Hidden Gems: 7 Awe-Inspiring Paddling Destinations in America

Escape to these less-traveled paddling spots. 

By Alli Hill

Hidden Gems: 7 Awe-Inspiring Paddling Destinations in America

For some, paddling is a fun way to work out and spend time with friends. But for the rest of us, it’s an escape from the everyday that lets you reconnect with nature and enjoy feeling miles away from daily life. Paddling grants you access to sites you couldn't otherwise see, and you’ll feel all the more refreshed and empowered when you can take control of the journey. These seven awe-inspiring paddling destinations are calling your name, so go indulge. 

Jackson Lake at Grand Teton National Park, WY

Could there be a better backdrop for paddling than the stunning lines of the Grand Tetons? Arguably not. Paddling on Jackson Lake will make you feel miles away from everyone. The Signal Mountain boat ramp is the perfect place to launch without having to battle the crowds, plus you can claim one of 11 backcountry campsites if you have a permit.

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Lake Tahoe Water Trail, Lake Tahoe, CA/NV

It’s no secret that Lake Tahoe is a premier destination for paddlers, and the Lake Tahoe Water Trail takes the guesswork out of deciding where the best place to paddle is. The trail itself is over 72 miles long and winds its way around the lake to show you the best sights and scenes of the area. With 20 trailheads and multiple launch and landing sites, you can visit Lake Tahoe 20 times and have a completely new paddling experience each time! And rest assured, there are tons of outfitters nearby, like Kayak Tahoe, that can help arrange rental equipment.

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Weeki Wachee Springs, Spring Hill, FL

The live mermaid shows are reason enough to visit this aquatic wonderland, but it’s the paddling trips that bring people back every year. The water itself is crystal clear, giving you unblocked views of the friendly manatees that will be floating alongside you. In total, the trail is 5.5 miles of pure, untouched bliss under the shade of oak and cypress trees. 

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Big Bend National Park, TX

A river trip on the Rio Grande is a bucket list item for many adventure-seekers. Take your pick of a half-day or full-day excursion, then get inspired by the miles of canyons that surround you, the beavers and turtles that keep you company, and even venture across the U.S./Mexico border a few times before ending your trip. Head to Far Flung Outdoor Center for rental equipment and convenient shuttle service. 

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Smith River State Park, White Sulphur Springs, MT

Venture out to the remote Northwest and put your paddle in the water at Smith River State Park. Located in White Sulphur Springs, Montana, this park offers stunningly scenic paddling opportunities. The great thing about Smith River is that it's perfect for all levels of paddling experience. If you don't have your own, you can rent a kayak at nearby Smith River Kayaks. They also offer excellent tours of the area. 

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Chattooga River, Clayton, GA

If you’re looking for unspoiled wilderness, head to the mountains of North Georgia and embark on a drift down the Chattooga River. For the most part, you won’t hear a single sound of a car or plane, nor will you likely encounter many people. It’s mostly undeveloped (just the way the locals like it!) and you’ll enjoy the brief escape. Earl’s Ford is an ideal launch site that will greet you with some easy whitewater rapids.

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Waccamaw River Blue Trail, Conway, SC

One of only 21 river trails in the country to be designated a National Water Trail, paddlers can expect 100 miles of twisting and turning waterways through the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge. Traveling through local towns like Conway and Georgetown, travelers get a pleasant balance of urban life and scenic, silent nature throughout the journey. The black water river is home to a diversity of plant and animal species, some of which are not found anywhere else on earth. Gator Bait Adventure Tours can set you up with a guided kayak tour.

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