Are you an outdoor enthusiast looking for an exciting new adventure? Look no further than Pennsylvania, where you can explore some of the best kayaking spots in the state. From scenic rivers to peaceful lakes, Pennsylvania offers a variety of breathtaking locations for kayakers of all skill levels. Whether you’re seeking the thrill of whitewater rapids or the tranquility of a calm river, Pennsylvania has it all. So grab your paddle, hop into your kayak, and get ready for an unforgettable experience as you navigate through the beautiful waterways of Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania is a hidden gem for kayaking enthusiasts, offering a wide range of waterways that cater to all skill levels. Whether you’re a beginner looking for calm and peaceful lakes, a thrill-seeker eager to conquer the challenging rapids, or simply a nature lover in search of scenic beauty, Pennsylvania has it all. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the best kayaking spots in Pennsylvania, including rivers, lakes, creeks and streams, water trails, state parks, and even some recommendations for whitewater kayaking, flatwater kayaking, and beginner-friendly kayaking.
Why Kayaking in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania’s diverse and picturesque landscape makes it an ideal destination for kayaking. With numerous water bodies scattered throughout the state, you’ll never run out of new places to explore. From tranquil lakes surrounded by lush greenery to thrilling whitewater rapids, Pennsylvania offers something for everyone. Whether you prefer the peaceful solitude of a serene creek or the adrenaline rush of navigating a challenging river, kayaking in Pennsylvania allows you to immerse yourself in nature and experience its beauty firsthand.
Before embarking on your kayaking adventure in Pennsylvania, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind. First and foremost, ensure that you have the necessary kayaking skills and experience for the type of waterway you plan to explore. Always check for any relevant permits or regulations that may be in place for each specific location. Additionally, be mindful of the weather conditions and water levels, as they can greatly impact the safety and enjoyability of your kayaking experience. Finally, always prioritize safety by wearing a properly fitting life jacket, bringing essential safety gear, and letting someone know your kayaking plans and expected return time.
When kayaking in Pennsylvania, it’s important to prioritize safety to ensure a pleasant and incident-free experience. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:
- Always wear a properly fitting life jacket, even if you’re a confident swimmer.
- Be aware of your surroundings and any potential hazards in the water.
- Paddle with a partner or let someone know your kayaking plans and expected return time.
- Familiarize yourself with basic kayaking rescue techniques and carry essential safety equipment such as a whistle and a throw bag.
- Check the weather forecast and water conditions before heading out, and avoid kayaking during severe weather or high water levels.
- Stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun by wearing sunscreen and a hat.
- Respect wildlife and keep a safe distance to avoid any potential encounters.
Now that you have a solid understanding of the important considerations and safety tips, let’s dive into the best kayaking spots in Pennsylvania, categorized by rivers, lakes, creeks and streams, water trails, state parks, and specific recommendations for whitewater kayaking, flatwater kayaking, and beginner-friendly kayaking.
The Delaware River is a popular destination for kayakers due to its stunning scenery and varied sections that cater to both beginners and experienced paddlers. The Upper Delaware River offers calm and gentle stretches suitable for novices, while the Middle Delaware River provides an exciting mix of rapids and calm pools perfect for more advanced kayakers. Notable kayaking spots along the Delaware River include the Delaware Water Gap, where the river cuts through the Appalachian Mountains, and the Delaware Canal, known for its tranquil waters and picturesque surroundings.
The Lehigh River is a hot spot for whitewater enthusiasts, offering thrilling rapids and breathtaking views. The section between White Haven and Jim Thorpe is particularly popular for kayaking, featuring Class II and III rapids that provide an exhilarating experience. The Lehigh River Gorge is also a must-visit, showcasing stunning rock formations and lush greenery that create a truly picturesque kayaking adventure.
