From Alaska to Hawaii, California to Florida, and beyond, there are endless places to go kayaking in the USA. Kayaking is an excellent way to explore nature and get a different take on some of our country’s most beautiful landscapes. Kayaking is a water sport suitable for people of all experience levels.
You can go kayaking as part of a group excursion or on your own, on lakes, ponds, rivers, the ocean, or even glacier-fed bays. Whatever you choose, you’re in for an adventure. If you’re wondering where to find great kayaking, you’ve landed in the right place! This article lists the best places to kayak in the USA.
1. The Colorado River
Although the Colorado River covers 1450 miles spanning seven states, Arizona boasts some of the best kayaking spots along the river. One of the best places to start your Colorado River kayaking adventure is at Arizona’s Black Canyon. Kayaking along the 12-mile Black Canyon River Trail allows you to experience waterfalls, hot springs, caves, and beaches.
The views along this trail are breathtaking. If you obtain a permit, you can continue your kayaking adventure in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which straddles the Arizona-Nevada border. The Black Canyon is a suitable area for those new to kayaking because it is a wide and slow-moving section of the river.
Suppose you’re an experienced kayaker looking for a challenge, including whitewater kayaking. In that case, you may want to check out the upper Colorado River in Colorado, which consists of mainly intermediate and expert sections of the river. Gore Canyon, Rancho Del Rio to Dotsero, Glenwood Springs, and Grand Junction are excellent starting points for veteran kayakers.
2. Lake Tahoe
Spanning 191 square miles with an altitude of 6,200 feet, Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America. Because of its high altitude, it also has some of the clearest and cleanest water worldwide. Its breathtaking views and relatively calm waters make it one of the best places to kayak in the USA.
Lake Tahoe’s shores border Nevada and California so that you can book accommodations in either state. Snow melts feed the lake making the water very cold in the spring and fall. Depending on the time of year you visit, you’ll want to pack warm clothes or dress in layers. To catch a glimpse of the stunning sunset over Lake Tahoe, consider paddling until late evening.
3. Prince William Sound
If you want to give sea kayaking a try, Prince William Sound is Alaska’s premier destination. Prince William Sound gets its name from King George III’s third son, Prince William Henry. America’s second-largest forest, Chugach National Forest, surrounds this saltwater sound. Summer is the best time of year for Kayaking Prince William Sound.
The waters off the Sound are calm and easy to navigate. While Kayaking along the Sound, you’ll experience awe-inspiring scenery and wildlife. Glaciers feed Prince William Sound and are a delight to experience in person. Don’t get too close; glacier calving produces waves that are difficult to navigate.
Some of the wildlife you may encounter while paddling along Prince William Sound include sea lions, orca, and whales. If you’re lucky, you’re lucky you may catch a glimpse of eagles circling above or black bears fishing along the shoreline.
Although the Sound’s water is relatively calm, this isn’t an adventure for new kayakers. It’s best to have ocean kayaking and wilderness experience before setting out on this journey. Understanding paddling techniques, how to enter and exit a kayak, and rescue preparedness are a must.
4. Tyger River
One of the most popular destinations in the United States for safely enjoying watersports, the Tyger River Canoe Trail passes through Sumter National Forest in South Carolina. If you’re a nature lover, Tyger River is an ideal spot for a relaxing kayaking adventure while taking in beautiful scenery and wildlife such as eagles and waterfowls.
There are many parts of this 24-mile river suitable for kayaking, but only a few are safe for beginners. The river has some challenging areas that require certification in watersports, including some areas in class II and III. You’ll experience white water rapid, marshy areas, and bottomland forestry while paddling down the Tyger River.
This diverse river ranges from four to seven feet wide, with depths ranging from forty to seventy feet. Your view will depend on where you are along the trail and the time of year. If you love nature and wildlife, consider adding the Tyger River to your kayaking itinerary.
