Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Colorado – Vail Valley


Welcome to ThinkVail – we hope you find this article about stand up paddle boarding in Colorado helpful.

The newest summer obsession is stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) around the Vail Valley. It is a great way to get out on the water, whether that be on a pond, lake or river.

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Paddle boarding lets you get away from it all, or can bring you and your family and friends closer together for a day of summer fun.  If you can swim, you can paddle board. Whether you’re young, old, large, small, athletic or a couch potato, paddle boarding is a great activity for you! It’s also perfect for your furry friends with four paws.

When you first start paddle boarding you will want to start on calm water, ponds and lakes are preferable but as you do more and more on your paddle board you will  improve and be ready for more challenging water.   As you gain experience you may paddle Class I and II sections of the Colorado River and if you get even more skilled you can boat smaller, faster rivers or the class III and IV sections of the Colorado river.

Yoga paddle boarding will help you improve your balance no matter what level you are and it keeps you flexible all while having fun. Or, try your hand at fishing from a paddle board for a new twist on your favorite hobby.



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Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Vail

Paddle boarding is a wonderful way to get out on the water and enjoy the beautiful Colorado weather.  Generally, it is not so adrenaline-fueled as rafting or kayaking although it can be.

You do not need a lot of gear, and you can paddle board solo, so it can be very peaceful and a great way to spend some quiet time by yourself.

If you are looking to spend time with friends this is a great way to do it as two (2) smaller people can share a paddle board or swap each other’s out during the day.  It can also act as a floating dock for swimming, just make sure you can pull yourself up onto the board before you get out in the middle of a lake.

A stand up paddle board (SUP) is a large board usually around 10-12 feet long and 2-3 ft. wide.  It is very stable although you do need to have good balance and be comfortable around the water and know how to swim. You can sit, kneel or stand on the board and you propel yourself with a single paddle.  You can explore ponds, lakes and calm sections of rivers, practice yoga on your board, sit and meditate or just take in the scenery.  It is a fantastic way to pass the time.

Don’t forget the sun rays at our high altitude, here in Colorado, can be very harsh always wear sunscreen and sunglasses when paddle boarding to protect your skin and your eyes.

How to Start

If you are inexperienced or just a little nervous to get started, the best way to learn is by taking a class or going with somebody who has experience.
Outfitters in the area that offer lessons or classes are:



What You Need

The great thing about stand up paddle boarding is you don’t need a lot of gear,  Here’s the basics

  • Stand up paddle board: Click here for a list of of the top 10 Best Rated SUP boards.
  • A paddle: adjustable so you can change heights depending on whether you are sitting, kneeling or standing on the paddle board.
  • A PFD: (Personal Flotation Device):  Adults who can don’t have to wear the PFD, but children must. However, it is a good idea to always have a PDF on your person or at the very least on your board.
  • Proper clothing: During the summer months on warm water, most people wear a swimsuit, board shorts, and a short- or long-sleeved rash guard for sun protection. For colder water a wet-suit may be needed.
  • Sun protection: Wear sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses and sun-protective clothing.
  • Leash: fastens to your ankle usually by velcro to keep the board close to you if you fall off. Not recommended for river paddle boarding.

Where to Rent Boards

Where to Go Paddle Boarding

Once you get your sea legs (and your own paddle board) there are some wonderful places to go. Remember while you are learning, stay on calmer water do not go onto the local rivers without an instructor to help you navigate the rapids and white water.  Here are some examples of local places to visit.

Nottingham Lake

This is a wonderful little lake in the heart of Avon and they have a rental shop with paddle boards and paddle boats right on the shores of the beach.

Eagle-Vail Pond

 This is very small but it is a great place to paddle after work or during lunch and it is close by located next to the Eagle Vail playground.



Piney Lake

This lake located just 12 miles from Vail, Colorado offers jaw dropping views but it is a drive to get there.  Piney offers Paddle board and canoe rentals on-site but you can also bring your own. It is a local favorite, so realize it can get crowded.

