The paddleboard season got off to a slow start this year. With a chilly spring and seemingly endless rain, the lakes were cool and the water was uninviting for tiny toddler feet. I had lofty goals to get out early but it just didn’t happen so when a warm day rolled around during our Steamboat trip, I jumped at the chance to get on the water.
I had never paddled in Steamboat before and didn’t know where to go. A quick look at the map showed a lovely lake nestled in the mountains north of town. I decided to check it out. With the toddler in his car seat and the inflatable Naish board stashed in the back of the car, we left Steamboat behind and headed for the hills.
While much of Colorado has a distinct mining vibe, Steamboat and the areas around it feel like cowboy country. Sprawling ranches are nestled between rolling green hills. The mountains here feel more gentle and less rugged than in other parts of the state. And while Steamboat certainly qualifies as a ski resort town, the somewhat manfactured feel ends right at the city limits. The areas outside of town feel far removed from the expensive ski garb and pricy condos that mark some of the state’s most popular locales.
The river glittered in the sun as we made the 40 minute drive up Highway 129, and while the view was pretty damn nice, it felt like a long way to go just to paddle. I hoped my son would be as psyched about paddleboarding at 2.5 as he was last summer at 1.5. I hoped the long drive would be worth it.
When we pulled into the boat launch at Pearl Lake State Park, my first thought was “Oh yeah, this will work.”
The lake was quiet when we arrived. Other than a few people fly fishing from the shore, there wasn’t a whole lot going on. Which was just how I wanted it. I fired up the electric air pump, apologized to the friendly fishermen for all the noise, got the kid and I in our suits, and headed for the water.
And it was glorious.
A slight breeze made the paddle out a little difficult but the water sparkled and the kid was happy. We made a lap of the lake, searched for fish and frogs, and basked in the sun under a perfect blue sky. When our time on the board was done we headed back to the boat ramp where we chatted with the folks on the shore, went for a hike on the trail, and watched a woman from the Division of Wildlife stock the lake with year-old trout.
I have paddled in a bunch of places now and this was one of the nicest. The reservoir was quiet and large enough to keep us entertained for several hours. The water was calm, the people were friendly, and the scenery was beyond stunning. I give this one a solid A+ for everything. We will be back.
If You Go:
Go early. Morning is almost always the best time to paddle in Colorado. Get out before the afternoon winds make the water choppy and the paddling a whole lot harder.
Be prepared to pay. As with all state parks, Pearl Lake has an entrance fee or Colorado State Parks pass is required to enter the park.
Consider camping. I’m not a big fan of established campgrounds but the one at Pearl Lake looked nice and quiet. And the scenery can’t be beat.
Stop in Clark. The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Clark, Colorado, may be small but it’s a worthwhile stop on your way to or from Pearl Lake. The Clark General Store serves up delicious sandwiches, cold ice cream, and pretty much anything else you could want after a morning on the water.
Rent a board. I took my own board but SUPs can be rented for a reasonable price from the folks at Steamboat Paddleboard Adventures.