The Top 10 Stand-Up Paddleboarding Destinations in the US

Austin, Texas
John Coletti / Getty Images

Between its three coasts, over 250 fresh-water lakes, and 3,500,000 miles of rivers, the U.S. has plenty of prime stand-up paddle boarding spots. Various marine, marsh, river, desert, and glacial ecosystems exist throughout its waterways, providing SUP boarders with unmatched experiences with nature. Touch a glacier from your board in an Alaskan bay, witness dolphins strand feeding in South Carolina, and paddle to a natural sauna on a Nevada river. Whether you follow the archipelago of the Florida Keys or see sea turtles in Southern California, adventure's always just past the nose of your board.

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Black Canyon, Arizona and Nevada

 The Colorado River through Black Canyon

Courtesy of the National Parks Service

Paddle on the clear waters of the Colorado River past desert mountains where big horned sheep roam to a land of hot springs and wild camping in Black Canyon. Located in Nevada and Arizona, this 12-mile section of the Black Canyon Water Trail, from Willow Beach to the Hoover Dam, requires no paddling or camping permits (if you start from Willow Beach). Soak in the natural hot springs, and breathe in the steam of the Sauna Cave. Come in the spring or fall for prime soaking weather and though mostly calm, be prepared for potentially strong winds (20 knots) and possible strong current (5 to 8 knots). For a two-day trip, camp at Arizona Hot Springs the first night, then paddle to Hoover Dam and back the next day.

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Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
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Touch icebergs, get followed by curious seals and see humpback whales breach, all from your SUP board as you paddle to the Pacific Ocean in Glacier Bay National Park. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and biosphere reserve located west of Juneau, Alaska, Glacier Bay can only be reached by boat or a 30-minute plane ride from Juneau. Filled with hideaway harbors, islands, glaciers, and moose clomping through emerald-hued forests, it offers a range of paddling conditions—from calm lakes where you can fish or practice yoga on your board to challenging coves. A stable board and wetsuit are necessary due to the icy water temps, strong winds, and swells. You should only go out during favorable conditions, as the park can have gale-force winds and high tidal currents. Permits to paddle and camp in the park are required but free. Go during the warmer months of May through September.

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Hanalei River, Hawaii

Young Women On A Paddle Board
MichaelSvoboda / Getty Images

A hibiscus-strewn river gently running past fields of bright green Taro fields lined by coconut trees await SUP boarders in Hanalei, Hawaii. Start from where the river and bay meet and go upstream to pass by Kauai’s distant mountains and waterfalls, flower bushes, and Hawaiian geese bobbing on the water. Wide and with calm waters, it’s easy to navigate inland for the whole of the 12-mile out and back trail through the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge or opt for a shorter paddle of only an hour or two. Lots of places rent SUP boards in Hanalei town, or you can bring your own. The weather here is good year-round, but for those coming from out of state, it will be far cheaper to go in late fall or late spring when airfare and hotel prices drop.

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Lake Powell, Utah and Arizona

Woman paddle boarding, Lake Powell, Utah, USA
Suzanne Stroeer / Getty Images

Calm blue and green water surrounded by dusty red Navajo Sandstone cliffs make for days of pleasant SUP boarding on Lake Powell. At 186 miles in length, it's one of North America's largest lakes. Paddle to one of its 96 canyons for a day hike, then cool off by jumping in the 80 degree Fahrenheit water. The most magical time to cast off is around 7 a.m. when the sun begins to hit the water. Its remote location in the Glen Canyon National Park on the Arizona-Utah border allows for peaceful paddling away from giant crowds. Water temps are warmest in midsummer to early fall, with fall being the prime time to come due to less wind. An entry permit to the park costs $30, good for a week. Stay in a hotel in Page, Arizona, or camp at Antelope Island to easily access Antelope Canyon.

