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When the weather gets as hot as it does in Atlanta, Georgia, there is no better escape than hopping in a boat and paddling down some of the most stunning waterways in the U.S. From tranquil creeks hidden under a canopy of trees to sparkling blue lakes, a day spent kayaking in Atlanta is an awesome way to explore the city’s natural beauty.

Canoeing and kayaking in Atlanta is plentiful and diverse. Full weekend trips and quick paddles are both ways you can spend your time exploring Atlanta. With so many great spots, it can be hard to navigate which ones will offer you the best outdoor experience! Below is our complete guide to the most beautiful places to go canoeing and kayaking in Atlanta.

Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking In & Around Atlanta

Chattahoochee River National Water Trail

As the first established National River Water Trail, paddling along the 48 miles of the Chattahoochee is an epic water adventure!

Beginning below Buford Dam, Chattahoochee offers some of the most beautiful sites in Atlanta! This spot is perfect for families and beginners looking to get outdoors. The Upper Chattahoochee River Blue Trail is especially good for novice paddlers. The river is relatively calm, although there are some Class I/II rapids along the route. The river is open for kayaking year-round, but water temperatures never really rise above 50 degrees- so make sure to bring a jacket.

With lush greenery on all sides, Chattahoochee is a prime spot for spotting wildlife and taking long, leisurely paddles. Visitors can also paddle past Civil War sites and historical mills while enjoying the beautiful scenery. With rich biodiversity and cool historical landmarks, there is certainly a lot to check out at Chattahoochee.

There are 17 different launch ramps along the river if you plan on bringing your own boat. Otherwise, you can rent all your kayak essentials from High Country Outfitters.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-85 N to I-985 N. Then, take exit 4 and continue on Buford Rd west towards the dam.

Sweetwater Creek State Park

Only minutes from downtown Atlanta, Sweetwater Creek State Park is a great spot for both history fans and kayak enthusiasts! With miles of outdoor trails, Sweetwater Creek State Park is known for its beautiful rocky bluffs and flowers.

Beginner kayakers will love this scenic creek. Its flat waters are surrounded by trees and flowers, and it is also super easy to navigate. Besides the sheer beauty of the park, visitors can also enjoy paddling past a textile mill from the Civil War Era and places used in filming The Hunger Games.

Sweetwater’s close proximity to the city makes it very convenient and accessible to all paddlers. If you have a limited amount of time but want to spend it outside, definitely check out Sweetwater Creek State Park. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful paddle or to catch some fish, kayaking in Atlanta has it all.

You can launch your own boat inside the park for free. Otherwise, you can rent kayaks, canoes and SUPs onsite.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-20 W and take exit 41 for Lee Rd. to Lithia Springs.

Kayakers love paddling around the flat waters of Sweetwater Creek State Park.
Kayakers can enjoy the calm waters of Sweetwater Creek State Park year-round. Photo Credit: rroberts41 (Flickr CC)

Ocmulgee River Trail

With over 200 miles of connected waterways, Ocmulgee River Trail gives you total control over how long you want your water adventure to last. With 25 access points, it is easy to enjoy the flat waters and Class I rapids of this epic waterway.

Ocmulgee River is ideal for longer paddling trips. There are tons of mini islands to explore and camp on. Wide-open blue waters, sand bars, and forested islands all come together to make Ocmulgee an awesome weekend destination. However, there are alligators in the lake and sometimes on the islands- be careful!

Before or after your kayak expedition, check out Little Ocmulgee State Park. These gorgeous acres have rustic cabins if you want to stay overnight.

You can launch your boat for free all along the river. Eventually, this river way turns into the Altamaha River. If you need to rent kayaks or are looking for a guided tour, Ocmulgee Outdoor Expeditions has you covered.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-75 S to GA-83 toward Monticello.

Lake Blue Ridge

The pristine aquamarine waters of Lake Blue Ridge make it one of the most beautiful mountain lakes to kayak in Atlanta. With 65 miles of shoreline and a connection to Chattahoochee National Forest, kayaking around Lake Blue Ridge must be on your list of places to explore in Atlanta this summer.

Lake Blue Ridge’s calm waters make it a serene spot for paddling of all kind. Locals and visitors alike love Lake Blue Ridge not only because of its unique water color, but also enjoy the National Forest, campsites, and miles of sandy beach shorelines.

There are two main entries to Lake Blue Ridge that offer different opportunities. First, the Day Use/Boat Ramp area provides easy access into the water and has short trails along the coastline. The other entrance, Morganton Point Recreation Area, has a beach and swimming area great for children, and is a more developed part of the coastline. While you can launch from both of these areas, the Day Use area is more rugged and focuses on the water and Morganton is better for families looking to set up camp.

You can launch your boat for free at Lake Blue Ridge. Or, you can rent gear and find guided tours of the area from Lake Blue Ridge Outfitters. Kayaking in Atlanta doesn’t get much better than this!

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-75 N to US-76 E and head to Lakeside Dr.

Kayaking in Atlanta's Ocmulgee River is a beautiful way to explore Atlanta's outdoors!
Families love kayaking down the beautiful Ocmulgee River in Atlanta! Photo Credit: Mark Strozier (Flickr CC)

Lake Allatoona

About 30 minutes from downtown Atlanta, the “Lake City” of Acworth is home to two amazing lakes for kayaking. Lake Acworth is a large outdoor space great for beginners. But for those looking for a challenge, I recommend Lake Allatoona.

Intermediate and advanced kayakers will love exploring Lake Allatoona. The lake touches Cobb, Bartow, and Cherokee counties and has views of the magnificent Red Top Mountain Area. In addition to these natural beauties, Lake Allatoona is also a famous Civil War battle site with historical markers along the route.

Visitors can enjoy paddling around the large lake area, or take a mile detour and enjoy the Allatoona Falls around Little River. Between the lake’s open waters and the Falls, avid kayakers will love paddling around Lake Allatoona.

There are a few full-service marinas and boat ramps on the shores of Lake Allatoona where you can launch your own boat for free. Otherwise, feel free to check out Lake Allatoona Kayak for kayak rentals and awesome guided tours.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-75 N and take the exit for Bells Ferry Rd. There are several boat ramps accessible from this branches off of this road close to the lake.

Chattooga River

Spend the day kayaking the Chattooga River. It has different sections to accommodate all ability levels. About 2.5 hours from downtown Atlanta, exploring the diverse Chattooga River is an awesome weekend getaway.

Beginners looking to go kayaking in Atlanta should check out Tugaloo Lake. Opening up into Lake Tugaloo, Chattooga River’s wild waters become nice and calm- perfect for novice paddlers. Tugaloo State Park is also an awesome outdoor destination.

Intermediate and advanced paddlers will have a blast kayaking the whitewater waves of the Chattooga River. Notorious for the legendary Five Falls, Chattooga River’s rocky whitewater runs provide epic trails for skilled kayakers.

You can launch your own boat on Chattooga River, but guided tours are recommended because of the rough waters. Chattooga Adventures has kayak rentals, whitewater tours, and weekend clinics to help you along this epic water adventure.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-85 N toward Gainesville, then take US-23 N toward Clayton. Tugaloo Lake is near Tallulah Falls, and the Chattooga river stretches the state border north of the lake.

Kayaking in Atlanta is an exciting adventure! You can explore tree-lines islands and little inlets too!
Lake Allatoona is one of the most scenic spots near Atlanta. Photo Credit: Sporadic (Flickr CC)

Tybee Island

Kayaking around Georgia’s Tybee Island is one of the best ways to explore the coast. Visitors can kayak and SUP around tons of different areas like marshes, creeks, estuaries, and more.

The southern end of Tybee Island is best for beginners. There, Tybee Creek and Chimney Creek have calm sheltered waters and sandbars which provide an easy and safe area for novice paddling. Novices and families may also enjoy the shorter scenic paddles around Little Tybee Island and Skidaway River.

Kayaking at Tybee Island also has great spots for more experienced paddlers too. Experienced paddlers can head to the north end of Tybee Island for more challenging waters that surround the historic lighthouse of northern Tybee, Cockspur Island and Fort Pulaski. Bonus- you can spot dolphins here too!

