10 of the Best Places to Kayak in America

Whether you are taking your kayak out for a weekend adventure or you are simply looking for a new river to explore, we have found some of the best places to kayak in America. If you are searching for scenic views, winding and twisting rivers, or new challenges, you are bound to find them all among the list.

10 of the Best Places to Kayak in America

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

    1. Prince William Sound

The Prince William Sound is located in the heart of the Chugach National Forest in Alaska. This national forest is the most northern national forest in all of America and due to the remote location, kayaking on the Prince William Sound is a peaceful getaway. Not to mention, the extraordinary views and potential encounters with wildlife make this place extra special.



The Prince William Sound is surrounded by giant glaciers and mountains that give kayakers a cold, yet lovely backdrop as they paddle. Out on the water, do not be surprised if you encounter a humpback whale or orca, sea lions, porpoises, black bears, eagles, and other woodland creatures. The wildlife encounters alone attract several nature lovers each year. (Just be sure to educate yourself on safety and how to respond in an animal encounter.)



When you are paddling you cannot ignore the crystal clear, azure colored water. The lack of pollution and water from the glaciers keep the water so pristine. Along the way you will also encounter several waterfalls, fjord walls, and gentle turns as the water bends around the shores. All kayakers that have experienced the Prince William Sound refer to it as ‘kayaker’s paradise’, and look forward to the day the get to return.



Since the Prince William Sound is so vast, there are several camping sites and cabins along the shores for you to take a rest. Trust in the fact that it will take more than one excursion to fully experience what the Prince William Sound has to offer. Besides, once you realize the sheer beauty of this place, you won’t want to leave.

  • Location: Chugach National Forest, Alaska

  • Class: 2-3

  • Permits Required: No

  • Camping Available: Yes

Replace this with your Google Map embed code.

    2. Indian River Canoe Trail

If you are in Michigan from mid-June, do not miss the chance to explore the Indian River Canoe Trail. The fifty-one miles of twists and turns are not only exciting, but also breathtaking. The natural wonders seen on the Indian River Canoe Trail remind kayakers again and again why they love to kayak.



The green landscapes surrounding the Indian River Canoe Trail are full of conifers, rolling hills, and northern hardwoods. The lush forests are calm and the river hugs the shores as the current takes you along. When you are on the water you will see broad marshlands, sharp curves, and deep banks that will remind you on canyons. Every twist and turn offers something new to see and another challenge to overcome.



The high levels of water quality attract several fishermen each year, especially in the later months of the year when the river is at its calmest. If you are not interested in fishing, just let the river guide you through the magnificent and inspiring Hiawatha National Forest.

  • Location: Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

  • Class: 2-3 (if you go before mid-June it will be a class 4 or 5)

  • Permits Required: No (unless you are fishing)

  • Camping Available: Yes

Replace this with your Google Map embed code.

    3. Clearwater Canoe Trail

Kayaking on the Clearwater Canoe Trail can be enjoyed by kayakers of all levels as it is calm, relaxing, (almost lazy) river. The ease of use and paddling make the Clearwater Canoe Trail attractive for families or those who want a short kayaking trip as the full journey is only two hours. Although it is a shorter excursion, the views of the various mountains bring kayakers here every season.



Those looking to spend the day outdoors can take advantage of the hiking trails before heading out onto the water for some relaxation. Several people also take advantage of the calm waters and make a journey to Clearwater Canoe Trail for some excellent fishing. No matter what floats your boat, the Clearwater Canoe Trail will prove to be relaxing and beautiful and will bring you back in touch with nature, even if just for a short while.



  • Location: Lolo National Forest, Montana

  • Class: 1-2

  • Permits Required: No

  • Camping Available: No

    4. Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is a popular destination for a number of water, hiking, and winter activities, kayaking included. Touching on the shores of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is more than large enough to explore and the variety of landscapes and extra-curricular activities make it an attractive location for a vacation getaway.



The calm waters are surrounded by national forests and tall mountain peaks that overlook Lake Tahoe. Kayakers always find that they love paddling against such a wonderful backdrop. When you do find yourself out on the lake, make sure to dress warm, especially if you are visiting in the fall or winter seasons.



Lake Tahoe is a must do for any kayaker as it is considered an iconic kayaking spot. Whether you live in California or Nevada, or need to make a journey to get there, make sure to add it to your personal list of places to kayak. Lake Tahoe truly is a must do.

  • Location: Lake Tahoe Basin Management, California and Nevada

  • Class: 1-2

  • Permits Required: Yes

  • Camping Available: Yes

Replace this with your Google Map embed code.

5. Mulberry River

The fifty-five mile stretch of the Mulberry River is one of Arkansas’s wildest rivers, especially in the spring. The Mulberry River rests deeply in the Ozarks and begins where the Arkansas River ends. After a good rain, the current is strong and fast and each twist and turn in the river will be exciting.



For kayakers with a bit more experience, you will have no trouble navigating over the ledges, taking the sharp turns, or keeping the kayak on track as the current pulls you along. If you are a beginner kayaker or you would like to take your child, it is recommended to visit the Mulberry River in the summer or autumn seasons. This is when the river is a bite more tame and you will have no trouble kayaking your way down the river.