The Youghiogheny River, lovingly referred to as the “Yough,” is a top choice for whitewater kayaking in Pennsylvania. Its Upper Yough section is renowned for its challenging Class IV and V rapids, attracting experienced paddlers from all over the country. The Middle Yough offers a more relaxed paddling experience, perfect for beginners and those seeking a scenic float trip. The Lower Yough is another popular section, featuring Class III and IV rapids suitable for intermediate kayakers.
The Schuylkill River boasts a wide range of paddling opportunities, from calm stretches ideal for beginners to challenging rapids that test the skills of experienced kayakers. The Schuylkill River Trail is a favorite among kayakers, offering a 120-mile scenic waterway that meanders through picturesque landscapes and historic sites. Along the way, you’ll encounter charming towns, stunning bridges, and wildlife-rich areas, making the Schuylkill River a must-visit destination for kayaking enthusiasts of all levels.
The Susquehanna River is a true kayaking paradise, offering diverse sections that cater to all skill levels and preferences. The West Branch of the Susquehanna River is ideal for beginners and leisurely paddlers, with calm waters and beautiful scenery. The Middle Susquehanna River provides more excitement with some light rapids, while the Lower Susquehanna River offers a mix of scenic beauty and challenging rapids. The Susquehanna River Water Trail is an excellent resource for planning your kayaking adventure on this magnificent river.
Lake Wallenpaupack is Pennsylvania’s third-largest lake and a favorite destination for kayakers seeking a peaceful and scenic experience. This 5,700-acre lake offers numerous coves, islands, and secluded areas to explore, providing ample opportunities for wildlife spotting and relaxation. With its calm and clear waters, Lake Wallenpaupack is perfect for leisurely paddling, fishing, and picnicking along the shoreline.
Raystown Lake is a sprawling, 8,300-acre lake located in the heart of the Allegheny Mountains. This picturesque lake offers endless possibilities for kayaking, from tranquil stretches perfect for beginners to more challenging sections for experienced paddlers. With its pristine waters, secluded coves, and stunning mountain views, Raystown Lake is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Don’t forget to explore the many hiking trails and camping options available in the surrounding area.
Lake Nockamixon, located in Nockamixon State Park, is a kayaker’s dream come true. Covering 1,450 acres, this inviting lake offers calm waters, abundant wildlife, and beautiful natural surroundings. Kayakers can paddle along the lake’s shoreline, explore its hidden coves, or try their hand at fishing. With its proximity to Philadelphia and its peaceful atmosphere, Lake Nockamixon is a popular destination for both day trips and weekend getaways.
Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes, borders Pennsylvania to the northwest, providing endless opportunities for kayaking adventures. While the lake’s expanse may seem daunting, there are numerous sheltered bays and tranquil areas perfect for kayaking. Presque Isle Bay, located at Presque Isle State Park, is a popular spot for kayakers, featuring calm and shallow waters that are great for beginners. As you paddle along, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the lake and the surrounding natural beauty.
Lake Arthur, nestled within Moraine State Park, is a tranquil oasis for kayakers seeking a serene and scenic experience. This 3,225-acre lake offers calm waters, abundant wildlife, and breathtaking views of the surrounding forested hills. Kayakers can explore the lake’s shoreline, paddle to secluded coves, or embark on longer adventures to the various islands scattered throughout. With its peaceful atmosphere and pristine surroundings, Lake Arthur is a perfect getaway for nature lovers and kayaking enthusiasts.
Creeks and Streams
Pine Creek, also known as the “Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania,” is a stunning destination for kayaking. Flowing through the incredible Pine Creek Gorge, this waterway offers breathtaking scenery and outstanding paddling opportunities. The Class II and III rapids of Pine Creek provide an exhilarating experience for intermediate kayakers, while calmer sections are perfect for beginners and leisurely floats. Surrounded by lush forests and towering cliffs, Pine Creek is a true gem for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.
