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How To Plan A Colorado Road Trip With Kayak


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Deva Moxley



Welcome to the breathtaking state of Colorado, where majestic mountains, stunning landscapes, and adventurous outdoor activities await. If you’re looking to embark on an unforgettable road trip, combined with the thrill of kayaking in some of the most picturesque spots in the country, then you’ve come to the right place.


A Colorado road trip with a kayak offers the perfect blend of scenic drives, tranquil lakes, and thrilling waters. From the vibrant city of Denver to the charming mountain towns like Aspen and Steamboat Springs, this state has a wide range of destinations that cater to all adventure enthusiasts.


In this article, we’ll guide you through a step-by-step process to help you plan an epic Colorado road trip with a kayak. Whether you’re a seasoned kayaker or a beginner, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful state.


Before we dive into the details, it’s important to note that Colorado is home to a diverse range of landscapes, including mountains, canyons, rivers, and lakes. Each region offers unique kayaking experiences, from calm and serene waters to more challenging rapids. So, depending on your skill level and preference, you can choose the best kayaking spots that suit your interests.


Now, let’s get started on planning your Colorado road trip with a kayak by covering the essential steps to make your adventure smooth and enjoyable.


Step 1: Choose Your Travel Dates

The first step in planning your Colorado road trip with a kayak is selecting the right travel dates. Consider factors such as weather conditions, availability of accommodations, and any specific events or festivals you may want to attend.


Colorado experiences a wide range of weather conditions throughout the year, so it’s important to choose a time when the climate is suitable for your kayaking adventure. The summer months, from June to August, offer warmer temperatures and pleasant conditions for kayaking in most parts of the state. However, be prepared for occasional afternoon thunderstorms, especially in the mountains.


If you prefer cooler temperatures and smaller crowds, consider visiting in the spring or fall. During these shoulder seasons, you can enjoy the changing colors of the autumn leaves or the blooming wildflowers in the spring, adding an extra touch of beauty to your road trip.


It’s also worth checking the availability of accommodations along your planned route. Summer months tend to be busier, so booking your accommodations in advance is recommended, especially if you have specific preferences or are traveling during popular events.


Additionally, research any festivals or events taking place during your desired travel dates. Colorado hosts a variety of festivals, including music, beer, and outdoor adventure festivals, which can add an extra layer of entertainment and excitement to your road trip.


Once you have a clear idea of when you’d like to visit Colorado, it’s time to move on to the next steps of planning your road trip.


Step 2: Determine Your Route

Now that you have chosen your travel dates, it’s time to determine the route for your Colorado road trip with a kayak. Colorado is known for its scenic drives and breathtaking views, so take some time to research and decide on the places you want to visit.


Start by identifying the major cities or towns you wish to include in your itinerary. Denver, the capital city, is a great starting point with its vibrant urban atmosphere and easy access to outdoor activities. From there, you can explore popular destinations like Colorado Springs, Boulder, Aspen, and Durango, among others.


Consider the distance and driving time between each location to ensure a balanced and manageable itinerary. As you plan your route, keep in mind that Colorado is a large state with vast landscapes, so allow enough time for breaks, rest, and exploration.


Take advantage of the numerous national parks, state parks, and scenic byways along your planned route. From Rocky Mountain National Park to the stunning Million Dollar Highway, these routes offer unparalleled natural beauty and opportunities for kayaking in nearby lakes or rivers.


Furthermore, consider incorporating some off-the-beaten-path destinations or hidden gems into your itinerary. These lesser-known spots often provide a more intimate and unique kayaking experience while avoiding large crowds.


Once you have a rough outline of your route, use online mapping tools or navigation apps to determine the driving directions and estimated travel time between each location. This will help you better plan your daily activities and ensure that you don’t miss any must-see attractions along the way.


With your route in hand, it’s time to move on to the next step: researching the best kayaking spots in Colorado.


Step 3: Research Kayaking Spots

Now that you have your travel dates and route planned, it’s time to dive into researching the best kayaking spots in Colorado. This state offers a plethora of options, from calm lakes to thrilling rivers, ensuring there’s something for every skill level and preference.


