Boulder Outside: Beginners Guide to Boulder County Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP)

Colorado may be landlocked, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some classic water activities, like stand up paddle boarding (SUP). Today we’re featuring how and where to SUP like a pro in Boulder County. 

If you’re new to SUP, you should know a few things. First off, SUP is a great way to see the Colorado scenery while also getting a full-body workout (especially targeted in your core). If you’ve never done it before, be sure to get acquainted with the safety precautions and basics first. 

For example, you’ll want to learn how to properly stand up and balance on your SUP, which you can read more about here. If you’re feeling anxious, go with a buddy and practice getting on and off the SUP and even falling to make sure you know how to get back on. Before your first outing, check out REI’s helpful guide to calm your nerves (highly recommended)!

You’ll also want to make sure you have the proper clothing and protection too. During the summer months, you can get away with a swimsuit or a t-shirt and shorts, but don’t forget to wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a life jacket as well.

Now that we have those basics down, let’s figure out your equipment.  If you don’t have a paddleboard, no problem. You can buy paddleboards and paddles from REI, SurfSUP Colorado, Rocky Mountain Paddleboard, or a variety of other outdoors and sports equipment outlets. 

Facebook Marketplace is also usually a good place to find used ones!

If you’d prefer to rent, that is also a popular option in Boulder County. Colorado SUP Sports and RMP both provide great rental options, either for the whole season or a day pass (typically 1, 5, or 10 hours). 

Alright, now that you have your equipment, let’s find some places to SUP! Read on for our top picks:

Boulder Reservoir

Photo Credits: Rocky Mountain Paddleboard via rockymtnpaddleboard.com

First up is Boulder Reservoir! The Boulder Rez is a common place for paddle boarders, kayakers, boaters, and even bird watchers to frequent. Park entry fees are $7 per Boulder resident and $9 per non-resident or you can purchase an annual pass.

Located at 5565 N. 51st Street in Boulder, the gates open at 7 am and close at 8 pm until September 6. To plan your visit, head to the City of Boulder’s site

Pro tip: If you decide to go to Boulder Rez, you’re not alone. This is one of the most popular spots in Boulder during the summer, so try to go early or on a weekday if you can to get parking!

Gross Reservoir

Photo Credits: Icebox Knitting via iceboxknitting.com

Gross Reservoir is free to the public and is a great spot for hiking, camping, kayaking, and SUP! Located at the top of Flagstaff Mountain, you’ll get stunning views of the Continental Divide. 

Many Boulder County folks don’t actually know you can paddle board at Gross Reservoir, so we don’t anticipate it getting as busy as the Boulder Rez during the summer. There’s a parking lot available for free on 6950 Gross Dam Road

For more information about SUP at Gross Reservoir, check out this fantastic local blog post. And another pro tip: weather can change fast at this alpine lake, so bring layers of clothing and check the weather ahead of time. Head to shore at any sign of thunderstorms!

McIntosh Lake

Photo Credits: Visit Longmont, Colorado via visitlongmont.com

Let’s finish it off with McIntosh Lake, located in lovely Longmont. With over 250 acres of water, this is a great spot to explore. The lake is currently being developed as a master-planned Nature Area as a result of its stunning views and wildlife. 

Parking is available at 1929 Harvard Street in Longmont for free. The lake is typically not too crowded either, so you should be in the clear on weekends!

Pro tip: Keep your eyes peeled for birds like red-tailed hawks, great blue herons, and bald eagles on a clear day. 

You should be ready to SUP like a pro now! If it’s your very first time, I recommend you choose a sunny day with little to no wind. If there is some wind, paddle into the wind on your way out so you don’t have to work against the wind at the end of your route. Go with a friend or family member so you can help each other as needed and plan on going for no more than an hour the first time — you’ll be impressed with what a great workout it is!

See you out there 🏄‍♂️

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