Best Sea Kayaking in California
Trying to find the best sea kayaking in California? Bivy has great hiking, biking, paddling, climbing, skiing, riding and more, with hand-curated trail maps, as well as detailed driving directions.
California, El Dorado County
01 :58 hrs
On the southern end of Lake Tahoe Eagle Creek tumbles from above and descends into a narrow bay, Emerald Bay. In summer the Emerald Bay area is swarming with visitors as they all follow a path outlining the bay and hugging its shores to Rubicon Point. Beat the crowd by paddling instead. Just be cautious of high winds mid mornings until early afternoon. The first half of this paddle trip is exposed and you may find yourself fighting waves. Stay close to shore where you are less exposed to motorized boats and wind, just be weary of rocks.
00 :54 hrs
Explore sea caves, bird-filled cliffs, and paddle through the kelp forests while sea lions come to check you out.
California, Santa Cruz Island County
00 :56 hrs
Santa Cruz Island is the largest of the five Channel Islands and likely the most rugged. Its comprised of steep jagged cliffs, deep valleys, and high peaks. This paddle trip explores the vibrant tidal pools teeming with sea creatures and several volcanic sea caves located on the northeast side of the island. What's nice about this trip is the high volcanic cliffs surrounding the bay provide moderate protected from strong northwesterly winds and waves. Contact Island Packers or Truth Aquatics for boat transportation.
02 :21 hrs
11 miles off the coast of California is a remote virtually untouched island with steep rocky cliffs that plunge into the ocean below, this is Anacapa Island. From the loading dock, this trip paddles through crystal clear waters and follows the cliffs along the northern side of the island while passing several sea caves and unique geological formations along the way. The section between roughly 3.7 and 4.5 miles is protected and closed to boats between January 1st and October 31 due to pelican rookery. Be cautious and aware of submerged rocks and shallow reefs in the channels. There is one cove suitable for a landing and another where landing is impossible but offers significant protection from the elements, mile 3.5 and mile 5.5. Loading kayaks from the dock can be a little tricky and requires help. A hoist must be used to lower kayaks 10 to 12 feet from the dock to the water. Contact Island Packers or Truth Aquatics for boat transportation.
California, Mendocino County
03 :03 hrs
Bear Harbor to Usal Beach is another pristine coastal section of California. The shoreline is mostly towering forested cliffs that descend into the ocean with only few beaches. At 13.5 miles you will pass Jackass Creek and a small beach, just watch out for the rock gardens you must paddle through to reach it. The second to last on shore stop is Little Jackass Creek at 15.5 miles, there is excellent ocean and creek side camping here equipped with an outhouse. Backcountry camping permits are available at Usal Beach and Needle Rock Visitor Center. The next break in cliffs isn't until Usal Beach.
California, El Dorado County
01 :28 hrs
Along the southern shores of Lake Tahoe is a small stretch of beach, this is Baldwin Beach and where this paddle trip begins. It follows the shoreline around the bend and into the more protected Emerald Bay. As you round the bend at Eagle Point, watch for ospreys nesting in the trees above. The first half of the paddle is exposed to the open lake where you will find the most interference with winds and waves. Strong winds develop mid morning and don't generally die down until early afternoon. Lake Tahoe is also a popular place for motorized boats, stay close to the shoreline to avoid water traffic. Although it is best to travel along the shoreline, you may find yourself battling waves and bouncing off rocks. The best time to hit the water is in the early morning or late afternoon when the waves and winds are not as bad.
California, Humboldt County
04 :28 hrs
The Lost Coast is aptly named for being the wildest coast in California. On this paddle trip you'll enjoy views of 2,000 foot high forested cliffs as you paddle beside them from Shelter Cove to Bear Harbor. At 5.5 miles beaches began to appear but are not reached without difficulty. Rocks sit offshore from here to Bear Harbor. Camping is available at Bear Harbor and this trip can be used in junction with the Bear Harbor to Usal Beach trip. If you make this an overnight trip, parking is free at Shelter Cove. If not, you can either leave a car at both landings or get a shuttle by the hosts at Shelter Cove RV Park and Campground. Some things to consider are fog, afternoon winds, and sudden rough seas.
California, Marin County
10 :04 hrs
Beginning from Drakes Estero and ending at Stinson Beach, this multi-day paddle trip follows the uninhabited and protected coastline of Point Reyes National Seashore. Along this wild stretch of shoreline you'll find steep rocky cliffs and beaches exposed at lower tides. At mile 8 is a beach, above the beach along the coastal bluff is Coast Camp. The second coastal bluff camp is Wildcat Camp at mile 12.5. Contact Point Reyes National Seashore for required backcountry camping permits. Overnight parking is not permitted at Stinson Beach, park in town instead.
California, Santa Rosa Island County
01 :36 hrs
Santa Rosa Island is the second largest island of the Channel Islands. The terrain is comprised of rolling hills, deep canyons, coastal lagoons, and sandy beaches. This paddle trip is only accessible by private boat or transportation from either Island Packers, Truth Aquatics, or Channel Island Aviation. It explores the southern shores of the island from Ford Point to Johnson Lee's. On this side of the island you will find long, narrow beaches, sandstone cliffs, and shallow caves and arches to explore. Although this area is more protected and has calmer conditions than the northern side, be sure to check the weather to avoid strong winds and high seas.
California, Los Angeles County
07 :42 hrs
Situated 20 miles from the California coast and part of the southern Channel Islands is where you'll find Santa Catalina Island. This is a popular place for summer vacationers, but large enough to find ample solitude. This paddle trip explores the northwestern tip of the island and its strikingly tall rocky cliffs and secluded small coves. Developed campsites on this trip are available at Two Harbors (landing site) and Parson's Landing (mile 4.7). Primitive camping is permitted as well. Sheltered landing sites can be found at mile 1.4, mile 7.5, mile 14.7, and mile 15.7. Be cautious and aware of thick kelp beds, shallow reefs, and submerged rocks while paddling. Contact Catalina Island Conservancy for information on required permits and check out www.catalinachamber.com for information on boat transportation and camping.
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