Start by identifying the regions or areas along your route where you’d like to go kayaking. Colorado is home to several stunning lakes and reservoirs, such as Dillon Reservoir near Breckenridge, Lake Granby in Grand County, and Blue Mesa Reservoir near Gunnison. These spots provide calm waters and picturesque surroundings, perfect for a relaxing day on the kayak.


If you’re looking for more adventurous experiences, consider exploring the rivers in Colorado. The Arkansas River, which flows through the heart of the state, offers numerous sections with varying levels of difficulty for kayakers. From gentle stretches suitable for beginners to challenging rapids for more experienced paddlers, the Arkansas River has it all.


Other popular river kayaking spots include Clear Creek near Golden, the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs, and the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs. Each river provides unique landscapes and experiences, so be sure to research the specific sections and conditions that align with your kayaking skills.


Researching kayaking spots also involves checking for any required permits, regulations, or safety guidelines. Some areas may require permits or have specific regulations in place to protect the environment and ensure the safety of kayakers. Familiarize yourself with the rules and guidelines for each spot to ensure a smooth and compliant kayaking experience.


It’s also a good idea to read reviews and recommendations from other kayakers who have visited these spots. They can provide valuable insights and tips on the best times to visit, nearby amenities, and any potential challenges to anticipate.


Once you have a list of potential kayaking spots, consider how they fit into your overall itinerary and availability of accommodations nearby. This will help you plan your daily activities and ensure that you have enough time to fully enjoy each kayaking experience.


With your kayaking spots researched and selected, it’s time to move on to step 4: packing the essentials for your Colorado road trip with a kayak.


Step 4: Pack the Essentials

As you prepare for your Colorado road trip with a kayak, it’s crucial to pack all the essentials to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience on the water. Here are some items you should consider including in your packing list:

  1. Kayak and Paddles: Of course, the most important item is your kayak. Make sure it’s in good condition and suitable for the type of water you’ll be paddling. Don’t forget to pack your paddles as well.
  2. PFD (Personal Flotation Device): A proper-fitting PFD is essential for safety while kayaking. It will keep you afloat in case of an accident or when you need to rest.
  3. Kayaking Gear: Depending on the weather and water conditions, you may need additional kayaking gear such as a wetsuit or drysuit, water shoes or sandals, a helmet for whitewater kayaking, and a spray skirt.
  4. Clothing and Sun Protection: Pack lightweight, quick-drying clothing suitable for the weather conditions during your trip. Don’t forget a hat, sunglasses with UV protection, and sunscreen to shield yourself from the sun’s rays.
  5. Emergency Kit: It’s always a good idea to have an emergency kit on hand. Include essentials like a first aid kit, a whistle, a knife or multi-tool, a flashlight, and a waterproof bag for storing valuables.
  6. Water and Snacks: Staying hydrated is important, so bring plenty of water for your kayaking excursions. Pack energy-rich snacks to keep you fueled during your adventures.
  7. Navigation and Safety Gear: Carry a map or GPS device to navigate the waters. A compass is also helpful in case of navigation challenges. Additionally, consider bringing a waterproof phone case, a whistle, and a towline for added safety.
  8. Dry Bags: Keep your belongings dry by packing them in waterproof dry bags. These bags are essential for protecting your electronics, clothes, and other personal items from water damage.
  9. Camping and Cooking Gear (if applicable): If you’re planning to camp along your road trip, don’t forget to pack your camping gear, including a tent, sleeping bag, cooking utensils, and a camp stove.

Before you start packing, double-check the specific requirements and recommendations for the kayaking spots you’ll be visiting. Some spots may have additional gear or safety requirements, so be prepared to comply with any rules or regulations in place.


By packing the essentials, you’ll be well-prepared for your Colorado road trip with a kayak and ready to take on all the adventures that await.


Next up, we’ll explore step 5: booking accommodations for your road trip.


Step 5: Book Accommodations

As you plan your Colorado road trip with a kayak, it’s important to secure your accommodations in advance to ensure a comfortable stay along your journey. Colorado offers a range of options to suit every traveler’s preferences, from hotels and resorts to campgrounds and vacation rentals.


If you prefer the convenience of hotels, research and book accommodations in the cities or towns along your route. Popular destinations like Denver, Aspen, and Colorado Springs have a wide selection of hotels ranging from budget-friendly options to luxurious resorts. Consider the proximity to your kayaking spots and other attractions, as well as amenities such as parking or complimentary breakfast.


For a more immersive outdoor experience, consider camping at one of Colorado’s many scenic campgrounds. Research campgrounds near your kayaking spots and check availability and reservation requirements. Many campgrounds offer amenities such as restrooms, showers, and picnic areas. If you’re camping, remember to bring all the necessary camping gear and supplies.


Another popular option is renting a vacation home or cabin. Websites like Airbnb and VRBO offer a variety of options, from cozy mountain cabins to lakefront retreats. Renting a vacation home provides more space, privacy, and kitchen facilities, allowing you to prepare your meals as needed.


When booking accommodations, consider the duration of your stay in each location and the proximity to your kayaking spots. It’s important to allow sufficient time to travel to and from the water bodies, ensuring you have ample time for your kayaking adventures.


Keep in mind that the popularity of certain destinations can affect the availability and pricing of accommodations. If you’re planning your trip during peak travel seasons, it’s advisable to book your accommodations well in advance to secure the best options and pricing.


Once you have your accommodations booked, you can move on to the next step: planning your daily activities during your Colorado road trip with a kayak.


Step 6: Plan Daily Activities

With your travel dates, route, kayaking spots, and accommodations all set, it’s time to plan your daily activities during your Colorado road trip with a kayak. Having a well-thought-out itinerary will help you make the most of your time and ensure you don’t miss out on any must-see attractions.


Start by prioritizing your kayaking adventures. Determine which spots are your absolute must-visit and plan your schedule accordingly. Take into account factors such as the distance between locations, the estimated time needed for each kayaking excursion, and any specific periods when certain spots may be more crowded.


Once your kayaking activities are planned, consider other attractions or activities in each destination that you’d like to explore. Colorado is known for its outdoor recreational opportunities, so there’s no shortage of options. Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, or simply enjoying scenic drives are great ways to immerse yourself in the beauty of the state.


Take the time to research local attractions, landmarks, and points of interest near your primary kayaking spots. For example, if you’ll be kayaking in the Aspen area, you may want to visit the Maroon Bells, hike to scenic viewpoints, or explore the town’s vibrant arts and culinary scene.


Consider the duration of your stay in each location when planning your daily activities. Allow enough time to fully enjoy and experience each destination without feeling rushed. It’s often better to have a few key activities or attractions for each day rather than trying to fit in too much and feeling overwhelmed.


Remember to be flexible with your schedule. Weather conditions or unexpected circumstances may require adjustments to your plans. Have a backup list of activities or alternative spots to visit in case any changes need to be made.


Lastly, don’t forget to allocate time for relaxation and downtime. Take breaks between activities to recharge and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Colorado’s natural landscapes offer plenty of opportunities for picnics, scenic viewpoints, and peaceful moments of tranquility.


With your daily activities planned, you’re one step closer to embarking on your exciting Colorado road trip with a kayak. The next step is to check the weather conditions and ensure you’re prepared for any changes that may arise during your journey.


Step 7: Check Weather Conditions

Checking the weather conditions is an essential step in planning your Colorado road trip with a kayak. The weather can greatly impact your kayaking experience and overall safety, so it’s crucial to stay informed and prepared for any changes that may occur during your trip.


Before you set out for your adventure, regularly monitor weather forecasts for the areas you’ll be visiting. Colorado’s weather can be unpredictable, especially in mountainous regions, so it’s important to have the most up-to-date information. Pay attention to factors such as temperature, wind speed, precipitation, and any severe weather alerts.


Keep in mind that weather conditions can vary significantly across different parts of the state. For example, the weather in the mountains can be vastly different from that on the eastern plains. Therefore, it’s important to check the weather for each specific location along your route, including your kayaking spots and overnight stops.


If there are any forecasts for severe weather, such as thunderstorms or high winds, it’s advisable to adjust your plans accordingly. Safety should always be your top priority, so it’s better to postpone or reschedule your kayaking adventure if the conditions are unfavorable.


It’s also a good idea to check water conditions before heading out on the water. Heavy rainfall or snowmelt can affect river levels and create hazardous conditions for kayaking. Research local water reports or check with local authorities to ensure that the water conditions are safe for your planned activities.


