Exploring The 7 Best Lakes To Kayak In Washington

Nestled within the lush landscapes of the Pacific Northwest, Washington State is a kayaker’s dream come true. With its cascading waterfalls, towering evergreen forests, and a multitude of pristine lakes, this corner of the United States offers a kayaking paradise like no other. In this guide, we’ll explore the seven best lakes to kayak in Washington, each a gem in its own right.

Whether you’re in search of tranquil waters for a leisurely paddle, hidden coves to explore, or a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, you’re sure to find your ideal kayaking destination among these natural wonders.

Let’s dive in.

The 7 Best Lakes To Kayak In Washington

Kayaking Lakes in Washington State

Are you an adventurous kayaker looking for the best lakes to explore in Washington? Look no further! We have curated a list of seven must-visit lakes that will satisfy your craving for thrilling kayak journeys amidst breathtaking scenery. From urban settings to remote wilderness, these top lakes offer something for every kayaker, making them the perfect destinations for your next adventure.

#1. Lake Chelan: Paddling through the North Cascades

Lake Chelan is a beautiful lake in North-Central Washington. It stretches from the town of Chelan in the south to a remote place called Stehekin in the north.

This lake is in the North Cascades National Park, surrounded by rugged mountains that show off the Cascade Mountains’ beauty.

One impressive thing about Lake Chelan is its super clear water. In some parts, you can see up to 100 feet below the surface. When people go kayaking on the lake, they get to see the amazing view of the deep blue water underneath.

Lake Chelan kayaking Washington

And in the background, there are mountains with snow on top. This makes the experience really amazing and shows off the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. 

If you go kayaking on Lake Chelan, you can be in the wild and see tall mountains and lush forests all around you. At the north end of the lake, there’s a quiet village called Stehekin. It’s a hidden gem for people looking for a special experience.  The remote village of Stehekin at the northern end of the lake is a hidden gem for those seeking a unique experience.

Here, you can hike through trails in North Cascades National Park, fish for trout and salmon, explore the picturesque Stehekin Valley, camp along the lakeshore, or even take a scenic flightseeing tour over these rugged mountains.

Lake Chelan is not just good for kayaking; it’s also a great place for fishing. You can find different kinds of fish there, like trout and salmon. If you enjoy hiking, there are many trails close to the lake. One impressive thing about Lake Chelan is its super clear water. In some parts, you can see up to 100 feet below the surface.

When people go kayaking on the lake, they get to see the amazing view of the deep blue water underneath.

If you go kayaking on Lake Chelan, you can be in the wild and see tall mountains and lush forests all around you. At the north end of the lake, there’s a quiet village called Stehekin. It’s a hidden gem for people looking for a special experience.

In Stehekin, you can go hiking in North Cascades National Park, go fishing for trout and salmon, explore the beautiful Stehekin Valley, camp near the lake, or even take a flightseeing tour to see the rugged mountains from the air.

Lake Chelan is not just good for kayaking; it’s also a great place for fishing. You can find different kinds of fish there, like trout and salmon. If you enjoy hiking, there are many trails close to the lake. These trails lead you to fantastic spots where you can see beautiful, wide views of the breathtaking scenery.

So, if you want an unforgettable adventure in your kayak, Lake Chelan in the North Cascades should be at the top of your list. As you paddle on its calm water and enjoy the natural wonders, you’ll be surrounded by big mountains that make you feel peaceful and relaxed.

Why wait? Grab your paddle and start your journey on Lake Chelan. You’ll get to see the beauty of the North Cascades, enjoy the thrill of kayaking in clear water, and discover unique animals and landscapes that make this place a paradise for kayakers.

#2. Lake Washington: Urban Kayaking with a View

Kayaking The Lake Washington

Lake Washington is a large freshwater lake located in King County, Washington. Mercer Island is surrounded by Seattle to the west, Bellevue to the east, and Kirkland to the northeast. It’s part of the Greater Seattle area. If you want to go kayaking, Mercer Island is a great place.

You’ll see Bellevue and Seattle from the water. Paddling near Mercer Island gives you a different view of the city, and the water is calm and peaceful.