From the quiet waters of the marsh to the exciting ocean waves, Tybee Island has something for everyone! You can spend an afternoon paddling around the different areas or take longer trips out to nearby barrier islands.

You can launch your own boat at Tybee Island for free. Or, you can rent gear and take guided tours from North Island Surf & Kayak, a family-run business specializing in eco-tours of the area.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-75 S and then exit onto I-16 E toward Savannah. Continue on Islands Expy to US-80 E.

Altamaha River

Known as the “Little Amazon”, the Altamaha River is one of the mightiest river sources flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. Home to over 100 rare and endangered species, paddlers interested in wildlife and birdwatching should add the Altamaha to their list.

The Lower Altamaha is the best place for paddlers to go canoeing and kayaking in Atlanta. This section of the river has pretty tame waters and is surrounded by beautiful scenery and wildlife on both sides. Going downstream, paddlers can explore Stud Horse Creek, Lewis Creek, Rifle Cut, and Darien Creek- a stretch of about 17 miles.

Darien Creek, located at the mouth of Altamaha, is a favorite among paddlers. You can kayak to barrier islands, explore Georgia’s coast and the Altamaha’s flat waters all in one place! Kayaking along the Altamaha is usually done in large stretches for long paddle trips, but 29 different access points make it easy to get in and out whenever you choose.

You can launch your boat anywhere along the Altamaha for free, but it is best to steer clear of the raging water of the Upper Altamaha River. Rentals and guided tours are also available at Altamaha Coastal Tours.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-75 S toward Macon then continue to I-16 E and GA-169 S to the river.

Kayaking in Atlanta becomes an ocean adventure if you head out to Tybee Island! Sandy beaches all around!
Kayaking along the sandy beaches of Tybee Island is an awesome way to explore Georgia! Photo Credit: Simon Foot (Flickr CC)

Etowah River

Kayaking in Atlanta’s Etowah River is simply awe-inspiring. The Etowah River Water Trail is considered one of the most biodiverse rivers in the country and connects numerous historical landmarks, state forests, and conservation sites.

The Etowah River is relatively flat and an easy paddle for all abilities. As you paddle down the 136 miles that comprise the trail, you can pass cool sites like the Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site, and the natural landscapes of Dawson Forest, McGraw Ford, Allatoona and the Chattahoochee National Forest.

Besides these beautiful places, Etowah River has another hidden gem- the “underground river”. 3.5 miles from the Castleberry put-in in Dawsonville, an abandoned mining tunnel bridges together two sections of the river. Originally created to search for gold, the 1/4 mile tunnel makes for a spectacular water adventure if you’re brave enough to get to the other side! Please plan ahead and bring a flashlight for this journey, and check to make sure the tunnel is not blocked.

Between the abundance of wildlife, natural scenery, and unique places to explore, kayaking the Etowah River is a utopia for adventure-seekers. You can launch your own boat anywhere along the river for free. Or, you can rent gear from Euharlee Creek Outfitters.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-75 N toward Emerson and take GA-293 N to the river.

Yahoola Creek

Known as a whitewater kayak destination, Yahoola Creek is a fun place for intermediate and advanced kayakers to try out this summer.

Sections of Yahoola Creek have Class I to Class V rapids, so make sure you are prepared for a bumpy ride. Yahoola has two main gorges that have massive drops which make for an exciting ride. Twists and turns in the creek make turning every corner an adventure- rapids and drops come out of nowhere. That being said, it is best to have some experience paddling in rapids before tackling this hidden gem.

For less experienced paddlers, there is one portion of Yahoola Creek that is flat water. In addition to some epic kayaking, visitors also enjoy nearby Vogel State Park and hiking DeSoto Falls and the Blue Ridge Mountain area.

There are a few places to launch your boat for free on Yahoola Creek, but know that the rapids start right away. If you need to rent gear or want a guided tour of the area, check out Appalachian Outfitters. Kayaking Yahoola Creek will certainly leave you breathless!

How to Get There: If driving, take GA-400 N toward Chestatee, then take Yahoola Creek Farm Rd. to the water.

Yahoola Creek is absolutely beautiful in the fall! Kayaking in Atlanta is gorgeous under this fall foliage!
Kayaking at Yahoola Creek is gorgeous under this Fall foliage! Photo Credit: Betty Phillips (Flickr CC)

Lake Lanier

From regatta racing to luxury homes, Lake Lanier is one of the most popular destinations for canoeing and kayaking in Atlanta. Lake Lanier itself has wonderful waters for all ability levels, and its tributaries connect to more challenging portions of the Chattahoochee.

Paddling around Lake Lanier is certainly beautiful, but it is not the most remote or tranquil place to kayak. It has tons of lake activities for groups and families, making it a premier destination for outdoor lovers. With so many awesome programs, Lake Lanier is a great option for beginners or those looking for a more structured time paddling.

Around the lake, paddlers can cruise past luxury lake homes and cute houseboats on calm waters. Those looking for more rugged terrain should check out the tributaries connecting the lake to the Chattahoochee.

Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club offers rentals, tours, and classes for all ages. Visitors especially love the Moonlight Paddles where you can explore Lake Lanier’s natural beauty under the stars! Or, you can launch your own boat for free.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-85 N toward Gainesville. Then, take Jim Crow Rd. to Old Federal Rd.

Chestatee River

Perhaps the best adventure for beginners in Atlanta, kayaking Chestatee River has the perfect water conditions for novice paddlers to feel confident in their skills. The river, however, is still exciting for advanced kayakers too.

Located about an hour outside of downtown Atlanta, the serenity of Chestatee River makes it feel like you’re a million miles away. The river is about 6.5 miles long, which takes roughly three hours to paddle for beginners. Chestatee’s waters are calm throughout with some Class I rapids to keep things interesting at the beginning and end of the route.

Chestatee River is perfectly laid out for a relaxing afternoon or day trip. About halfway down the river, Big Bend Beach is a sandy oasis where you can take a break and have some lunch. After that, it is smooth sailing until the last few rapids at the end before the boat ramp.

You can launch your own boat for free. Or, you can rent gear and take guided tours with Chestatee River Adventures. This spot should definitely be on your list if you are a beginner ready to put your skills to the test!

How to Get There: If driving, take GA-400 N to US-19 N and turn onto River Knoll Way.

Chestatee River is a beautiful spot to enjoy a relaxing paddle this summer! Kayaking in Atlanta is such a fun outdoor activity!
The Chestatee River is a wonderful spot for families to enjoy the outdoors together! Photo Credit: Georgia Sierra Club (Flickr CC)

Fort Yargo State Park

Visiting Fort Yargo State Park is the urban escape everyone is looking for this Summer! From the park’s wide-open waters to beautiful hiking trails, a day spent kayaking in Fort Yargo has no shortage of activities to try.

Fort Yargo State Park features two boat ramps for easy access to the water. Most visitors prefer using the ramp at the end of the park near the luxury yurts for the most scenic waterfront views. Paddlers can peruse the sandy beaches and enjoy miles of coastline on flat water.

After your relaxing paddle around the lake, make sure to check out Old Fort Yargo. Originally built as a defense against Cherokee and Creek tribes, it is now a historical landmark any history buff would enjoy.

With hundreds of acres of land, Fort Yargo State Park is a wonderful getaway with tons of outdoor recreational activities. Visitors love spending the day kayaking around the beach and staying overnight in the luxury yurts and cottages on the park grounds.

You can launch your own boat for free at either boat ramp in the park. Otherwise, you can rent kayaks and SUPS at Fort Yargo State Park.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-85 N toward Athens, then Highway 316 E. Turn onto GA-81 N and head to Yargo Area B Rd.

Morgan Falls Overlook Park

For families and novice paddlers, I would definitely recommend going canoeing, paddle boarding, or kayaking at Morgan Falls Overlook Park. Situated on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, Morgan Falls’ quiet creeks and tributaries provide easier paddling with amazing views.

Unlike other parks along the Chattahoochee, visitors can swim and paddle board at Morgan Falls. A new playground and fire pit also make it a wonderful destination for a low-key family get together. Kayaking this part of the river, technically called Blue Sluice Lake, takes about 2.5 hours. Paddlers can explore nearby marshlands and spot tons of wildlife along the coast.

