The great northern state of New Hampshire is home to plenty of beautiful rivers and lakes known for their breathtaking views. Whether you want some fast moving water up in the mountains or prefer the slower pace flat water, New Hampshire has a very varied selection of kayaking spots to choose from.
our serious of posts where we cover all the best places to kayak in the USA
So grab your paddles as we continue our series covering kayaking trips in the USA, in this post we’re going to explore ten of the best places to kayak in New Hampshire.
1. Squam Lake, NH
If you have watched the 1981 classic movie “On Golden Pond,” then the chances are that you have seen the Squam Lake before as it features the lake as its primary location. And again, if you’ve seen the film, you’ll know why it was picked. It’s one of the most stunning locations in New Hampshire with unrivaled natural serenity and breathtaking beauty.
The stunning, still clear waters present you with a picture-perfect opportunity for a day’s kayaking while you enjoy the fresh air and scenery. The lake is about 6.5 miles long and is dotted with a fascinating 67 unnamed islands waiting to be explored. Definitely worth a visit.
2. The Androscoggin River, NH
Whether you are a seasoned kayaker or just beginning to learn, Androscoggin River is a fantastic place to head for a paddle. Starting up at Errol, New Hampshire, the river winds its way around several towns and cuts across the Northern part of the White Mountains and into Maine.
There are so many launch points for kayakers to take advantage of along the river while exploring the vast hiking trails that mark the river’s shore. It’s also an ideal river for white water kayakers as it has some Class II and III rapids.
If you don’t own your own kayak yet you can you can hire one from Errol (from here) or pay for a guided tour. It is an excellent place for anyone looking to practice or improve their skills, particularly those looking for a white water adventure.
3. Ammonoosuc River, NH
Starting at the Lake Of The Clouds up on Mount Washington, the 55 mile long, Ammonoosuc River is one of the largest rivers in the northern white mountains before flowing down and emptying into the Connecticut River. Its name means “small, narrow fishing place” in Abenaki, a Native American tribe’s language.
It’s very popular with white water kayakers and there is an 8 mile section between Littleton and Lisbon in Coos County that has Class I-II rapids so is popular with those newer to kayaking whitewater rivers.
As well as the rapids it’s a good place for those looking to get closer to nature as its beauty and diverse ecology mean that you could see lots of animals including the endangered bald eagle, osprey and peregrine falcons.
4. Lake Umbagog, NH
For those paddlers looking for some paddling as well as swimming, they might want to check out Lake Umbagog. It’s a pretty shallow but large wilderness lake in Coös County on the border with Maine and is surrounded by incredibly beautiful nature.
If you want to escape for a weekend of camping far away from every day life then the lake has 33 camping locations that are only accessible via boat. It’s also an ideal spot for wildlife watching with a huge a lot of different animals calling it their home including wild turkey, moose, bobcats, coyotes, bears and even bald eagles.
5. Purity Lake, NH
Nestled away between the White Mountains and the lakes region of New Hampshire is the scenic Purity Lake. It has everything with an untainted shoreline, sandy beaches beautiful trees and clear water for kayaking.
There’s a lovely little family-owned resort called Purity Spring Resort that offers lots of activities and lodging options that make popular family getaways. They have canoes, kayaks (which are free if you’re staying at the lodge) and SUP available to hire but also offer water skiing and much more.
Purity Lake is also a good place for those looking to do some fishing with good stocks of bullhead, pickerel, bream, largemouth bass and lots of others.
6. Great Bay, NH
Great Bay, which is located in the New Hampshire counties of Stafford and Rockingham, is a tidal estuary at the mouth of the Piscataqua River that spans over 6000 acres. As well as being a great place for kayaking there’s lots of other activities to do such as many trails, wildlife watching, fishing, hunting and even a community garden to check out.
But, being so close to the ocean, it’s very affected by tides to be careful when kayaking here as the currents can be strong and quickly take you where you don’t want to go.
7. Pemigewasset River, NH
Another excellent place for kayaking in New Hampshire is the Pemigewasset River, often referred by the locals as The Pemi. It begins at the base of the famous ‘Old Man of the Mountain‘ – a rock face that looks like a man’ – in Franconia Notch state park. From there, it flows south for about 70 miles until it flows into the Merrimack River.
It’s a popular destination for paddlers as it offers whitewater and flatwater kayaking so is suitable for both beginners advanced kayakers. One spot we’d recommend is Ayers Island, an 1.6 mile section of Class II rapids between Bristol and Coolidge.
8. Grafton Pond, NH
Up next we have the 319-acre lake Grafton Pond which boasts dozens of rugged islands and wild shorelines for you to explore via kayak. Due to its size it is a good location for beginners as it’s generally very flat water and good for practicing.
It’s popular with those looking to get in amongst nature as it’s a great nesting site for loons, birds, and other wildlife. There have also been reports of people seeing moose! It does get busy on summer weekends so we recommend heading there early on a weekday morning to enjoy the peaceful tranquility that this amazing lake offers.
9. The Contoocook River, NH
Another excellent place for white water expert kayakers is the Contoocook river that runs from Poole Pond to Concord. This river is strictly not for beginners as it is a fast-flowing river with difficult whitewater that’s Class III and IV rapids. However, if you are looking for some easier paddling then a little further downstream at Concord there is plenty of flat calm water.
10. Saco River, NH
And last, but by no means least we have the great Saco River, one of the most popular kayaking destinations in New Hampshire and southwestern Maine. It begins up in the white mountains before slowly meandering down to the Atlantic ocean just south of Portland, but on the way offers many opportunities for kayakers to get out on the water.
It’s a popular paddle for families as it has many parts of the river that aren’t very treacherous. You can hire canoes and kayaks for day trips and the gentle river doesn’t have a strong current so you can comfortable paddle back upstream to your car at the end of the day. Or you can even do multi day trips and camp along the route and continue your adventure the following day.
Summing Up New Hampshire
As you can see from the list of kayaking spots in New Hampshrie above, there’s a lot to do and see and you’ll need a lot more than one day to see everything it has to offer. We love kayaking in NH as the stunning mountainous scenery coupled with the great forests that erupt in color in the fall making it a serene and calming place to be, especially on one of the many easy lakes or rivers.
We also love how many opportunities there are for challenging whitewater rapids that will keep even the most experienced paddlers occupied. Check it out.