The 7 Best National Parks for Paddle Boarding

Doug Robichaud | Travel

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The 7 Best National Parks for Paddle Boarding

Paddle boarding at National Parks

Let’s face it: national parks are hands-down the most epic destinations to go paddle boarding.  Out of the 59 National Parks in the United States, we filtered through each one to find the most stellar destinations to fulfill your paddle board dreams. For each park, we give you the low-down on the best places to paddle, best time(s) to visit and the best places to stay. Paddle boarding at national parks

1. Acadia National Park 

Witness quintessential New England, paddle boarding at Acadia National Park. Paddle around the rugged Atlantic coastline of Mount Desert Island and enjoy the sparkling backdrops of myriad islands, coves, open oceans and mountains. Inland at Acadia, enjoy the park’s majestic fresh water lakes surrounded by furry green pine trees and open fields. Best places to paddle board:
  • Along Mount Desert Island
  • Echo Lake
  • Great Long Pond
  • Seal Cove Pond
Best time to visit: September through Early October (leave behind the summer crowds and escape before it starts to get too cold) Best places to stay: Acadia National Park paddle boarding lakes

2. Dry Tortugas National Park 

Dry Tortugas can be considered one of the greatest national parks in the US that not a lot of people know about. If we were to describe a paddle boarder’s paradise, it would be Dry Tortugas.  1% of the park is dry ground and 99% is crystal clear Caribbean waters over seagrass beds and coral reefs. This park is perfect to paddle board in the sunshine with your snorkel gear and make pit stops to relax at nearby empty beaches. Dry Tortugas is only accessible by ferry (can transport SUPs). This limitation means that this national park never gets too crowded with visitors which we think makes this park super special. Enjoy paddling with friends and family in peace. Check out the ferry schedule here. Best spots to paddle board:
  • Bush Key
  • Long Key
  • Loggerhead Key (can take several hours to paddle round trip)
Best time to visit: Anytime of the year!
  • Winter season (Dec – Mar which is windier and has slightly rougher seas and average temp is in the mid sixties
  • Summer season (June through November) higher chance of isolated storms and average temp is 80
Best places to stay: Your tent in a no-frill campground (be prepared to be self-sufficient) Dry Tortugas paddle boarding

3. Channel Islands National Park 

Off the coast of Southern California are five sublime islands that make up Channel Islands National Park. Similar to Dry Tortugas, you have to take a ferry (can transport SUPs) to access the national park (little crowds). Check out the ferry schedule here. Paddle board around each of the five islands and catch a glimpse of what California looked like hundreds of years ago before it became industrialized. This park is amazing for wildlife sightseeing, both on land and in the water. Best spots to paddle board:
  • Santa Cruz Island – hundreds of sea caves to explore on the north side
  • Fun paddle from Potato Harbor to Cavern Point
  • Anacapa Island – great for snorkeling off your SUP
Best time to visit: Spring (wildflowers) and Fall (ocean temps may reach 70 degrees and ocean visibility may reach 100 feet below) Best places to stay: Your tent in a no-frill campground (be prepared to be self-sufficient) The 7 Best National Parks for Paddle Boarding

4. Everglades National Park 

Paddle across mangrove tunnels saturated with lush wilderness, exotic birds and palm trees at Everglades National Park. Different from your typical paddle on a lake or ocean, the Everglades offers a unique paddle experience through remote freshwater marshes, mangroves and open grass prairies. You will have the opportunity to see alligators, crocodiles, dolphins and manatees.

Best spots to paddle board:

  • Flamingo Bay
  • Florida Bay
  • Turner River
  • Half Creek – most popular for paddling through freshwater marshes
  • Hells Bay – most popular for paddling through the mangroves
Best time to visit: December through April (temps: highs in the uppers 70s and lows in the 50s. Humidity is low and rainfall is rare) Best places to stay:

Best inflatable paddle boards

5. Grand Teton National Park 

Paddle boarding and jaw-dropping views were made for each other – that’s why Grand Teton National Park made our list. Paddle across the park’s rivers and lakes and observe the Teton mountain range and Jackson Hole from a close distance. The most spectacular views and wildlife are at the tip of your paddle board. Best places to paddle board:
  • Leigh, Jenny and Two Ocean Lakes offer large areas to explore, plus jaw-dropping views
  • Jackson Lake will pull you away from crowds
  • String lake is a great beginners spot and offers stunning views of the Cathedral Group and Mount Moran
  • If you’re comfortable taking your paddle adventure to the next level, Snake River can be a thrilling place to do just that. Oxbow Bend section of Snake River (great fishing) and a calmer part of the river
Best time to visit: Mid May – late September (this is when park access opens for paddle sports)   Best places to stay: The 7 Best National Parks for Paddle Boarding

6. Yosemite National Park 

There’s no doubt that Yosemite National Park is one of the greatest National Parks in the United States. Add a paddle board to Yosemite, and you have one epic adventure ahead of you. In 2014, Yosemite opened its rivers for paddling. Paddle the Merced River and experience the heart of Yosemite Valley. The river is calm, leaving you plenty of time to soak in the best views of Yosemite’s famous sights. Best spots to paddle boards:
  • Merced River
  • Tenaya Lake
Best time to visit: Spring (In May, waterfalls at their peak, wildflowers are blooming and summer crowds have not arrived) Best places to stay: The 7 Best National Parks for Paddle Boarding

7. Olympic National Park 

Olympic is the only national park on our list that you can both flatwater paddle and SUP surf on the same day. Imagine mossy, temperate rainforests, 60 miles of undeveloped rocky coastline and glaciated mountains. Olympic National Park is a magical place for a multitude of paddle adventures. Best places to paddle:
  • Lake Ozette
  • Lake Crescent (Lake Quinault Lodge – a great base camp – stay at the Historic Lodges)
  • SUP surfing at La Push – rocky, cliffside surf break
Best time to visit: Summer – the driest season, park roads are all open allowing to experience every nook and cranny of the park. Wild flower are blooming and warmest air and water temps. Places to stay: Olympic National Park paddle boarding  

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