No matter which time of year you decide to visit, the Mulberry River will provide you with gorgeous backdrops and due to the high volumes of wildlife it is not uncommon to spot a creature or two out on your journey. The Mulberry River sits in the middle of the Ozark National Forest which is home to the state’s most dense population of black bears. Don’t be surprised if you see one on a bank stopping for a drink.

  • Location: Ozark National Forest, Arkansas

  • Class: 2-3

  • Permits Required: No

  • Camping Available: Yes

6. Colorado River

The Colorado River in Arizona will take you through one of America’s most famous natural wonders, the Grand Canyon. The winding river varies from calm, smooth waters to winding and fast currents as it guides through the deepest canyon in North America. There are 226 miles of river to explore and you can do a simple and quiet day trip, or make a full week’s journey to explore the entire Colorado River.



Kayakers that seek adventure or rougher waters alongside absolutely breathtaking views, the Colorado River will provide all that and more. Many kayakers tell of the Colorado River being an adventure of a lifetime, and when you find yourself paddling along between the giant canyon walls, you will see why. If you are a beginner or novice kayaker, do not fret. There are several expert guides available that can help you navigate your way through the canyon.



All in all, the Colorado River is a unique and exciting experience that many kayakers consider to be one of the best in world.

  • Location: Arizona

  • Class: 1-4

  • Permits Required: No

  • Camping Available: No

7. Boise Brule

In the heart of the Brule River State Forest, the Boise Brule awaits. Kayakers flock from all over to take an excursion on this river. All year round, the Boise Brule offers something different as the rains or melted snow change the current and depth of the river which gives kayakers an extra challenge. Even if you are a beginner, you can still navigate the river on some of the shorter routes.



Kayaking on the Boise Brule is never a dull experience. The river is surrounded by lush, green forests which are home to a large variety of wildlife. Not to mention the winding river offers kayakers a wide variety of kayaking challenges from calm stream like conditions to more exciting twists and turns. Regardless of your skill set, you are bound to enjoy at least one section, if not all, of the Boise Brule.

  • Location: Brule River State Forest, Wisconsin

  • Class: 2-4

  • Permits Required: Yes

  • Camping Available: Yes

8. Tyger River Canoe Trail

The Sumter National Forest is home to the Tyger River Canoe Trail and it is an ideal spot for fishing, gentle kayaking, or even a close up encounter with wildlife or bird watching. The scenic views of the Tyger River Canoe Trail are relaxing and always offer visitors something new to see.



Kayaking on the Tyger River Canoe Trail, you will come across marshy areas as well as bottomland forestry. The diversity of this river alone brings kayakers from miles around. The river changes from four to seven feet wide and forty to seventy feet deep. What you see as you kayak just depends on where you are on the river, as well as what time of year you are visiting.



Regardless of when you visit the Tyger River Canoe Trail, you are bound to have a memorable experience. The versatility, spectacular views, and thriving wildlife populations will make each kayaking excursion a special one and you will find yourself wanting to return year after year.

  • Location: Sumter National Forest, South Carolina

  • Class: 1-3

  • Permits Required: Yes

  • Camping Available: Yes

9. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Located in over a million acres in Superior National Forest, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a journey many kayakers seek to repeat. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, (or the BWCAW for short,) has nearly 1200 miles of canoe trials that beg the explorer to come visit.



The BWCAW has calm waters that lead to magnificent and solitude places within the Superior National Forest. Due to the vast expansiveness of this area, there are a plethora of camping sites available which many kayakers take advantage of knowing they will need more than one day to see all the beauty the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness has to show them.



The BWCAW was designated a protected area and has been kept in pristine condition for several decades. The cleanliness and quiet associated with the waters and woodlands of the Superior National Forest are sought out by the kayaker and fishermen who seek relaxation and silence.

  • Location: Superior National Forest, Minnesota

  • Class: 1

  • Permits Required: Yes

  • Camping Available: Yes

10. Eleven Point National Scenic River

Eleven Point National Scenic River is just that, scenic. The forty-four miles of winding turns and smooth waters are nestled between colorful forests which are home to an abundance of wildlife. Starting off as a small stream, the Eleven Point National Scenic River expands and becomes deeper as it gains miles. The variety of the launch points make it ideal for any level of kayaker.



Kayaking on the Eleven Point National Scenic River, kayakers can experience stretches of rapids as well as steep bluffs and deep clear pools that are surrounded by mossy boulders. The shores are lined with tall trees that provide great amounts of shade throughout the miles of the river allowing kayakers to remain cool during their journey.

The location and versatility make the Eleven Point National Scenic River a very popular place amongst locals and visitors alike. Anyone can have a go on this river and on weekends during the summer months you are bound to see crowds of kayakers from miles around seeking to enjoy the calm and engaging waters of this scenic spot.

  • Location: Mark Twain National Forest, Missouri

  • Class: 1-2

  • Permits Required: Yes

  • Camping Available: Yes


Throughout America's the kayaking spots seem to be endless. For those who seek to find an amazing view, challenging rapids, or calm and relaxing waters, start with some of the destinations featured on this list, as they truly are some of the best places to kayak in America. Overall, no matter which spot you choose, you will not be disappointed.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *