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While DC is best known for its museums, monuments, and memorials, it’s also a city full of waterways and green spaces to explore. One of the best ways to explore the city is from the river, and kayaking in DC is the perfect way to do it. Luckily, there are tons of places to go paddling around the city that give you a unique perspective of the Capital City’s famed buildings and monuments.

In this guide, we’ll share the best places to go kayaking in and around Washington, DC, as well as some of our top recommended kayak rental companies in DC. We’ve also included a few of our favorite kayaking tours in DC, in case you’d like to opt for a guided experience.

Best Places to Go Kayaking in DC

If you’re looking for a short, convenient kayaking adventure, there are tons of options for places to go kayaking in DC’s city limits. Read on for some of the best places to paddle in the capital city!

Georgetown is one of DC’s most popular kayaking spots for a reason: tree-lined riverbanks and historic views.

1. Georgetown

There’s no better place to go kayaking in DC than in one of its most historic and iconic neighborhoods: Georgetown. Filled with charming row houses, old industrial buildings, and tree-lined streets, Georgetown is a wonderful area to spend a day.

However, the best part of Georgetown is its bustling waterfront, which offers several opportunities to get out on the water. While there are boat tours and dinner cruises aplenty, we strongly recommend exploring the Potomac by kayak. If you choose to go kayaking in Georgetown, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Georgetown University, the Kennedy Center, and nearby Roslyn (in Virginia).

Where to Rent a Kayak in Georgetown: Georgetown’s kayak rental location is at the Key Bridge Boathouse, on the waterfront under the bridge. Their rates start at $16/hour for a single kayak and $22/hour for a double kayak.

  • Address: 3500 Water Str. NW, Washington, DC 20007

Click here to see our complete list of kayaking gear essentials to bring with you 

2. Potomac to Rock Creek

For a bit of a quieter, greener location to go kayaking in DC, paddling up Rock Creek Park from the Potomac is a fantastic choice. Situated in the West End neighborhood, this is one of the largest parks in the city, spanning over 1,700 acres of green forests and walkways to escape the city streets for a while.

While there are plenty of running and biking trails all over the park, you can also paddle through the waters of Rock Creek nearest to the Potomac. However, be sure to stay where the creek is wide and easy to maneuver, and don’t venture into the creek itself – the waters there are extremely technical and should only be tackled by experts.

Where to Rent a Kayak near Rock Creek Park: The nearest kayak rental to Rock Creek is Thompson Boat Center. It’s located on the far end of the Georgetown Waterfront where the Potomac meets Rock Creek. Their rates start at $16/hour for a single kayak and $22/hour for a double kayak.

  • Address: 2900 Virginia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20037
The kayaks are located in a prime location on the Wharf – right on the main pier!

3. The Wharf

Home to a marina and DC’s historic Fish Market, The Wharf is now a bustling waterfront area full of upscale restaurants, high-end apartments, and a popular concert venue, The Anthem.

The Wharf also a prime location for kayaking, as it’s located near Navy Yard and the eastern side of DC. Here, you can paddle through the marina area along the banks of East Potomac Park, an especially beautiful area during cherry blossom season in the spring. From the waterways surrounding The Wharf, you can catch glimpses of the new International Spy Museum, or kayak all the way down to Navy Yard.

Where to Rent a Kayak in the Wharf: The Wharf Boathouse is located on the pier in front of the Hyatt House Hotel. You can rent a kayak starting at $16/hour for a single and $22/hour for a double.

4. Navy Yard/Anacostia River

Navy Yard is one of DC’s coolest up-and-coming neighborhoods located on the banks of the Anacostia River. Situated near Nationals Park, this riverfront area is the perfect place to grab a kayak and explore the eastern side of the city.

From the Anacostia River, you can see the historic Navy Yard and the Nationals ballpark to the north and the greenery of Anacostia Park to the south. Or, alternatively, you can paddle to Hains Point, the southernmost point of East Potomac Park.

