull-off, next to a sea of aspens. How this spot had been overlooked by other campers, I have no idea. Just when you think Colorado is too busy, it always surprises you with little places like this.
The leaves surrounding camp where light green, some turning yellow. Our view overlooked lakes and mountains. This is my new favorite car camping site and a spot I’ll be coming back to this fall. Sorry folks, no beta on this one—if you want to camp here you’ll either have to find it yourself or join me.