Next Up

Kayaking: 16 of the Most Scenic Paddling Spots Around the Country

September 16, 2020

This ultimate kayaking guide reveals the paddling destinations across America you have to try to experience this relaxing, close-to-nature activity.

1 / 17
Photo: Courtesy of Galveston Kayak Outfitters

Ready to Hit the Water?

It’s no wonder that getting up close and personal with the great outdoors is more popular than ever. In 2020, it’s hard to imagine a lovelier respite from day-to-day stress than taking a deep breath of fresh air and soaking in a healthy dose of natural splendor.

Recreation areas all over the country have seen increased interest in hiking and camping. Folks who specialize in getting visitors out on the water in kayaks, in turn, are positively swamped (no pun intended) with guests who want to appreciate scenery and each other from a safe distance. Considering vistas like this one (from Galveston Kayak Outfitters), it’s easy to see why.

Fancy grabbing a paddle and joining them? Bear in mind that it’s always best to get in contact with operators in your area of choice early and often. Making reservations is a good idea, of course, but you’ll also want to stay abreast of how the latest weather conditions and health directives could affect your plans. That said, let’s get started on a virtual tour of spectacular sites all over the country.

More photos after this Ad

2 / 17
Photo: Courtesy of Galveston Kayak Outfitters

Galveston Bay, Texas

To experience otherworldly sunsets like this one — as well as some otherworldly wildlife — head to the Gulf Coast of Texas. “Galveston is a unique place and the bay in particular allows for very easy and accessible kayaking,” says Sean Rogers, founder of Galveston Kayak Outfitters. “In particular, the area around Galveston Island State Park is set up for beginning and intermediate kayakers.

“The waters are calm with the prevailing south winds and the bayous are shallow, limiting boat traffic and promoting wildlife viewing,” Rogers explains. “Along with Galveston's colorful history and weather related events, there is appeal on many different levels. Plus unexpected surprises like the shy pink bird (the Roseate Spoonbill) that usually shocks fortunate onlookers. I have extensive maritime experience and for the ease of accessibility and natural richness, Galveston Bay is hard to beat ... and the sunsets will take your breath away,” says Rogers.

More photos after this Ad

3 / 17
Photo: Courtesy of Sea Me Paddle

Flathead Lake, Montana

Why is kayaking on Flathead Lake so special? “There are not many places on the planet where you can sit in a kayak surrounded by amazing mountain ranges in complete serenity on water that is absolutely crystal clear while viewing animals in their natural environment as you can on Wild Horse Island,” says BJ Johnson, co-owner and lead guide at Sea Me Paddle in Montana’s Flathead Valley. “We love sharing this with our paddlers that don’t get to experience this every day as we do. Welcome to our office, Flathead Lake, Montana!”

His wife, Joli (also a co-owner and lead guide), echoes his enthusiasm. “Many people are drawn to the Kalispell area for the proximity to Glacier National Park, and don’t realize we have Flathead Lake in our backyard,” she says. “Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. The lake is 26.5 miles long, 15 miles wide and reaches a depth of 380 feet. It also is known to be the cleanest lake in the United States! It is possible to see 30 feet to the bottom. We have taken countless pictures of the crystal clear ‘green water’ of the lake.”

“Whether our paddlers are experienced or not, the one thing they have in common is the desire to have an adventure on the water,” BJ adds. “We always tell them, ‘You can’t see this from your couch!’”

More photos after this Ad

4 / 17
Photo: Courtesy of Voyageurs Outfitters

Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

Venturing into the water in Voyageurs National Park — an interconnected series of lakes and waterways on the border between northern Minnesota and Canada — isn’t an “if.” It’s a “when,” as the park has no roads and is only accessible via boat (and snowmobiles in the winter). “Voyageurs is special and unique because the story is always about the water,” says Eric Johnson, owner of Voyageurs Outfitters. “The paddlers who use the park today use the same waterways that 19th century travelers used to reach the gold fields of Rainy Lake. The same waterways were used by our namesake, the French Canadian Voyageurs, who were the first Europeans to explore this area. In fact these water ways were used by indigenous peoples dating back 10,000 years to trade and share their traditions. It is these same interconnected waterways that bind the modern day kayaker to the rich history of this area.”

The park’s locals are also passionate about the scenery that reveals itself long after the sun goes down, and the Voyageurs National Park Association is applying for Dark Sky Park certification to reduce light pollution and preserve the area’s spectacular night skies. In other words, it’s well worth sticking around for the region’s second act once your day of kayaking is over.

More photos after this Ad