When you’re kayaking on Lake Washington, make sure to go past Mercer Island. It’s a lovely place with houses by the water. Montlake Cut is a narrow waterway that connects Lake Washington to Lake Union.

It’s interesting for kayakers, especially during the annual “Opening Day” boat parade, which is a fun event with lots of boats. Lake Washington is where the Seafair Festival happens. They have a famous airshow with the Blue Angels.

Kayakers can also experience flying planes from up close. Take your kayak out on Lake Washington and see Seattle’s skyline from the water. It’s a different and beautiful view. You’ll see tall buildings next to calm blue water, and it’s really impressive.

You can also explore the city life while kayaking on Lake Washington. You’ll pass famous places along the way. You might see houseboats on Portage Bay or seaplanes taking off from Lake Union. There are parks along the shoreline where you can take a break or have a picnic while looking at Mount Rainier in the distance. 

Embark on a kayak journey across beautiful Lake Washington for a perfect blend of city exploration and outdoor adventure. The lake’s vast expanse allows you to immerse yourself in nature while still being close to the bustling urban environment. Encounter wildlife such as ducks, herons, and even bald eagles as you paddle along the shoreline.

For those seeking a more tranquil experience, head to the east side of Lake Washington. Here, you’ll find peaceful bays and coves where you can enjoy the serenity of nature. Orcas Island Bay is particularly popular for its calm waters and stunning mountain views.

If you’re lucky, you may even spot whales during your kayaking adventure on Lake Washington. The lake is connected to Puget Sound, a prime location for whale watching.

#3. Lake Union: Houseboats, Yachts, and City Life

Lake Union is a lake right in the middle of Seattle. If you go kayaking there, you’ll have a cool experience. You’ll be paddling around houseboats, yachts, and seaplanes. Seeing the lively city and all the activity on the water makes this a really exciting adventure.

People in Seattle know Lake Union for its big Fourth of July fireworks show. You can paddle out onto the lake in the evening to watch the sky light up over the city. It’s an unforgettable experience.

The great thing about kayaking on Lake Union is that you’re in the middle of a busy city, but you’re also on peaceful water. Paddling near the colorful houseboats, watching the city’s energy, and feeling the movement of the busy water all combine to give you a mix of relaxation and excitement.

When you kayak around Lake Union, you get to see Seattle’s famous houseboat community. It’s a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else. While you’re on the water, you’ll come across all sorts of boats, from small sailboats to fancy yachts. Look around and enjoy the sights and sounds as you navigate this lively harbor.

Watching what’s happening on Lake Union is really interesting. There are elegant houseboats floating calmly, sleek yachts going by, and sometimes seaplanes taking off or landing nearby. It adds an extra layer of excitement to your kayaking adventure.

As you paddle along the edges of Lake Union, you’ll see that it captures the lively feeling of Seattle. The city skyline is impressive, and you might even see sea lions playfully swimming near your kayak. It’s a mix of city life and nautical charm that makes Lake Union a great place for kayakers.

Exploring beyond just kayaking opens up even more possibilities at Lake Union. Hop aboard a classic wooden boat for a leisurely ride across its waters, or head to Gas Works Park to enjoy its unique industrial remnants and panoramic views. Visit the Center for Wooden Boats to learn more about Seattle’s maritime history, or simply relax and have a picnic at Lake Union Park.

When hunger strikes, there are several lakeside dining options available where you can indulge in delicious food while enjoying the picturesque surroundings. From casual cafes to upscale restaurants, there’s something to suit every taste.

For those seeking an extraordinary experience, consider taking a seaplane tour over Seattle. Witness the city from a different perspective as you soar above the skyline and get a bird’s-eye view of Lake Union’s sparkling waters.

#4. Lake Crescent: Pristine Beauty and Aquatic Exploration

Lake Crescent kayaking Washington

Lake Crescent, located on the Olympic Peninsula in the northern part of Olympic National Park, is a hidden gem for kayaking enthusiasts. Accessible via U.S. Route 101 and approximately 18 miles west of Port Angeles, this picturesque lake offers a plethora of recreational activities amidst its pristine beauty.

