Best Canoeing in California

Trying to find the best canoeing in California? Bivy has great hiking, biking, paddling, climbing, skiing, riding and more, with hand-curated trail maps, as well as detailed driving directions.


Nevada, Henderson

02 :05 hrs
4.6 mi
8.264221 ft

If you’re looking for a water adventure but don’t feel up to the rigors of Lake Mead, this course in Lake Las Vegas is for you. Public access to the lake is found at a parking lot on the east side of the lake. Other access points can be found but may be limited by private ownership of launch spots. This is a popular spot, so be on the lookout for other boats, particularly larger and faster moving craft.


California, Placer County

01 :21 hrs
3 mi
20.147064 ft

Ralston Afterbay Reservoir, also known as Oxbox Reservoir, lies at the base of a canyon and where the Rubicon River and the Middle Fork of the American River converge. The reservoir is surrounded by narrow steep sided canyon walls blanketed in a thick forest of conifers. There are day use/picnic areas located at the boat launch area as well as on the island by the dam. The day use area by the boat launch will have restroom facilities and grills in addition to picnic tables. When the water level drops, currents develop making it more challenging to navigate, however, swimming areas emerge. This generally occurs during mid summer months. Also, it is not uncommon for the reservoir to be completely drained by late summer.


California, Lassen County

02 :16 hrs
5 mi
12.592773 ft

South of Butte Lake exists the remnants of an ancient volcano, Cinder Cone. When Cinder Cone was active, it created fields of lava beds which now dominate the southern shores of Butte Lake. The rest of the lake is outlined by tall pines. This paddle trip allows you to explore the geological history of the area up close. As you're paddling along you'll find picturesque views of Cinder Cone, Prospect Peak, and Lassen Peak, and if there during the spring or early summer, it will still be dusted with snow. The southern end of the lake is more shallow, be cautious of rocks just below the surface and out of sight.


California, El Dorado County

02 :12 hrs
4.9 mi
5.355713 ft

These elongated deep blue alpine lakes are tucked away between the mountains of Desolation Wilderness in Lake Tahoe. The lakes are surrounded by glacially carved granite cliffs and tall lodgepole pines, needless to say the scenery is beautiful. Here are some things to keep in mind: The channel between Upper and Lower Echo Lake may require portaging during periods when water level is low, generally by September. Strong southwesterly winds develop in the afternoons. Also, Lower Echo Lake is populated with motorized boats and water skiers.


California, Placer County

04 :26 hrs
9.8 mi
17.758423 ft

Hidden away from local towns and tucked away deep in the woods of El Dorado National Forest is where you'll find Hellhole Reservoir. The vastness of this remote lake as well as the strong prevailing afternoon winds are factors that make this paddle trip a full days worth. There are a few lakeside campgrounds located in the Upper Hellhole Reservoir and a few off shore in the lower reservoir to save you some driving time. The lake is encased and surrounded by granite cliffs with only a few beaches located in lower reservoir, giving you a place to dock, explore, and rest; this is not true for the upper reservoir. Instead, you'll have to dock your boat along the solid granite shores. Be sure to listen and look for creeks tumbling down the steep granite cliffs in the upper reservoir.


California, Nevada County

03 :09 hrs
7 mi
10.69043 ft

Mountain views and solitude are what you will find at Bowman Lake. The lake was first created by the damming of Canyon Creek as far back as 1868 and named after James F. Bowman, a settler from Scotland. Not many visitors venture to the lake, which probably is because of the rough and rocky forest road you must take to get there. But if you are willing, you will definitely be rewarded. You wont find any large motorized boats here even if you do spot a few people. The only boats allowed are paddle boats and small motorized boats. There is an additional put in/take out area at Bowman Campground on the western side of the lake. If you would like to make this a weekend excursion, dispersed camping is also permitted and there are several areas around the lake to camp at. Contact Tahoe National Forest for further information and required permits.


California, El Dorado County

03 :54 hrs
8.7 mi
7.063965 ft

Encased and surrounded by exposed granite rock is where Loon and Pleasant Lakes lie high above and west of Lake Tahoe. The lake can be paddled in a day, but its highly recommended to spend the night at one of the lakeside campgrounds. Just be sure to make a reservation first, contact El Dorado National Forest for additional information. The two lakes are connected by a channel, the largest is Loon Lake to the south and Pleasant Lake to the north. Granite rock dominates the shoreline, but a few beaches become exposed during periods of low water levels which is generally during summer months. Strong northeasterly winds develop late mornings and into the afternoon which will make the lake choppy; intermediate skills are recommended for lake crossings. In spring the area may still have snow and temperatures are cold. In summer afternoon thunderstorms are common.


Hendy Woods State Park, Mendocino County

11 :14 hrs
25.2 mi
43.78726 ft

Stretching from Hendy Woods State Park to the open Pacific, this paddle trip follows the Navarro River as it meanders through dense coastal redwoods. This is not intended to be paddled in a single day, rather its intended for a weekend excursion. There are three designated campgrounds along the river: Hendy Woods State Park, Paul M. Dimmick Campground at 15.5 miles and at the North Fork Navarro River confluence, and at Navarro Beach where the trip ends. Contact Navarro Redwoods State Park for more information on camping (707-937-5804). In addition to the campground there are three more locations to access the river, off of Philo Greenwood Road at 1.5 miles, at mile 20 off of highway 128, and at mile 23.5 off of highway 128.


California, Ventura

08 :11 hrs
18.2 mi
24.672043 ft

In 1959 an earth dam was built and water filled between the steep hillsides, creating Lake Casitas. The lake is surrounded by views of the Santa Ynez Mountains and rolling lush green hillsides speckled with woodlands. What's appealing about this lake, is the lack of people. Since the lake is a water source for the nearby towns, swimming is prohibited. Therefore, there are fewer motorized boats. Strong winds commonly build by late afternoon, so be sure to start early. Several campgrounds are located on the northern side of the lake; check with Casitas Municipal Water District for further camping information.


California, Nevada County

02 :39 hrs
5.9 mi
6.2286377 ft

Lake Spaulding rests in the Lake Tahoe region where its surrounded by the High Sierra's and incredible views. The lake is bordered by a thick forest of conifers and exposed granite rock slopes. Keep a lookout for osprey, they populate the area and nest in the trees. Primitive camping is permitted, but a fire permit is required. There are also designated lakeside camp sites most of which are located along the north end of the lake. Here are a few things to keep in mind and watch out for: Strong winds build later on in the afternoon, which can make crossing the lake especially difficult. Strong wind gusts are also common and have been known to be strong enough to create whitecaps. Releases of water with little or no warning can occur by the power house on the west side of the lake. During summer months water levels are lower and rock exposure is prevalent.

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