Tohickon Creek, located in Bucks County, is a popular choice for kayakers due to its thrilling whitewater rapids. The Tohickon Creek Gorge features Class III and IV rapids that provide an adrenaline-pumping experience for kayakers with intermediate to advanced skills. The combination of challenging rapids, scenic landscapes, and the tranquility of the surrounding nature make Tohickon Creek a must-visit destination for whitewater enthusiasts.
French Creek is a scenic waterway that winds its way through beautiful landscapes, rich history, and abundant wildlife. This designated Pennsylvania Scenic River offers a variety of paddling options, from serene stretches perfect for beginners to more challenging sections that require advanced skills. The calm and clear waters of French Creek provide an excellent opportunity to observe the diverse wildlife that call this area home, including otters, herons, and bald eagles.
Loyalhanna Creek, located in western Pennsylvania, is a hidden gem for kayakers seeking a peaceful and scenic paddling experience. This 50-mile waterway offers a mix of calm stretches and gentle rapids, making it suitable for paddlers of all skill levels. The lush forests, rolling hills, and charming small towns along the creek’s path create a picturesque backdrop for your kayaking adventure. Be sure to bring your camera to capture the beauty of Loyalhanna Creek.
Yellow Breeches Creek
Yellow Breeches Creek is a beloved waterway among kayakers due to its peaceful ambiance and exceptional beauty. This limestone creek offers crystal-clear waters, lush vegetation, and abundant wildlife, providing a serene and refreshing kayaking experience. Yellow Breeches Creek is perfect for both beginners and more experienced paddlers, with various sections offering different levels of challenge. Be prepared to be enamored by the tranquility and natural wonders that await you on Yellow Breeches Creek.
Susquehanna River Water Trail
The Susquehanna River Water Trail is a vast network of paddling routes that spans over 500 miles, making it the longest river trail system in the country. This water trail offers a diverse range of experiences, from calm stretches suitable for beginners to more challenging sections that test the skills of advanced paddlers. Along the way, kayakers will encounter stunning scenery, historic sites, and abundant wildlife. The Susquehanna River Water Trail truly allows you to immerse yourself in the beauty of Pennsylvania’s landscapes and waterways.
Three Rivers Water Trail
The Three Rivers Water Trail is a unique urban paddling experience, located in the heart of Pittsburgh. This water trail consists of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers, offering kayakers the opportunity to explore the city from a unique perspective. Paddlers can navigate through the vibrant downtown area, enjoy beautiful views of the city skyline, and even paddle under iconic bridges. The Three Rivers Water Trail showcases the perfect blend of urban excitement and natural beauty.
Schuylkill River Water Trail
The Schuylkill River Water Trail is a paddler’s paradise, stretching over 115 miles from Schuylkill County to Philadelphia. This water trail features a diverse range of landscapes, from scenic countryside to urban waterways. Whether you choose to paddle through peaceful stretches surrounded by nature or explore the vibrant cityscape of Philadelphia, the Schuylkill River Water Trail offers a unique and rewarding kayaking experience.
Brandywine Creek Water Trail
The Brandywine Creek Water Trail is a picturesque waterway that flows through the beautiful Brandywine Valley. This water trail provides an opportunity to escape into nature and soak up the serene beauty of the surrounding landscapes. Kayakers can navigate through relaxing stretches, admire historic mill sites, and savor the tranquility of the Brandywine Creek. The Brandywine Creek Water Trail is a hidden gem for kayakers seeking a peaceful and scenic paddling experience.
Allegheny River Water Trail
The Allegheny River Water Trail is a scenic waterway that stretches for 325 miles through western Pennsylvania, offering a variety of paddling experiences. Whether you’re looking for calm stretches for leisurely paddling or more challenging rapids for an adrenaline rush, the Allegheny River has it all. Along the way, kayakers will encounter picturesque landscapes, charming towns, and opportunities for camping and fishing. The Allegheny River Water Trail is a fantastic destination for kayakers of all levels.