Lake Crescent is famous for its super clear water. It’s one of the best places for snorkeling or kayaking if you want to see underwater life. When you’re in the cool water, you’ll discover a beautiful underwater world. There are unique rock formations and schools of fish swimming around you. It’s like going on an exciting adventure below the surface.

A special spot at Lake Crescent is the Barnes Point Diving Area. Here, scuba divers and snorkelers can explore a sunken forest underwater. You can see tree stumps and logs that are preserved and still underwater. It’s an amazing experience that shows how incredible nature can be. If you’re not into diving, don’t worry!

You can also go kayaking on the surface of Lake Crescent. There are several beautiful places you can reach from the shore to get great views.

For maximum enjoyment, head towards Barnes Creek in the Barnes Point area. Paddle through calm waters surrounded by lush forests and relish in the peacefulness offered by this inlet. You can even bring along a small picnic to enjoy by the creek before continuing your kayaking adventure on Lake Crescent’s clear waters.

Besides kayaking, Lake Crescent has a lot more to offer. You can go hiking to see Marymere Falls or camp at nearby campsites. The water in the lake is very clear and cool, so it’s a great place for a refreshing swim during your adventure.

Lake Crescent is part of Olympic National Park, and it has amazing views. When you’re kayaking, you can see lush forests and snowy mountaintops. The Olympic Peninsula’s coastline around the lake has lots to explore too. You’ll find diverse wildlife and beautiful beaches. Look out for graceful blue herons flying over the water, and when the tide is low, you might discover hidden treasures along the shoreline.

Whether you want a quiet getaway in nature or an exciting outdoor adventure, Lake Crescent is one of the best places to kayak in Washington. It’s known for its clear water, beautiful surroundings, and lots of fun things to do, making it a must-visit spot for people who love the outdoors.

#5. Lake Wenatchee: The Perfect Blend of Paddling and Hiking

Beyond the beautiful waters, Lake Wenatchee offers a variety of outdoor activities. Adventurers can go kayaking in the morning and then explore the nearby hiking trails in the afternoon, all while surrounded by the majestic Cascade Mountains.

Lake Wenatchee is located in the Wenatchee National Forest, within the Cascade Range. This glacial lake is fed by the Wenatchee River and is surrounded by the majestic Cascade Mountains. Besides kayaking, the lake offers nearby hiking trails that lead to panoramic viewpoints, such as the hike to Lake Minotaur. Lake Wenatchee is a great place for people who love outdoor adventures. Here, you can go kayaking and hiking, which is why it’s a popular spot for outdoor enthusiasts.

The shore of Lake Wenatchee has charming cabins that make it a cozy and pretty place for kayakers. Just imagine waking up to the amazing view of clear water every morning before you start your kayaking trip. One of the best things about Lake Wenatchee is that it’s close to many outdoor activities. Besides kayaking and hiking, you can go cross-country skiing in the winter or fish for trout and salmon all year round.

There are also trails where you can go horseback riding and explore more of the natural beauty at your own pace.

If you want a more relaxed experience, you can have a picnic at Lake Wenatchee State Park. There are special areas where you can enjoy a meal in beautiful natural surroundings. It’s a great place for families or groups of friends to spend quality time together while enjoying the beauty of nature. When you explore beyond Lake Wenatchee, you’ll find many interesting things nearby.

A short drive away is Leavenworth, a charming town that looks like it’s from Bavaria. They have cultural events throughout the year. You should also check out the annual Wenatchee River Salmon Festival, which celebrates the return of salmon to the river.

What makes Lake Wenatchee special is that you can easily switch from kayaking to hiking. After a peaceful morning on the water, you can go on one of the nearby hiking trails, like the Lake Minotaur Trail. As you go up, you’ll see breathtaking views that will amaze you. Being able to do two outdoor activities in one place makes Lake Wenatchee a great destination for people who love nature.


  • Combine your love for kayaking and hiking by visiting scenic Lake Wenatchee, where outdoor adventures await.

#6. Lake Sammamish: Proximity to Urban Centers and Water Sports

Lake Sammamish kayaking Washington

Lake Sammamish, located in King County, east of Seattle, is a hidden gem for kayaking enthusiasts. Lake Sammamish is a great place because it’s close to the city, so you get both the convenience of city life and lots of outdoor activities.

