Kayaking In Arizona

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Is kayaking a popular activity in Arizona?

Is it a destination you should consider for a kayaking adventure?

What makes kayaking in Arizona so great?

Arizona is an extremely popular destination for kayaking, and with good reason. The weather is nice throughout much of the year, and there are dozens of bodies of water that are suitable for kayaking experiences across all skill levels, too.

If you’re looking for an exciting new place to visit for kayaking purposes, consider Arizona. We’ve gathered a list of some of our favorite destinations below to help you get started planning right away!

Option #1. Apache Lake

Difficulty: Intermediate
Price: $$
Location: Punkin Center
Recommended Duration: Half-Day

Apache Lake provides scenic views of beautiful canyons and impressive wildflowers throughout spring and summer. The water stays cooler here, making it a good place to kayak when the weather turns hot.

Pros

  • This body of water is easy to access and affordable to kayak on.
  • There are other rentals available here as well, including paddle boards.

Cons

  • Groups require a permit on this body of water.
  • The water is not as clean here as it is elsewhere in Arizona due to trash dumping issues.

Option #2. Big Lake

Difficulty: Easy
Price: $$
Location: Eagar
Recommended Duration:

Visit the White Mountains to find Big Lake, a hidden gem known mostly by locals and rarely visited by tourists. This lake is surrounded by incredible natural beauty and is also well-stocked with trout for those who like to do some fishing from their kayaks, too.

Pros

  • Many rentals are available on the lake, including rental gear.
  • Hiking and camping are also available here.

Cons

  • The lake is not open from November through April due to snow conditions.
  • Reservations are required.

Option #3. Blue Ridge Reservoir

Difficulty: Easy
Price: $$
Location: Clint Wells
Recommended Duration: Half-Day

Head to the northern part of Arizona to enjoy some cooler water and cooler breezes at the Blue Ridge Reservoir. This reservoir features still, clear water and clean environments all around.

Pros

  • Boat motors are restricted to 10HP or less here, so waves are not an issue.
  • This is off the beaten path and quiet.

Cons

  • Water levels may be too low at some times of the year for paddling.
  • Wildfires are common in this location.

Option #4. Colorado River

Difficulty: Challenging
Price: $$$
Location: Lee’s Ferry
Recommended Duration: Multi-Day

One of the most popular kayaking destinations in Arizona, the Colorado River offers many different skill levels the chance to enjoy themselves. The whole trip is fifteen miles and provides a great opportunity for overnight kayaking and camping, as well.

Pros

  • Rentals are available for self-guided tours.
  • There are many campsite options along the river.

Cons

  • This trip is much more difficult if winds are strong.
  • There aren’t many shuttles available, so you’ll need to haul your own watercraft.

Option #5. Knoll Lake

Difficulty: Easy
Price: $
Location: Coconino County
Recommended Duration: Half-Day

Knoll Lake is relatively unmaintained and very wild. However, if you like this type of kayaking, then it is sure to be a great destination for you.

Pros

  • The location is quiet, scenic, and not popular with tourists.
  • Put-in points are easy to access and use.

Cons

  • The road to the lake is unpaved and very difficult to drive on.
  • There may be no other people around at this location, so it can be unsafe for solo paddlers.

Option #6. Lake Pleasant

Difficulty: Intermediate
Price: $$
Location: Peoria
Recommended Duration: Half-Day or shorter

Lake Pleasant is a popular location for paddlers and boaters alike. With kayak and stand up paddleboard rentals available along the lake, it’s easy to plan your self-guided paddling experience.

Pros

  • Trips can be as long or as short as you like on this lake.
  • The lake is beginner friendly but challenging enough that intermediate paddlers will enjoy it too.

Cons

  • Boat wake may make more waves than expected on this lake.
  • The lake is popular and can be overcrowded in summers.

Option #7. Lake Powell

Difficulty: Intermediate
Price: $$
Location: Page
Recommended Duration: Half-Day, Full-Day, Multi-Day

Pick the trip duration you like the most and enjoy the popular Lake Powell. Surrounded by incredible desert scenery, this paddling experience is an incredible trip for those who want to see some truly breathtaking sights.

Pros

  • Hiking and overnight camping options are available along this large lake.
  • Children are welcome on many of the trips on this lake.