Where to Rent a Kayak in Navy Yard: Ballpark Boathouse is your one-stop shop for all things kayaking/paddling in Navy Yard. You can rent a kayak starting at $16/hour for a single and $22/hour for a double.

  • Address: Potomac Ave SE and First Street SE, Washington, DC 20003
Washington Sailing Marina -- Daingerfield Island Alexandria (VA) June 2016
The Washington Sailing Marina is a lovely place to begin a kayaking adventure in DC!
Credit: Ron Cogswell (Flickr Creative Commons)

5. Washington Sailing Marina

Located south of the Pentagon, the Washington Sailing Marina is a wonderful, less crowded area to begin your kayaking adventure. The Washington Sailing Marina is technically located in Alexandria, VA, but we’ll count it since it’s within eyeshot of Washington, DC… With access to the Potomac River as well as the mouth of the Four Mile Run, it’s a great area to spend a few hours paddling around between DC and Virginia.

From the Washington Sailing Marina, you can kayak all the way up to the south end of East Potomac Park, which is a beautiful urban green space in DC. Alternatively, stick around the nearby areas of the Potomac and watch as planes land and take off above you from Reagan National Airport.

Where to Rent a Kayak in the Washington Sailing Marina: The Washington Sailing Marina has its own boathouse where you can rent kayaks, stand up paddleboards, and more. You can also take sailing lessons here, or enjoy a riverside meal at Island Time Bar & Grill.

  • Address: 1 Marina Dr, Alexandria, VA 22314

6. National Harbor

Think about your classic, Ferris wheel-laden boardwalk with tons of tourists, shops, and restaurants, and you’ve got DC’s National Harbor. Yup, you heard that right – the National Harbor is an entertainment hub, with tons of places to eat and drink, a large Ferris wheel, and an enormous MGM casino/resort.

Like the Washington Sailing Marina, the National Harbor isn’t technically in DC, but we’ve included it here because it’s close enough and can be reached by public transportation from downtown. It’s also a unique area to go kayaking in DC, since it’s a bit farther out from the city center. Kayaking here will give you a unique perspective of the National Harbor and the surrounding areas.

Located across the Potomac River from Alexandria, you can catch great views of the banks of Old Town Alexandria, or paddle along the banks of the Potomac River Waterfront Park.

Where to Rent a Kayak in the National Harbor: The National Harbor Boathouse has kayaks available for rent for reasonable prices. Since it’s run by the same company as the others listed in this post, the prices are the same: $16/hour for a single and $22/hour for a double kayak.

  • Address: 165 Waterfront Street, Oxon Hill, MD 20745

Map of DC’s Best Kayaking Spots

For you visual folks out there, here’s a handy map that shows all 6 of the places to go kayaking in DC that we’ve listed above (click on the point to see more information):

Best Places to Go Kayaking Near DC

While there are lots of places within DC to go kayaking, there are also plenty of awesome nature kayaking opportunities withing a few hours of the city. Based on locals’ recommendations, here are some of the most beautiful and popular places to go kayaking near DC:

There are some serious rapids at Great Falls – not for the inexperienced or the faint of heart!

7. Great Falls Park

People don’t usually think of whitewater rapids when they think of Washington DC. However, you can find both at Great Falls! Located just outside of Washington DC, Great Falls Park is a federally protected area that straddles the Potomac River into Virginia and Maryland. Marked by tons of hiking trails and lookout points, the main attraction is the Great Falls cascade, which is a series of waterfalls spanning the width of the river.

Not for the faint of heart, Great Falls has rapids up to class 6, so this definitely isn’t an area for beginner kayakers. However, if you’ve got the experience and you’re up for the challenge, advanced kayakers will find a unique and thrilling experience in the rapids of Great Falls.

*Note: There’s no place to rent a kayak at Great Falls, but you can take a guided tour/lesson with Potomac Paddle Sports that provides equipment. For more detailed information about this route, check out this guide.

The calm waters of the C&O canal are a beginner-friendly contrast to Great Falls.

8. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal

For those wanting to kayak in a more natural setting without the adrenaline rush of Great Falls, the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal is an excellent choice. This historic canal was once used as a shipping route, as it extends all the way to Ohio! Today, it’s a gorgeous recreation area with miles of trails and calm waterways, perfect for exploring by foot or boat. As far as kayaking near DC goes, it doesn’t get much better than the C&O canal.

The canal runs parallel to the Potomac River for several miles and has much more controlled rapids, meaning calmer waters for kayakers of all levels. Renting a kayak to explore the C&O Canal is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in quiet nature, without having to stray too far from DC’s city limits.

Where to Rent a Kayak Near the C&O Canal: Fletcher’s Boathouse is located right next to the C&O Canal and is the perfect place to rent a kayak, with access to both the canal and the Potomac River. You can rent a kayak starting at $16/hour for a single and $22/hour for a double.

  • Address: 4940 Canal Rd NW, Washington, D.C. 20007

9. Dyke Marsh

Located less than 30 minutes outside of DC’s city limits, Dyke Marsh is a fabulous place to go kayaking near DC. Dyke Marsh is actually a wildlife preserve and is home to dozens of species of birds, plants, and other wildlife. Much of the area where Washington, DC now stands used to be made of these freshwater tidal wetlands, but today, Dyke Marsh is one of the few remaining conservation areas.

Luckily, there are several ways to explore Dyke Marsh, with kayaking as one of the best. You can paddle through the wetlands and keep an eye out for bird species like loons, egrets, and herons.

Where to Rent a Kayak Near Dyke Marsh: Belle Haven Marina is a boating marina that offers kayak rentals. From there, you can paddle to Dyke Marsh and its surrounding areas.

  • Address: 6401 George Washington Memorial Pkwy, Alexandria, VA 22307
Photo Credit: F Delventhal (Flickr CC)

10. Mallows Bay

Possibly one of the most unique areas to go kayaking near DC is at Mallows Bay, MD. Here, you can find hundreds of abandoned or wrecked ships that dot the shoreline, some dating back to as early as the 1770s. For the urban explorers out there, this DC kayaking spot is one of the coolest and most unique spectacles of history, abandonment, and decay.

To kayak at Mallows Bay Skip Graveyard, you have to book a guided tour. This will not only take you to the best spots, but will also provide you with a local expert who can share historical information about the ships.

How to Kayak in Mallows Bay: Atlantic Kayak offers guided tours to Mallows Bay and they have excellent reviews from locals and travelers alike.

Photo Credit: Jeff Kubina (Flickr)

11. Patuxent River

For peace and tranquility just a few minutes outside of DC, the Patuxent River Park area in Price George’s County spans 7,500 acres of conservation land. Here, you’ll trade museums and monuments for leisurely riverbanks and greenery.

Wildlife lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and bird watchers will love everything the Patuxent River has to offer. Moreover, there are several picturesque places to go kayaking near DC in the Patuxent River area, and it’s suitable for kayakers of all levels. Pair a day of kayaking with an evening of camping or an afternoon of hiking and you’ll be sure to have a memorable adventure!

Where to Rent a Kayak at the Patuxent River: The Patuxent River Park authority offers its own canoe and kayak rentals at very reasonable rates (just $20/day!).

  • Address: 6600 Kenilworth Avenue, Riverdale, MD 20737

Where to Rent a Kayak in DC

Wondering where you can get your feet wet with kayaking? Here are a few of the most highly-recommended places where you can find DC kayak rentals:

  • Boating in DC is the biggest (and most prevalent) boat rental company in the DC area. They offer the largest selection of kayak rentals in DC, including all of the places listed previously in this article. Their rates are affordable ($16/hour for a single kayak and $22/hour for a double kayak, with a maximum of $88/day). Most days, you can simply walk up to a boathouse to rent a kayak without a reservation. Life jackets are included in the price of any kayak rental.
  • Outside of the city, there are several other kayak rental companies near DC, depending on where you want to go. We’ve included several options throughout this post, but if there’s somewhere specific that you want to go, Google Maps is a great resource for finding a nearby kayak rental company.
Even if you’ve never been kayaking before, there are plenty of safe places to learn in Washington, DC!

Best Lessons & Kayaking Tours in Washington, DC

Interested in learning more about kayaking in DC? Look no further than these guided tours and kayaking outfitters, which offer a wide range of services tailored to paddlers of all levels:

  • Potomac Paddlesports is a kayaking lesson provider in the DC metropolitan area. They offer longer excursions in the area as well as across Maryland.
  • Active Nature offers beginner-friendly kayak and stand up paddleboard (SUP) lessons in Washington, D.C.

Additional Resources


Did you enjoy this post? Don’t forget to pin it for later!

Looking for fun things to do in Washington DC? Kayaking easily tops the list! With so many waterways and historic sites, there are tons of places to go kayaking in DC. This is the most comprehensive guide out there for kayaking in Washington DC! #WashingtonDC #USA #Kayaking #Outdoors

*The featured image in this post was taken by Potomac Conservancy and used by Skyline Adventurer under a Creative Commons license.

While Baltimore may be best known for its Inner Harbor, there are actually several beautiful places to get outdoors in and around the city. Within just a few miles of the city, outdoor lovers can find forests, lakes, canyons, and more! Hiking near Baltimore is a wonderful way to experience nature and get your blood flowing without going too far from the city. We created this guide with some of the best hikes near Baltimore to help you plan your next outdoor adventure!

Looking for the perfect gift for your favorite hiker? Here’s a comprehensive list of our
35 favorite (practical) gifts for hikers, updated for 2020!

Photo Credit: Mike (Flickr CC)

Easy Hikes Near Baltimore

Merryman’s Mill Trail

  • Trail Length: 3.8 miles
  • Location: Loch Raven Reservoir

Boasting beautiful, tranquil trails that run along the Loch Raven Reservoir, the Merryman’s Mill Trail is a quiet, peaceful hike accessible to all levels of hikers. Best done in the early morning hours when the fog hangs over the reservoir waters, this trail combines woodland trails, whispering streams, and varied terrain for a fun hiking experience. You can also find crumbling ruins of historic stone structures along the way! For hikers who enjoy solitude and nature, it’s one of the most peaceful places to go hiking near Baltimore!

Photo Credit: Mark S (Flickr CC)

Kilgore Falls

  • Trail Length: 1.3 miles
  • Location: Rocks State Park

Perfect for families and adventurous hikers of all levels, the Kilgore Falls trail is a short, fun hike to a gorgeous waterfall in Rocks State Park. While it’s one of the more popular (read: crowded) hikes near Baltimore, it’s a fantastic option for those who don’t mind getting a little muddy! The trail is easy and flat and is accessible for children and first-time hikers. Note that the trail also loops above and around the falls – don’t miss out on this part if you want to experience a new perspective!

Stony Run Trail

  • Trail Length: 5.6 miles
  • Location: Wyman Park

For a more urban trail just north of the city, the Stony Run Trail is one of the most convenient hikes near Baltimore for all levels. Waterfalls, tunnels, bridges, and forests are all highlights of this diverse and accessible trail. To make things even better, there have been some recent improvements to the trails, and they’re very well-marked and maintained to ensure hikers’ safety and enjoyment.

The trail does run through neighborhoods and residential areas, so if you’re looking for a complete nature experience, this isn’t it. But if the outdoors is calling you and you don’t want to stray too far, the Stony Run Trail is the perfect option.

Photo Credit: Paul Waldo (Flickr CC)

Swallow Falls Canyon Trail

  • Trail Length: 1.1 miles
  • Location: Swallow Falls State Park

The Swallow Falls Canyon Trail might seem like a short hike, but it really is one of the most beautiful easy hikes near Baltimore. Located in Swallow Falls State Park, the trail brings hikers of all levels to a picturesque waterfall, rocky canyon-like terrain, and peaceful forests. For a quieter hike through some of the most scenic nature in the Baltimore area, the Swallow Falls Canyon Trail is a fantastic, family-friendly option.

Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program (Flickr CC)

Moderate Hikes Near Baltimore

Grist Mill Trail

  • Trail Length: 5.2 miles
  • Location: Patapsco Valley State Park

The Grist Mill Trail in Patapsco Valley State Park is the perfect blend of history and nature. With historic tunnels, beautiful suspension bridges, and miles of old trees and forests, this trail is certainly one of the most diverse places to go hiking near Baltimore. On this journey, you’ll wander past train tracks and stone ruins, along streams and large bridges, and through tranquil nature areas with a shady tree canopy.

Photo Credit: Patrick Gillespie (Flickr CC)

Annapolis Rock via The Appalachian Trail

  • Trail Length: 5.1 miles
  • Location: South Mountain State Park

Have you ever wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail without spending several months on it? The Annapolis Rock Trail is a fantastic place where you can do just that! This absolutely jaw-dropping hike is a 2.5 mile ascent to a very beautiful viewpoint – a rocky outcropping overlooking the surrounding Appalachian Mountains. While the incline can be quite steep, the rewards at the top are well worth the trek.

Pro tip: This is one of the most popular hikes near Baltimore, so go early or on weekdays to avoid the crowds that flock here during peak hours.

Photo Credit: Kay Rodriguez

Maryland Heights Loop

  • Trail Length: 6 miles
  • Location: Harpers Ferry National Historic Park

History enthusiasts will really enjoy the Maryland Heights Loop at Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, an important landmark of the Civil War. Here, the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers converge, as do the borders of three states – Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. However, don’t let this forested, rural area fool you: Harpers Ferry is less than two hours from the city. It’s a perfect place to go hiking near Baltimore on a day trip or weekend getaway.

There are two trails available that stem from the Maryland Heights trailhead – the overlook and the full trail. If you’re strapped for time or want to spend the afternoon exploring the town of Harpers Ferry, we recommend opting for the shorter trail, which brings you to the most stunning viewpoint in the entire park. The viewpoint is full of boulders and captures a bird’s eye glimpse of the convergence of the rivers, as well as the town of Harpers Ferry and the historic iron bridges that lead into it.

CLICK HERE TO READ OUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO THE MARYLAND HEIGHTS LOOP

Photo Credit: Nicolas Raymond (Flickr CC)

Paw Paw Tunnel Trail

  • Trail Length: 4.9 miles
  • Location: C&O National Historic Park (West Virginia)

Another one of the historic hikes near Baltimore is the Paw Paw Tunnel Trail, a former railroad tunnel that was converted into a hiking path. The unique thing about this tunnel is that it’s surrounded by waterfalls, making for an incredibly unique and picturesque setting for hiking near Baltimore. If you’re looking for something different than the forest hikes on this list, the Paw Paw Trail is one you can’t miss.

Photo Credit: Bart

Cascade Falls Trail

  • Trail Length: 3 miles
  • Location: Patapsco Valley State Park

Locals love the Cascade Falls Trail at Patapsco Valley State Park because it’s a fun, moderate trail through some muddy and varied terrain. It’s a great place to get your hands (and feet) dirty in a totally spectacular environment. A trail through the woods leads you past rocks and trees to a small but scenic waterfall – the Cascade Falls. Though crowded, the Cascade Falls Trail is a lovely place to escape the city and get outdoors!

Photo Credit: Geoff Livingston (Flickr CC)

Billy Goat Trail

  • Trail Length: 3.6 miles
  • Location: C&O National Historic Park

One of the best hikes near Baltimore, the Billy Goat Trail is a fun and adrenaline-inducing rock trail that runs alongside the Potomac River, right near Great Falls. The entrance/trailhead starts at the parking lot of the C&O National Historic Park – you’ll need to walk a bit along the canal before the official entrance to the Billy Goat Trail itself. Once you are on the trail, you can choose from a few different sections and trails, each ranging from 1.5-2 miles in length.

After you’ve started on the trail, it’s a bit of climbing and hopping over the rocky cliffside of the river before getting to the large, “famous” scramble up the side of a cliff. Leave your trekking poles at home – you’ll need your hands AND feet for this hike!

