Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is an engaging activity that will challenge your balance and core strength while allowing you to enjoy the natural beauty of Aspen’s Roaring Fork Valley. You can choose your activity level — from floating in a lake or pond with the occasional paddle, to constant river navigation. Stand-up paddleboarding in Aspen is the perfect outdoor activity for locals and visitors alike. It’s something you can try whether you’re a singleton, a couple, or a family — and in some places you can even bring your dog (be sure to check detail first)!
The following tips show you how to fully enjoy stand-up paddleboarding in Aspen:
How to Stand Up on Your SUP
Before you rent your first paddleboard and embark on your first float, you’ll want to have an idea of how to begin. Absolute beginners should first make sure that the paddleboard is both wide and thick enough for stability.
- Place your paddleboard in shallow water (deep enough so that any fins on the underside won’t break once you add your weight to the board).
- Set your paddle on the paddleboard so that your hands are free.
- Place one knee and both hands on the board, then push off slightly using your other foot.
- Bring your second knee to meet the first, keeping your hands on the board for a more stable position.
- As you feel comfortable, bring yourself up to kneeling and grab your paddle.
- Continue to kneel on your paddleboard until you feel stable, utilizing the lower center of gravity as you take a few strokes with your paddle on each side, finding your rhythm and balance.
- Place your paddle on the board and use your hands to find a tabletop position, then place your feet on the surface of the paddleboard one at a time, shoulder-width apart and parallel to the direction of the board.
- Keeping your knees bent and your core engaged, slowly rise to a standing position, picking up your paddle as you rise.
How to Paddle on Your SUP
- Once you’re feeling stable in a standing position (it’s okay to remain kneeling if you’re more comfortable that way), place both hands on your paddle, one below the other. (Your top hand will generally be the hand of the arm closest to the side on which you’re paddling, and the distance between your hands depends on personal preference, so feel free to try paddling in a few different positions.)
- Pull your top arm toward your body, then extend your arm forward while keeping your bottom arm mostly still.
- Extend your reach forward, then place your entire paddle into the water as far forward as you’re able.
- Think about pulling yourself and your board past a stationary paddle in order to move forward.
- Alternate paddling on each side of your paddleboard every few strokes to keep yourself moving in a straight line.
Aspen Stand-Up Paddleboard Rentals
No matter where you choose to rent your stand-up paddleboard, most SUP rentals in the Aspen valley include an inflatable SUP, a paddle, a pump, and occasionally a PFD (personal flotation device) or dry bag. You can contact the following Aspen SUP rental locations for specifics on timing, availability, and associated costs:
- SUP rentals at Aspen Whitewater
- SUP rentals at Aspen Bikes
- SUP rentals at Elk Mountain Expeditions
- SUP rentals at Shaboomee
What to Bring on an Aspen Paddleboard Adventure
We’ve compiled the following list of suggested items to bring on any Aspen SUP adventure. Use your own discretion when building your kit, and be sure to bring (or rent) a dry bag to keep your belongings safe from water damage (and from floating away!).
- Bathing suit and/or quick-drying clothing
- A dry change of clothes
- Wetsuit, wool cap, and wool socks if the water is under 60°F
- Water shoes or sandals that have grippy soles and will stay on your feet
- Hat to shield your face and eyes from the sun
- Lip balm
- Sunglasses/glasses and strap
- Water bottle or hydration pack, filled with drinkable water
- Credit card and/or cash
- Travel first aid kit
- Phone and/or GPS with protective case
- Guidebook and/or maps
- Compass (one that will float)
- Camera with waterproof case
- Dry bag
- Maps and charts in waterproof case
Where to SUP Near Aspen
If you’re adventuring on your own, here are our favorite spots to explore on a stand-up paddleboard both near Aspen and downvalley from Aspen.
SUP at Stillwater in North Star Nature Preserve
The Stillwater section of the Roaring Fork River is known as the perfect destination for low-key paddling and sightings of wildlife such as great blue herons, mule deer, and muskrats. This slow, lazy section of the river is a great introduction to basic river paddling on a SUP. Note: You’ll need to stay in the water and avoid crossing onto land in the protected Nature Preserve.
