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Top 5 Family Friendly Places to Paddle

Stand Up Paddleboarding is a relatively new sport to our outdoorsy culture here in Colorado, but it is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing activities that people are trying on a daily basis. It’s fun, it’s accessible to all ability levels, and it reconnects you with nature. As a mom of two boys, I’m always on the hunt for activities that will keep my kids busy but teach them new skills at the same time. When we started paddleboarding in 2013, we knew it was love-at-first-paddle for all four of us! It was a fun physical activity, we were outside, and it didn’t require technology (haha). Over the next few years we spent a lot of time finding fun places to paddle that were easy to get to and fun for the whole family. Here’s our (humble) list of the Top 5 Family Friendly Places to Paddle in the Denver Metro Area:

  1. Rueter-Hess Reservoir - Parker

Nestled right between Castle Rock and Parker, Rueter-Hess is a newer, more secluded reservoir with 30 feet of visibility in the water and views of the front range for days! Nothing better than clear water and not a lot of people. We think this is a great lake for families to paddle at because of the smaller crowds compared to other lakes in the area. Your parking permit gets you into the park for the entire day, so plan to stay and enjoy the area for a while! Not feeling like you want to be on the water the whole day? That’s ok! There’s a wonderful multi-use path that goes around the entire lake. Great for walking, running, or biking to explore a new area of the Denver Metro area! 

Best age ranges: All! This is a great spot if you have little littles in your home

Best time of day: Sunrise-sunset. Bring bug repellent if you’re staying closer to sundown.

  1. Big Soda Lake & Bear Creek Reservoir - Lakewood

If you’ve ever been driving on C-470 next to the foothills and have seen the lakes near Red Rocks, then you know right where Bear Creek Lake Park is! BCLP is a Lakewood City Park that is open year-round. It has trails for biking and hiking alongside Bear Creek, a paved bike path that moves through the park and takes you out to the C-470 Bike Trail, and two different bodies of water to paddle on. Paddleboarding is allowed on the main reservoir and is quite the treat! While the reservoir has plenty of fisher men and women lining the shores, you are free to launch from anywhere on the shoreline, just be sure to give them space. There are coves to explore and the fun challenge of paddling to the dam and back. Paddling on Big Soda Lake (the one you see from the highway) is also great! There’s plenty of space on the shoreline for setting up chairs for day-long adventures that you can paddle in and out as much as you’d like. Just a heads up - if you’re planning to go on the weekend, plan to get there as early as possible! Most of the weekend days at BCLP reach capacity before noon, so be ready to be near and around a lot of people. 


Best age ranges: All! This is a great spot if you have little littles in your home

Best time of day: Later in the day. People are out before the sunrise to claim their spot and then they end up leaving by lunch time. Bring bug repellent if you’re staying closer to sundown.

  1. Gravel Pond and Chatfield Reservoir at Chatfield State Park - Littleton

The birthplace of paddleboarding in the Front Range! There’s a TON to explore at Chatfield State Park. You can paddleboard on both the main reservoir and on this great little pond called Gravel Pond which is a non-motorized lake (meaning boats with motors aren’t allowed). Gravel Pond is a spring fed pond which helps to keep the pond clean and pristine all summer long. Because of their restriction to non-motorized vessels, this is a great pond to paddleboard at, especially with little ones. 

The main reservoir at Chatfield also has the state’s largest no-wake zone which is a great 3 mile loop for those set out on an adventure. Be sure to have everyone wearing their PFD because motorized boats are allowed in the no wake zone and some of them forget it’s a no wake zone. So some extra swimming might happen. We recommend launching from Fox Run if you’re planning on staying on the water or setting up camp at Swim Beach. PLEASE NOTE: You can only paddleboard outside of the swim zone at Swim Beach.  Regardless of whatever lake you’re on, please wear your PFD (Personal Flotation Device)!

Best age ranges: All! This is a great spot if you have little littles in your home

Best time of day: Sunrise-sunset. Bring bug repellent if you’re staying closer to sundown.

  1. Gross Reservoir - Boulder/Nederland

Gross Reservoir is far from gross!! With 11 miles of shoreline, this reservoir is bound to offer you and your family one of the best days of the summer! You get a mountain lake experience without driving too far from the city. Gross Reservoir is nestled in the mountains between Boulder and Nederland that is easy to get to. It’s only a 45 minute drive to put-in from Surf’SUP! We highly recommend heading to Gross for an entire day. If you’re really up for an adventure, you could reserve a campsite along the shore and paddle in and out of your campsite all weekend long! Please check in on the status of the construction in the area before you load up to head over there. You also get out of cell phone range for most carriers, so keep that in mind as well. 

Best age range: Kids who are able to paddle by themselves and/or understand the importance of staying close to adults. Weather can change fast up there!

Best time of day: Morning/afternoon

  1. Sloan’s Lake - Denver

Your first thought might be that I’m crazy for even recommending Sloan’s - It definitely has a reputation if you’re a longtime Denver Metro Resident. But Denver Parks and Rec have been working hard to bring new life to Sloan’s Lake and we’re here for it! What other spot can you paddle where you get a beautiful view of both the Denver skyline AND Mt. Evans??  Not only are they building a new playground and play area on the south side of the lake, you now don’t need a permit for your paddleboard! Sloan’s is the perfect place to paddle when you’re short on time and don’t want to pay to get into a park for a quick jaunt. There’s never an entry fee at Sloan’s! This lake is the place to go for an evening paddle or an afternoon under the sun. There’s plenty of restaurants nearby or bring a picnic and hang out on the shore. Please note: swimming is not allowed or recommended at Sloan’s Lake, so be sure everyone is going to stay on their board. 

Best age range: This lake is great for older kids and adults

Best time of day: Sunset!! They’re spectacular on the water

Way to go, you, for teaching your littles about ADVENTURE! It's my hope to keep you stoked so your kids know how to do that too. 

Stay stoked,