Additionally, be prepared for changes in weather throughout the day, especially if you’re exploring higher elevation areas. Dress in layers and pack extra clothing to accommodate temperature fluctuations. It’s better to be over-prepared with warm and waterproof gear than to be caught off guard by unexpected weather changes.


Lastly, don’t forget to bring essential items for weather protection, such as rain gear, sunblock, hats, and sunglasses. These will help you stay comfortable and protected from the elements as you enjoy your Colorado road trip with a kayak.


By staying informed about the weather conditions, you can make well-informed decisions and adjust your plans as needed to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience during your road trip.


Next, let’s move on to step 8: preparing your kayak for the adventure ahead.


Step 8: Prepare Your Kayak

Before embarking on your Colorado road trip with a kayak, it’s crucial to prepare your kayak for the adventure ahead. Proper preparation ensures your safety and allows you to make the most of your kayaking experiences. Here are some essential steps to follow when preparing your kayak:

  1. Inspect Your Kayak: Thoroughly examine your kayak for any signs of damage or wear. Check for cracks, holes, or loose fittings. Ensure that all the hardware, including hatches, rudders, and footrests, are in good working condition.
  2. Clean Your Kayak: Before hitting the water, give your kayak a good clean. Remove any dirt, debris, or algae that may have accumulated. Use mild soap and water to clean the surface of the kayak, and rinse thoroughly to remove any soap residue.
  3. Check Your Kayaking Gear: Inspect your paddles, PFD (personal flotation device), spray skirt, and other kayaking gear. Make sure they are in good condition and functioning properly. Replace any worn-out or damaged equipment to ensure your safety on the water.
  4. Secure Your Equipment: Make sure your equipment, such as dry bags, water bottles, and safety gear, is securely fastened to your kayak. Double-check the fastenings to prevent any accidents or loss of equipment while kayaking.
  5. Pack Essentials: Ensure that you have packed all the essential items mentioned in Step 4. Double-check your packing list to make sure nothing is left behind. Organize and secure your gear within the kayak to maintain balance and stability.
  6. Test Your Kayak: Before hitting the water, take your kayak for a short test paddle in a calm and controlled environment. This allows you to familiarize yourself with the kayak’s handling, check for any issues, and make necessary adjustments.
  7. Prepare for Emergency Situations: While we hope for smooth kayaking experiences, it’s important to be prepared for potential emergencies. Pack essential safety equipment, such as a first aid kit, whistle, flashlight, and a spare paddle. Familiarize yourself with rescue techniques, and ensure you have a plan in case of an emergency.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your kayak is in excellent condition, your gear is ready, and you are prepared for any unforeseen situations that may arise during your Colorado road trip.


Next, we’ll move on to step 9: the exciting part – hitting the road and starting your adventure!


Step 9: Hit the Road

With your kayak prepared and all the necessary arrangements in place, it’s finally time to hit the road and embark on your Colorado adventure! Follow these steps to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey:

  1. Double-Check Your Checklist: Before leaving, review your checklist to ensure that you haven’t missed anything important. Make sure you have all your essential items, including your kayak, gear, and personal belongings.
  2. Map Out Your Route: Use a navigation app or a GPS device to map out your route. Double-check the directions and consider any road closures or construction that may affect your travel plans. It’s always a good idea to have a backup map in case of any technological issues.
  3. Plan for Pit Stops: Take breaks during your journey to stretch your legs, have meals, and refuel. Colorado’s scenic byways offer numerous picturesque spots for rest stops, so take advantage of these opportunities to enjoy the stunning views along the way.
  4. Stay Hydrated and Fueled: Remember to stay hydrated and nourished during your road trip. Pack plenty of water and healthy snacks to keep your energy levels up. Avoid excessive caffeine or sugary drinks as they can cause dehydration.
  5. Be Mindful of Driving Conditions: Keep in mind that Colorado’s high elevation and mountainous terrain may present unique driving challenges. Be prepared for steep inclines, winding roads, and potentially changing weather conditions. Adjust your driving accordingly and practice safe driving habits throughout your journey.
  6. Enjoy the Journey: Your road trip isn’t just about reaching your destination; it’s about enjoying the journey itself. Take time to appreciate the breathtaking scenery, stop at interesting landmarks, and embrace the freedom of the open road. Colorado offers stunning vistas at every turn, so make the most of it.

