How to live a kayaker’s dream in 6 places you need to see to believe

From the first time I put a paddle in the water, I was hooked on kayaking. But I live landlocked in Colorado. So I started a bucket list of ultimate kayakers’ destinations — some places I’ve paddled plus the waters I can’t wait to visit!

Enjoy a paddler’s playground at Lake Dillon, Summit County, CO

I love that Lake Dillon, a 5-square-mile reservoir in Summit County, is an easy 90-minute drive from my house in Denver. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s a blast to paddle with its coves, islands and arms, surrounded by the majestic Continental Divide and Tenmile mountain range.

Paddle the Rocky Mountain Way at Turquoise Lake, Leadville, CO

This gem of a lake is a perfect size for a 3-hour leisurely paddle alongside steep evergreen-covered slopes. Just outside of the high-elevation town of Leadville, Turquoise is nearly 9,900 feet above sea level. The view includes the peaks of Colorado’s highest mountains, Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive — or look up and see eagles in that impossibly blue sky.

Float the flowing Yellowstone River, Livingston, MT

I’m a flat-water kayaker with a hankering to try some easy river kayaking. The free-flowing Yellowstone River is one of those places I dream of going, to follow the river’s path along the border of Yellowstone National Park.

Be gobsmacked by nature at the Na Pali Coast, Kauai, HI

I honeymooned in Kauai, but I’ve never seen the breathtaking Na Pali Coast in person. I can’t think of a better vantage point than from a kayak to take in this wonder — a coast that can’t be accessed by car. Island time can’t come soon enough!

Meander through Middle Earth on the Pelorus River, Havelock, New Zealand

In general, New Zealand is a bucket-list destination for me. It’s got it all: mountains, sea, cities and scenery. But given the chance, I would definitely indulge my geeky desire to see LOTR and “The Hobbit” filming locations. This trip will be the perfect blend of kayaking and playing the tourist.

Take to the sea in the San Juan Islands, WA

My ultimate bucket-list kayak trip is a multi-day exploration of the San Juans off the coast of Washington state. All that scenery. All that water. It’s a landlocked paddler’s dream.

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