Photo Credit: Rick Schwartz (Flickr CC)

Difficult Hikes Near Baltimore

Catoctin Trail

  • Trail Length: 10.7 miles
  • Location: Cunningham Falls State Park

The Catoctin Trail is a beautiful point-to-point hiking trail located in Cunningham Falls State Park. Featuring lots of bridges, varied terrain, and plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities, this challenging trail is definitely worth the effort. While we wouldn’t recommend this trail for beginners, intermediate and advanced hikers can enjoy the difficult, technical terrain here. Worst case, you can always shorten the journey or turn it into an out-and-back trail by turning back when you’re ready to wrap up.

Raven Rocks Trail

  • Trail Length: 5.3 miles
  • Location: Bluemont, VA

For hikers who want a short but challenging hike to a spectacular viewpoint of the Appalachian Mountains, the Raven Rocks Trail is a fantastic option for hiking near Baltimore. Dirt trails wind through the forests on a challenging but even uphill, bringing you to outstanding views and cool rock formations along the way. There are 4 different viewpoints along the trail, but the final one is by far the most breathtaking, especially in the fall with shades of red, orange, and yellow. You’ll also cross the Virginia/West Virginia border during this hike!

Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program (Flickr CC)

Pinnacle Overlook via Conestoga Trail

  • Trail Length: 10.3 miles
  • Location: Conestoga, PA

Another very special hike within driving distance of Baltimore is the Pinnacle Overlook Trail, located near Lancaster, PA. As part of the Conestoga Trail, the Pinnacle Overlook hike brings you to some very unique and beautiful views over the Susquehanna River. The terrain here is quite rocky and challenging, not suitable for beginners but fantastic for experienced hikers who want a blend of beautiful views and difficult terrain. If you’re a hiker who is itching for a challenge, there are few better hikes near Baltimore than to Pinnacle Overlook.

Additional Resources on Hiking Near Baltimore

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

While Washington DC is an amazing city to explore, there are also tons of hidden natural attractions and fun trails to see nearby. Luckily, DC isn’t too far from some incredible parks and hiking trails… many are even located inside of the city! There are so many amazing places to go hiking near DC, we admittedly had a hard time writing this guide. To help you plan your next outdoor adventure, we created this guide to 15 of our favorite hikes near Washington DC so you can start exploring.

Know before you go: DC locals are lucky to have access to trails that range from leisurely strolls to challenging, technical trails. With that said, it’s important to have the right hiking gear as you get out and explore the wilderness. For many of the moderate to challenging hikes on our list, we recommend wearing breathable hiking clothes and waterproof hiking boots, and packing a set of collapsible trekking poles in case you need extra support on steep trails.

Easy Hiking Near DC

Theodore Roosevelt Island

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Trail Length: 1.6 miles (Outer Loop)
  • Highlights: Stunning views of the Potomac River, quiet forest trails, boardwalks over waterways with lots of wildlife, and dog-friendly!

Located within Washington DC, in the Potomac River, lies Theodore Roosevelt Island. This small island is a natural escape from the city, with a 1.6-mile loop trail that hikers of all levels can enjoy. This easy trail is one of the best places to go hiking in Washington DC, featuring boardwalks over marsh areas, clean wooded forest paths, and a chance to escape Washington DC while still staying within its city limits.

As it’s in the middle of the city, you can access Theodore Roosevelt Island via public transportation. From the main parking area, there’s a picturesque foot bridge across the river that leads to the island. Once you’ve arrived on the island, hop on the trail and enjoy this lovely, scenic DC hike.

Looking for the perfect gift for your favorite hiker? Here’s a comprehensive list of our
35 favorite (practical) gifts for hikers, updated for 2020!

National Arboretum - Best Hikes in DC
Springtime at the National Arboretum is the perfect time for a stroll on its many trails!

