Lakeside: Part I
Paddling and camping adventures awaiting your arrival
Didn't get that lake camping trip in yet? There's still time to pack your board and gear and head out. Here are three of our favorite spots in the Rockies where you can paddle right from your tent. –Eugene Buchanan
Get paddling on the Gem State's Redfish Lake. This five-mile-long glacial gash sits in the heart of Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains at 6,550 feet, 60 miles north of Sun Valley off Highway 75. While your eyes will sway skyward toward the towering Sawtooths, you'll want to stare downward into the lake's clear, sparkling waters and shoreward toward its Malibu-style sandy beaches. Head out for day paddles right from your campsite, exploring hidden bays and inlets while stopping to cannonball off granite bedrock. Come sunset, leave the Dutch oven on the coals as you paddle through the day's last sunrays cutting through the jagged ridges above.
Camping: Tent, trailer and RV spots are available at Forest Service campgrounds adjacent to Redfish Lake Lodge. Point, Glacier View and Outlet campgrounds require reservations, Heyburn and Sockeye Campgrounds are first-come, first-served. (877-444-6777 / 208-774-3000; Recreation.gov)
Lodging (just in in case): Redfish Lake Lodge, (208-774-3536)
You'll never paddle a more mind-boggling geological feature than Montana's Flathead Lake. Forget that its surface area of nearly 200 square miles makes it the country's largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. Its distinction comes from being a remnant of an ancient, 3,000-square-mile, glacially dammed lake called Missoula, caused by a 2,000-foot-high wall of ice blocking the Clark Fork River. While the resultant floods were biblical, you'll be singing its praises while you're paddling. Named for the Salish (Flathead) Indians, it's located 30 miles southwest of Glacier National Park and flanked by the Mission Mountains on the east and the Salish Mountains on the west. No matter where you launch or paddle, you're guaranteed a pristine SUP experience. For rentals, try Bigfork Standup Paddleboard (Basecampbigfork.com).
Camping: Sites surround the lake—private, state park and Forest Service. Big Arm State Park (406-752-5501, Montanastateparks.com) is on the southwest shore and offers 40 campsites, three yurts and full amenities.
Lodging: Try Mountain Lake Lodge or Flathead Lake Lodge.
At 167 acres, this SUP-camping gem in northwest Colorado offers prime solitude due to its wakeless restrictions and non-electric campsites. Leave camp early in the morning and your board will disappear beneath a shin-high shroud of steam, with Farwell Mountain looming overhead. In the fall, watch your wake ripple the golden reflection of aspen leaves and gaze at the vistas: the views are more expansive than ever from pine beetle eradication efforts. Bring your fishing rod for native cutthroats, and extra hotdogs for catching crawdads with the kids. To get there, head north from Steamboat Springs on County Road 129, 23 miles to Pearl Lake Road.
Camping: Pearl Lake State Park offers 36 campsites, all with great views of the lake (Tip: camps 28-33 are right on the water). Reservations are suggested for summer use and can be made up to six months in advance. (800-678-2267, Parks.state.co.us.)
Lodging: The state park offers two yurts for rent, with commanding views from the front porch. For cabins with restaurant and bar, try Hahn's Peak Roadhouse.
This article originally ran in our Fall 2014 Magazine
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