The 9 Best Kayaking In Northern California

In Northern California, there are amazing places to go kayaking that offer adventure and beautiful scenery. This region has diverse landscapes, like rugged coastlines and calm lakes surrounded by old forests, making it a great destination for kayakers.

In this article, we’ll talk about the nine best kayaking spots in Northern California. Each of these places has something special to offer, from seeing nature’s beauty to meeting different animals and enjoying clear waters.

Whether you want excitement in fast-moving rivers or a peaceful time on quiet lakes, we’ll show you the top places for kayaking in Northern California. So, let’s get started and explore these hidden gems in this wonderful part of California.

Best Kayaking In Northern California

The 9 Best Kayaking In Northern California

Northern California is a haven for kayaking enthusiasts, offering a myriad of breathtaking spots to explore. From serene lakes to thrilling rivers, this region has it all. Let’s dive in.

#1. Lake Tahoe: Crystal-Clear Waters and Mountains

Lake Tahoe North California

Lake Tahoe is a massive and exceptionally clear lake in North America, known for its stunning blue waters. It covers a vast area of 191 square miles, making it an ideal spot for kayaking, especially if you appreciate calm and beautiful surroundings.

One of the best things about kayaking on Lake Tahoe is the chance to see the incredible Sierra Nevada mountains while you paddle on the crystal-clear lake. As you glide along the peaceful shores, you’ll have panoramic views of these majestic mountains, creating a truly mesmerizing backdrop for your kayaking adventure.

But Lake Tahoe has more to offer than just kayaking; it’s a haven for adventure enthusiasts. If you enjoy fishing, you can catch rainbow trout or kokanee salmon in its deep waters.

If swimming is more your style, you can take a refreshing dip in the cool lake under the warm California sun. For those who like exploring underwater, consider bringing snorkeling gear in late spring and early summer when the melting snow from the Sierra Nevada mountains makes the lake exceptionally clear.

You can discover the beautiful underwater world beneath the surface during this time.

Lake Tahoe isn’t limited to water activities; it’s a year-round playground for outdoor lovers. Some hiking trails guide you through lush forests and hidden gems in nature. If you’re a fan of mountain biking, there are challenging trails that wind through breathtaking landscapes.

During the winter, skiers and snowboarders flock to renowned ski resorts around Lake Tahoe for thrilling downhill adventures. 

So, regardless of the season, Lake Tahoe has something exciting to offer for everyone who enjoys outdoor adventures.

If you’re planning a visit to Lake Tahoe specifically for kayaking, there are several noteworthy locations besides its main body:

  1. Gold Lake: Nestled in Northern California’s Sierra Buttes, Gold Lake offers a serene kayaking experience amidst picturesque surroundings.
  2. Twin Lakes: Located near Bridgeport, Twin Lakes boasts stunning mountain views and tranquil waters that are perfect for paddling.

#2. Russian River: Serene Paddling Through Wine Country

Kayaking The Russian River North California

The Russian River, a winding waterway that starts in the Mendocino National Forest and flows through California’s wine country before reaching the Pacific Ocean, offers a peaceful kayaking experience surrounded by beautiful riverside scenery. Stretching over approximately 110 miles, this river is perfect for those who want a calm paddle through California’s famous wine region. 

One cool thing about kayaking on the Russian River is that you can help protect the environment while having fun. There’s a movement to reduce the use of single-use plastics like bottles and bags along the river. As kayakers, we can do our part by not leaving trash behind and using reusable water bottles. This helps keep the river clean and ensures that people in the future can enjoy kayaking here, too.

Thanks to organizations like Russian Riverkeeper, which works hard to make the river better, you can spot river otters and see the overall health of the river improving. It’s nice to know that our kayaking adventure is helping to take care of this special place.

The Russian River is a great choice whether you’re just starting kayaking or want a calm and relaxed experience. It’s peaceful, and you can take your time exploring the river as it winds through nature’s beauty.

For an even more special adventure, try kayaking here in late spring when the vineyards around the Russian River are full of blooming flowers. The air smells amazing, and it adds to the fun of kayaking. You can even combine your love for kayaking with wine tasting since there are many wineries in the area that offer tastings and tours.

Besides kayaking, there are lots of other things to do in the Russian River region. If you like hiking, there are trails to explore. If you have a dog, there are places along the river where dogs are welcome. And if you enjoy cycling, there’s a pretty road called Sugar Pine Road that you can ride on. Don’t worry if you don’t have a bike; you can easily rent one.

So, whether you’re on the water or on land, there are lots of fun things to do in the Russian River region for everyone to enjoy.

#3. Tomales Bay: Exploring Point Reyes’ Natural Wonders

Tomales Bay is a stunning place in Northern California in Point Reyes National Seashore. It’s perfect for people who love nature. It’s like a long, narrow part of the ocean, and the state protects it because it’s so special.

This is the place to be if you want to see lots of marine life, especially from a kayak. You can see cute harbor seals hanging out in the sun and swimming gracefully. There are also lots of different kinds of birds that make beautiful sounds. Plus, the views of the coastline are amazing as you paddle along.