If you’re looking for a low-key spot to get out on the water, Morgan Falls Overlook Park is an awesome place to explore this summer. Between the lake’s natural beauty and easy hikes along the shoreline, Morgan Falls Overlook Park is a wonderful spot for families to enjoy the outdoors together. Bonus- it isn’t too well known, so you will probably have the lake to yourself!

You can launch your boat here for free. Or, you can rent kayaks at High County Outfitters.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-85 N and take exit 5B toward Sandy Springs. Then, take Roswell Rd. to Morgan Falls Rd.

Kayaking in Atlanta's marshes is great way to see diverse wildlife!
Kayaking around Atlanta’s marshes is great way to spot wildlife! Photo Credit: Adriaan Greyling (Pexels)

Additional Resources

What to Pack for Kayaking in Atlanta

  • Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
  • Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses and croakies to keep them from falling off.
  • Hat: It’s best to keep the sun of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
  • Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles.
  • Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with ou to ward off any pests and sunburns.

For a more complete packing list, check out our ultimate kayaking packing list to help you prepare for all of your outdoor kayak adventures. These essentials will make your time kayaking and canoeing in Charlotte an unforgettable experience!

Related Links to Kayaking in Atlanta


While many peoples’ minds immediately jump to eating one of Philadelphia’s delicious cheesesteaks, there is in fact another way to enjoy what this beautiful city has to offer: by kayaking! A day spent kayaking in Philadelphia covers both urban paddling with views of the Philadelphia skyline and waterways that are surrounded by lush trees and forests. Best of all, most of your adventures kayaking in Philadelphia are free of entrance fees (and rentals can be found at very affordable rates).

With so many awesome places to choose from, picking the best places to kayak in and around Philadelphia can be challenging. Below is our complete guide to the most scenic places to kayak in Philadelphia. From quiet creeks to Class II rapids, any outdoor lover must experience paddling around Philadelphia!

Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking In & Around Philadelphia

Kayaking in Philadelphia is an amazing way to explore the city's natural beauty and get outdoors!
Kayaking in Philadelphia is a great way to explore the city’s natural beauty and get outdoors! Photo Credit: David Clow (Flickr CC)

Schuylkill Banks

This 8 mile stretch of river runs straight through the heart of Philidelphia. For an urban kayaking experience that still features beautiful scenery, head out to Schuylkill Banks!

Beginning at Walnut Street Dock, paddlers can launch their boats and cruise down calm waters. Industrial views and the Philadelphia skyline dominate the backdrop when first paddling, but it becomes more lush with greenery as you continue on. Schuylkill Banks’ convenient location and calm waters make it a great spot for beginners or those looking to get in a quick paddle this summer.

Kayaking in Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River truly brings an urban setting outdoors. Bonus- you can kayak in the late-afternoon and get back in time for a free movie screening on Schuylkill Banks (with free snacks)!

You can launch your own boat from Walnut Street Dock or Fairmont Water Works for free. Or, on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, Hidden River Outfitters offers tours of the river with exclusive river routes.

How to Get There: If driving, head towards S 25th St from Lombard st. This will take you to Locust point, where you can park your car and head down to the riverbank. If not driving, the Market Frankford Line of SEPTA Regional Rail will take you here.

Wissahickon Creek

With over 50 miles of rugged terrain trails and free-flowing streams, kayaking in Wissahickon Valley Park is not your average flat water experience.

Located within the park, Wissahickon Creek is 7 miles in total and ranges in depth and rapids. Kayaking here is a complete escape from busy downtown Philadelphia. Dense forests and wildflowers make Wissahickon Creek a beautiful outdoor oasis. While paddling along the rocky tree-lines shores, make sure to look out for shallow areas!

Visitors also enjoy touring historic sites in the park like Philadelphia’s last standing covered bridge and the Valley Green Inn. Between the park’s beautiful natural landscape and history, kayaking Wissahickon Creek is perfect for any age and ability.

The Philadelphia Canoe Club is an active paddling community that offers canoe, kayak, and white water rafting trips down Wissahickon Creek. Besides renting gear, joining this great community of outdoor enthusiasts is a wonderful place to meet others with a shared love for kayaking in Philadelphia.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-76 W and take exit 331B toward Plymouth Mtg. Then, head toward State Route 3005 until the creek. If not driving, there is transit from 30th Street Station that drops you 0.5 miles from the creek.

Glistening waters of Core Creek Park invites cancers and kayakers for a paddle!
The pond at Core Creek Park is a beautiful place for kayaking in Philadelphia this Summer! Photo Credit: Chris Ronin (Flickr CC)

Cedar Creek

An ecological masterpiece, paddling along Cedar Creek showcases the unique beauty of cedar forests, bogs, marshes and more!

From the minute you arrive you’ll notice how special kayaking on Cedar Creek really is. Its unique tea-colored water is a result of the cedar tree roots of forests that line the shores. Cedar Creek itself is best suited for paddlers with some experience; there is a current that definitely aids you in paddling if going downstream.

Paddling Cedar Creek can be a full weekend trip; luxury campgrounds sit on the shores ready for you after you are done kayaking. Between the cranberry bogs adjacent to the creek and marshes that host diverse wildlife, Cedar Creek must be on your kayaking list this summer.

Cedar Creek Campground rents out campgrounds and canoe/kayak gear. They will even drop it off where you wish to begin your trip! Or, feel free to launch your own boat at the docks near the swimming area.

How to Get There: If driving, start on US-30 E and take the ramp to NJ–70 E. Turn right onto Warren Grove Whiting Rd and continue through Lacey Rd until a right turn onto Atlantic City Blvd. Turn right onto Harbor Inn Rd. Driving is the best way to get here! If you need to rent a car, Avis has you covered.

Kayaking in Philadelphia can have an urban setting ion the Schuylkill Banks- an easy way to get outdoors!
Kayaking along Schuylkill Banks gives the best skyline views and an urban feel. Photo Credit: Montgomery County Planning (Flickr CC)

Marsh Creek State Park

Marsh Creek Lake is your classic flat water lake with beautiful tree-lined coasts and sandy beaches. With blue skies and calm waters, Marsh Creek Lake is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon kayaking in Philadelphia.

Besides the gorgeous scenery, Marsh Creek Lake is known for their Night Tours. Offered every other Friday, seasoned tour guides provide vibrant glow sticks to help you navigate around the lake and experience it under the stars!

If you’re looking for a quiet getaway, Marsh Creek Lake is a perfect place to start. In addition to kayak and paddle board rentals, Marsh Creek Lake also has lessons and can host parties. Rentals are available at West Launch Boat Rentals. Or, feel free to launch your own boat too!

How to Get There: If driving, take I-76 W toward Harrisburg, then take PA-100 N to Park Rd. Turn left and continue to the lake. If not driving, you can take the SEPTA Paoli/Thorndale Line to Downington.

Penn’s Landing

Located near Spruce Street Harbor Park and the Hilton Penn’s Landing, kayaking Penn’s Landing is certain to be a unique way to see the city! You can kayak, paddleboat, or even rent rowboats to explore the Delaware River’s beachfront.

Kayaking Penn’s Landing is a great outdoor activity for kids and families living in Philadelphia. The Penn’s Landing paddle area is in a safe harbor where you are free to paddle and float to your heart’s content. Since Penn’s Landing recently added kayaking to its waterfront, it is in high demand. Kayaking here is best suited for kids and those looking to see some of Philadelphia’s history (not a long, scenic paddle).

Paddling at Penn’s Landing is sponsored by Independence Seaport Museum. The museum’s Workshop on the Water offers outdoors classes and rents kayaks. If you already have a boat, feel free to explore the harbor on your own!

How to Get There: If driving, head east on Chestnut St. over the freeway to get to Penn’s Landing on the Delaware river. If not driving, you can take the SEPTA MFL Line toward Frankfort to 2nd Station which is near Penn’s Landing.

