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Backcountry SUP: 6 Beautiful Destinations to Paddle

Explore the waters less traveled. 

By Trent Jonas

Backcountry SUP: 6 Beautiful Destinations to Paddle

There are few better ways to explore a body of water than from the deck of a stand-up paddleboard. And if you’re willing to wander a little farther afield and haul your board beyond the crowds, your efforts will be rewarded with a peaceful paddle, surrounded only by water, sky, and all that nature has to offer—you may even have the whole place all to yourself. Here are half-a-dozen beautiful destinations to paddle in the backcountry.

Big Moose Lake, Inlet, NY

Big Moose Lake is tucked into the rolling contours of New York’s Adirondack Mountains. The northeast portion of the lake consists of several remote bays surrounded by forested state land the Pigeon Lake Wilderness. You may not be all alone on this gorgeous lake, but there’s enough water that you can certainly make the experience as solitary as you like. You can even portage your SUP board to nearby Russia, Gull, or Sisters Lakes. If you choose to camp in the area, there are three, primitive paddle-in sites on the lake.

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Lake of the Clouds, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, MI

The front country of Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, is a popular destination for day trippers throughout the year. In fact, you may even find the parking lot for Lake of the Clouds full when you go. But if you’re willing to carry your SUP board—an inflatable would be ideal—for three quarters of a mile, you will more-than-likely have the entire 240-acre lake all to yourself. Lake of the Clouds is surrounded on all sides by deeply wooded hills and is remote enough that you’re more likely to bump into a black bear on its shoreline than you are another person. Take a bonus paddle on Lake Superior, which forms the park’s northern border before you leave the area. 

Sprague Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Situated in the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park’s stunning scenery, Sprague Lake affords easy access to stand-up paddlers: A short walk from the parking lot, and you’re at waters edge. But almost nobody paddles the lake! The walk may be a little crowded, and the parking lot may be congested, but once you’re out on the water, chances are you’ll have the lake—and the mountain back drop—all to yourself.

Kawishiwi Lake, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, MN

There are few backcountry paddling experiences in the United States more sublime than scudding silently across the lakes of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. For the most part, however, it would be impractical to experience the BWCAW on a SUP board. However, there are a few places, like Kawishiwi Lake, where you can put in from outside the wilderness area and then enjoy the experience of paddling the boundary waters as soon as you push off from the dock. Kawishiwi Lake is surrounded on all sides by protected wilderness and motorized watercraft are not permitted. Stay at the rustic campground near the boat launch or obtain a backcountry permit and camp on the far shores with nothing but the trees, stars, and lapping water for company.

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Mirror Lake, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, UT

Gorgeous Mirror Lake, in the high Uinta Mountains of Utah, is a relatively-easy lake to access and absolutely worth the drive. The stunning alpine scenery—mountains, forest, clouds, and sky—will make any SUP paddler’s heart soar. Because motorized vessels are prohibited on the lake, you’ll also find all the serenity you’re looking for on this backcountry gem.

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Paulina Lake, Deschutes National Forest, OR

Sitting within the collapsed caldera of an ancient volcano in Oregon’s Cascade Range, Paulina Lake is a backcountry paddle no SUP enthusiast would want to miss. Paddle past forested shores, thermal vents and hot springs, and when you’re off the water, make the short hike to the twin waterfall Paulina Creek creates as it surges through a narrow gorge in the caldera.

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Due to the escalation of the coronavirus outbreak, local destinations for outdoor recreation may be closed. Please visit official websites for more information.

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