Lake Estes: The Rocky Mountains Offer More Than Just Whitewater Paddling

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Lake Estes, PaddleXaminer, Hala Gear, Hala Nass

As a kid growing up in Nebraska, my family made annual summer trips to Estes Park, Colorado for vacation. We did the usual activities: hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, horseback riding, playing miniature golf, and walking up and down the main street checking out all the shops. Those activities were fun, but Estes Park as more to offer Lake Estes! Lake Estes is located on the east end of town, you’ll pass the lake as you enter the town on highways 34 & 36. 

Lake Estes is formed by a dam which feeds the Big Thompson River which runs through Big Thompson Canyon. Surrounded by numerous peaks, including one of the most famous peaks in Colorado, Longs Peak, it’s an ideal setting for a lake adventure! The Lake Estes Marina offers all sorts of water activities: 

  • Standup Paddle Boarding
  • Kayaking
  • Boat rentals

PaddleXaminer was in Estes Park on a Friday afternoon to check out Lake Estes. The sky was spotted with clouds, allowing the sun to warm you up throughout the day. The wind was blowing steadily from the west. I spent a few minutes chatting with the Marina Manager Annie Hanson. She explained the layout of the lake, pointed out the different areas and things to watch out for such as the buoys along the beach and near the dam. There is a five dollar watercraft fee and vehicle fee which funds the marina operations. She also walked me through the requirements for a SUP:

  1. All water craft are required to launch from the marina.
  2. Colorado SUP regulations require a leash or PFD for each passenger on board.
  3. Non-motorized craft are required to carry a whistle or other auditory device.

I thanked Annie for her time and went back to pump up my Hala Nass

After getting all my gear in order, I walked to the marina to get on the water. The wind had picked up a bit and was still blowing from the west. This worked out quite well because I could get a downwind run in, but first I needed to get to the far west end of the lake.

Lake Estes, PaddleXaminer, Hala Gear, Hala Nass
Not a bad spot to spend an afternoon.

The paddling was tough, at first. But once I got into a good paddle cadence it was quite fun! I pointed the nose of the board into the wind and powered forward. In about twenty minutes I went the length of the lake, or roughly one mile. The views were spectacular from the lake. I always tell people, you get a different point of view from the water! After I made it to the west end of the lake, I explored the shore. There were sandy and muddy areas which looked like potential good fishing spots near Fisherman’s Nook. Plenty of water birds on the water too!

When I headed back toward the marina for my downwind run, I barely had to paddle. My body acted as a sail as the wind pushed me eastward toward the marina. It was a cool feeling to be pushed down the lake without having to paddle. Pro tip: Come to Lake Estes in the morning or evening when there’s a higher chance the winds will be calm. 

As I was leaving the marina with my paddleboard, a family was approaching on the sidewalk. The young boy stared at my board and shouted “Mommy, I want to ride one of those! I smiled and kept moving, memories filling my head of those annual vacations as a kid to Estes Park. 

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