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Lady Bird Lake, Texas

Austin Texas cityscape skyline, Congress Avenue Bridge, Standup Paddleboarding
dszc / Getty Images

Hear live music from the water, paddle below the famous bat colony, and take your dog along for the ride as you paddle Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin, Texas. No motorized boat traffic is allowed on the water, meaning you’ll have nothing but smooth water from Red Bud Beach to Festival Beach on the lake’s longest water route (11 miles). Eight official access points and many more unofficial ones make getting on the water easy from almost anywhere near the lake. As Austin’s the Live Music Capital of the World, expect to hear music from somewhere onshore as you paddle and hop out with your dog at Red Bud Isle for an island off-leash dog park filled with cypress trees. Year-round paddling’s available here, though the fall and spring are the best time to go when temps are hot but bearable, and multiple music festivals hit town.

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Florida Keys, Florida

Vibrant reef
Jorge Porro / Getty Images

The Florida Keys’ clear blue waters show a marine world filled with schools of colorful fish, bottlenose dolphins, jellyfish, and more if you paddle along their coastline. Glide through mangrove tunnels and above manatee grass beds in Key Largo, or coast by one of the world’s most extensive living coral reefs at Islamorada. The keys, an archipelago of over 800 islands stretching for 125 miles, has calm waters, perfect for SUP fishing, and manageable waves for SUP surfing beginners. Accommodation’s plentiful with many beach hotels, resorts, and a few campgrounds, but the Keys are a popular beach destination, so book in advance. Blessed with warm weather year-round, you can paddle here anytime, but the best time to go is in the spring before hurricane season begins in June.

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Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada

Paddle boarding
MariuszBlach / Getty Images

Surrounded by the Sierra Nevada, this massive crystal-clear alpine lake offers tons of water routes, beaches, camping, hot springs, clear air, and big skies. Covering 191 square miles in surface area, Lake Tahoe can be accessed from both Nevada and California. Tackle the Lake Tahoe Water Route, a 72-mile paddle that follows the lake's circumference, or opt for short day paddles to Rubicon Point Lighthouse, Fannette Island (Tahoe's only island), or Brockway Hot Springs for a midday soak. Due to its massive size, planning before is essential, as is getting to launch sites early before parking lots fill. Expect cold to cool water throughout the year. Summer is the best time to paddle here when the water temp reaches a high of 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Great Lakes, Michigan and Wisconsin

Pictured rocksR
Posnov / Getty Images

Fish for trout, pass under naturally formed rock arches and listen to songbirds serenade you as you paddle in the Great Lakes. While cold weather and frozen waterways only allow for paddling from April to September, the time spent on the water is worth the wait to see the 70-foot cascades of Spray Falls on Lake Superior amongst white and black sandstone cliffs, home to hawks and falcons. Coast by dunes and maple forests at Lake Michigan's Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore or, if you're a beginner, practice your skills at Lake Huron Tawas Point State Park, where a calm bay and slightly warmer water temps offer a forgiving learning environment. Even in warmer months, bringing a springsuit is advisable.

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San Diego, California

Scenic view of sea against sky during sunset,La Jolla Cove,United States,USA
Goutam Chakraborty / 500px / Getty Images

One of the most diverse places in the U.S. for water terrain and SUP activities like surfing, yoga, and fishing; San Diego, California, is a mecca for SUP boarders. Tour the marine sanctuary in La Jolla Cove to see sea turtles and leopard sharks or take a SUP yoga class in Agua Hedionda Lagoon. SUP surf on the mild waves at Tourmaline Surf Park, or paddle out for views of the San Diego skyline (and sweet ocean sunsets) at Shelter Island Shoreline Park. Any time of the year has good SUP boarding weather, but the winter will bring the biggest waves and the summer warmest water.

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Seabrook Island, South Carolina

Two South Carolina River Dolphins
photo by Pam Susemiehl / Getty Images

Home to a community of 350 bottlenose dolphins, the salt marsh estuaries of Seabrook Island’s waters make for a calm water route to the Atlantic Ocean with birding and wildlife viewing opportunities along the way. Watch the dolphins strand feed, a type of fishing in which the dolphins breach themselves at low
tide on the shoreline and trap their prey. Roseate spoonbills, bald eagles, and
osprey can be seen flying overhead, while gray foxes and crabs run along the beach and long grass. Come in the fall for the best weather, but in the winter for low season prices on accommodation. Multiple companies rent SUPs, like Waterdog Paddle Co., but you can bring your own and stay in an Airbnb to push off from the island’s private beaches.

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