There are few better ways to beat the heat in Colorado than floating down one of our scenic rivers. With red rock mesas and stunning canyons, tubing in Colorado is as much an activity as it is a sightseeing tour. As this summer kicks off with already record-breaking temperatures, we’ve put together a guide of some of the best floats in the state — along with some pro tips — to help you safely enjoy this Colorado pastime. Keep in mind this guide is meant for casual floaters so you won’t find information on more challenging white water rafting or kayaking spots.
Note: A few areas for tubing in Colorado are closed due to high water levels and debris, including Clear Creek in Golden, the Poudre River in Fort Collins, and St. Vrain Creek in Lyons. Please check with local recreation offices or outdoor shops to learn about any restrictions in place.
How to prepare:
- Check river flow levels. The flow of the river can be highly dangerous in late spring, early summer or painfully slow at the end of the season. Check the flow level and local guidelines for what is safe for that particular river. Seven hundred cubic feet can be extremely dangerous on smaller areas like Clear Creek, but anything under 1,000 cubic feet on the Colorado River is unusually slow-moving.
- Check the weather. Colorado summers can feature afternoon thunderstorms, high winds and other variable conditions. Starting your float before noon, bringing a rain jacket in a dry bag and knowing early exit points in case the weather turns can prevent cold and dangerous situations.
- Plan your exit. Talk to local shops and authorities about how long you can expect to be on the water and how far you are likely to go. Park your car or plan your return accordingly — and don’t forget to bring the car keys.
- Get on the water before noon. Not only does this offer a better chance to snatch a tube and avoid crowds, but this will help avoid afternoon storms or getting stuck on unexpectedly slow water after dark.
- Leave no trace. Keep our rivers clean, by bringing as little as possible with you, securing your valuables and avoiding littering. Keep in mind that littering is not limited to snack packaging or empty bottles, but also shoes, sunglasses and other apparel that ends up in the water.
- Check with local guidelines. County and city recreation offices post information about any restrictions or unfavorable conditions. Don’t just hop in a familiar spot of the water. Conditions in previous years at this time do not guarantee similar conditions this year.
What to Bring
- Lifejacket. Many of these floats require these for children under the age of 13 and highly recommend for everyone else. Strong swimmers can still be swept by currents or caught by standing waves.
- Water. Never bring glass onto any of Colorado’s rivers, but do bring something to carry water, especially for longer floats. Also, it is important to note that alcohol open containers — though prevalent — are not allowed on any rivers.
- Sunscreen and sunglasses. Not only will the day be spent sitting in one position with little to no shade all day, but the water is bright and will strongly reflect sunlight as well. Wear plenty of sunscreen and bring a strap to secure your sunglasses.
- Water shoes, not flip flops. Secure shoes that will not fly off are a must. Colorado rivers are often rocky and potentially full of other submerged hazards. Leave the flip-flops at home and show off that new pair of Chacos.
- Dry Bag. A dry bag or some other way of securing your valuables is highly recommended. Carry a phone for emergencies, a rain jacket, and don’t forget the key to both cars.
- Oars. If the flow level is low, especially on longer, lazier floats, oars can be helpful to prevent exceptionally long days on the water. These can also help avoid obstacles or navigate to access points.
- Tube. If you plan to float multiple times it might be worth it to purchase your own tube instead of renting each time. Walmart, Costco, Dicks Sporting Goods, and Big 5 Sporting goods all sell tubes for $20 to $40.
Tubing in the Denver Area
South Platte River, Littleton
Launch Point: Blackrock Lake Park
Exit Spot: Shorter Float – Reynolds Landing, Longer Float – Brent Mayne Baseball Field
Rent a Tube: Adventure West Tube Rental
The Lowdown: This is a great float for families or first-timers as it winds through a nature preserve, but is never far from the city. If you want more guidance, Adventure West offers a shuttle service so you can leave your car at Reynolds Landing, next to Breckenridge Brewery, and they will take you to the start of the float. Depending on the river flow it will take you 1.5-3 hours to float back to your car. You can also float independently, but be sure to drop a second car at your pick-up spot and check the river flow, especially if you plan to float all the way to the Brent Mayne Baseball Field.
South Platte River, Downtown Denver
Launch Point: Shorter Float – Frog Hollow Park (2 hours), Longer Float – Johnson Habitat Park (4 hours)
Exit Spot: Downtown at Confluence Park
Rent a Tube: Confluence Kayak & Ski
The Lowdown: This is a fun spot downtown if you’re looking for a whitewater adventure close to home. The water is surrounded by the park itself, complete with walking paths and benches and a nearby skatepark, all within full view of Denver’s skyline. It is the perfect place to set up a picnic and enjoy the city, while cooling off with a quick float. Many people prefer to fit in frequent, short rides in the whitewater by simply walking upriver along the path a short distance and hopping in. For longer floats that will conclude at the park, people will call an Uber or Lyft to take them up to either Frog Hollow Park or Johnson Habitat Park.
Clear Creek, Golden
Launch Point: Clear Creek Whitewater Park
Exit Spot: Anytime before Coors Brewery
The Lowdown: If you’re looking for a more exciting float, head to Golden for the Clear Creek Whitewater Park. This spot has thrilling man-made rapids and is conveniently located in the middle of Golden so expect big crowds. After parking, there’s a path along the creek so you can walk upriver and pick your drop-in spot and most people hop out when they float back down to the baseball field. This is a shorter float so no pick-up car necessary and you can walk back up the path and float as many times as you like.
