Kayaking In Pittsburgh

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Is Pittsburgh a well-known kayaking destination?

Why should you consider visiting this location for kayaking?

If you want to kayak Pittsburgh, which areas are the best for you to focus on?

Although many kayakers might not think of Pittsburgh as a popular kayaking location, it’s actually a common choice among paddlers looking to get out and enjoy nature for a little while.

Locals who live in Pennsylvania and in New England in general enjoy traveling to some of the bodies of water in the Pittsburgh area to check out what they have to offer. However, more and more frequently, tourists are making their way to the area to enjoy the paddling here, too.

Thanks to the mild weather throughout much of the year, Pittsburgh offers many months in which kayaking is a viable hobby. It also includes a handful of good bodies of water that are perfect for kayaking use.

If you’re thinking of planning a trip to Pittsburgh for kayaking, or if you live in the area and you just want to see what’s out there, we’ve got you covered.

In this article, we’ll show you some information about three of the most popular kayaking destinations in the Pittsburgh area. You’ll be able to find out the price, the estimated duration, and the pros and cons of all of these trips.

From there, you can narrow down the choices and see for yourself which one of these kayaking adventures is best for you and your friends or family. Read on to learn more!

Option #1. North Park

Difficulty: Easy
Cost: $
Location: Allison Park
Recommended Duration: Half-Day

Visit North Park for a simple but very enjoyable paddling experience outside of the Pittsburgh area. Kayaking is welcome on North Park Lake, and many kayak rentals are available here as well. Paddlers can choose to rent a single kayak, a tandem kayak, a stand-up paddle board, a canoe, a pedalboat, or a rowboat when enjoying this lake. Most rental fees are low and affordable enough for almost any budget, so this area makes a great “staycation” for locals who live nearby. Of course, it’s also a nice getaway for tourists passing through the area as well.

Pros

  • North Park has a little something for everyone and includes other activities aside from just kayaking, such as hiking, exploring, and some fishing (although it’s important to check ahead for fishing permitting and information).
  • Kayaking in this area is open to children as young as three years old in a tandem kayak with a capable adult.

Cons

  • At times of the year when the water gets too high and the flow is too fast, kayaking trips and rentals will be canceled on this body of water.
  • During the winter months, this body of water is closed for all types of paddling, and it doesn’t open again until May.

Option #2. Allegheny River

Difficulty: Intermediate to Experienced
Cost: $
Location: Pittsburgh and surrounding cities
Recommended Duration: Multi-Day

The Allegheny River stretches over 200 miles, with plenty of different sections perfect for kayaking and other forms of paddling, too. This option is possible to kayak down the entire river, for those who are skilled and experienced enough to handle such a long trip, but it isn’t recommended for those who are not. There is a lot to see when it comes to natural beauty along this river, and there may be some near-city paddling as you get closer to Pittsburgh as well. If you stay in the Pittsburgh area only, for a single-day paddle, expect more crowds on this river.

Pros

  • Those who want to have an easier time of this river can paddle just the Pittsburgh portion for a fairly simple experience.
  • The river only goes up to Class II rapids, so it’s doable by intermediate paddlers.

Cons

  • Some parts of the river may have low water and require you to haul your kayak across shallows at certain times of the year.
  • In the Pittsburgh area, there may not be any camping locations available, so those who are planning to do the whole river might need to work around this problem.

Option #3. Youghiogheny River

Difficulty: Easy
Cost: $$$
Location: Layton
Recommended Duration:

The Youghiogheny River is a longer body of water with several different experiences and skill levels represented. However, the most commonly-paddled portion of the river is a Class I section that’s perfect for families as well as those who are new to the kayaking world. These trips provide locals and tourist alike with a chance to get out and explore some nature while learning a new hobby or perfecting their skills. And with many different kayak rental opportunities along the river to choose from, paddlers can easily find just what they’re looking for on this body of water.

Pros

  • Trips are available at several times per day most days of the week, although reservations are recommended no matter which guided tour you choose.
  • It is also possible to take a self-guided tour of this river, for those who want to take their time.

Cons

  • Walk-ins are not recommended on this river, and some touring companies will charge extra for any walk-ins who don’t make a reservation ahead of time.
  • Overnight trips are not available on this body of water, and there may not be good camping locations available to those who decide to camp and kayak on their own.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve had a chance to check out some of Pittsburgh’s best kayaking opportunities, you may be wondering what time of year is best for you to plan your trip. In general, any time during the summer is going to be a good choice for Pittsburgh kayaking. May through September—the entirety of summer—see large kayaking crowds and plenty of good weather for all paddlers to enjoy to its fullest. The water is warmer at this time of year, too, making it both comfortable and safe for kayakers.

However, there is something to be said for trying Pittsburgh kayaking during the off-season, too. If you’re looking to avoid some of the crowds, you may want to plan your trip for the earlier part of the spring (from March through May) or the later part of the fall (from September through November). Spring may be cool, but it offers views of beautiful flowers and plenty of new life making its way to the surface after wintertime.

Fall is always a nice time to visit the norther United States, especially if you’re interested in viewing fall foliage. Plan your kayaking trip during this time of the year if you don’t mind cooling temperatures and want to see colorful leaves everywhere you go.

Finally, keep in mind that you probably won’t be able to go kayaking much at all during the winter months in this part of the country. Although there are some warmer days during the winter that could permit locals to get out on the water, tourists planning a trip ahead of time should try to stay away from winter as much as possible. Winter brings very cold temperatures and chilly waters that are neither safe nor comfortable, and they shouldn’t be attempted by any but the most skilled kayakers who know what they’re doing in cold waters.

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