Sylvan Lake

Located just down the road to the west in Eagle, Colorado. The 48-acre Sylvan Lake is located inside of Sylvan Lake State Park and surrounded the White River National Forest, it is a spectacular setting.  Cabins and campsites are also available if you want to stay for more than just a day.



Lake Dillon

A big beautiful lake located between Dillon and Frisco, Colorado. It is a cold, mountain lake located at 9,000 ft. elevation so you will probably want a wet suit or be experienced enough that you don’t fall in. A warm change of clothes is also recommended. There is also a fun Tiki bar at each end of the lake for a celebratory after SUP drink!

Ruedi Reservoir

Located about 15 miles from Basalt, Colorado (near Aspen.) It is a big, beautiful lake located on the Frying Pan River. There are multiple boat launch areas as well as campsites.



Deep Lake

Located 30 miles from Dotsero, CO, this pretty 38-acre lake lies at an elevation of 10,580 feet and has a very popular campground area.

Colorado River 

Only calm stretches of this river should be attempted until you have the skills and experience needed for whitewater but Class I sections of the Upper Colorado River and the Edwards Lake section or other still stretches of the Eagle River are available. If you have any doubts always check in at one of the outfitters above and they can tell you the best, safest places to paddle board on local rivers.

Whitewater Parks

These aquatic practice parks are for rafters, kayakers, canoes and paddle boards in Vail, Avon, Eagle and Glenwood Springs.  These parks are located on stretches of the river and allow boaters of all types and abilities to practice their moves.



Paddle Boarding with Kids & Dogs

We all love doing our favorite activities with our kids and dogs but please keep safety in mind. All kids and dogs on boards should be wearing PFDs even in calm water, it’s just good practice.  Lakes and ponds are ideal places to practice.

Kids and dogs can climb aboard a paddle board with an adult just realize it will take a little time for all of you to get your balance so stay near shore and expect to get dumped in the water in the beginning.  Bring along towels and a change of clothes.

Most paddle board classes will teach kids starting at about 13 years of age  and sometimes younger depending on the child and the circumstances.  Never take kids or dogs onto a river until kids are at least 13 and have taken classes or dogs have had a lot of experience, and all must wear personal flotation devices (PFDs),  the river can be very demanding and things can can quickly get out of control.



When You Get Really Good

Most activities in the Vail Valley become competitive including stand up paddle boarding. For those into competitive stand up paddle boarding, think about registering or just watching the annual Yeti SUP Surfcross.

The Yeti SUP Surf Cross
“This  Stand Up Paddle Battle takes place on Gore Creek in Vail. Protective gear is a must for this every-man/woman-for-themselves format. The first to survive this aquatic sprint from the Covered Bridge to the International Bridge will take the  top spot on the podium. Think Snowboarder Cross or Skier Cross on SUP boards in class II-III Gore Creek. It’s going to be rowdy.”



See Also: Best Whitewater Parks near Vail, CO


We hope you found this article about stand up paddle boarding in Vail, Colorado helpful.  Have you tried paddle boarding yet?  Do you enjoy it?  What is your favorite feature about paddle boarding? Have you tried to paddle board any of these areas discussed in the article?  What’s your favorite place to paddle board?  Please share your thoughts, comments and stories, we would love to hear them. Thank you for reading!

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View Comments

  • This is totally rad, thanks for the tips!

    I'm an avid kayaker, but I had no idea that you could use a stand up paddle board on Class II rapids. That's absolutely intense, and I'm sure it takes a lot of skill and practice. Not to mention safety measures.

    I've done some kayaking in Colorado and Arizona in the now distant past, but I'll have to bookmark Vail Valley as one of my next destinations. Thanks!

    • Hi Jordan, I am so happy you liked the post Stand Up Paddle boarding in the Vail Valley.  Yes, I started out as a kayaker too but I just love paddle boarding now. It is pretty crazy how different it can be paddling on a lake and paddling on the river.  It's a great change of pace and VERY challenging.  But what a thrill paddling on the Colorado River can be. 


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