Sailboats, boats, canoes, and kayaks take the water at Nockamixon State Park! Visitors enjoy paddling around the tree-lined coasts.
There are numerous ways to enjoy the waters of Nockamixon State Park! Photo Credit: (FlickrCC)

Nockamixon State Park

Nockamixon State Park may be one of the most treasured places in Pennsylvania. Close enough for a day trip, kayaking in Philadelphia’s Nockamixon State Park is absolutely breathtaking come Spring, Summer, or Fall.

With over 1,000 acres of waterfront property, you can do some serious kayaking on Nockamixon Lake. Full of fish, this is the perfect spot for fishing and taking a luxurious paddle along the forested coastline.

Dedicated to outdoor education and environmental conservation, Nockamixon State Park has tons of classes for people of all ages looking to learn more about nature and the park itself during your visit.

In total, the lake has six public launch sites, but Three Mile Run and Haycock launch ramps are best suited for kayaks and canoes. If not launching your own boat, feel free to rent gear from Nockamixon Boat Rental.

How to Get There: If driving, take N Broad St north and turn left onto Fort Washington Expy. Then, turn right onto Hilltown Pike and continue onto Blooming Glen Rd/Minsi Trail. Continue on PA-313 W, and then turn right and take PA-563 N to the park. If not driving, there is a bus once daily to Quakertown by Fullington Railways. Or, you can rent a car from Avis.

Core Creek Park

The small lake located in Core Creek Park is the perfect way to ease into kayaking this Summer. Between the flat water, hiking and picnic areas, you’ll never want to leave!

Core Creek Park’s waterfront access to Lake Luxembourg makes the transition from land to water super easy. A leisurely paddle around the lake doesn’t take too long, and is a great place to work on your paddle skills.

More experienced paddlers love Core Creek Park’s Moonlight Paddle Tours which explores the lake under the stars. Whether you are a newbie looking for a quiet place to practice or a seasoned paddle looking to kayak in a new environment, Lake Luxembourg can do it all.

You can launch your own boat or you can rent kayaks at the park from Core Creek Boat Rental.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-95 N toward Trenton, then take exit 3 towards US-1 Business N and turn left onto Woodbourne Rd. Continue here to the park. If not driving, you can take the SEPTA West Trenton Line to Langhorne (Core Creek Park).

Kayaking down the Delaware River is a great outdoor activity for the whole family! Kayaking in Philadelphia is a must-do activity this summer!
Kayaking down the Delaware River is a great activity for the whole family! Photo Credit: Stephen Harris (Flickr CC)

Delaware River

Separating Pennsylvania from New Jersey, the Delaware River is a diverse flat water river with excellent wildlife and campgrounds along the way.

Accessing this beautiful natural waterway is super easy- there are put-ins along routes 80, 84, 6, 206, 209 and 521. Once on the water, paddlers of all abilities can cruise down long stretches of the river and make camp along the way.

Kayaking along the Delaware River is a great choice for kayakers looking for long stretches of uninterrupted water and trips that can last up to a few days. While paddling, you may even spot wild turkeys, bears, and elk!

Bonus: Besides canoeing and kayaking, the Delaware River has the perfect conditions for tubing. Floating down the river on a sunny day is like having your own lazy river. Twin River Tubing has everything you need to make your journey awesome.

You can launch your own boat at any of the access points along the highway for free. Or, you can rent from Adventure Sports. Spots like the Delaware River make kayaking in Philadelphia an absolute epic time!

How to Get There: If driving, put-ins are located along highway routes 80, 84, 6, 206, 209 and 521. The best way to access the water is through these sites. If you need to rent a car, Avis has you covered.

Darby Creek

  • Location: Southeastern Philadelphia
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at Ridley Marina

A small place with huge opportunities, Darby Creek is home to scenic water trails and some of the most treasured historical landmarks in Pennsylvania.

Darby Creek is a wonderful place for all abilities. The creek itself is great for beginners and its larger tributaries provide more challenging water for intermediate paddlers. Flowing in and out of the Delaware River, Darby Creek is a peaceful spot for kayak enthusiasts to gather and explore Philadelphia’s natural beauty.

After a day of paddling through lush forests, visitors can tour the Swedish Cabin built in the 1650s and the Blue Bell Inn, built in the 1760s. Members of the Darby Creek Watershed work hard to preserve these pieces of American history for visitors to enjoy. Darby Creek also runs through John Heinz Wildlife Refuge– the first wildlife refuge established in America!

Clearly, there is no shortage of places to explore around Darby Creek. You can launch your own boat at the watershed. Or, you can rent gear from the Ridley Marina located next to the park.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-95 S, then take exit 8 onto Stewart Ave and turn right. Turn right again on Chester Pike and finally, turn right onto S Swarthmore ave and continue to the creek. If not driving, you can take the SEPTA Line 11 Tram to Darby Creek Transportation Center.

The scenic Batsto River is a wonderful place to challenge your kayak skills in NJ.
Batsto River in Wharton State Forest is a scenic and challenging paddle! Photo Credit: Hammonton Photography (Flickr CC)

Brandywine River

Brandywine River Valley is a beautiful landscape with sloping hills and gorgeous greenery. The meandering river’s gentle flow makes it a wonderful spot for first-time paddlers and large groups.

Wilderness Canoe Trips is the prime outfitter for canoeing and kayaking down the Brandywine River. They have courses for 1.5, 6, and 12 mile paddles, and will help you get started on your water adventure (not a guided tour).

Visitors also love coming to Brandywine for its American history. In addition to some of the most scenic kayaking in PA, paddlers can watch Civil War Reenactments and tour the town’s historical landmarks.

Although it is a bit far from downtown Philadelphia, kayaking down Brandywine River is the ideal paddle experience. With beautiful nature on all sides, this can be the peaceful escape you were looking for. You can launch your own boat from the Wilderness Canoe Trips waterfront access and rent gear from them too.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-95 S and take exit 8 for Rte 202 N. Immediately take the next exit onto Powder Mill Rd heading west. Then, take the next left onto W Park Dr and turn immediately right onto Rockland Rd. This road will take you all the way up onto Brandywine Creek State Park. The best way to get here is by car. If you need to rent a car, check out Avis.

Wharton State Forest

The Batsto River located in Wharton State Forest is an awesome place to go canoeing and kayaking near Philadelphia. Open glades and forests surround the river, which also has an abundance of wildlife.

There are tons of guided tours for the Batsto River, but if you want to explore on your own, almost every tour launches from Quaker Bridge. From there, the river has many sections. As you paddle, you will go through narrow, twisted streams, swamps, ponds, and finally end up at at Batsto Lake.

Due to the rugged terrain and flux in water, kayaking the Batsto River is best suited for intermediate and experienced paddlers. Paddlers really looking for an outback experience should camp at Lower Forge Campground. It is notorious for its “primitive” setting. Remember to bring your own water!

Like mentioned above, you can launch your own boat from Quaker Bridge or Hampton Furnance. Or, take a guided tour and rent gear from Mick’s Canoe & Kayak Rental.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-676 S and continue south on the Atlantic City Expy. Take exit 28 and turn left on 12th St. Then, turn right onto Central Ave and continue onto Pleasant Mills Rd (NJ 542). This road will take you to nearby Batsto Village. Driving is the best way to get here. If you need to rent a car, Avis has you covered.

A kayak floats down one of the many rivers in  PA- kayaking in Philadelphia is always a beautiful and exciting outdoor activity!
Kayaking in Philadelphia is a wonderful way to explore the great outdoors! Photo Credit: Jim Mullhaupt (Flickr CC)

Additional Resources

What to Pack for Kayaking in Philadelphia

  • Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
  • Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses and croakies to keep them from falling off.
  • Hat: It’s best to keep the sun of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
  • Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles.
  • Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with ou to ward off any pests and sunburns.

For a more complete packing list, check out our ultimate kayaking packing list to help you prepare for all of your outdoor kayak adventures. These essentials will make your time kayaking and canoeing in Charlotte an unforgettable experience!

Related Links to Kayaking in Philadelphia


San Antonio is known most famously for its bustling Riverwalk, the historic Alamo, and the surrounding missions that play an important part in Texas history. However, there are a surprising number of beautiful nature and outdoor spaces that you can explore by hiking in San Antonio. The Texas Hill Country is a wonderful playground for people who love the outdoors, especially if you enjoy the variety of desert-type landscapes, forests, and slowing waterways side by side. We created this guide to the best hikes in and near San Antonio to help you plan your next outdoor adventure!

