The Routt to Adventure: Paddleboarding on Pearl Lake |

The Routt to Adventure: Paddleboarding on Pearl Lake

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The theme music to my Saturday at Pearl Lake State Park was a high pitched whistle.

It wasn’t the sound of young children shrieking or parents calling back said children. It was the wheezing whistle of blow up equipment having air forced into it by hand pumps. Well, I suppose technically, the sound was of some of the air refusing to be forced into the equipment and escaping through a small gap, creating the high pitched whistle. 

Pearl Lake is a wakeless lake, so all boats are human powered, like kayaks and canoes and paddleboards. Most of the watercraft was inflatable, so there was a lot of pumping and whistling going on. 

I pushed myself away from the shore and the people and into the water. The top of Hahns Peak was just visible. I paddled against the wind for a bit, nearly reaching the dam on the south end of the lake. As I muscled against the wind, I caught glimpses of people walking the shoreline trail. 

Deer dashed away from the shore as people got too close, but the ducks weren’t afraid and kept on swimming.  

The lake is small, but big enough where running into someone else would take some effort. Some boaters are fishing though, so beware of fishing lines. 

I will say, Pearl Lake does get busy. It’s a popular but small lake in North Routt that will only get busier with the closure of Steamboat Lake due to a toxic green algae bloom. There is no swimming at Pearl Lake, just wakeless boating, but that won’t stop families from taking advantage of the cool water on a hot summer day. 

So, my first advice, is to go on a weekday, or a late Sunday afternoon when the weekend campers are dwindling. 

To get there, head north on County Road 129 for 22 miles. Before getting into Hahns Peak Village, take a right on county Road 209 and follow all the way to the end.

Leave No Trace Principles
  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors

© 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics:

If you’d rather go somewhere else to paddleboard, try Stagecoach Reservoir, Hahns Peak Lake and Elkhead Reservoir. Pearl is the default location when it comes to paddleboarding. So much so, that Paddleboard Adventure Company has a permanent summer post there, renting out paddleboards among other things seven days a week from the main boat ramp. The sport has taken off so strongly at the location, that there is an annual Pearl Lake Festival that is centered around paddleboarding.

There is a secondary launching site near the picnic area, which has a half dozen picnic tables and grills. There are vault toilets at different locations around the park, but I suggest bringing your own wipes or hand sanitizer. 

Also, look out for cows while entering or leaving the park.

Stage 2 Fire Restrictions

Starting Aug. 20, 2020, Routt County is under Stage 2 fire restrictions.

Under Stage 2 fire restrictions, the following activities are prohibited:

  • All open fires and campfires except petroleum-fueled stoves, lanterns and approved heating devices
  • Using explosive material (i.e.: fireworks, blasting caps or any incendiary device that could result in the ignition of flammable material)
  • Outdoor smoking except within an enclosed vehicle or building
  • Welding, or operating an acetylene or other similar torch with open flame
  • Operating or using a chainsaw and other internal combustion engine without a spark arresting device properly installed, maintained and in effective working order
  • Using tracer rounds or incendiary targets

What to bring

Chairs: There isn’t exactly a beach at Pearl Lake. It’s a grassy and rough shoreline. So rather than bringing a beach towel, I suggest bringing beach chairs or even camping chairs. 

Cash: The state park has a card payment system, but it might not be functioning, like when I went. Bring cash to pay the $9 entry fee, unless you already have a Colorado State Parks Pass. The paddle board vendor also asks for cash. If you are paying with a card, there will be a $3 processing fee. 

What to leave at home

Beach toys: There’s no beach at Pearl Lake. In fact, unless you’re camping, there’s not much room near the boat ramps to do anything. So, shovels, buckets and frisbees or footballs are pretty useless.

To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.

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