When July hits in the Mile High City, many locals head to the mountains, where temperatures aren’t nearing triple digits. But if you want to beat the heat without going too far, head to these five tubing spots an hour or less from Denver:
South Platte River
1-25 minutes from downtown Denver
The South Platte isn't known for clean water, so dip at your own risk. There are several launch areas along the South Platte River, with floats ranging from a few minutes to several hours. For the least amount of planning, simply head to Confluence Park, where you can rent from Confluence Kayak, then simply walk south down the paved path and jump in where it suits you. Small rapids, skyline views and shaded picnic spots make this a perfect nearby area for afternoon fun. If you want your float to last a couple of hours, dip in at Frog Hollow Park; for an even longer trip, start at Johnson-Habitat Park.
You might be wondering: If you choose a longer float, how do you get back to your vehicle? Tubing downtown means you’ll have to find a ride or take a long walk. However, there’s also great South Platte River tubing farther south in Littleton, an inviting and chill place to party. Rent from Adventure West, which also offers a shuttle service. You’ll park near Reynolds Landing, take the shuttle 2.5 miles south, then float through the scenic Carson Nature Center. When you’re back to where you parked, make a stop at Breckenridge Brewery, located right next door.
25 minutes from downtown Denver
Live like a local this summer at Clear Creek Whitewater Park, a busy tubing spot that flows right through downtown Golden. Located between Lions Park and Vanover Park, this 0.25-mile river section includes man-made drop structures intended for Class II/III whitewater kayaking. With cold, fast-moving water and rapid sections, this is not a lazy river float! Those willing to take on the challenge can rent tubes from Golden River Sports or from Adventure West.
40 minutes from downtown Denver
Boulder Creek is another popular choice, with several opportunities to hop out and explore the town’s highlights. For one of the best routes, park at Boulder High School and catch a ride into Boulder Canyon. Near the rafting launch point off of Boulder Creek Path, you’ll float right past Eben G. Fine Park, the Boulder Public Library and, during certain hours on Wednesday and Saturday, the Boulder Farmers Market. Pearl Street shops and restaurants are also within walking distance. For an even longer float, you can start in Boulder Canyon, then veer right when you get to the Broadway and Boulder Canyon Drive intersection. You’ll pass CU Boulder and eventually end up at Scott Carpenter Park. Whichever route you choose, you can expect fun drops and lazy sections, as well as other floaters to keep you company. Swing by Whitewater Tubing & Recreation for your rental.
St. Vrain Creek
50 minutes from downtown Denver
Each June when snowmelt causes high water levels, it’s not uncommon for St. Vrain Creek to be inaccessible for tubers. This year was no exception, but Boulder County lifted the ban last Friday, June 24. Now, you can head over to Ray’s River Rentals located right on the water’s edge in LaVern M. Johnson Park. From here, you can splash your way to Black Bear Hole, then walk a quick fifteen minutes to the top of the route. Float this section several times, then round out the afternoon with a picnic lunch at the park.
Cache La Poudre River
One hour from downtown Denver
There are several areas to dip in along the Cache La Poudre River, but the one closest to Denver runs through downtown Fort Collins. Rent your tube from Rocky Mountain Adventures, park at Legacy Park and then walk the Poudre Trail up to Shield Street. Jump in here, then exit right after Legacy Park Bridge, which is the second bridge you’ll pass on this route. Just remember: Lake Canal Dam, which follows the river, is not navigable; reference this map so you don’t miss your take-out! Similar to Boulder Creek, this is an ideal spot to get in multiple runs and enjoy nearby town amenities — including must-do Colorado breweries Odell Brewing and New Belgium Brewing.