One fantastic spot is Tibbetts Beach, which is inside Lake Sammamish State Park. It’s perfect for having lots of fun. When you go kayaking, don’t forget to check out this beautiful sandy beach. The water is calm, and the views of the lake and the mountains around it are stunning. Afterward, why not enjoy a picnic or simply relax on the shore?

Apart from kayaking, Lake Sammamish offers an array of other activities for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Stand-up paddleboarding is a popular choice for those seeking a different perspective on the lake’s serene waters. If swimming is more your style, head to one of the lakefront beaches for a refreshing dip.

For hikers, the East Lake Sammamish Trail provides an opportunity to explore the scenic surroundings while enjoying a leisurely walk or bike ride along its picturesque path. The trail stretches over 11 miles along the eastern shore of the lake and offers stunning views at every turn.

Birdwatching enthusiasts will find themselves in paradise at Lake Sammamish. Lake Sammamish is a great place for birdwatching. You can see ducks, geese, and herons all year round. Grab your binoculars and spend some time watching these beautiful birds in their natural home. If you want to add a touch of culture to your kayaking adventure, visit the annual Lake Sammamish Wooden Boat Show.

This event showcases beautifully made wooden boats that celebrate boat-making traditions and make your experience even more charming.

One special thing about Lake Sammamish is that it’s close to cities. While you enjoy the lake’s beauty and have fun, you can easily go to Bellevue, a lively city known for shopping and great food. After a day of kayaking, you can do some shopping or enjoy a tasty meal at one of the city’s restaurants.

#7. Lake Cushman: Where Kayaking Meets Rock Climbing

Lake Cushman, found in Mason County on the Olympic Peninsula within the Olympic National Forest, is a hidden treasure for people who love the outdoors and want a mix of kayaking and rock climbing adventures. It’s situated between the impressive Olympic Mountains and Hood Canal, and it’s a really beautiful place that will amaze you.

One of the best things about Lake Cushman is its shoreline. There are many small coves and inlets you can explore. When you paddle through the clear water, you can find hidden spots where you can be in peace surrounded by nature’s beauty. After an exciting day of kayaking, you can relax by the lake, with tall trees and amazing mountain views all around you.

What makes Lake Cushman special is that, on top of kayaking, it’s also a great place for rock climbers. Cushman Rock is close by, and climbers of all levels come here to conquer its different routes. Just imagine going from calm waters one moment to climbing impressive rocks the next—it’s a one-of-a-kind adventure.

The water in Lake Cushman is a stunning turquoise color because it’s fed by glacial streams. This color looks amazing against the green scenery and rugged landscapes. It’s a sight that will capture your attention as you explore this beautiful playground.

In addition to kayaking and rock climbing opportunities at Lake Cushman itself, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy in the area. Here are some options worth exploring:

  • Hiking in the Olympic National Forest: Lace up your boots and embark on scenic trails that lead you deep into nature’s embrace.
  • Fishing for trout and kokanee salmon: Cast your line into these pristine waters for a chance to reel in some impressive catches.
  • Camping along the lake: Pitch your tent or park your RV at one of the campgrounds available, and fall asleep under a star-studded sky.
  • Exploring Staircase in Olympic National Park: Just a short drive away, Staircase offers more hiking trails and stunning waterfalls to discover.
  • Enjoying the stunning views from Mount Ellinor: If you’re up for a challenge, hike to the top of Mount Ellinor for breathtaking panoramic views.

Combine your love for kayaking and rock climbing by visiting Lake Cushman in Washington. You can enjoy the excitement of paddling around impressive cliffs and rugged landscapes, and then test your skills on Cushman Rock. This unique place is perfect for outdoor lovers who want a mix of water and climbing adventures.

Final Words

As we finish talking about the seven best kayaking lakes in Washington, we hope you’re excited to go on your own kayaking trips in this beautiful part of the Pacific Northwest. These lakes are stunning and perfect for exploring, whether you’re an expert kayaker or just starting out.

You can choose from peaceful mountain lakes, secret coves, or paddling with towering mountains all around. Each lake has its special charm waiting for you to discover.

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