Kayaking offers a fun way to enjoy scenic views and explore lakes, rivers, and other waters throughout the U.S. Whether you are an expert kayaker looking for adventurous waters or a beginner who needs calmer waters to start with, the following areas provide great vacation options for kayakers.
The Colorado River flows through Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California and Colorado, providing several potential kayaking spots for vacationers. While kayaking along the river, families can enjoy amazing views of the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and other sites. More experienced kayakers can test their skills in the rougher waters of the northern Colorado River. Families or kayaking beginners can find calmer stretches of river in the southern portions. Campsites are available in some areas, as well as lodges, cabins, and other accommodations for overnight stays and summer vacations.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, offers more than 2,000 miles of waters for kayakers to explore, from whitewater rapids to lazy river floating. Swimming hole activities and river tubing are also available for families looking for other water activities to enjoy during their stay. The area has multiple accommodations for families, such as the hundreds of Gatlinburg cabins nestled in the foothills, as well as easy access to all of the myriad local attractions in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Many other waters for kayaking and water activities can also be found in this part of Tennessee, quite close to the national park.
Key West, Florida, offers kayaking adventures with some tropical flair. The area is filled with mangrove creeks to explore, as well as other shallow waters where kayakers might see tropical fish, sea stars, and other wildlife. Guided kayaking tours of Key West are available for families who prefer to have an expert take them through the area. However, Key West’s waters are usually calm enough for beginning kayakers to tackle on their own. Several accommodations are available in the area, including hotels, resorts, inns, and campgrounds.
Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, is an ideal place to learn how to kayak. The area has shallow waters that are known for being calm. With over 100,000 creeks, streams, and rivers in the bay, kayakers can expect to spend a couple of days or more exploring this estuary. Turtles and other marine species can be spotted in the water or on nearby shores while kayaking. Families can also enjoy fishing from kayaks in many parts of the bay. Campgrounds, resorts, hotels, and other accommodations are available in the area.
Prince William Sound
Alaska’s Prince William Sound, found in the Chugach National Forest, offers a serene place to enjoy nature while kayaking. Humpback whales, sea lions, sea otters and other wildlife sometimes make appearances while kayakers glide along the Sound’s clear waters. Kayaking through the area provides views of glaciers, waterfalls, coves, and other scenic wonders. Fishing, jet skiing, paddleboarding and other water activities are abundantly available as well. Families visiting the area can stay in mountain cabins or campgrounds for more rustic accommodations, or stay in hotels, inns, and other lodging in nearby cities.
Lake Tahoe in California and Nevada offers a great kayaking location for families and those who are new to kayaking. The lake’s calm waters allow kayakers to glide around easily, taking in the area’s scenic views and enjoying the beautiful beaches, many of which are calm and shallow enough for very young children and even infants still learning to swim. Emerald Bay and Sand Harbor are among the more commonly visited areas of Lake Tahoe for kayakers. Several accommodation options are available in the area, including resorts, hotels, and inns. Vacationers can also stay in one of the area’s campsites for a more rugged experience.
Eleven Point National Scenic River
Eleven Point National Scenic River in Mark Twain National Forest, situated in Twain’s home state of Missouri, has 44 miles of waters to explore, as well as a scenic undeveloped shoreline offering picturesque views. With the waters remaining calm in many areas, the river is suitable for kayakers of all skill levels. Expert kayakers can find a few areas with rougher, more challenging waters to test their skills. The river has other outdoor activities as well, including swimming and fishing. Campsites are available for overnight stays.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Superior National Forest, Minnesota, provides calm waters for those who are looking for a peaceful kayaking location. The area has close to 1,200 miles of canoe and kayak trails to explore without having to worry about rough waters or rapids. This allows vacationers to travel long distances on the area’s lakes and streams for a memorable experience. Families vacationing in Boundary Waters Wilderness Area have several campsites available for accommodations. Hiking trails can also be found throughout the area.
Allagash Wilderness Waterway
Allagash Wilderness Waterway in northwestern Maine offers 92 miles of waters for kayakers to explore. While some areas have peaceful waters, including lakes, ponds and streams, some river sections have more challenging waters such as whitewater rapids. Families can stay in the calmer areas, depending on their level of kayaking experience. The Allagash Wilderness Waterway can be explored in one long trip that takes about a week for those who want to see as much of this rugged terrain as possible. Fishing for trout and other types of fish is available while on the water or shore. Campgrounds are scattered throughout the area for those who plan to stay overnight.