Easy Hikes in San Antonio

The San Antonio Riverwalk

  • Trail Distance: 15 miles
  • Location: Downtown San Antonio

Among San Antonio’s most famous landmarks is the San Antonio Riverwalk, which extends 15 miles down the San Antonio River. Some of the Riverwalk is quite commercialized, with lots of shops, street performers, and boats. However, most people don’t know if you escape the main stretches of the Riverwalk, you can find some really beautiful parts of the city.

One of our favorite sections of the Riverwalk is called Mission Reach, which extends through some of the historic Catholic missions in the area that date back over 250 years. Alternatively, for families or people who enjoy learning, the Museum Reach features a scenic trail near many of the city’s museums, including the San Antonio Zoo, the Art Museum, and the Witte Museum.

Photo Credit: mlhradio (Flickr CC)

Cibolo Nature Center

  • Trail Distance: Up to 3 miles
  • Location: Boerne, TX

When you arrive there, you may not think that Cibolo Nature Center fits in with the rest of the Hill Country scenery. That’s because the park features several ecosystems that all look completely different: prairie, forests, marsh areas, and savanna. You can literally explore all four of these sections in one day, along the various trails that span over 3 miles in length. For easy and education hiking near San Antonio, Cibolo Nature Center is a great choice.

Rio Medina Trail

  • Trail Distance: Up to 12.6 miles out and back
  • Location: Medina River Natural Area

South of San Antonio, you can find the Rio Medina Trail, a beautiful running, biking, and hiking trail that runs alongside a river of the same name. Lots of people come here to get away from the hectic areas of downtown and the Riverwalk, for a bit more peace and quiet. With lots of trees and shade, many local outdoor enthusiasts enjoy coming to this trail for a scenic stroll or a bike ride. There are even a few historic sites scattered around the trail that you can view, including a skeleton of an abandoned barn. Scenic, spooky, and shady, this is a great place for hiking in San Antonio for any level of hiker.

Photo Credit: Marcus Calderon (Flickr CC)

McKinney Falls State Park

  • Distance: 3.1 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
  • Location: McKinney Falls State Park

If you’re looking for a spot to go hiking in San Antonio and the surrounding areas that takes you away from the city and into a more serene environment, McKinney Falls State Park is a fabulous option. Beloved by locals for its scenic waterways and tree-lined pathways, the Homestead Trail is a fantastic starting point that’s accessible to all levels. This 3.1 mile trail takes you past waterfalls, swimming areas, and rocky outcroppings that are very picturesque. Note that there’s a $6 state park fee to enter the park area.

Photo Credit: Kelly Bollinger (Flickr CC)

Moderate & Difficult Hikes in San Antonio

Barton Creek Greenbelt

  • Distance: 13.8 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
  • Location: Zilker Park area

As one of the most popular places for hiking in San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country, Barton Creek Greenbelt is a local favorite for a stroll through a naturally beautiful part of the city. Here, you can find lovely waterfront views, waterfalls, and colorful wildflowers during the warmer months of the year.

The trails are mostly shaded, so it’s a perfect year-round hike that will make you feel like you’re in the countryside (even though it’s just minutes away from downtown). It’s also dog-friendly so your favorite pooch can explore too! Unfortunately, sometimes the creek dries up, but the trail is still quite beautiful nonetheless.

Pro tip: On warm days, bring a swimsuit and end your hike with a dip in Barton Springs Pool.

Tower Loop

  • Trail Distance: 2.6 miles
  • Location: Comanche Lookout Park (Northeast San Antonio)

As one of the more popular hikes in San Antonio, the Tower Loop is a fun, short hike that is accessible to all levels of hikers willing to do some hiking across different kinds of terrain and rolling hills. The trail culminates in an abandoned historic tower, which was built in 1948 when the builder passed away. Today, what’s left is the stone structure and the scenic land surrounding it – perfect for photo opportunities or to admire this spooky tower.

Photo Credit: sbmeaper1 (Flickr CC)

Enchanted Rock Loop Trail

  • Trail Distance: 5.4 miles
  • Location: Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Enchanted Rock is a huge, rounded rock formation that springs up seemingly out of nowhere amidst flatter plains outside of Fredericksburg, Texas. Known for being locals’ favorite recreational areas, Enchanted Rock Loop Trail is an unforgettable spot for hiking near San Antonio.

This 5.4-mile trail takes you to the top of the rock and around the park area, where there are lots of offshoots to see spectacular views of the surrounding countryside or scramble up some of the giant boulders in the area. Note that there is a fee to enter the park, and if you’d like to go during peak season or on weekends, reservations are required.

Bandera Creek Trail

  • Trail Distance: 6.4 miles
  • Location: Hill Country State Natural Area

While it’s a bit of a mouthful, the Wilderness, Ice Cream, Spring Hill, Bandera Creek Trail (we’ll call it the Bandera Creek Trail for short) is a beautiful, 6.4-mile stretch through the Texas Hill Country. This long, moderately difficult trail boasts very scenic views of the area’s rolling hills, with plenty of uphill and downhill stretches to challenge you. Locals love that much of the trail is shady, plus the epic views you can see from the tops of the hills.

Photo Credit: satanoid (Flickr CC)

Pedernales Falls State Park

  • Trail Distance: 5.5 miles
  • Location: Johnston City

For another waterfall-esque hike that boasts beautiful views, the Pedernales Falls Loop trail is definitely worth the day trip. Situated in a hilly, rocky area, the teal blue waters and colorful wildflowers of the Pedernales Falls area are highlights of this trail. You can also take another short (0.6 mile) hike to the falls themselves, where you can climb around the rocks and explore. As this is one of the longer hikes in San Antonio, it’s a great spot for a half-day adventure with family, friends, or your dog.

Crystal Cave Trail & Bridges Trail

  • Trail Distance: 1.5 miles
  • Location: Garner State Park

Although it’s a short hike, Crystal Cave Trail is one of the best hikes in San Antonio take you through classic Hill Country and allow you to explore a small cave. This hike is moderately challenging, despite its short length. The cave is located on a rocky hill, and is a small little nook that you can head into.

The real highlight of the trail lies at the top of Painted Rock Overlook, where you can catch the most beautiful hill country sunsets near San Antonio. Be prepared for a steep climb and bring good shoes with lots of traction. The path down Bridges Trail is gentler and should make for an easier descent than your uphill trek. You can see lots of wildlife and flowers in the springtime and summer.

Photo Credit: Patti (Flickr CC)

Prairie, Painted Bunting, Barred Owl, and Live Oak Trails

  • Trail Distance: 5.1 miles
  • Location: Guadalupe River State Park

Guadalupe River State Park is located just 45 minutes driving north of San Antonio. It offers a peaceful retreat into the colorful Texas hill country. During autumn, the leaves light up many brilliant different shades of colors. The Prairie, Painted Bunting, Barred Owl, and Live Oak trails are aptly named as they take you through a diverse ecosystem of open fields and oak forests. It’s common to see giant lizards, armadillos, and snakes on this trail. Although it’s a little bit longer, this trail is mostly flat but can be difficult if done in the middle of the summer.

Inks Lake State Park

  • Trail Distance: 4.4 miles
  • Location: Burnet, TX

Inks Lake State Park is a serene state park area with a glassy lake surrounded by large boulders and rock formations. The 4.4-mile loop trail around the park is a great place for hiking near San Antonio if you want to escape the crowds of Enchanted Rock or other popular hikes on this list. With trails spanning from wide, smooth terrain to narrow, rocky passages, this trail offers an accessible challenge to hikers of all levels. While the trail is quite pretty, it’s fairly exposed, so be sure to bring sun protective gear – a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen – if you plan on tackling this scenic trail.

Photo Credit: Randall Chancellor (Flickr CC)

Pace Bend Park Trail

  • Trail Distance: 11.6 miles
  • Location: Pace Bend Park

If you are looking for a longer hike, head over to Pace Bend Park. This 11 mile hiking trail is a favorite for hiking in San Antonio and Austin, and will take you through wooded, gravel paths inside a sharp bend of the Colorado River. Bring a swimsuit! Hikers can take the trek through the main trail of the park and afterwards dive into the Colorado River from the rocky cliffs. The trail itself is mostly shaded and won’t afford you many views of the river, but you can take a short detour and camp on the cliffs overlooking the river.

