Colorado Kayaking & Thunder Lake Backpacking

Denver, CO
Aug 21–Aug 26, 2021
Seats Available

Go big or go home! This is the more challenging variation of our Rocky Mountain Kayaking & Backpacking trip. Just listen to this: We spend two days exploring a lake nestled in the Rocky Mountains by kayak. Later, we backpack to a backcountry basecamp at a serene lake in the middle of Rocky Mountain National Park. From there, we spend days exploring around the Continental Divide surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth. Oh, and there’s a relaxing trip to soak in hot springs, as well as a drive across the highest paved road in North American along the way!

Be careful, this is the type of trip that ruins other adventures by comparison! Check your calendar, then take the plunge and register today!

Matt Stan
Matt Stan, Bad Adventures founder

You must have received your final COVID-19 vaccination dose at least 14 days before your adventure. See the Vaccinated and ready for adventure! page for details.

Is this for me?

Small Group

We keep it to no more than 10 amazing adventurers plus a guide or two.


We camp each night of the adventure. We spend the first night at a backcountry, paddle-in campsite, the second night at a frontcountry campsite, and the final thee nights at a backcountry basecamp in the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park that we backpack to. Dome-style backpacking tents and self-inflating camping mattresses are provided.


Most of our meals are cooked together at camp. We’ve prepared scrumptious recipes, will provision the trip, and lead meal preparations. This is gonna be yummy!


We paddle single-person sit-on-top touring kayaks on a gorgeous lake on the first two days. We paddle at a moderate touring pace. All kayaking gear is provided!


We backpack 7 miles in and out of the backcountry on days 3 and 6, gaining and loosing 2,100 feet of elevation. Depending on your personal gear, our packs usually weigh less than 32 pounds.

This adventure is more challenging than our similar Rocky Mountain Kayaking & Backpacking trip. You don’t need to be a professional athlete, but you do need to have a good base level of fitness!

Traveling Solo?

This trip works well for couples, friends, and solo travelers. The adventures we plan seem to attract like-minded people. Odds are, you'll enjoy the company of your fellow adventurers.

There’s no singles supplement fee!

Here's the plan...


Paddle in!

Your guides pick you up from any of the designated gateway hotels near Denver International Airport between 7:00 and 7:30 AM. We meet our adventure companions, load the van, and head into the foothills!

After a scenic drive across the Continental Divide, we reach a lake nestled in the Rocky Mountains. We organize our gear into dry bags, put-in and paddle about 4 miles to reach our backcountry campsite. How cool is this!?

We pitch camp and those of us with more energy take an optional second paddle to explore the headwaters of the Colorado River.

Heads up: The status of a new permit we expect to receive from US Forest Service in May 2021 may affect our ability to kayak camp on night 1. If required, we have an excellent alternate plan ready to go.

Meals Included: Lunch and Dinner

Off to hot springs!

After a delicious bacon and eggs breakfast, we re-pack our kayaks and paddle 4-miles back to the van. After loading up, we enjoy a spread of turkey and brie sandwiches, then head to Hot Sulphur Springs for a relaxing soak. Later, we pitch camp at a frontcountry site, issue backpacks, and organize our gear for backpacking.

In the late afternoon, we head into the town of Grand Lake, CO for some free time and dinner out.

Meals Included: Breakfast and Lunch

Up we go!

With an early start, we pack our backpacks at camp, then take off on a jaw-dropping drive across Trail Ridge Road - the highest paved road in North America. We reach our trailhead on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park in mid-morning. It’s time to point our feet uphill!

This is our big day on the trail! We hike 7-miles with loaded backpacks, gaining 2,100 feet along the way.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

Continental Divide and alpine lakes

We have two days to explore the stunning area surrounding Thunder Lake with lightweight packs, returning to camp each night. We scramble to the top of the Continental Divide, as well as explore a series of pristine alpine lakes! This is one of the most magical areas of Rocky Mountain National Park. We’re far off the beaten down tourist path!

Meals Included: 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, and 2 Dinners

Down we go!