Remember to stay flexible and open to new experiences along the way. Some of the best memories are made when you deviate from the planned itinerary and stumble upon hidden gems or unexpected adventures.


Throughout your road trip, make sure to follow any regulations and guidelines set by the destinations you visit, respecting the natural environment and local communities.


Finally, stay safe, have fun, and create lasting memories as you explore the beauty of Colorado with your kayak.


In the final step, we’ll wrap up your Colorado road trip with a kayak and conclude your exhilarating adventure.


Step 10: Enjoy Your Colorado Road Trip with Kayak

Congratulations! You’ve reached the final step of your Colorado road trip with a kayak – it’s time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the amazing experiences that await you.


As you hit the water with your kayak, take a moment to appreciate the beautiful landscapes and immerse yourself in the tranquility of Colorado’s lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. Whether you’re gliding through calm waters or navigating thrilling rapids, cherish each moment and savor the sense of freedom and connection with nature.


Explore the diverse kayaking spots you meticulously researched and selected, keeping in mind safety guidelines and respecting the environment. Take in the sights, sounds, and sensations unique to each location, and embrace the adventure that unfolds.


Along your road trip, remember to indulge in the other attractions and activities Colorado has to offer. Take hikes to breathtaking viewpoints, soak in hot springs, or embark on scenic drives through majestic mountains. Immerse yourself in the local culture, taste delicious cuisine, and engage with the friendly Colorado community.


Capture the memories by taking photographs and journaling about your experiences. These mementos will serve as reminders of the wonderful moments you had during your road trip.


Embrace the unexpected. Colorado is full of surprises, so be open to detours, unplanned stops, and spontaneous adventures. You never know what hidden gems you may stumble upon or what extraordinary encounters await you along the way.


Lastly, make safety your priority throughout your road trip. Always follow safety guidelines, be aware of your surroundings, and practice responsible outdoor ethics. Maintain an awareness of weather conditions, water levels, and any potential hazards to ensure a safe and enjoyable kayaking experience.


As your Colorado road trip with a kayak comes to an end, reflect on the incredible memories you’ve created, the connections you’ve made with nature and the people you’ve encountered along the way. Cherish the moments and carry the spirit of adventure with you as you return home, eagerly planning your next great journey.


Thank you for following this comprehensive guide to planning your Colorado road trip with a kayak. We hope you’ve found it valuable and that your adventure exceeds all expectations. Safe travels, happy kayaking, and may your journey be filled with unforgettable experiences!












Congratulations on completing your Colorado road trip planning journey! By following the steps outlined in this guide, you’ve prepared yourself for an incredible adventure filled with scenic drives, thrilling kayaking experiences, and memorable moments in the beautiful state of Colorado.


Throughout your road trip, you’ve learned how to choose the best travel dates, determine your route, research kayaking spots, pack the essentials, book accommodations, plan daily activities, check weather conditions, prepare your kayak, and hit the road with enthusiasm. Each step was designed to ensure that your trip is well-organized, safe, and enjoyable.


Colorado offers a diverse array of landscapes, from towering mountains to picturesque lakes and flowing rivers. As you explore the state with your kayak, take the time to connect with nature, indulge in outdoor recreational activities, and immerse yourself in the vibrant culture that permeates the charming mountain towns and bustling cities.


Remember, a road trip isn’t just about the destinations you reach but the journey itself. Embrace the unexpected delights along the way and allow yourself to be captivated by the breathtaking beauty that surrounds you. Keep an open mind and heart, allowing the spirit of adventure to guide you as you create lasting memories.


As you embark on your Colorado road trip, always prioritize safety. Stay informed about weather conditions, follow regulations, and be prepared for any unforeseen circumstances. Respect the environment, practice responsible outdoor ethics, and leave no trace so that future travelers can continue to enjoy the wonders of Colorado.


Whether you’re an experienced kayaker or trying it for the first time, a Colorado road trip with a kayak promises to be an extraordinary experience. Soak in the natural splendor, embrace the thrill of the water, and find joy in the serenity that only a kayak adventure can provide.


Thank you for taking this journey with us. We hope that this guide has been a valuable resource, allowing you to plan your Colorado road trip with a kayak with confidence and excitement. Now, it’s time to embark on your adventure and create memories that will last a lifetime. Safe travels and happy kayaking!