Boulder Creek, Boulder
Launch Point: Eben G. Fine Park
Exit Spot: Shorter Float – Boulder High School, Longer Float – Scott Carpenter Park
Rent a Tube: Whitewater Tubing & Recreation
The Lowdown: This float is not only a local favorite but popular nationally having been named one of “The 10 Laziest Rivers in the U.S.” by Men’s Journal. With a few dips and rapids to keep you on your toes, this lovely creek starts in the canyon and winds its way under the bridge of Boulder Public Library and on longer floats it passes CU Boulder. With many shaded spots this is a relaxing and fun float that conveniently ends in the city for lunch or drinks. Park your pick-up car at either Boulder High School or Scott Carpenter Park.
St. Vrain Creek, Lyons
Launch Point: Shorter Float – LaVern M Johnson Park, Longer Float – Apple Valley Rd & West Main Street
Exit Spot: Lyons Kayak/Raft Takeout
Rent a Tube: Ray’s River Rentals
The Lowdown: This is another shorter, whitewater creek — similar to Clear Creek — that offers exciting waves in a picturesque location. The park is surrounded by dramatic red sandstone cliffs and you might catch a glimpse of the pair of Golden Eagles that call it home. The water here can be very strong and in fact, was closed to tubing until just last week due to dangerously high water flows so be sure to check local guidelines.
Tubing within Two Hours of Denver
South Platte River, Deckers
Launch Point: Deckers Access
Exit Spot: Shorter float (4 miles) – Bridge Crossing Picnic Ground, Longer float (8 miles) – Scraggy View Picnic Ground or Willow Bend Picnic Ground
Rent a Tube: Before you get to Deckers
The Lowdown: About an hour South of Denver this float through the mountains offers beautiful scenery, playful rapids and easy river access. This is a popular spot for tubing in Colorado so expect a lot of company on the water — or head up on a weekday for a more private experience. Fly fishing is popular here as well so you may want to bring oars to keep out of the way of fishing lines as well as kayakers. Plan to drive two cars and drop one at your chosen exit spot so you can get back to Deckers after your float. Floating on the river is free, but parking will cost $7 at the picnic areas.
Cache la Poudre River, Fort Collins
Launch Point: Shields Street
Exit Spot: Legacy Park
Rent a Tube: Rocky Mountain Adventures
The Lowdown: There are multiple points to tube on this river, but the most relaxing and convenient is the route through downtown. After parking at Legacy Park, tubers can walk up to Shields Street put in and float their way down. This takes less than an hour and is therefore another great spot to get multiple runs in. There is also the Poudre Whitewater Park further downriver that has two drop points and paths on either side of the water. However tubers will have to exit at Legacy Park and put in again after College Avenue if they want to enjoy that area — they are unable to float continuously from Shields Street to the whitewater park. Water flow is very high right now, so plan to hit this river in late July once the water has both warmed up and slowed down.
Colorado River, Eagle
Launch Point: Dotsero Landing
Exit Spot: Bair Ranch Rest Area
The Lowdown: This is a beautiful lazy float through Glenwood Canyon, and though it weaves alongside I-70, once on the river tubers won’t notice anything but the flowing water and the striking canyon walls. Less people head to this spot so it can often be a very private float, but it is well worth your time. Plan a full day here as this trip takes up to seven hours, and because it is in the canyon it will get dark and cold earlier in the evening than typical sunset. Definitely be on the water before noon to finish comfortably before dark. Along the water is the Glenwood Springs bike path from Dotsero to Bair Ranch. It offers an alternative to dropping a pick-up car for the especially adventurous tubers out there.
Floats for Weekend Trips
San Juan River, Pagosa Springs
Launch Point: Shorter Float – 2nd Street, Longer Float – Cottons Hole Park
Exit Spot: Shorter Float – Hot Springs Pedestrian Bridge, Longer Float – 6th Street Pedestrian Bridge
Rent a Tube: Pagosa Outside Adventures
The Lowdown: Float through downtown Pagosa Springs on this short and sweet stretch of the San Juan. With multiple entry and exit points and a riverwalk along the entire section, tubers can walk up and float down as many times as they can squeeze into the day. This delightful, family-friendly float passes by multiple town parks, features fun whitewater spots and even has free riverside hot springs to enjoy after tubing.
Yampa River, Steamboat Springs
Launch Point: 5th St. Bridge or Backdoor Sports
Exit Spot: James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge
Rent a Tube: Backdoor Sports
The Lowdown: The Yampa is the only free-flowing river in Colorado, unobstructed by dams or other obstacles. Floating this natural beauty offers the best of both worlds, starting above town where the river is lined with trees on either side offering a relaxing journey and making its way to the heart of downtown and the whitewater features. The downtown has plenty of riverside stops along the way with parks, restaurants and bars to visit. Parking can be limited so consider renting a tube from a company with a shuttle running all day — like Backdoor Sports — or plan to park somewhere downtown take the free public bus to and from the river. The bus does not allow wet suits or inflated tubes so plan accordingly.
Colorado River, Palisade
Launch Point: Riverbend Park
Exit Spot: Shorter float – Corn Lake State Park, Longer float – Redlands Parkway
Rent a Tube: Before you arrive in Palisade
The Lowdown: This is a unique float in Colorado in the beautiful, open Western part of the state. A fun river featuring views of gorgeous nearby mesas carries tubers from park to park in a wide, comfortable stretch of the Colorado River. This area can be crowded, but the size of the river provides plenty of space. Rentals in the area usually only offer kayaks and paddleboards so plan to rent a tube before arriving or bring your own from home. Flows on this river can affect float time significantly so check with local rental spots to find out where to park the pickup car. The shorter float to Corn Lake could take over five hours or the entire trip to Redlands Parkway could take under four.