Thrilling Water Adventures in Colorado to Make You Forget You’re Landlocked

The first question I always receive from out-of-staters is if I ski to get to work in the winter. The answer, unfortunately, is no. Although, skiing would be more fun than driving my Subaru. The second question I get is about how I survive living in a landlocked state. Truthbetold, with all of our lakes, rivers, and reservoirs, many of us Coloradans forget about the ocean that we are supposedly missing out on. The reason us locals fair so well living a thousand miles from the bay is because, well, we aren’t missing out at all.

All the snow that has piled up in the winter melts away in the spring, filling our rivers and lakes and creating spectacular venues for water sports. The state is covered with bodies of water, most of them with the most spectacular backdrop you’ve ever seen. And like our land adventures, our water sports are suitable for different skill levels. For example, thrill seekers can raft along our raging rivers while the more low-key adventurers can hit the lakes for paddle boarding. Check out the rest of our list of adventures below to see how easy it is to forget Colorado is landlocked. 

For Avid Adventurers:


Colorado is well known for its white water rapids. Don’t believe us? Take a kayaking trip down the Colorado River, and see for yourself. If you’ve never kayaked before, no worries. There are plenty of kayaking companies that can rent you equipment and help you get started on your first trip. 

You can also tailor your kayaking trip to your level of daring and expertise. Rapids are classified into six levels of difficulty, from least to most challenging. If you’re just easing into it, you can choose slightly more manageable Class I or II rapids for your trip. If you want more of a challenge, opt for a run with more Class III rapids. There’s also a Class A for rafting, where you can paddle around still lakes. This option is suitable for families with younger kids, or if you just want to take it easy this time around.

In addition, it might be wise to consider the time of year you go. Kayaking season runs May through September. Water levels are higher and rapids are more powerful in May and June due to snowmelt from the Rockies. So if gnarly rapids aren’t what you had in mind, aim for late July or August. 


            Similar to kayaking, white water rafting is a go-to Colorado water activity in the summer. It follows the same class system that kayaking does to help you craft a rafting trip that suits your skill level. Also, since rafts hold six to ten people, as opposed to one or two on a kayak, rafting is ideal if you’re travelling with friends or family. There’s almost no better bonding activity than braving the white water together. 

Another perk of rafting, especially for beginners, is the added guidance onboard. If you take a tour with a rafting company, you’ll have a well-trained, experienced guide on board to help your team navigate the waters. Listen to your guide’s instructions to maximize both safety and fun on your trip. Also, keep an open ear if you want to pick up extra historical and geological knowledge. Raft guides tell some of the most amusing stories about Colorado history that you won’t want to miss. Whether you’re learning the secrets of the Gold Rush as you navigate the Clear Creek tides or gawking as you cruise below the Royal Gorge, you won’t be let down by Colorado’s unique sites and stories. 

Jet Skiing

            We don’t let the end of winter get us down. When we run out of snow to ride our snowmobiles, we hit the water with our jet skis. Colorado has more than a couple thousand lakes and reservoirs, many of them deep and wide enough for jet skiing and boating. If you’re looking to cruise the waters without the arm workout, then jet skiing is ideal for you.

            The only thing more thrilling than the ride? The views. Surrounded by mountains and wildflowers, we just can’t seem to envy our buddies by the bay. 

Paddle Boarding

            Taking a tip from our friends in Hawaii, our Centennial State has also taken up stand-up paddle boarding, or SUP. Okay. So maybe we are a tad jealous of people who live by the ocean. But we just can’t seem to give up our peaks, so we’ve brought one of our favorite watersports inland. 

            There are multiple companies that can set you up with gear and a quick safety intro before heading to the water. Although, unlike rafting and kayaking, paddle boarding offers water lovers a bit more autonomy. You don’t have to be an expert or hold an expert’s hand the whole way. At the same time, paddle boarding is by no means boring. While it’s more serene than some of our other thrillers, it requires plenty of comical trial and error to master the stand up position. No easy endeavors here. 

For Laidback Water Lovers:


            Boating in Colorado can be as fast paced and exciting as other water sports. However, many locals and visitors prefer to chill out when they set sail. Our personal recommendation? Lounge out on deck, and enjoy the Colorado sunshine. Then, when you get too hot, take a dive into the lake to cool off.  You can rent a boat for the duration of your trip or go to boat sales to see if they have the right boat for you.


            A common assumption made by out-of-staters is that Colorado doesn’t have fresh fish like seaside towns do. So let us be the first to set the record straight: Our trout is unbeatable. Don’t just taste it for yourself; fish it for yourself. 

            Grab a Colorado fishing license and head out to our abundant lakes and rivers. Colorado offers a variety of fishing types, from fly-fishing to classic rod-and-reel. Just don’t get so distracted by the surrounding scenery that you forget to reel in your catch. 

Hot Springs

            After enduring raging rapids and speedy sailing, head to one of the state’s naturally occurring hot springs to relax. There’s nothing crazy about these hot springs, except of course, scientific wonder and a thrilling view. Glenwood Springs is a go-to venue, and you’ll be right in the middle of one of our favorite charming mountain towns. If you want a resort that’s more remote and closer to nature, you can also explore one of our thirty other legendary springs. 

Remember, the next time you’re in Colorado, trekking up a mountain isn’t the only way to explore the great outdoors. Whether you want to be thrilled by the adventure, the view, or both, take a tip from the locals and hit the water.

North America, Traveling