Tinaja and Dogleg Canyon Loop

  • Trail Distance: 6.4 miles
  • Location: Colorado Bend State Park

Although it’s further away from San Antonio, Colorado Bend State Park is a gorgeous 5,000 acre park located in prime Texas hill country. Tinaja and Dogleg Canyon Loop is a challenging trail that’ll take you up and down rocky hills overlooking the Colorado River. You’ll hike down near the river and get breathtaking views of the water. Along the path you’ll also see the entrance to Gorman Cave, but it’s unfortunately closed to the public. Armadillos are frequent visitors on the trail so get your phones and cameras ready. This is a great hike near San Antonio that offers lots of solitude.

Lost Maples State Natural Area

  • Trail Distance: 4.4 to 7 miles
  • Location: Lost Maples State Natural Area

Texans often complain about the lack of fall colors in the state, but Lost Maples State Natural Area is a notable exception. This beautiful area, filled with towering maple trees, blazes red and orange in the fall, and is filled with spectacular rock formations. It’s also home to two incredibly stunning trails – the East Loop and the West Loop. Both loop trails are rated as moderate, and bring hikers past large canyons, still lakes, and more. This magical state park area is a hidden gem, and while it’s 2 hours from San Antonio, it’s definitely worth the drive for an autumn day trip or weekend getaway.

Additional Resources for Hiking in San Antonio

What to Pack for Hiking in San Antonio

  • Hiking boots – You can’t hike without appropriate footwear, period. For most trails, we recommend an all-purpose waterproof boot with ankle support. We recommend Salomon hiking boots or Keen hiking boots for a comfortable hike.
  • Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to stay cool in a sweat-wicking shirt/tank top and breathable pants, like these PrAna hiking pants for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers, an insulated puffer jacket, and a waterproof outer shell. And don’t forget a pair of the best hiking socks in the world!
  • Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we recommend throwing them in your car anyway just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond foldable trekking poles, which are lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To spare disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask bottles because they keep water cold for hours, but a good old Nalgene works very well too.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray – This should be self-explanatory, but sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects.
  • A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
  • Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend Osprey day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes.

Wondering what exactly you should pack for your next hike? Visit our Complete Day Hiking Packing List for our full list and our top gear recommendations.

Related Links

Charlotte, NC may not be known for being the most outdoorsy city in the US, but there are a surprising number of fantastic parks and trails nearby. With the Appalachian Mountains nearby and several forests, rocky peaks, and lakes to explore, Charlotte is a totally underrated city for outdoor activities. Hiking near Charlotte is a fantastic, affordable, and accessible way to explore all of the beautiful nature that the area has to offer. We created this guide to the best hikes near Charlotte to help you plan your next outdoor adventure!

Photo Credit: ITRE Institute for Transportation (Flickr CC)

Easy Hikes Near Charlotte, NC

Little Sugar Creek Greenway

  • Trail Length: 5.6+ miles
  • Location: South Charlotte (trailhead near Tyvola Road)

With paved, flat trails that run through some lovely green spaces, the Little Sugar Creek Greenway is a fantastic spot for hikers of all levels to take a nice, leisurely walk in the city. This multi-purpose trail running, biking, and hiking in Charlotte, NC is a local favorite, and is perfect for families or dog owners wanting a no-frills, easy walking path. Because it is an urban trail, don’t expect to feel like you’re out in the wilderness, but you will get to see some nice views of the creek and the surrounding forest along the trail.

Latta Nature Preserve Trail

  • Trail Length: 5.4 miles
  • Location: West of Huntersville, NC (~30 minutes north of Charlotte)

Located right next to the historic Latta Plantation, the Latta Nature Preserve Trail provides Charlotte hikers of all levels with a bit more immersion in nature than a typical city trail. It’s a great spot for hiking near Charlotte if you don’t want to travel too far but still want a nice, accessible trail through the forest. With its proximity to Mountain Island Lake, Latta Nature Preserve offers serene lake views along gravel paths that roll with gentle inclines and descents. Locals really enjoy this trail, but warn that it can get muddy after periods of rain. Check this website before you go for the latest trail status.

Photo Credit: Douglas Johnson (Flickr CC)

US National Whitewater Center

  • Trail Length: Varies
  • Location: Near Catawba Heights (western Charlotte)

While the US National Whitewater Center is best known for organizing whitewater rafting lessons, excursions, and competitions, there are a handful of lovely, easy hiking trails in the area as well. The trails here have a lot of variety, ranging from the powerful man-made river rapids to some more peaceful lakes and forests a bit farther out. The trails here are well-maintained and are largely accessible to families and beginners (though we’d recommend avoiding a visit right after heavy rains, as the trails can get very muddy).

Reedy Creek Park and Nature Center

  • Trail Length: 3.1 miles
  • Location: Northeast Charlotte off of Grier Road

For a fantastic family-friendly hiking option, the Reedy Creek Park and Nature Center Trail is one of the best spots for hiking near Charlotte. This paved path is easy to navigate and brings hikers to some very beautiful scenery, including small creeks, a peaceful lake, and some old stone ruins. Because it’s located in a city park, there are also lots of recreational facilities, including picnic areas, sports fields, and more. Locals note that this is a really interesting trail, especially because of the rock house ruins you can explore, but that it can sometimes be hard to follow. You can download a map here to stay on track.

Photo Credit: Chris Steude (Flickr CC)

Greenway Bridges and Lake Loop

  • Trail Length: 4.2 miles
  • Location: Anne Springs Close Greenway

As one of the most spectacular easy hikes near Charlotte, the Greenway Bridges and Lake Loop is a beautiful blend of history and nature. Located in the Anne Springs Close Greenway, the trail is mostly flat and accessible to hikers of all levels. Along the 4.2 mile trail, you’ll pass under a large, historic bridge, cross narrow suspension bridges, and enjoy the thick forests and nature areas located in the park. If you’re a beginner and are only going to tackle one easy hike in Charlotte, we’d strongly recommend this one for the most variety and picturesque views.

Photo Credit: Thomas Cizauskas (Flickr CC)

Moderate Hikes Near Charlotte

Stone Mountain

  • Trail Length: 4.5 miles
  • Location: Stone Mountain State Park

Looking for a bit more of a challenge and a mountain to summit? As one of the coolest and most unique hikes near Charlotte, Stone Mountain is a wonderful hiking challenge for all levels with some stunning rewards. The trails wind through the forest, across bridges and up stairs, with a finale at the rocky summit of Stone Mountain. With smooth rock faces that are striped with different shades of gray, the summit boasts breathtaking views of the cerulean Blue Ridge Mountains nearby. While it’s definitely not an easy trail, we’d still recommend this one for hikers of all levels!

Cove, Cedar Ridge, Creekside and Chestnut Trail

  • Trail Length: 4 miles
  • Location: McDowell Nature Center (~30 minutes southwest of Charlotte)

If you’re looking for a bit more peace and solitude than some of the more popular trails on our list, head to the McDowell Nature Center for a hike along the Cove, Cedar Ridge, Creekside, and Chestnut Trail. This moderate trail is mostly wooded, but also features a lake, a few bridges and boardwalks, and some eerie ancient tree stumps that have stories of their own. While this trail doesn’t have many sweeping views or rocky outcroppings, it’s common here to have the entire trail to yourself, making it a perfect escape from the city. For hiking near Charlotte without any stress, this trail is a great option.

Photo Credit: M Fletcher (Flickr CC)

Lake Shore Trail

  • Trail Length: 5.7 miles
  • Location: Lake Norman State Park (~45 minutes north of Charlotte)

Water lovers will enjoy the 5.7-mile Lake Shore Trail in Lake Norman State Park, which spans the perimeter of a small peninsula. The jagged edges of the land near the water create a lot of variety along the lakefront, which offers stunning views of the forest reflecting into the still waters (especially in the fall!). While the trail can get popular in peak season, there’s a lot of space and small secluded areas to get your peace and quiet and enjoy the company of the lake and the surrounding trees.