But there’s more! Tomales Bay is famous for its oysters. They grow fresh oysters here and do it in a way that’s good for the environment. If you like oysters, you have to try them when you visit.

And if you come in the fall, you can do something extra special – look at the stars while you’re on the bay. The nights are clear During the cooler months, and you can see the stars well. Imagine going kayaking at night with the moon and stars above you. You can even camp out and really enjoy the night sky.

While you’re kayaking in Tomales Bay, remember to explore other cool places in Point Reyes. There are hidden beaches in little coves that are perfect for relaxing. And the cliffs and rocks along the bay add drama to the beautiful scenery.

#4. Mendocino Coast: Thrilling Adventures and Coastal Marvels

Mendocino Coast Cave Kayaking California

The Mendocino Coast is a fantastic place on the northern California coastline with lots of exciting things to do. It has beautiful beaches, tall cliffs, and interesting rocks shaped by the strong ocean waves.

One of the best things about the Mendocino Coast is its natural features, like sea caves, dramatic cliffs, and cool rocks. People who love adventure and kayaking come here to have a thrilling time on the water. You can imagine paddling through caves created by the ocean over many years or kayaking near tall cliffs while birds fly above you. It’s a journey that will leave you amazed.

For experienced kayakers who want an exciting challenge, there’s the Trinity River. It’s a must-visit for white-water kayaking. The river has tough rapids and fast water, making it a thrilling experience. Just remember to have the right gear and know how to do whitewater kayaking safely.

If you visit in late summer or early fall, you can see something else amazing on the Mendocino Coast – wildflowers blooming along the coast. As you paddle, you’ll see colorful flowers that make the already beautiful scenery even more special. The bright flowers and rugged cliffs are a treat for nature lovers.

After your fun day on the water, be sure to check out Mendocino Headlands State Park. There are trails that go through the cliffs and give you fantastic views of the ocean. You can take a relaxed walk on these paths, enjoy the wide views, or even see seals in the nearby coves.

To make your kayaking adventure on the Mendocino Coast even better, tour companies can rent you equipment, give you guided tours, and share their knowledge of the area. Whether you’re new to kayaking or very experienced, these experts can ensure your trip is right for your skills and what you like to do.

#5. Trinity River: White-Water Thrills for Experienced Paddlers

The Trinity River is a big river that flows through the beautiful Trinity Alps Wilderness. It’s famous for its fast and bumpy sections that are perfect for experienced kayakers who want an exciting ride and love seeing the stunning mountain scenery.

If you love being outdoors, the Trinity River area offers much more than just kayaking. You can go camping, fishing, and hiking, which makes it a favorite place for people who enjoy being in nature.

But if you’re a really good kayaker who wants an exciting adventure, the Trinity River is the best place for white-water kayaking. The rapids here are tough; they’ll test your skills and give you an amazing thrill.

If you like a quieter and more peaceful time on the water, you can kayak on the Trinity River in late fall or early winter when the water is lower. During this time, the rapids are not as crazy, and it’s a different experience. The forest changes colors as you paddle along this pretty river.

But white-water kayaking on the Trinity River is no joke. You need to be super prepared and really good at it. The fast water and tricky stuff in the river need expert skills. It’s not a good idea for beginners or people who just want to kayak for fun.

Always remember to be safe when you go on your exciting kayaking trip on the Trinity River. Wear the right gear, like helmets and life jackets. Learn how to rescue yourself and what to do in an emergency before you start.

And when you plan your trip to kayak on the Trinity River, think about checking out other cool stuff in the area. There’s a trail called the Bridgeport Trail nearby, where you can hike and see amazing views of the forest and waterfalls. You can also visit the nice town of Bridgeport, known for its old buildings and friendly people.

#6. Humboldt Bay: Accessible Beauty for All Skill Levels

Humboldt Bay is a big, enclosed bay on the California coast, and it’s a fantastic place for kayaking. Coastal marshes surround it, and is home to many different birds. If you love nature and adventure, this is the place to be.

What’s great about kayaking in Humboldt Bay is that it’s good for all skill levels. Whether you’re a pro kayaker or just starting out, this bay has something for everyone. The water is usually pretty calm, so it’s nice and peaceful for beginners to practice. But if you’re experienced, you can explore the bay more and find cool hidden spots.

You’ll see some amazing natural scenery as you paddle in Humboldt Bay. The water is a beautiful green color in the sun, and it makes the adventure even more magical. There are lush forests along the edges of the bay, so you might see animals, and it all adds to the peaceful feeling. It’s a real escape from the busy everyday life.

One of the best things about kayaking in Humboldt Bay is the wildlife. There are lots of different birds here, so keep an eye out for them. Many migratory birds come in the spring, which is perfect for birdwatchers. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars and a book about birds to enjoy the different types you can see.

Besides birdwatching, you can also go hiking around Humboldt Bay. After you finish kayaking, put on your hiking shoes and explore the trails around the bay. The Bay Area has some really pretty hikes that take you through the marshes and show you hidden gems.

#7. Clear Lake: Vast Waters and Relaxing Paddling

Clear Lake is a big and beautiful freshwater lake in Northern California. It’s famous for being the largest natural freshwater lake in the state and is a great place for people who love kayaking and peace.