Cons

  • A four-person minimum is usually required for overnight trips on this lake.
  • The overnight trips are more challenging than they may seem and require a lot of stamina.

Option #8. Lower Salt River

Difficulty: Easy
Price: $$$$
Location: Phoenix
Recommended Duration: Half-Day

Located near Phoenix, the Lower Salt River provides a nice way to cool down during the hot summer months. The trip includes plenty of desert scenery and strives to avoid the crowds as often as possible, especially when traveling in a group.

Pros

  • Bald eagles may be visible on this tour.
  • The trip is great for beginners and kids.

Cons

  • Tours are pricey on this river.
  • Tours are not available every day of the week on the Salt River.

Option #9. Saguaro Lake

Difficulty: Easy
Price: $$
Location: Maricopa County
Recommended Duration: Half-Day

Saguaro Lake provides beginners with a chance to practice their paddling skills while enjoying the scenery at the same time. With several coves and inlets to check out, this experience is a fun way to go exploring without a guide telling you what to do.

Pros

  • The self-guided tours on Saguaro Lake are easy for most skill levels to enjoy.
  • Kids as young as nine years of age can join the fun on this gentle lake.

Cons

  • Certain times of the year may bring low water levels that cause the lake to close for a while.
  • Paddlers must be at least four feet tall to join.

Option #10. Tempe Town Lake

Difficulty: Easy
Price: $$
Location: Phoenix
Recommended Duration: Half-Day or shorter

With easy access from Phoenix as well as Tempe and Scottsdale, this lake is a nice way to get out in nature without having to drive too far from the city. The lake is easy to access and has many opportunities to stop on the shore and take a break, too.

Pros

  • Many hobbyist groups meet at this lake for adventures, lessons and more.
  • On the Fourth of July, kayaking is permitted for fireworks viewing.

Cons

  • Since it’s next to Arizona State University, this lake can be very crowded.
  • Lights are required on your kayak when it’s dark outside.

Option #11. Verde River

Difficulty: Easy
Price: $$$
Location: Sedona
Recommended Duration: Half-Day

The Verde River is scenic and interesting, but remains gentle throughout and offers a simple floating opportunity for beginners and kids. Most tours are done via inflatable kayak or inner tube on this calm body of water.

Pros

  • Tandem kayaks are available for those who want to bring a little one along for the fun.
  • The river is officially classified as scenic, and it includes lots of untouched wildlife for viewing.

Cons

  • Weekend fees may be higher on this river than on some others.
  • Groups must include at least four people or they may be canceled.

Option #12. Willow Springs Lake

Difficulty: Easy
Price: $
Location: Forest Lakes
Recommended Duration: Half-Day

This popular lake offers basic kayak rentals and the ability to bring your own watercraft, too. Take a self-guided paddle around the calm waters and cool down from the intense heat of the surrounding areas with the help of Willow Springs Lake.

Pros

  • On the water, the temperature can be as much as twenty degrees cooler than it is in the cities.
  • The lake is in a State Park, so there are plenty of other exciting activities to enjoy there, too.

Cons

  • This lake can get very crowded during some times of the year.
  • There are no guided tours available here.

Option #13. Woods Canyon Lake

Difficulty: Easy
Price: $$
Location: Coconino County
Recommended Duration: Half-Day

Visit Woods Canyon Lake for a kayaking, fishing, and camping trip all rolled into one! This beautiful lake offers picturesque views and a surrounding National Forest full of wildlife. Keep your eyes open and you’ll probably spot some unique animal and plant life while you’re paddling!

Pros

  • Pets are welcome on kayaks at Woods Canyon Lake.
  • Kayak rentals at the lake can hold up to 350 pounds of weight.

Cons

  • There are no rental reservations available here.
  • Personal watercraft are not permitted at the Woods Canyon Lake boat dock, so you must rent your kayak from the boathouse in order to use this dock.

Conclusion

The peak season for kayaking in Arizona is in the spring and summer. If you plan to go during this time of the year, remember the crowds will be considerably larger than they would be during the off-season. This offer can also get extremely hot in Arizona during the summer months, so dress accordingly. If you go during the off-season, it may not be as cold as it would be in other locations, but you should still bring clothing suitable for colder weather kayaking just in case.

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