Located right on the water (or just a few steps away), these Colorado campsites make the perfect base for a weekend full of stand-up paddle boarding and deep relaxation.
1) Pearl Lake Campground
Pearl Lake State Park, 26 miles north of Steamboat Springs
The masses head to Steamboat Lake, but Pearl Lake is a diamond in the rough for SUPers, with several sites on the lower road to launch straight from your campsite. Located at the base of Hahn’s Peak, the views are amazing and the sites are reservable. While no inspection is needed for boats, be a good steward and make sure your SUP is clean and doesn’t have any hitchhiking invasive species.
Pro Tip: Sites #31 and #32 are tucked into a nice little bay with a sandy shore. Book them early.
2) Haviland Lake Campground
San Juan National Forest, 18 miles north of Durango
Small but lovely, Haviland Lake is your best chance at having the water all to yourself. Tall trees surround the quiet lake, which reflects impressive views of the surrounding Hermosa Cliffs. Watch ospreys dive for trout as you paddle around in these clear waters, perfect for beginning SUPers. Sites are private and well-shaded.
Pro Tip: Several of the sites have shoreline access, but there’s also a day-use area with parking to the left just before entering the campground where you can launch and lunch.
3) Arapaho Bay Campground
Arapaho National Recreation Area, Lake Granby
Tucked into the back corner of Lake Granby, this campground gives you three different bodies of water to explore throughout the weekend. Start your day paddling around the peaceful 40 miles of shoreline you can access right from your campsite, which is located on a small peninsula on the eastern tip. The neighboring calm, shallow Shadow Mountain Lake connects to the livelier Grand Lake via a small waterway. There, you can paddle up to the docks for a quick ice cream or stroll around the historic boardwalks of town.
Pro Tip: Many of the trees have been cleared due to beetle-kill, but this allows for direct access to shoreline and some fabulous views. Sites get packed in the summer months, but September is spectacular.
4) Ruby Mountain Campground
Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, 30 miles north of Salida
If moving water is more your thing, Ruby Mountain Campground on the banks of the Arkansas River offers something for every level of paddler. Upriver, starting at the bridge in Johnson Village, is the “Milk Run,” which is perfect for trying out new skills. Downriver from the campsites are plenty of expert-only sections to explore. Be sure to check flow conditions, as water moves fast in the spring and runs can be boney with exposed rocks when flows are low.
Pro Tip: The campground has been recently remodeled and can fill up fast, but is reservable up to six months in advance. Be sure to bring in your own potable water, as none is available on-site.