May 16, 2024 | Allison Robertson

Best Kayaking Destinations in the U.S.

15 of the Best Kayaking Spots in the U.S.

Kayaking is one of the easiest ways to get around on the water—and it’s becoming a rather trendy sport in recent years.

Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, this list has some of the most beautiful places to kayak in the U.S.

Kayaking Split2

Everglades National Park, Florida

Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S. with a total acreage of 1,509,000 acres.

It’s located in Miami Dade County, Monroe County and Collier County.

Everglades National Park, FloridaMatthew Dillon, Flickr

Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park is known for its amazing kayaking spots.

From the idyllic Nobile Hammock, complete with picturesque mangroves, to the volatile Nine Mile Pond, there’s a kayaking trail for everyone at the Everglades.

Everglades National Park, FloridaKen Lund, Flickr

Lake Powell, Arizona

Lake Powell is arguably the most scenic lake in America, situated in some of Southern Utah’s finest red-rock desert country.

Lake Powell, ArizonaBernard Spragg, Wikimedia Commons

Lake Powell

Kayakers and travelers of any experience level will enjoy the picturesque setting of deep slot canyons and towering sandstone cliffs.

Travelers can rent a kayak nearby and camp under the stars.

Lake PowellAntoni Murcia, Shutterstock

The Rainbow River, Florida

The Rainbow River is located in Rainbow Springs State Park, about 90 minutes north of Tampa, Florida.

The Rainbow River, FloridaFlorida Fish and Wildlife, Flickr

The Rainbow River

This 70-foot deep spring is a hidden gem with crystal-clear water and an abundance of fish, wildlife and vegetation. Visitors can kayak, canoe, swim, snorkel and scuba dive.

The Rainbow RiverJoni Hanebutt, Shutterstock

Lake Estes, Colorado

Lake Estes is a reservoir located in the town of Estes Park in Colorado.

Here, you’ll find spectacular views of snow-capped mountains reflected in the lake’s pristine blue water.

Lake Estes, ColoradoJoel Tonyan, Flickr

Lake Estes

Visitors can enjoy kayaking, canoeing, and various hiking trails and camping spots, but swimming in the lake is not permitted.

Travelers should also note that there is a small day-use fee and a parking fee.

Lake EstesKit Leong, Shutterstock

Monterey Bay, California

Monterey Bay is just south of San Francisco and offers several opportunities for scenic kayaking, including the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Reserve.

Monterey Bay, CaliforniaMichael Barajas, Shutterstock

Monterey Bay

Here, you can paddle the Cannery Row shoreline with sea otters, seals, sealions, kelp beds, and possibly dolphins.

Sea Lions at monterey bayDavid A Litman, Shutterstock

Potomac River, Washington, D.C.

The Potomac River is a major river that flows from the Potomac Highlands in West Virginia to the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland—offering stunning urban views along the way.

Potomac River, Washington, D.C.Chesapeake Bay Program, Flickr

Potomac River

Aside from views of the Theodore Roosevelt Island, the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, kayakers can choose to experience whitewater paddling in some of the river’s rapids.

Potomac River, Washington, D.C.Carlos Reis, Flickr

Laguna Grande, Puerto Rico

Paddle under the stars through the magical bioluminescence bay in Laguna Grande, located in Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

Laguna Grande, Puerto RicoDavid Shankbone, Flickr

Laguna Grande

Here, visitors can experience the calm water glowing as microorganisms are stirred up by kayaks or paddles.

Person kayakingOladapo, Pexels

Boston Harbor Islands, Massachusetts

The Boston Harbor Islands may be near the city, but it feels remote.

Made up of 34 islands and peninsulas, Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park is known as an urban oasis—and a popular spot for kayaking.

boston harbor islands kayakingMassachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism, Flickr

Boston Harbor Islands

In the inner harbor, kayakers will find more historical sites and calmer waters. The outer islands offer solitude and untouched landscapes.

You can also tour lighthouses and ruins of old forts, and spend the night in a yurt.

Men CanoeingNewcastle, Shutterstock

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota

Located entirely within the state of Minnesota, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness comprises 1,090,000 acres of pristine forests, glacial lakes, and streams in the Superior National Forest.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesotaphotoelf, Needpix

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Kayakers can join a guided tour (or go solo) where they’ll be taken to the best spots to see deer, moose, otters, bald eagles and loons.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, MinnesotaWildnerdpix, Shutterstock

Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii

Kaneohe Bay is a sheltered bay located in Oahu, and is said to be one of Hawaii’s more calmer places to kayak.

Mature man kayakingGalina Barskaya, Shutterstock

Kaneohe Bay

While paddling the crystal-clear waters of Kaneohe Bay, you’ll likely spot parrotfish and mahi-mahi on the two barrier reefs.

You can also get out and wander the sandbar or rest on the white-sandy beach with views of Pyramid Rock.

Kaneohe Bay kayakVirginia State Parks, Flickr

San Juan Islands, Washington

The San Juan Islands is an archipelago in the Pacific Northwest of the United States between the U.S. state of Washington and Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

San Juan Islands, WashingtonBureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington, Flickr

San Juan Islands

This popular kayaking destination is a fan favorite for those hoping to see orcas. Kayakers can stay close to the islands, or venture into open water for a greater chance at getting close to marine life.

San Juan IslandsEdmund Lowe Photography, Shutterstock

Blue Heart Springs, Idaho

Blue Heart Springs is a natural spring that is located along the Snake River near the Thousand Springs State Park in Hagerman, Idaho.

It is the 13th largest freshwater spring in North America, and is only accessible by water.

blue heart springs, idahoCameron Mengon, Shutterstock

Blue Heart Springs

The springs are made of a heart-shaped cove filled with crystal blue water—hence the name. This serene oasis offers spectacular views and is often dubbed, “Idaho’s best-kept secret.”

Blue Heart Springs in IdahoRafael Novais, Shutterstock

Summersville Lake, West Virginia

Summersville Lake is a reservoir—formed by a rock-fill dam—located in West Virginia. It is the largest lake in West Virginia, with 2,700 acres of water and over 60 miles of shoreline.

Summersville Lake, West VirginiaJarek Tuszyński, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Summersville Lake

Beginner kayakers will enjoy the ease of flatwater paddling, and visitors of all experience levels will marvel in the stunning views of sheer cliffs and West Virginia’s only lighthouse.

person riding on kayakTobias Bjørkli, Pexels

Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada

Lake Tahoe is a freshwater lake straddling the border between California and Nevada. It’s the second deepest lake in the U.S. and is a major tourist attraction.

Nevada: Lake TahoeChristian Abend, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Lake Tahoe

With pristine blue waters and 61-foot-deep visibility, this lake offers some of the best water conditions for kayaking. With various areas catering to different experience levels, visitors can feel comfortable on the water while checking out spectacular views.

Lake Tahoe, NevadaJasperdo, Flickr

Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia and Florida

The Okefenokee Swamp is a shallow, peat-filled wetland straddling the Georgia–Florida line. It is considered to be one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia and is the largest "blackwater" swamp in North America.

Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia and FloridaJ. Stephen Conn, Flickr

Okefenokee Swamp

Here, kayakers will be given a different experience. Instead of clear-blue water, you’ll find a mysterious and murky aquatic oasis.

Surrounded by tall trees and lush green foliage, the views are beautiful and the wildlife is abundant.

Okefenokee swamp in GeorgiaJoanne Dale, Shutterstock

Sources: 1, 2, 3


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