Hickory Run State Park
Hickory Run State Park is a beautiful destination for kayakers seeking a serene and picturesque experience. The park features Sand Spring Lake, a serene 14-acre lake where kayakers can paddle along the tranquil waters, surrounded by lush forests and stunning rock formations. With its peaceful atmosphere and abundant wildlife, Hickory Run State Park is an excellent choice for a day of kayaking and exploring the natural beauty of Pennsylvania.
Ricketts Glen State Park
Ricketts Glen State Park is a true paradise for nature lovers and kayaking enthusiasts alike. The park’s focal point is the breathtaking Ricketts Glen Lake, featuring calm and clear waters perfect for paddling and relaxation. Kayakers can explore the shoreline, admire the towering waterfalls that frame the lake, and take in the awe-inspiring beauty of the surrounding forested hills. Ricketts Glen State Park is a must-visit destination for kayakers seeking a blend of tranquility and natural splendor.
Shawnee State Park
Shawnee State Park is a hidden gem tucked away in the rugged mountains of Pennsylvania. The park’s 451-acre Shawnee Lake offers kayakers a peaceful and refreshing paddling experience. Surrounded by lush forests and striking mountain views, kayakers can navigate the calm waters, watch for wildlife, and enjoy the serenity of this pristine lake. Shawnee State Park is an ideal destination for those seeking a secluded and tranquil kayaking adventure.
Moraine State Park
Moraine State Park, located in western Pennsylvania, is home to Lake Arthur, a popular destination for kayakers seeking a calm and scenic experience. This 3,225-acre lake offers a variety of paddling opportunities, from leisurely floats along the shoreline to longer adventures exploring the hidden coves and islands scattered throughout. With its clear waters, abundant wildlife, and picturesque surroundings, Moraine State Park is a must-visit for kayaking enthusiasts of all levels.
Ohiopyle State Park
Ohiopyle State Park is a kayaking playground, offering thrilling whitewater rapids, beautiful natural scenery, and a wide range of paddling options. The park’s centerpiece is the Youghiogheny River, which provides kayakers with unforgettable experiences. The Upper Yough features challenging Class IV and V rapids, attracting experienced paddlers seeking an adrenaline rush. The Lower Yough, on the other hand, offers a more relaxed paddling experience with Class III and IV rapids suitable for intermediate kayakers. Surrounding the river, Ohiopyle State Park boasts stunning waterfalls, deep gorges, and a wealth of outdoor activities to complement your kayaking adventure.
Wildlife and Scenic Beauty
Presque Isle State Park
Presque Isle State Park, located on Lake Erie, is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and kayakers alike. This unique peninsula features multiple kayaking opportunities, from tranquil inner lagoons to the open waters of Lake Erie. Kayakers can paddle along the picturesque shoreline, observe a vast array of bird species, and even explore the park’s various islands. With its diverse habitats and stunning landscapes, Presque Isle State Park is an exceptional destination for kayaking and wildlife observation.
Allegheny National Forest
The Allegheny National Forest is a vast expanse of natural beauty, offering kayakers the chance to explore pristine lakes, meandering rivers, and tranquil streams. The forest’s Allegheny Reservoir is a popular spot for kayakers, featuring calm waters surrounded by beautiful forests. Kayakers can also explore the various interconnected streams, such as the Allegheny River, Tionesta Creek, and Clarion River, each offering their own unique paddling experience. The Allegheny National Forest is a true gem for kayakers seeking to immerse themselves in nature.
Cherry Springs State Park
Cherry Springs State Park, located in the heart of Pennsylvania’s Dark Sky Preserve, is a stunning destination for kayakers seeking both natural beauty and stargazing opportunities. This 82-acre park features a tranquil lake, offering kayakers the chance to paddle under a sky filled with stars. Kayaking on the lake, surrounded by the peaceful ambiance of Cherry Springs State Park, is an unforgettable experience that allows you to connect with nature in a truly unique way.