Uwharrie Trail

  • Trail Length: 8.4 miles
  • Location: Uwharrie National Forest

The Uwharrie Trail is a 20-mile trail that stretches through the Uwharrie National Forest. While you have the option to hike the whole thing, you can also do just a section or two. If you do want to break down this long-distance trail into something more manageable, we’d recommend the section from Jumping Off Rock to Little Long Mountain, which is a moderately difficult trail that has plenty of campsites for backcountry trips. The trail is largely forested, and ends at the summit of Little Long Mountain, which has stunning views of the nearby mountain. You can even camp close to the summit to catch it at sunrise and watch the entire landscape glow in the morning light.

Photo Credit: Stuart Borrett (Flickr CC)

Fall Mountain Trail

  • Trail Length: 3.8 miles
  • Location: Morrow Mountain State Park

If you’re looking for a wonderful fall hiking trail with lots of photo opportunities, the Fall Mountain Trail at Morrow Mountain State Park is a great option. While there are lots of trails in the Morrow Mountain area, we like Fall Mountain the best for its variety, between mountain views, quiet forest paths, and picturesque sections. Locals love this trail for being extra quiet and peaceful, which is a great choice for weekends to let go of some of the stress of your daily city life.

King’s Pinnacle Trail

  • Trail Length: 3.7 miles
  • Location: Crowders Mountain State Park

No list of hikes near Charlotte would be complete without an ode to King’s Pinnacle Trail, one of the most popular and scenic trails in the entire state. Boasting some of the best views of Crowder’s Mountain State Park, the summit of King’s Pinnacle consists of a rocky outcropping that’s beautiful in its own rite. The trail itself consists of a gradual incline to the top, so it’s great for hikers of all levels who are willing to take on the challenge! Those who do will be rewarded with one of the most iconic hiking views in the area.

NOTE: This is one of the most popular trails on our list, so go early if you want to avoid crowds along the way!

Photo Credit: Jim Liestman (Flickr CC)

Difficult Hikes Near Charlotte

Linville Gorge Wilderness

  • Trail Length: Varies
  • Location: Linville Gorge Wilderness

Located near Asheville, the Linville Gorge Wilderness area is a gorgeous place for hiking near Charlotte. There are several trails that weave throughout the region, but the two we’d recommend are Little Table Rock Trail (hard – 2.7 miles) and Hawksbill Mountain (moderate – 1.8 miles). We’d recommend both for experienced hikers, but if you’re looking for an extra challenge and workout, head to Little Table Rock Trail for some seriously steep inclines and rocky terrain. Because both hikes are so short, you could even do both in one day!

Ridgeline Trail

  • Trail Length: 14.7 miles
  • Location: Crowders Mountain and Kings Mountain State Parks

Have you ever wanted to do a hike that extended across two different states? The Ridgeline Trail is your chance! Spanning from Crowders Mountain State Park in North Carolina to Kings Mountain State Park in South Carolina, the Ridgeline Trail is one of the most beloved hikes near Charlotte for experienced hikers. The trails take you through forested areas and to some very spectacular views of Crowders Mountain and Kings Mountain. Locals state that this is hands down, one of the best challenging hikes in the state, and is definitely worth the challenge if you’re in the mood to work hard.

Photo Credit: matthew mclalin (Flickr CC)

Chestnut Knob Trail

  • Trail Length: 4.1 miles
  • Location: South Mountains State Park

If it’s views of the tree-covered Blue Ridge Mountains you’re looking for, the Chestnut Knob Trail in South Mountains State Park is a great strenuous hike to tackle. Many of the viewpoints here offer uninterrupted views of the surrounding mountains and forests, which is rare given how many trees there are in North Carolina! You can also catch views along the way of High Shoals Falls, the park’s most well-known waterfall. This trail truly has a little bit of everything, and is a wonderful option for experienced hikers wanting a challenge with many rewards.

Vertical Mile Challenge to Hollow Rock Loop

  • Trail Length: 3.6 miles
  • Location: Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area

Located just one hour from Charlotte, the Vertical Mile Challenge hike in Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area is a solid, strenuous hike to get your blood flowing. While you can hike Hollow Rock Loop on its own, for experienced hikers, we recommend combining both hikes for an extra scenic and challenging adventure. For beautiful views and a hike that you can write home about, the Vertical Mile Challenge & Hollow Rock Loop trail is one of the best hikes near Charlotte.

Chimney Rock State Park

  • Trail Length: Varies
  • Location: Chimney Rock State Park (Lake Lure, NC)

Chimney Rock State Park is one of the most well-known and iconic state parks in the area, and hiking here is nothing short of breathtaking. While there are many different trails and paths you can hike, we’d recommend Party Rock and Exclamation Point for their spectacular views (great names, right?!).

Exclamation Point is a short, moderate hike (less than 1 mile) to a viewpoint where you can see fantastic views of Chimney Rock and the nearby valley. For hikers who want a more strenuous challenge, head to Party Rock (2.3 miles) for absolutely spectacular views of the valley and nearby lakes. Because they’re both short, you can tackle both in one day for an awesome half-day adventure.

Mount Mitchell

  • Trail Length: 11.3 miles
  • Location: Pisgah National Forest

Although it’s over 2.5 hours from Charlotte, we couldn’t resist including the Mount Mitchell trail on our list, which brings hikers up to the highest peak in the state of North Carolina. This trail is NOT for the faint of heart – it’s an 11.3 mile slog up steep, rocky terrain to reach the iconic summit. You’ll ascend a whopping 3,700 feet over just under 6 miles, which will really make you feel your legs! On the plus side, the incline is gradual, which means you won’t experience too much variation in steepness. At the top, you’ll be treated to the most jaw-dropping views in the state, and on clear days, you can see out many, many miles across the mountaintops. For the ultimate North Carolina bragging rights, hit up Mount Mitchell trail and be prepared for an adventure.

Additional Resources for Hiking Near Charlotte, NC

What to Pack

  • Hiking boots – You can’t hike without appropriate footwear, period. For most trails, we recommend an all-purpose waterproof boot with ankle support. We recommend Salomon hiking boots or Keen hiking boots for a comfortable hike.
  • Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to stay cool in a sweat-wicking shirt/tank top and breathable pants, like these PrAna hiking pants for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers, an insulated puffer jacket, and a waterproof outer shell. And don’t forget a pair of the best hiking socks in the world!
  • Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we recommend throwing them in your car anyway just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond foldable trekking poles, which are lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To spare disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask bottles because they keep water cold for hours, but a good old Nalgene works very well too.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray – This should be self-explanatory, but sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects.
  • A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
  • Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend Osprey day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes.

Wondering what exactly you should pack for your next hike? Visit our Complete Day Hiking Packing List for our full list and our top gear recommendations.

Related Links

Tampa is an amazing city known for the Bucaneers and its many white sand beaches. Admittedly, people don’t really associate Tampa with hiking or outdoor activities. However, during the cooler months of the year, there are some really special and beautiful places to go hiking in Tampa to learn more about local wildlife and ecosystems. Additionally, many trails in Tampa are exceptionally beautiful, with swamp or seaside terrain and lush vegetation. We created this guide to 15 wonderful hikes in Tampa so you can plan your next outdoor adventure!

Photo Credit: PilotGirl (Flickr CC)

Easy Hikes in Tampa

Lettuce Lake Park Loop

For a short, easy hike close to home, the Lettuce Lake Park Loop is one of the best hikes in Tampa. Not only is the hike convenient to get to, but it’s also quite scenic, with well-maintained wooden boardwalks and mossy trees scattered throughout the trail. It’s also home to many unique bird species, including herons, egrets, ibis, and spoonbills. You can also catch a glimpse of several other species, including alligators and armadillo. For a quintessential Flordia hike without having to stray too far, Lettuce Lake is a perfect choice.

Little Manatee Short Loop

  • Trail Length: 3 miles
  • Location: Little Manatee River State Park

Little Manatee River is one of the many rivers in the Tampa area, and it’s a beautiful spot to go hiking in Tampa. True to its name, if you get lucky, you might even catch a manatee swimming in the quiet, clear waters of the river! Known for being a prime spot for wildlife watching, there are also many reptile and bird species that live in the area. Because of the swampy environment, be sure to bring bug spray and use it liberally – they can get quite vicious here.

