If you want a memorable vacation, nothing beats a kayak camping trip.
You can paddle on the most beautiful waters, enjoy wildlife sightings and marvel at the amazing glaciers, trees and mountains around you.
If you want a much needed getaway, you need to pick a serene location that will make you forget all your worries.
This is why we curated the best kayak camping trips you can plan in North America.
Here are our top picks:
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA), Minnesota
If you want a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of life, there is no better spot than the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. It is the American Mecca for paddlers. It has thousands of lakes, portages and campsites.
The vastness of the area will amaze you. The BWCA area lies in the Superior National Forest in northern Minnesota and has more than a million acres of area full of wilderness and scenic beauty.
Phones don’t work once you’re inside the area, nor money. You are out in nature, by yourself – this is the kind of escape people want. However, if you want to fish, you should have a fishing license as required in the state of Minnesota.
You can procure supplies from outfitters. They can also create a route for you or you can create one yourself. If you are entering from the east side of the BWCA, you can enter from Ely, a town which depends on canoe tripping for its economy. You will also need a permit. To understand how the process works, you would need to talk to your outfitter.
Allagash Wilderness Waterway, Maine
The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is a beautiful trip of 92.5 miles filled with scenic beauty. The area is a ribbon of lakes, ponds, rivers and streams of North Maine Woods. During the day you get to see moose, eagles, and terns. The beautiful sight of Mount Katahdin also allows you to sit back and take it all in. At night, you can set up camp at any of the 40 sites available while listening to the sweet calls of loons.
If you want to go fishing, it is better to go in the spring and fall. You can put in at Churchill Dam and go till Allagash village, which would make a 62 mile trip and can be covered in six days. It will allow you to experience lakes, Class II rapids and a small portage along the way. The right season to visit Allagash Wilderness Waterway is from May to September.
Aialik Bay, Alaska
Alaska is a place that sparks awe and wonder in the minds of people. Situated in the Kenai Fjords National Park, it is an amazing place to explore – you get to experience marine life and see many icy features. There is a whole lot to see including lakes, bays and coves. This place offers so much which makes it every kayaker’s dream to visit once in a lifetime.
After all, kayaking through glaciers, icebergs and wildlife is not something you hear about every day. The wildlife itself is a whole different sight – from big whales to beautiful seals, the experience is full of fun and wonder.
Note that a lot of Alaska’s national parks are unreachable by car. You need to take either a boat or a plane to reach them. As far as the Kenai Fjords park is concerned, you can enter from Exit Glacier on the outside of Seward. But apart from that there are no roads.
Chesapeake Bay – Maryland, Virginia
The vast Chesapeake Bay runs through a course of 200-miles and takes you across six states in the United States. There are a variety of flora and fauna you can explore and experience. The one of a kind diamondback terrapin also finds its home in the Chesapeake bay. Usually, people take a two day trip here to thoroughly enjoy its beauty and experience the wildlife here.
For anglers, the Chesapeake Bay has a lot of places to explore. You can take a motor powered kayak to catch a variety of fishes while taking in the beauty that surrounds you at every spot. The best part is that sitting from your yak, you can see the fishes swimming in the river. It is a beautiful experience.
Another serene experience is the sunset – with all the greenery, sounds and beauty around you – it feels like something out of this world. The Chesapeake bay also contains Class I to Class III rapids for the adventure seekers. It also has spots for camping, so you can plan a multi-day trip on this river.
Colorado River, Arizona
If you want to see the expansiveness of nature, there is nothing better than the 1400-mile Colorado river that hosts millions of species. Located in Arizona, it will help you push yourself to the limits if you crave adventure as well as forget about your worries with its amazing sunset and scenic beauty.
Of course, the huge advantage of taking a trip across this river is that you get to experience the mammoth Grand Canyon.
The Colorado river goes through seven American states, so you sure will see all kinds of landscapes and species. It contains Class I to Class IV rapids to help you satiate the hunger of a crazy adventure. You don’t require a permit to kayak on the Colorado river. Also, note that camping is not available anywhere on the river.
Tampa Bay, Florida
Tampa Bay is an amazing location to have a rich and eventful kayaking trip. There are a lot of beautiful spots you can explore. You can take your own kayak or rent one from a local vendor. Paddlers who have gone there love the scenic beauty and fulfilling experience you get from kayaking through locations such as Weeki Wachee.
The crystal clear water, you can say hello to some manatees on the way and you can even camp under some enormous trees on the side. Some people even climb the trees and jump in the river – because, hey, you only live once. You may even catch sight of some big spiders that may scare some paddlers, although they are not venomous. The rich wildlife gives you a nice break from the regular humdrum of life. You can even see mighty alligators gloriously resting and having a good time.