Trough Creek State Park
Trough Creek State Park is a hidden gem nestled in the valleys of the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River. The park’s centerpiece is Trough Creek Gorge, where kayakers can paddle through a stunning gorge filled with towering cliffs and cascading waterfalls. This scenic kayaking experience is complemented by the park’s famous Balanced Rock and picturesque Rainbow Falls, creating a truly magical setting for outdoor enthusiasts.
Pine Grove Furnace State Park
Pine Grove Furnace State Park, located in the south-central part of the state, is a nature lover’s paradise with ample kayaking opportunities. The park’s two lakes, Laurel Lake and Fuller Lake, offer serene waters surrounded by lush forests and picturesque landscapes. Kayakers can paddle along the calm shores, soak up the tranquility of their surroundings, and even take a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters. Pine Grove Furnace State Park is an excellent destination for kayakers seeking to reconnect with nature and enjoy the scenic beauty of Pennsylvania.
The Upper Yough, located in Ohiopyle State Park, is a challenging and exhilarating whitewater kayaking destination. This thrilling section of the Youghiogheny River is known for its Class IV and V rapids, making it a favorite among experienced paddlers. The tight and technical nature of the Upper Yough demands precise navigation and advanced kayaking skills. If you’re up for an adrenaline-pumping adventure, the Upper Yough will not disappoint.
Big Sandy Creek
Big Sandy Creek, located in the Allegheny Mountains, offers an exciting whitewater kayaking experience for those seeking a thrill. This remote and rugged creek features Class IV and V rapids that test even the most experienced kayakers. The challenging drops, tight gorges, and steep gradients of Big Sandy Creek create an adrenaline rush that will leave you craving more. However, tackling Big Sandy Creek requires advanced skills and experience due to its technical nature.
Meadow Run is a hidden gem for whitewater kayaking enthusiasts in Ohiopyle State Park. This short but exhilarating waterway is renowned for its natural waterslides, rock formations, and Class III and IV rapids. The unique features of Meadow Run provide an exciting and dynamic kayaking experience, perfect for intermediate paddlers looking to test their skills and have a great time. Be prepared to have a blast navigating the slides and drops of Meadow Run.
Black Moshannon Creek
Black Moshannon Creek is a scenic waterway located in Black Moshannon State Park, offering a thrilling whitewater kayaking experience. This creek features Class II and III rapids, providing an exciting adventure for kayakers with intermediate skills. The narrow and winding nature of Black Moshannon Creek adds an extra level of challenge and excitement to your paddling journey. Surrounded by lush forests and beautiful scenery, Black Moshannon Creek is a hidden gem for whitewater enthusiasts.
The Lower Yough, also located within Ohiopyle State Park, is a popular destination for whitewater kayaking enthusiasts of all levels. This section of the Youghiogheny River offers Class III and IV rapids that provide thrilling experiences without being overly technical. The Lower Yough is known for its boulder gardens, wave trains, and playful rapids, making it a favorite among both beginners and experienced kayakers. If you’re looking for a memorable whitewater adventure, the Lower Yough should be on your list.
Lake Marburg, located in Codorus State Park, is a serene and picturesque lake that offers calm waters perfect for flatwater kayaking. With its expansive 1,275-acre area, Lake Marburg provides ample space for paddling and exploration. Kayakers can enjoy a leisurely paddle along the shoreline, soak in the tranquility of the surroundings, and even try their luck at fishing. Lake Marburg is an excellent destination for those seeking a relaxing and idyllic flatwater kayaking experience.
Blue Marsh Lake
Blue Marsh Lake, situated in Blue Marsh Recreation Area, is a popular spot for flatwater kayaking in Pennsylvania. This 1,150-acre lake offers calm waters and scenic beauty, making it an ideal destination for paddlers of all skill levels. Kayakers can explore the nooks and crannies of the lake, observe the abundant wildlife, and even enjoy a picnic on one of the peaceful islands. With its convenient location near Reading, Blue Marsh Lake is a convenient and rewarding destination for flatwater kayaking.