The lake is calm and has lovely rolling hills, making it perfect for a relaxed paddle. It doesn’t matter if you’re really good at kayaking or just trying it out for the first time, Clear Lake has something for everyone.

One of the best things about Clear Lake is that it’s easy to go kayaking here. The water is flat and calm, which means it’s good for people who are just starting to learn. You can easily put your kayak in the water at many places along the shore.

Clear Lake is perfect if you want a calm and peaceful kayaking adventure. You can glide through the clear blue water and see amazing views all around you. You can take your time exploring little hidden spots and sandy beaches along the shore. These spots are great for having a picnic or taking a swim.

Clear Lake isn’t only for kayaking; it’s also a favorite for people who love fishing. There are many catfish and bass in the lake, making it a popular place for anglers. It’s even better in the fall because the weather is nice, and you can catch more fish while out on your kayak.

If you want to stay at Clear Lake for more than just a day, resorts and campgrounds are right by the lake. You can set up your tent near the water and wake up to beautiful sunrises. During the day, you can explore hidden spots and relax on sandy beaches. Then, you can sleep in your cozy tent under a sky full of stars at night.

Just so you know, Clear Lake allows powerboats, but they’re usually only allowed in certain parts of the lake. Most of the lake stays peaceful for kayakers and people in non-motorized boats.

#8. Eel River: A White-Water Challenge Amidst Nature’s Beauty

Eel River Kayaking North California

The Eel River is a fantastic place in Northern California’s north coast area. It’s the third-largest river there, and it flows through all kinds of different landscapes like cool forests, dramatic canyons, and pretty meadows. But what makes it special is the South Fork of the Eel River, perfect for people who love exciting white-water kayaking.

The Eel River is the place to be for people who are really good at kayaking and want a big thrill. It has Class III-IV rapids, which means it has really exciting and challenging parts where you need to use your skills to get through. And while doing that, you get to see the amazing natural beauty around you.

The Eel River is the best place for white-water kayaking. If you’re experienced and want to challenge yourself while being in beautiful nature, you should definitely consider coming here. It’s like a hidden treasure with thrilling rapids and peaceful wilderness that you’ll remember forever.

The best time to kayak on the Eel River is late spring through early summer. That’s when the conditions are just right for tackling the tough rapids. During this time, the snow from the nearby mountains melts, making the river flow fast and exciting. Get ready for an intense experience as you conquer these thrilling parts.

Imagine yourself on this white-water adventure, going through emerald-colored water, feeling the wind on your face, and seeing amazing scenery mile after mile. The Eel River gives you an unforgettable kayaking adventure because it combines excitement with the beauty of nature.

#9. Lake Shasta: A Beauty of Calmness

Lake Shasta is a really big lake in Northern California, and it’s a perfect place for kayaking. It’s surrounded by beautiful scenery and a huge freshwater lake where you can enjoy nature and explore.

What’s great about Lake Shasta is that it has all kinds of different views. The lake’s shoreline is more than 365 miles long, which means there are many places to check out. You can find hidden spots where you won’t see anyone else and big rocks that make the scenery look amazing. Every time you paddle on Lake Shasta, you’ll see beautiful things.

You’ll be happy at Lake Shasta if you love animals and nature. Many animals are here, like bald eagles flying high above, osprey birds building nests in trees, and deer coming near the water. If you paddle quietly along the shore, you might get really close to these amazing animals. Ensure your camera is ready because you might see something special during your kayaking adventure.

People really like to go house boating on Lake Shasta, so you’ll see these cool houseboats parked in quiet spots. They add a special feeling to your kayaking experience, like a touch of magic.

You can visit Shasta Caverns nearby if you want to add something extra to your kayaking trip. These are awesome limestone caves that you can explore with a guide. It’s cool to see something amazing underground after your time on the lake.

So, Lake Shasta is a fantastic place for kayaking, where you can enjoy nature, see wildlife, and even explore caves if you want to. It’s an adventure that has everything!

Final Words

In conclusion, Northern California offers a treasure trove of kayaking experiences, each with its unique charm and allure. From the tranquil waters of Lake Tahoe to the thrilling white-water rapids of the Eel River and the serene beauty of Clear Lake, there’s a kayaking destination for every adventurer.

Explore the rugged coastline of Tomales Bay, witness the breathtaking landscapes of Lake Shasta, and get lost in the enchanting beauty of Humboldt Bay. Whether you’re a seasoned kayaker or a beginner, these Northern California gems provide a perfect opportunity to connect with nature, encounter wildlife, and create lasting memories.

But before you embark on your kayaking journey, remember to prioritize safety. Always check weather conditions and water levels before heading out. And don’t forget to bring essential gear like sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water.

About Addison

Hark! Fellow seekers of adventure! 

I'm Addison, a passionate adventurer from Oregon's captivating Pacific Northwest. Alongside my brother Ronin, we founded PaddleWiggle, a kayaking website. On my page, you'll find thrilling stories of my kayaking expeditions.

So, join me as I explore wild rivers and hidden coves, sharing the raw beauty of nature through PaddleWiggle's expedition section.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top