An amazing thing is that the water there is always cool since it is a spring fed river. There are many spots to kayak in Tampa Bay and nearby including Shell Key preserve, St Pete, Little Manatee river, Tarpon Springs, Caladesi Island, Lido Key, Weedon Island Reserve and many more.
Prince William Sound, Alaska
If a kayaking spot is located in Alaska, you know it is going to be different and awesome. The location gets its name after King George III’s son, Prince William Henry. It lies in the gigantic Chugach National Forest, which happens to be the second biggest forest in America. As you paddle along the river, you are surrounded by snow-covered Chugach mountains, a view like no other.
Most paddlers love the view of giant glaciers around them. There are many routes you can plan for including Harriman Fjord to Pigot Bay/Whittier, Port Nellie Wan and/or Culross Passage and Port Nellie Wan and/or Culross Passage. You can test your skills and experience the thrill in Class 3 rapids.
If you are a beginner it is best to paddle in the Blackstone bay – from its mouth to Willar Island, and from its mouth to Whittier. Beginners can also explore Culross Passage and Harriman Fjord.
Kayaking in PWS, you may come across a range of wildlife including bears, humpback whales, seals and sea-lions.
Salmon River, Idaho
The Salmon River has a lot to offer to kayakers with its 14,000 miles of rich scenery and wildlife. The view of waterfalls, mountains, forests and beaches gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling in your heart.
With Class III rapids, paddlers can have a lot of fun. Whether you are an aggressive paddler or just learnt the basics of paddling, you would love this trip. There is a rich wildlife you will see along your journey – including sheep, otters, eagles and even bears. Don’t get scared of them though, they won’t bother you. The experience is so fulfilling that this river is also known as the “river of no return”.
The best part is that you get to experience the vastness of the popular Hell’s Canyon. As you pass through it, you come across deers and cougars too.
When you have done a fair bit of kayaking and navigated through Class III and Class IV rapids, you can also go for hikes in the variety of mountains in the area. Note that you would need a permit to go kayaking on the Salmon River.
Bowron Lake Circuit, British Columbia
The Bowron Lake Circuit is located in the Bowron Lake Provincial Park and is a 116-km long trip consisting of lakes, waterways and portages. You would need six to ten days to complete this route. The circuit is located on the western slopes of the Cariboo Mountain range.
Before heading out to this circuit, you should know the essentials to prepare for this trip. Luckily, the information is laid out in detail in the BC park’s official brochure. In this brochure, you can learn about the rules and regulations, essential equipment needed for kayaking and camping, reservations, fees and a lot more.
You can also go fishing on the lakes and rivers. There are a variety of fishes in the lakes in the area including bull trout, kokanee, rainbow trout and lake trout. Along with the lakes and portages, there are two hiking trails. The trails aren’t very long and you get to see the beautiful Cariboo river falls and Hunter lake.
The best part is that you can even go for a swim, the water is warm enough to soothe your body after a long and tiring trip through the day.
San Juan Islands, Washington State
If you want unlimited beauty of nature, wildlife, and a rich experience with tons of camping spots, a trip through the San Juan Islands should be your priority. You need to learn a bit about tides before you head out though. The San Juan Islands are located on the cold sea lying between Canada and Seattle.
The beautiful islands were formed from the volcanoes that erupted millions of years ago and the surrounding glaciers.
The islands are a doorway to a whole new world. The wildlife is amazing – bald eagles, resident orca pods, harbor seals, the experience gives you immense pleasure. You can also see gigantic whales along the way, casually floating nearby. You can experience the tranquility of quiet beaches, water-side campgrounds and more.
There are so many spots to explore that you will be amazed. The first is Friday Harbour, which is the de facto entry door to San Juan islands. If you go there on a Friday, you can shop at the Farmer’s Market for pre-prepared food, fresh produce and crafts. There are good food and coffee joints too, including Downriggers for seafood and the Salty Fox for coffee.
Then there is Roche Harbor that is entirely different with historical buildings from its industrial lime-manufacturing days. In the summer, the Roche Harbor Resort has the color ceremony every sunset, in which the American, British and Canadian flags are honored with a cannon fire. There are other islands to explore too including Jones Island, Shaw Island, Blind Island, Lopez Island, James Island, Orcas Island, Doe Island, Patos Island, Sucia Island, Matia Island and Clark Island.
If you want to kayak through America’s best locations and experience the different topography and wilderness, you need to know your options.
With this guide, you have ten amazing places to choose from with rich wildlife and mind-blowing scenic beauty.
No matter which location you choose, do proper research and follow the safety precautions.