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5 Excellent Places for Beginners to Kayak in Arizona

By John Kuells

5 Excellent Places for Beginners to Kayak in Arizona

Jim David/Shutterstock.com

For a landlocked state in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, Arizona is home to some fantastic kayaking locations. Don’t be deterred if you’re new to kayaking, there are several spots with calm water that are beginner friendly. Before you head out, consider taking a safety course or making your first excursion with a guide! Here are five great spots for beginner kayakers in Arizona.

1. Blue Ridge Reservoir, Happy Jack, AZ

Blue Ridge Reservoir is a scenic reservoir located along the Mogollon Rim containing some of the best sights for Arizona kayakers. The lake’s elevation is about 6,700 feet and it’s surrounded by forestry and large canyon walls. Aside from the spectacular views, the Blue Ridge Reservoir is an ideal spot to practice kayaking. It consists of narrow, peaceful waters and limited traffic. No motorboats are allowed on the lake creating ample space to practice your skills.

2. Lower Salt River, Mesa, AZ

The Lower Salt River is a hot spot for locals—and rightly so. It’s located along lush greenery near large picturesque cliffs. The abundance of desert wildlife makes spotting a wild horse along the shoreline a common occasion. The Lower Salt River also offers beginner kayakers a chance to fine-tune their skills. Located in the Tonto National Forest, the Lower Salt River has smooth, flowing water to go with its iconic scenery.  The cool river water also offers visitors a reprieve from the hot Phoenix sun.

4. Lake Pleasant

Lake Pleasant is one of the few bodies of water close to metro Phoenix. There’s no denying its popularity among locals, especially as a kayaking destination. This 11.5-mile lake has beautiful spots for exploration, with local tours leaving out of the marina. Escape into nature within minutes of paddling and experience the most beautiful kayaking location that the Phoenix area has to offer.

5. Big Lake, Apache County, AZ

Big Lake is a hidden gem in the middle of northern Arizona’s White Mountains. The 450-acre lake is known as a fishing hub, containing healthy populations of trout. It’s also a great lake to begin kayaking. Big Lake doesn’t allow gas engines, preserving the serenity of the water and proving a wide-open space for kayakers. Surrounded by gorgeous forest and mountain scenery, Big Lake is elevated at 9,000 feet and is located about an hour away from Pinetop. It’s a perfect getaway spot for people looking to escape the big city. 

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