A bridge on Highway 50 is under construction, affecting travel to Gunnison from the west. Learn more here.

Stand-Up Paddleboarding

SUP the Slate, Blue Mesa and more

Crested Butte paddle boarding is a fun way to cool off in the summer. The Gunnison Valley has plenty of SUP opportunities from the winding Slate and the thrilling whitewater of the Gunnison River to large, scenic lakes. There are miles of water to explore. Rent a SUP in town or bring your own. 

RIVER Paddle boarding in Colorado

SUPing the Slate River and the Gunnison River

River paddle boarding options in Gunnison and Crested Butte include the Slate River and a section of the Gunnison River. There are many rivers in the Gunnison Valley, but not all of them are calm enough for paddle boarding. Head to the boating page for more information about whitewater boating options in Gunnison and Crested Butte.

Gunnison River

The Lower Gunnison

The Lower Gunnison is more challenging than the Slate. This section’s high volume of water means the river isn’t usually too choppy, though. The put-in for this float is at Riverway Recreation Area. You can take out at Neversink or Cooper’s Ranch for a shorter float. Take out at Beaver Creek for a longer float. This section winds through green trees and fields with some views of Hartman Rocks. If you want to SUP the Gunnison River please check the water levels before going out. Make sure you know where the take-out is and don’t miss it. 

Slate River

SUPing the Slate is a fun way to see the beautiful scenery around Crested Butte. There are two sections of the Slate River suitable for paddle boarding: the Upper Slate and the Lower Slate. Though the Slate is usually calm enough for Colorado paddle boarding, it’s still important to exercise caution and be aware when in the water.

The Lower Slate River

The Lower Slate is the easiest section and great for beginners and families with children. It’s one of the best options for Crested Butte paddle boarding. This mellow section begins at the Slate River put-in on Pyramid Avenue in Crested Butte. This section heads east of town. Enjoy views of scenic meadows, the Elk Mountains and Crested Butte Mountain. Look out for wildflowers in June and July. Stay on your paddle board for the whole float. Exiting onto the river banks is trespassing. The take-out is at the Skyland Bridge just after floating through the Skyland Country Club.

The Upper Slate River

The more challenging section of the Slate begins at Gunsight Pass Bridge on Slate River Road. You can take out at the Recreation Path Bridge east of Teocalli Avenue or at the Skyland Bridge for a longer float. The Upper Slate has a voluntary no-float period from March 15-July 15 for Great Blue Heron conservation. Check with local SUP rental shops for information about the water level and good times to float. 

SUPING BLUE MESA RESERVOIR

Paddle board on Colorado’s biggest lake

Blue Mesa Reservoir is the largest reservoir in the state. The lake encompasses 96 miles of shoreline and many day-use areas and campgrounds dot the north shoreline along U.S. 50 West. Most of these day-use areas have bathrooms, picnic tables, and great fishing.

The National Parks Service manages two marinas you can launch your SUP from: Elk Creek and Lake Fork. Other places to launch or paddle to include Dry Creek, Bay of Chickens and Old Highway 50 Beach. There are numerous coves and beaches around the lake to explore.

Start early to avoid the wind that tends to pick up in the afternoon. Motorized boats are also permitted on Blue Mesa. Share the water and be cautious. 

Blue Mesa paddle boarding routes

Dillon Pinnacles

A short, fun paddle with some interesting geology. Park at the Dillon Pinnacles trailhead along US 50. These pinnacles are the result of erosion in the West Elk Breccia, an ancient volcanic mudlflow. By paddling along the shore towards the dam and then up West Elk Creek you’ll get the best view of these spires.

Lake Fork Arm

The Lake Fork of the Gunnison dumps into Blue Mesa just above the dam. Parking can be found at the Lake Fork boat ramp just off CO-92 by the dam. Another parking area can be found just before the Sapinero bridge on US 50 West coming from Gunnison. This is just a dirt road down to the water, and some clearance may be required.

The arm extends up to 6 miles into the Lake Fork watershed depending on flow from the Lake Fork and water level in the reservoir. Backcountry camping is available along the Blue Mesa, and the Park Service maintains several primitive campgrounds for boat-in traffic.

two people SUP on long lake in Crested Butte

Taylor Reservoir

In the heart of Taylor Park lies Taylor Park Reservoir, a man-made body of water surrounded by the Elk and Sawatch Mountains. While the lake isn’t huge, it isn’t small either. Good places to paddle are along the base of Matchless Mountain, near the mouth of the Upper Taylor, and near Willow Creek.

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