SUP Spots in the Pikes Peak Region
Kayaks and white water rafting aren’t the only way to have fun on the water in the Pikes Peak region. Ever since paddle boarding began to gain popularity, Colorado has become know for having some pretty spectacular waters just for the stand-up set. Colorado Springs has a few of the coolest spots to paddle right here in town! Here’s a SUP breakdown of some of the best spots to float your board.
Paddle Board Memorial Park in Colorado Springs
Prospect Lake is one of the most well-known spots for paddle boarding in Colorado Springs. Clocking in at 58 acres and situated slightly east of downtown in Memorial Park, it’s easily the most accessible body of water in the city for SUPers.
If you have a board of your own you’ll need a non-motorized permit. Non-motorized days are Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. You can grab a permit at the Sertich arena or at a kiosk by the boat ramp. Remember to bring a life jacket and stay on the board. There’s no swimming outside of designated areas on Prospect Lake.
If you do not have a paddle board, SUP Colorado Springs is on site to rent them to you for an hourly fee. They also provide lessons and host yoga. Fun Fact: They have an extremely popular board that’s really more of a barge and fits all your favorite people. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with paddling solo!
SUP in Southwest Colorado Springs at Quail Lake
If Prospect Lake has a little sister in Colorado Springs, it’s Quail Lake. While much smaller than Prospect (only 22 acres), it still feels roomy and the terrain surrounding the lake is far more rugged. You can drift in the cattails, cruise near the road or hop out to cool off in the numerous clusters of trees that dot the shore. Quail Lake is also closed to motorized watercraft which means you can go every day instead of every other day. The lake has beautiful views and lots of space to play on the water. Explore the quieter nooks or hang out in the middle for impromptu group yoga or sun naps (wear your sunscreen). Off the water, the layout of this lake and the self-launch shore make it a great place to set up a canopy, bring along a picnic and spend a day in the water. It’s a popular option, so you may even make a whole new crew of friends.
Quail Lake requires registration and has a permit kiosk for easy payment. And, like Prospect Lake, SUP Colorado Springs brings their paddle boarding lessons and paddle yoga to this tiny treasure.
Rampart Reservoir SUPing
Bigger lakes await if you’re willing to leave the city and explore the wilder areas of the Pikes Peak region. How big? How about 500 acres? Rampart Reservoir is the largest reservoir in El Paso county and has the distinction of being a no-wake lake. That’s a big deal for a lake that size and it offers huge benefits to paddle boarders, like relatively calm waters (Rocky Mountain weather permitting) and zero of being smashed by a speedboat.
The lake isn’t just huge — it’s beautiful. You are surrounded by wilderness and ample views of everything that makes the Pikes Peak region so exceptional. Even a few minutes of paddling efforts can steer you into your own secret cove for chilling in the sun and staring at the world in wonder. It’s paddle boarding for folks who like to make a journey of the activity.
Now, despite this being quite the paddle paradise, there are a few factors that make it more difficult than Quail or Prospect. Like most pristine places, it takes a bit more effort than the beaten track. Incidentally, the road to Rampart is a dirt one, which can be harder to navigate if you’re in a low-profile vehicle. You’ll have to leave the corvette in the garage for this trip. You may also want to use inflatable paddle boards if you normally use a trailer. Last, it’s a bare bones location when it comes to amenities. You won’t find Quail Lakes communal shores or Memorial Park’s pavilions and picnic areas. You will find a (somewhat) quieter experience and unforgettable scenery on gentle waters.
North Slope Recreation Area Let’s You Paddle the Peak
These gorgeous peakside lakes give you the mountain cred to say you paddled at the base of America’s Mountain. The North Slope Recreation Area is an awesome place to being your board with one caveat — it will close for repairs next summer! That means that now, right now, is the last time you’ll get a chance to explore North Slope’s reservoirs for several years.
North Slope is home to three different bodies of water and all allow paddle boarding, although Crystal Creek Reservoir has been under construction until recently and may have restrictions. We’ll share the benefits of the two larger lakes for now.
South Catamount is about 136 acres and it has a super nifty shape that makes it feel like you’re on an expedition as you paddle out. The waters are very calm but the views are wild. You’re on foot 9,229 of Pikes Peak’s epic 14,115-foot elevation, views are part of the standard package.
North Catamount is nearly double the size of its southerly sister. The reservoir runs long and often narrow, with inlets of all sizes for paddlers to venture into. The views you get at North Catamount are indescribable. Catch it on a clear day and the mountains are the only way you can separate water from sky. You may not want to come back once you launch.
Some quick details on the recreation site:
- You will need to register ahead of time so you can access the lakes via the Pikes Peak Highway. The fee is much lower, so don’t worry (but maybe it’s worth summiting the peak by car since you’re already there).
- Parking is also limited. You can pre-purchase your pass online when you buy your access time or pick one up on-site. The latter is risky in the summer.
- No pets in the water.
Things to Bring When Paddling in Colorado
Every region has different requirements for an enjoyable experience. In Colorado, the most important are the same as they are for hiking, biking and skiing/snowboarding:
- Water — You need to stay hydrated. You cannot and should not drink untreated lake water, even from reservoirs slated for drinking water.
- Sunblock — The water reflects the already blistering sun and makes it easier than ever to get burned. Our higher altitude only makes it worse.
- Layers — Before you roll your eyes at the recommendation for layers even on the water, consider it can drop 25 degrees before you can get back to shore if a storm pops up (as they do).
Other Paddle Board Items to Bring:
- Lifejackets for all—including the dog, the toddler and the Olympian swimmer.
- Beacon or flag for staying visible in larger lakes with motorized vehicles.
- Patch kit for inflatable boards.
- Kayak paddle for speedy sit-down travel.
- Water shoes for muddy and rocky shores.
- Waterproof dry bag for phone, keys and snacks.
- Snacks because snacks.
Things to Remember When Paddling in the Pikes Peak Region
Like the packing list, the safety list for paddle boarding can vary. Here in Colorado Springs and the surrounding area, it’s important to consider:
Weather: The weather changes very, very fast in the Pikes Peak region and even a small storm can turn a calm lake into a raging sea. Have a bad weather plan: where you will shelter, how you will get back if you have to leave the water for from shore and enough water to fuel you if you have to hike out with your board.
Lightning: If you see it, get out. Yes, even if you just spent 20 minutes inflating your board in the sun. Lightning doesn’t feel bad for you. Lightning is a jerk.
Swimming: Many of the bodies of water in and around the Pikes Peak region do not allow swimming. Some may be more lenient than others about enforcing that, but ignoring their warnings could get you in trouble. The reservoirs designated for drinking water ban swimming to reduce contamination. You may be fined for getting caught breaking the rules. Both city lakes and regional reservoirs have no lifeguards on duty, meaning there will be no first responder to save you if you begin to drown or become injured.
Pets: Some bodies of water ban pets. Know before you go so you don’t have to turn back. Additionally, some waters are home to bacteria, algae or organisms that can make you or your pet sick. Keep that in mind before letting your pup take a sip (or before ignoring those “no swimming” signs).
Board: That strap ain’t for show. Strap it to your leg unless you like swimming like Michael Phelps when you fall off. It also helps people find you if you’re hurt and can help you find the surface if you are confused after falling and aren’t wearing your life jacket (do that in the first place).
Paddling in the Pikes Peak region is an unforgettable experience. The clear, cold waters, the wild beauty of Colorado and the sweltering summer heat create the optimum conditions for a wonderful day on the water. Find your perfect peace on one of these top lakes and float on, friends.