And just like that, it’s over! We wake on our last morning in the backcountry, break down camp, and head downhill. It’s 7 miles and 2,100 feel of elevation loss to return to the van.

We load up and head to the town of Boulder, CO for a celebratory late lunch! We return to our gateway hotels by 5:00 PM. If you’re flying out the night the trip concludes, we can drop you at Denver International Airport by 5:30 PM.

Meals Included: Breakfast

What's Included?

2-Day Guided Kayak Camping Trip

We paddle kayaks to reach a beautiful backcountry campsite nestled in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains

Kayak & Paddling Gear

We bring a single-person sit-on-top touring kayak, paddle, lifejacket, and dry bags for you to use

4-Day, 3-Night Guided Backpacking Trip

Get off the tourist path and explore one of the most beautiful valleys in Rocky Mountain National Park!

Backpacking Gear

Backpacks, tents, comfy self-inflating mattresses, camp cookware, and bear canisters are all included.

5 Nights of Tent Camping

Both the backcountry campsites we stay at are absolutely breathtaking!

Services of a Guide or Two

Friendly, accommodating, fully credentialed, and always professional.

5 breakfasts, 5 lunches, and 4 dinners

We’re talking about meticulously planned yummy provisions.

National Park Admission and All Permits

Sit back and relax! We've got the red tape covered.

Transportation in Colorado

Ride in style in a comfortable Ford Transit passenger van.

Group Gear

Medical kit, satellite phone, navigation supplies, and more.

Not Included:

Airfare and other travel expenses to get to and from the trip, hotel accommodations before and after the trip, hot springs admission ($20), dinner on day 2, lunch on day 6, travel insurance, and guide gratuity.

Important Details & FAQ

  • If you’re coming from outside Colorado, we suggest flying into Denver International Airport at least one day prior to the start of the trip. If you have extra time in the Denver area before the adventure, contact us for suggestions on things to do in the area.

    If you’d like to fly out on the evening of the last day of the trip, please don’t book a flight earlier than 7:30 PM. If you’re flying out that night, we’ll be happy to drive you to Denver International Airport after dropping the other travelers at their hotels.

  • We tent camp all five nights of the trip. Our first night’s spent at a backcountry site that we kayak to. The second night, we’re at a comfortable frontcountry campsite. The final three nights we spend at a backcountry basecamp in the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park that we backpack to.

    Dome-style backpacking tents and self-inflating camping mattresses are provided. You’ll have a tent all to yourself, unless you specifically request to share with someone. You’re also free to bring your own tent if you’d prefer.

  • We camp at 8,350-feet on nights 1 and 2. We camp at 10,600-feet on nights 3, 4, and 5.

  • Seriously good. Expect a “Blue Apron for backpacking” sort of arrangement for most of the trip. We provide the ingredients and recipes for hot breakfasts and dinners, as well as no-stove lunches. Meals will be provisioned for groups of 2 to 3 adventurers to cook together.

    Food is provisioned at more than 4,000 calories per person per day. Nobody’s going hungry!

    Meals at our frontcountry camp will be prepared by your guide and feature fresh local ingredients.

  • We can accommodate many common food allergies, sensitivities, and dietary requirements. It’s best to contact us to determine if we’ll be able to accommodate your needs.

  • $20 bucks.

  • There are showers available at the hot springs on the second day of the trip.

    Consider packing bathing wipes for some personal hygiene touch up. We head directly from our exit trailhead to a restaurant for lunch on the last day. We tend to receive better service if we’re less smelly.

Let's Do This!
$299 to reserve your spot today.
Sat Aug 21 Thu Aug 26, 2021
Seats Available
$ 1479
Balance due 60 days before the trip.
Possible change of plans? You can cancel for a full refund until 90 days before the trip.

Real People.
Real Reviews.

I have many adventuring experiences with Matt Stan over the years. Matt has created a team of knowledgeable and...

Posted by Megan Lundy on Saturday, June 29, 2019

Meticulously planned adventures. World class guides. Friendly people. Delicious food. Spectacular sights. Epic experiences. I could go on....

Posted by Chris Nadovich on Sunday, June 16, 2019

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