5. Salmon River
If you want the ultimate outdoor adventure, consider kayaking down Idaho’s Salmon River. The Salmon River has earned the moniker “the river of no return” because its rapids’ speed makes it challenging to paddle up the river. Both experienced and novice kayakers will enjoy tackling this river. It’s an excellent destination for whitewater kayaking.
There are three parts of the river suitable for kayaking: Lower Salmon, Main Salmon, and the Middle Fork. You’ll experience class III rapids in Lower Salmon and Main Salmon. The Middle Fork has class III and class IV rapids. The river’s deep canyons and intense water flows make it one of the best places to kayak in the USA.
6. Napali Coast
Kayakers consider the Napali Coast the Everest of Kayaking, with good reason. Located on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, this undeveloped pristine part of the island boasts panoramic views of the island’s northwest shore. Sea Kayaking is one of the best ways to enjoy views of the breathtaking Napali Coast.
The Napali coast has crystal clear water full of aquatic wildlife. The 17-mile coast is ideal for expert kayakers. Beginners should get more experience under their belt before embarking on this adventure.
While kayaking along the Napali Coast, the picturesque views include waterfalls emptying into the sea, majestic cliffs, and orchards. You may even see dolphins, turtles, and seals during your journey.
7. The Everglades
Kayaking is an excellent way to experience Florida’s Everglades National Park. You can choose from a dozen kayaking trails winding through the Everglades when planning your kayaking adventure. The trails range from easy “starter trails” to the intimidating 99-mile Wilderness Waterway.
While kayaking the Everglades be prepared to see an occasional alligator. You’ll have an opportunity to take in Florida’s diverse ecosystems as you travel through the freshwater marsh. Depending on the route you choose, you’ll paddle through mangroves, streams, and river grass. You may even see dolphins.
Since Florida is hot and humid during the summer months, your best bet is scheduling a trip during the winter or spring.
8. The Chesapeake Bay
The Chesapeake Bay’s glassy, protected waters make it one of the best places to Kayak in the USA. The Chesapeake Bay is America’s largest estuary. The 200-mile river travels through 6 states and boasts several water trails for kayaking and canoeing.
As you kayak along Chesapeake bay, you’ll enjoy its beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife, which includes the diamondback terrapin. The shorelines feature beaches where you can take a break before continuing your kayaking journey. The Chesapeake Bay is famous for fishing, and thanks to the bay’s crystal clear water, you’ll be able to see the fish as they approach your net.
Chesapeake Bay’s slow-moving tributaries are excellent for beginners or kayakers who want to spend a relaxing day taking in the great outdoors.
9. Gauley River
If you’re up for a whitewater kayaking adventure, Gauley River is one of the best you’ll find in the USA. Located in Southern West Virginia, the Gauley River is known for its jaw-dropping scenery and beautiful mountains. Its mountains are the source of its challenging waterways, featuring class III to class IV rapids.
You’ll need to have profound kayaking experience under your belt before tackling the Gauley River’s rapids. Fall is the best season to visit the Gauley River because that’s when water is released from Summersville Dam, creating a whitewater rapids paradise for thrill-seeking expert kayakers.
10. Eleven Point National Scenic River
The Eleven Point National Scenic River is known for its undeveloped shoreline and birch and sycamore trees. Established in 1968, the river flows through the Ozark Hills in Southern Missouri. Kayakers can take advantage of its 44-miles of calm waterways suitable for beginners.
As you kayak along the river, you’ll see abundant wildlife, colorful forests, and steep bluffs. The water is generally calm along the Eleven Point National Scenic River’s route, although you can find some challenging areas suitable for experienced kayakers.
Whether you’re an experienced or novice kayaker, the USA offers some of the world’s best-kayaking destinations. Before setting out on your kayaking adventure, be sure the route is appropriate for your expertise level. Kayaking is a water sport that can be challenging or relaxed, depending on your preferences.
When you’re ready for your next kayak adventure, be sure to check out one of the kayaking destinations on our list. Whether you choose whitewater kayaking or a more leisurely journey, we’re confident you won’t be disappointed.