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Escaping Colorado Springs Heat: Tubing At Tarryall

Posted by Susanna Haynie on May 13, 2024

When Colorado Springs heats up in the summer, my family joins many of the other residents heading to the mountains for cooler weather. We don’t have air conditioning in our house, so we start planning mountain trips once the temperatures start hitting 90 degrees.  We prefer to stay close if we don’t have time to camp for a full weekend. Tarryall is a great option for a daytrip since it’s just about an hour from Colorado Springs.

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Where is the Tubing Spot in Tarryall?

It can get a little confusing because you’ll hear people refer to this area as “going tubing in Tarryall” but you’ll actually be floating on the South Platte River. The specific section of the river we visit is off Tarryall Rd, and it leads towards the Tarryall reservoir. I recommend entering through the Happy Meadows Campground.

Directions to the tubing spot: From Colorado Springs take Hwy 24 through Woodland Park, Divide and Lake George. Turn right on Tarryall Rd (Rd 77) and then after less than a mile keep an eye out for a camping sign on your right for CO Rd 112. Enter Co Rd 112, take a right at the fork, pick a spot and put your tubes in anywhere along the river.

picture of people floating down the South Platte River in Tarryall, Colorado

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Before you go

Conditions: The river is about knee deep in a typical year, but if we’ve had a lot of snowmelt and rain it can be much deeper. Conditions change all the time. Check local news or REDDIT for Tarryall water levels. One year it was closed because a section of the river was too fast and dangerous for tubing.

Early in the season, the river tends to be higher and colder from the mountain snowmelt. The river slows down quite a bit later in the summer season. Keep in mind that the river will be difficult to float in low water levels during a drought. It’s still a great place to set up a day camp and dip your feet in the water!

Kids: We recommend that parents initially go tubing without kids to gauge if the conditions are appropriate and safe for their kids.  Especially kids should wear life jackets and know how to swim. We have taken kids as young as 5 years old with close parental supervision.

Time Commitment: If you take it slow, it should take about 45-60 minutes to go all the way down to the exit location.

Sunscreen: Remember sunscreen! You will get crispy without it between the water reflection and the high elevation.

Safety: You are going down on your own accord so you take all the responsibility!

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Day Camping at Tarryall

Go early! This area can get fairly busy. Set up your day camp at the end of the run where you can find a spot. It’s a nice grassy open area where you can establish a home base with a canopy or umbrella, grills, chairs, coolers and other supplies. There are quite a few shady spots to park your vehicle. The river will be very easy to exit as it is pretty slow and the water level is low at this section. Watch people float by, take your chair, sit in the water or on a rock.

A great strategy is to drop all the tubers off at the beginning while the non-tubers head down to the exit location and set up camp.

Plan to carry out all trash because there are no trashcans available. Most people are pretty good with that. There are toilets at the campground area.

image of day camping set up in Tarryall, Colorado

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Overnight Camping at Tarryall

Tarryall is part of a huge area for motorized sports including side by sides, ATV’s and dirt bikes. The outdoor recreation area extends from Lake George to the base of Wilkerson Pass, through Tarryall and beyond.

You’ll see people boondocking (camping without electricity or water hook up) everywhere, from single campers to huge groups. You’ll also hear the motors go all day and way into the night.

Stay north of Tarryall Creek if you are looking for more tranquility. I mention this because Happy Meadows Campground is basically booked out all the time or extremely hard to get, especially if you are with a large group. Consider camping on some of the other public land close to the tubing area if you decide stay overnight.

image of South Platte River in Tarryall, Colorado

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Pro Tips for Tubing at Tarryall:

  • Wear sandals. Leave the flip flops and Crocs in the car or at your campsite because you will lose them in the river.
  • You’ll see plenty of fisherman along the banks so take care to avoid getting tangled up in a line.
  • Dogs are allowed and there are usually quite a few dogs in this area.
  • Pack up when it starts thundering – lightning in the mountains is no joke.
  • Be nice to your picnic neighbors – pack out trash, be mindful of music volume and help out, if needed. There is always a chance that we need to help each other out when you’re in the mountains.
  • Consider a helmet and lifejacket if the river is fast. Check the weather before you go.
  • Bring lots of water and wear sunscreen.
  • Leave your valuables at home. We have never had anything stolen but we are also not asking for it.
  • Looking for a swimming hole? Visit Paradise Cove. It’s further from Colorado Springs and don’t have as much space to hang out all day but they are fun!


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4 thoughts on “Escaping Colorado Springs Heat: Tubing At Tarryall

  • Elisa Risner
    on July 22, 2016

    Hello! I was reading your information about tubing. We are picking up some cadets to take them out for the day. How far is this tubing site from USAFA? Do you have directions? Thank you!

  • Amy
    on June 14, 2017

    Do you know of any places close to Happy Meadows where tubes can be rented? Please let me know as we are heading to the area in a few weeks!

  • Leandra elting
    on August 1, 2018

    Has anybody been here camping or tubingvrecently? Me and some friends will be heading up there around August 17 wanted to know how the tubing and camping is in that area

    • on August 10, 2018

      Yes, Leandra, I have been up there just about 2 weeks ago and it was great! The water wasn’t very deep, but it also was not super freezing cold. Campground looks packed as always, but if you are looking to go for a day it’s great! Remember, any open fire is not permitted, bring your cooler and sandwiches!

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