Kayaking is an awesome way to experience the beautiful natural world that we live in from a unique perspective. Compared to hiking or backpacking, kayaking offers a totally different look at the wild places that still exist outside our doors.
If you’re new to the sport, consider finding a place to rent a kayak near you this summer and seeing if it’s for you. Kayaking can be an awesome hobby that ranges from relaxing and quiet to exciting and action-packed (depending on your skill level and personal preferences of course!) and may just be your new favorite pastime.
National forests are a great place to experience kayaking once you have your own kayak to take out on the water. The following national forests are some of the absolute best destinations to add to your kayaking bucket list.
Chugach National Forest, Alaska
The Chugach National Forest near Valdez-Cordova, Alaska is the second-largest tract of forest in the United States. It offers great hiking experiences and incredible views. It also includes Prince William Sound, which is a place that all kayakers should experience at least once in their lives. You’ll paddle near gigantic glaciers and may even spot an orca breaching the surface. Rustic cabins lining the Sound allow for primitive camping during your kayaking trip if so desired.
Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
Although it’s a national park and not a national forest, Kenai Fjords National Park still needs to be mentioned on this list. Near Seward, Alaska, Kenai Fjords offers a similar type of kayaking experience to Prince William Sound. The main difference is that the paddling routes here are better suited towards kayakers with more experience. The waters can be treacherous and hiring a guide is highly recommended. If you want a more challenging paddle and want to have some experiences (sometimes up close and personal!) with marine wildlife, then Kenai Fjords National Park should be on the top of your kayaking bucket list.
Ocala National Forest, Florida
For a completely different paddle from anything that Alaska has to offer, consider planning a trip to the Ocala National Forest in warm and sunny Florida. The Ocala National Forest is the oldest national forest found east of the Mississippi River, and also holds the distinction of being the southernmost national forest in the continental United States.
Juniper Run is the place to be in Ocala for kayakers. The meandering and lushly forested paddle route will make you feel like you are in the middle of the rainforest.
Alright, so, I’ve mentioned destinations far to the west and just about as far to the east as you can get before running into the Atlantic Ocean. But I don’t want to leave out some of the incredible kayaking destinations located in the middle portion of the country!
For a kayaking bucket list item in the midwest, consider either the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri or the Ozark National Forest in Arkansas. Both of these beautiful areas are wonderful places to visit for the intrepid kayaker. If you make Missouri your destination of choice, you’ll want to paddle the Eleven Point National Scenic River for one of the most memorable experiences. There are several campsites along the river to spend your evenings on the water, and the rolling hills that surround the area are stunning to watch as you paddle by. A summertime trip is an ideal time in the year to make it out to these Missouri waters.
For those of you who prefer Arkansas, the Mulberry River in the Ozark National Forest will be your destination of choice. Easy access and incredible scenery are just two of the things you can expect to enjoy on this paddling trip. A spring trip will allow for some white water kayaking for those interested, as well as great chances to land a fish if that kind of thing floats your boat. (Pun intended!)
The most important thing to remember when making your kayaking bucket list is to include the places and areas that YOU want to experience in your lifetime. Always remember that, and you’ll look back fondly on your kayaking adventures.
If you are looking for a place to setup camp for your next Kayak adventure, visit KOA.com to find a campground nearby!
Writer. For Roadtrippers. For KOA. For sanity. Catcher of fish. Baseball fanatic. Proud to call Ohio home.