Lake Tobias Wildlife Park
Lake Tobias Wildlife Park, nestled in the rolling hills of central Pennsylvania, provides a unique opportunity for flatwater kayaking enthusiasts. This privately-owned wildlife park features a beautiful lake where kayakers can enjoy leisurely paddling while observing exotic animals grazing along the shoreline. The calm waters, surrounding countryside, and close encounters with wildlife make Lake Tobias Wildlife Park a one-of-a-kind destination for flatwater kayaking.
Crooked Creek Lake
Crooked Creek Lake, located in Crooked Creek Lake Recreation Area, is a peaceful and scenic destination for flatwater kayaking. This 325-acre lake offers calm and clear waters perfect for a leisurely paddle. Kayakers can explore the lake’s shoreline, enjoy the tranquil ambiance, and even spot a variety of wildlife such as deer and waterfowl. With its natural beauty and peaceful atmosphere, Crooked Creek Lake is a wonderful retreat for kayakers seeking relaxation and serenity.
Nockamixon State Park
Nockamixon State Park, home to Lake Nockamixon, offers a peaceful and picturesque setting for flatwater kayaking. This 1,450-acre lake allows kayakers to explore its calm waters, admire the surrounding lush forests, and enjoy the serenity of nature. With its proximity to Philadelphia and its tranquil atmosphere, Lake Nockamixon is a popular choice for both day trips and weekend getaways. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced kayaker, Nockamixon State Park has something to offer everyone.
Frances Slocum State Park
Frances Slocum State Park, located in northeastern Pennsylvania, is an excellent destination for beginner-friendly kayaking. The park’s namesake lake provides calm and clear waters perfect for novice kayakers. With its designated paddling area and easy access to the water, Frances Slocum State Park offers a safe and enjoyable environment for beginners to practice their kayaking skills and gain confidence on the water.
The Lackawanna River, flowing through northeastern Pennsylvania, offers a gentle and beginner-friendly kayaking experience. This slow-moving river provides a leisurely paddling experience with minimal rapids, making it ideal for newcomers to the sport. The Lackawanna River offers scenic beauty, abundant wildlife, and easy access points, allowing beginners to explore the wonders of kayaking in a safe and enjoyable environment.
Bald Eagle State Park
Bald Eagle State Park, situated in the central region of Pennsylvania, is an excellent choice for beginner kayakers. Foster Joseph Sayers Lake, located within the park, offers smooth and calm waters, providing an ideal setting for beginners to practice their paddling skills. With its designated paddling areas, gentle currents, and beautiful natural surroundings, Bald Eagle State Park is the perfect place for novices to embark on their kayaking adventures.
Dunbar Creek, located in southern Pennsylvania, is a tranquil waterway ideal for beginner kayakers. This calm and meandering creek offers a peaceful and scenic atmosphere, perfect for those just starting to explore the world of kayaking. Paddlers can enjoy a leisurely float down Dunbar Creek, admire the lush vegetation along the banks, and appreciate the serenity of this hidden gem.
Canoe Creek State Park
Canoe Creek State Park, situated in central Pennsylvania, provides an excellent opportunity for beginner kayakers to learn and practice their skills. The park’s namesake lake offers calm waters, making it an ideal place for beginners to gain confidence and improve their paddling techniques. With its easy access points, beautiful surroundings, and family-friendly atmosphere, Canoe Creek State Park is a welcoming destination for novice kayakers.
In conclusion, Pennsylvania offers a plethora of opportunities for kayaking enthusiasts of all levels. From thrilling whitewater rapids to serene flatwater lakes, picturesque rivers, and tranquil creeks, Pennsylvania’s diverse waterways cater to every paddler’s preferences. Whether you’re seeking a thrilling adventure, a peaceful nature retreat, or a family-friendly day on the water, Pennsylvania has it all. So, grab your kayak, paddle, and life jacket, and dive into the wonderful world of kayaking in Pennsylvania. Happy paddling!