Photo Credit: Kim Seng (Flickr CC)

Banyard and Seminole Trails

  • Trail Length: 5.5 miles
  • Location: Hillsborough River State Park

From rivers to forests, Hillsborough River State Park has it all, and the Banyard and Seminole Trails are no exception! These two trails form a nice, easy 5.5-mile loop around the park, with beautiful dirt paths and wooden bridges passing through lush, mossy biospheres. Along the way, you’ll find swamps (with plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities), quiet rivers, and unique, eerie trees.

Honeymoon Island and Caladesi State Parks

  • Trail Length: 2.5+ miles (depends on trails chosen)
  • Location: Dunedin, FL

Located off the coast of the Tampa area, Honeymoon Island and Caladesi State Parks provide a beautiful, white sand outdoor getaway that you’ll be sure to remember. These parks occupy two separate islands; you can get to Honeymoon Island by car, but need to take a ferry to continue on to Caladesi. Here, you’ll find lots of palm trees, white sand beaches, and sparkling blue waters. Additionally, these are both fantastic places for seafowl watching, especially during the off-peak hours.

On Honeymoon Island, hikers generally enjoy the Osprey and Pelican trails. Caladesi offers a nice 2.8-mile loop trail as well. Regardless of which trail(s) you choose, bring LOTS of bug spray – there are lots of mosquitos in the area that can be vicious without protection.

Photo Credit: City of St. Pete (Flickr CC)

Boyd Hill Main and Lakeside Trail Loop

  • Trail Length: 3.3 miles
  • Location: Boyd Hill Nature Preserve

If you want to explore a swampy area on wooden boardwalk trails, Boyd Hill Nature Preserve is one of the few hikes in Tampa and the surrounding areas to do so. While this park is quite scenic, surrounded by mossy vegetation and shady trees, is its abundance of wildlife (in particular, alligators and armadillos).

As referenced by the large armadillo statue along the trail, many species of wildlife – including reptiles, mammals, and birds – call Boyd Hill home. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the park hours are extended, making it easier to view wildlife in the morning or early evening.

Robinson Preserve

  • Trail Length: 7.5 miles
  • Location: Bradenton, FL

For even more wildlife and a longer (but still accessible) trail, the Robinson Preserve Trail is a fantastic option for hiking near Tampa. This beautiful recreational area offers opportunities for hiking, biking, and paddling to see some of the unique bird species and mangrove areas that are indigenous to this part of Florida. Locals who frequent this trail love how secluded it is, citing it as a great way to escape the city and feel totally immersed in nature.

Photo Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife (Flickr CC)

Rainbow Springs Falls

  • Trail Length: 2.1 miles
  • Location: Rainbow Springs State Park

As the only waterfall hike on our list, Rainbow Springs Falls is one of the more unique hikes in Tampa and the surrounding areas. Instead of swamps and wildlife, this park features a large spring area and a quaint waterfall that sits beautifully in a tropical-looking backdrop. The hike itself is only 2.1 miles, perfect for those not wanting to spend too long on the trails. Afterward, you can take a dip in the Rainbow Springs swimming area to get some cold relief from the Florida heat.

Weedon Island Preserve

  • Trail Length: 4.3 miles
  • Location: Weedon Island Preserve

Mangroves, mossy trees, and wooded boardwalks make the Weedon Island Preserve trail a local favorite. The boardwalks here extend around a massive mangrove forest, which is perfect for wildlife viewing and enjoying the eerie scenery, with tree roots and wide canopies galore. There’s also a lookout tower on the trail to get some bird’s eye views of the park. You can also opt to canoe or kayak here to explore the mangroves even further – just be sure to bring a LOT of strong bug spray.

Photo Credit: Diana Robinson (Flickr CC)

Fort De Soto Park

  • Trail Length: 1.5 to 4+ miles
  • Location: Fort De Soto Park

A largely oceanside trail, the Fort De Soto Park trail is a lovely, short, easy hike along the shoreline in a very scenic island near St. Petersburg. As one of the quieter hikes in Tampa, the Fort De Soto Park area is known for incredible bird watching opportunities. While the trail is short, it provides a great place to learn about nature and soak in ocean views. It’s a little wilder and more overgrown than some of the other places on our list, so if you’re seeking a more rugged trail, this is a cool option.

Terra Ceia and South Restoration Loop

  • Trail Length: 2.1 miles
  • Location: Emerson Point Preserve

Quiet, gravel paths wind through the lush forests of Emerson Point Preserve, and the Terra Ceia and South Restoration Loop is a fantastic way to enjoy the beautiful nature here. There’s also a lovely tower you can climb to capture views of the park and the nearby bridge. You can also catch a wide variety of wildlife here, from bird species to dolphins and manatees to turtles and snakes. There’s something for everyone on this easy, accessible spot for hiking near Tampa.

Photo Credit: Steven Martin (Flickr CC)

Moderate & Hard Hikes in Tampa

Weeki Wachee River

  • Trail Length: 5.5 miles
  • Location: Spring Hill, Florida

The Weeki Wachee River is well-known for some of its more famous aspects, like a large waterpark and kayak and canoe tours, but it’s less well-known for its hiking. However, hiking here can be a real gem, and the trail from Weeki Wachee Spring to Gardens is a must-do if you want to experience this area in a quieter, more contemplative way.

Located in a state park of the same name, the trail follows the river, which boasts crystal clear water that’s sightly tinted light blue. Plus, while walking or paddling in the area, you have the chance to see manatees! (Reason enough to go, right?!)

Photo Credit: Allen Forrest (Flickr CC)

Big Shoals Trail

  • Trail Length: 2.4 miles
  • Location: Big Shoals State Park

The Big Shoals Trail in Big Shoals State Park is a beautiful, slightly more challenging hike that’s suitable for hikers of all levels. Here, the trail brings you past a river to eerie, cool swampy areas that feature trees with protruding roots and local wildlife. Nearby, there are river rapids you can admire, a rarity in the mostly swampy waters of central Florida. Additionally, vibrant plant life surrounds the trail, providing shade from the sunlight and some beautiful spots for photography.

Old Welcome Trails Loop

  • Trail Length: 7.9 miles
  • Location: Lithia, Florida

Whether you’re looking for prairie, swamp areas, or mossy forests, the Old Welcome Trails Loop has it all. This area is actually separated into several shorter trails, but the 7.9-mile loop trail will take you past all the highlights. There have been many reports of wildlife spottings, like deer and birds, and visitors will certainly enjoy the solitude and escape from the city that this peaceful, serene environment provides.

Photo Credit: Michel Curi (Flickr CC)

Alafia River State Park

  • Trail Length: Up to 6.4 miles
  • Location: Alafia River State Park

Our absolute favorite park for hiking near Tampa is Alafia River State Park, which is home to some of the most quintessential Florida landscapes in the area. The many trails here cut through thick, mossy vegetation and pass by tranquil swamp areas, and you’ll have the chance to view many species of wildlife here! For an extra challenge, the terrain here changes from dirt paths to san to boardwalks, providing a lot of variety and diversity along the way.

Additional Resources for Hiking in Tampa

What to Pack

  • Hiking boots – You can’t hike without appropriate footwear, period. For most trails, we recommend an all-purpose waterproof boot with ankle support. We recommend Salomon hiking boots or Keen hiking boots for a comfortable hike.
  • Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to stay cool in a sweat-wicking shirt/tank top and breathable pants, like these PrAna hiking pants for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers, an insulated puffer jacket, and a waterproof outer shell. And don’t forget a pair of the best hiking socks in the world!
  • Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we recommend throwing them in your car anyway just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond foldable trekking poles, which are lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To spare disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask bottles because they keep water cold for hours, but a good old Nalgene works very well too.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray – This should be self-explanatory, but sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects.
  • A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
  • Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend Osprey day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes.

Wondering what exactly you should pack for your next hike? Visit our Complete Day Hiking Packing List for our full list and our top gear recommendations.

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