Head east from Aspen on Highway 82 towards Independence Pass and put in at the Wildwood School. Plan to float downstream from the Wildwood School to the lower end of Aspen’s North Star Nature Preserve. You’ll want to have a vehicle (car, scooter, bike, or friend as chauffeur) ready at the Rainbow Bridge takeout.
SUP at Lost Man Reservoir
Drive your paddleboard up Independence Pass, about 11 miles east of Aspen, for an absolutely breathtaking SUP at Lost Man Reservoir. Because it takes some work to get there, you won’t generally be dealing with large crowds of paddlers. Start at Lower Lost Man campground and hike nearly a quarter of a mile to the reservoir. You’ll be sheltered from the wind while taking in the majestic high alpine scenery and enjoying the reflections on the water.
SUP at Grizzly Reservoir
If solitude is your preference, Grizzly Reservoir is another special SUP spot. Drive up Independence Pass for about 9.5 miles and turn right onto Lincoln Creek Road. Then, you’ll continue along a rough and rocky road (4WD vehicles with decent clearance are recommended) for six miles until you reach the reservoir. Grizzly Reservoir is also a great spot for fishing, since it’s regularly stocked with trout, so you can bring your fishing gear and stay awhile longer.
SUP at Twin Lakes
If you’re enjoying the views along Independence Pass, continue driving past the Continental Divide until you reach Twin Lakes, Colorado’s largest glacial lakes, which are surrounded by small beaches. You’ll have a spectacular view of Mount Elbert (Colorado’s highest peak at 14,439 feet) from the lakes. Paddle your SUP across the lakes to explore the far shores and escape the highway and campground noise.
SUP at Ruedi Reservoir
To get to Ruedi Reservoir, you’ll head north on Highway 82 from Aspen until you reach the stoplight for Two Rivers Road, just before the main Basalt exit. When you get to downtown Basalt, you’ll take a right on Frying Pan Road and continue driving until you reach the reservoir. Ruedi Reservoir contains around 997 acres of water, surrounded by conifer pine forest. You can put in at the beach near the boat ramp, or from various grassy and beachy areas near the campgrounds. Reudi’s boat traffic can be heavy at times, so pay attention while you paddle and float!
SUP the Colorado River
While the Colorado River can be frightening at times, with fast waters and plenty of rocks, you can avoid the large rapids by driving east on I-70 from Glenwood Springs to the No Name exit (exit #119). You’ll paddle towards Glenwood over a milder section of the river, and you’ll cover a few small obstacles while enjoying the dramatic canyon views (you may even see a train). Meet a pick-up vehicle at Two Rivers Park in Glenwood Springs (be sure to arrange your shuttle before you paddle!).
Guided SUP Adventures in Aspen
If you’re not as comfortable figuring things out on your own, or if you or your group would prefer the safety, comfort, and convenience of a guided stand-up paddleboarding experience, here are four Aspen companies providing guided SUP adventures in the valley:
- Aspen Kayak & SUP: The main office for Aspen Kayak & SUP is located on the Roaring Fork River, just a 5-minute drive from town. You’ll be able to paddle on three different sections of the river, progressing to a slightly greater challenge in each section. More advanced SUP paddlers will enjoy the action in the Slaughterhouse section.
- Blazing Adventures: Choose from a guided SUP adventure on the Colorado River near Glenwood Springs, or paddleboard along the Roaring Fork River from Aspen’s North Star Nature Preserve. Blazing Adventures carefully chooses their paddleboard cruises to maximize both beauty and adventure.
- Elk Mountain Whitewater Shuttle: Park at the free Elk Mountain Whitewater lot in downtown Aspen. You’ll be equipped with all you’ll need to SUP, and a van will drop you off at the put-in spot.
- Shaboomee: Shaboomee prides itself on its elite-level stand-up paddleboarding instructors. Choose from a guided float on either the scenic Roaring Fork or the more challenging and dramatic Colorado. Shaboomee even has its own private lake downvalley in New Castle.
Aspen Stand-Up Paddleboarding Arrangements
No matter how and where you choose to experience stand up paddleboarding in Aspen, you’re certain to remember your adventure long after it’s over. If you’re not sure where to start and would love our local knowledge to assist you, our Concierge is happy to assist our Aspen Square guests with planning the perfect Aspen SUP adventure. We’re happy to help you arrange transportation, as well. Contact us at 970-925-1000 x3515 or firstname.lastname@example.org.