National Arboretum

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Trail Length: 8.2 miles total (west side only is 2.6 miles)
  • Highlights: Capitol Columns, Asian Collections, cherry blossoms in the spring

The National Arboretum is another less-frequented gem of a park within DC’s city limits, and is home to some of the nicest hiking in DC. The trails are beautiful and well-maintained, perfect for hikers of all levels or people who simply want to get outside for a stroll.

While the park is best known for the historic Capitol columns, there are several trails here through gardens and wildlife areas that are worth exploring on foot. The Asian Collections are our personal favorite, but there are several different garden areas that you can wander through if you have the time.

Rock Creek Park

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Trail Length: Varies
  • Highlights: Quiet, forested trails, Pulpit Rock scramble, Pierce Mill, Valley Trail

One of Washington DC’s largest parks, Rock Creek Park isn’t so much a trail as it is a network of pathways through natural and historic landmarks. Upon arriving in the park, you can choose from a variety of trails and paths, some easy and some more challenging, for a perfect day of exploring what, in our opinion, is one of the nicest green spaces in the entire city.

While you’re in Rock Creek Park, head to Valley Trail for picturesque views and wooded pathways. Inside the park, don’t forget to check out some of the historic attractions, like the Pierce Mill gristmill, the Rolling Meadow Footbridge, and Miller Cabin. If you’re up for some adrenaline-inducing activities, try a rock scramble at Pulpit Rock.

Photo Credit: Joe Flood (Flickr CC)

Mount Vernon Trail

  • Location: Arlington, VA
  • Trail Length: 18 miles total, but can be shortened
  • Highlights: DC skyline views, paved paths for biking, connects with many other regional trails in the area

While not exactly a “wilderness” trail, the Mount Vernon Trail deserves a spot on any list of places to go hiking near DC. This walking, hiking, and biking path extends for 18 miles from Mount Vernon (yeah, George Washington’s birthplace) all the way to Theodore Roosevelt Island. It’s a perfect spot for families, runners, bikers, and history buffs to enjoy a historic and scenic area for hiking near DC.

On certain parts of the trail, you can catch excellent views of the Washington, DC skyline. Accessible without a car, the Mount Vernon Trail is perfect paired with a day trip from DC to Mount Vernon, or simply as a short hop away from the city.

Scotts Run Nature Preserve - Hikes Near Washington DC
Scott’s Run Nature Preserve is the perfect short hike to a picturesque waterfall!

Scott’s Run Nature Preserve

  • Location: McLean, VA
  • Trail Length: 2.2 miles
  • Highlights: Clean, wide forest trail, ends in a waterfall!

If you’re craving the tranquility of a waterfall hike but don’t want a long journey to get there, Scott’s Run Nature Preserve is the perfect trail for you. One of the closest waterfall hikes to DC proper, it’s a short and easy jaunt through the forest to this riverside waterfall viewpoint.

Scott’s Run Trail is a ~2.2 mile loop through the woods, with a stream crossing and some gradual hills here and there. The trail is dog-friendly and is the perfect length for a morning stroll. Completely manageable for young kids, this family-friendly trail is definitely one of the most fun and manageable hikes near Washington DC.

Rapids in the Potomac River at Great Falls, seen from Olmsted Island at Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Maryland.

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Trail

  • Location: Great Falls, MD
  • Trail Length: Varies
  • Highlights: Quiet trail along the canal, historic house and canal locks, spectacular views of Great Falls

The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Trail is an easy, popular hiking zone that runs along the historic C&O canal. It’s located just half an hour from downtown DC, and is the perfect place for a forest hike, especially in the fall when the trees turn all kinds of beautiful colors. You’ll need to drive to the park, but it’s an easy drive from anywhere in the DC metro area.

While there, don’t miss the historic home located close to the parking lot, as well as the historic canal boat and the wooden locks that still line the canal. Also, be sure to take the turn onto the Great Falls lookout boardwalk, which brings you to the edge of the Potomac River to a stunning viewpoint of the massive falls.

Need more recommendations for beginner-friendly hikes? Here are even more easy hikes near Washington, DC.

Designated as a National Historic Park, there’s an entrance fee to get into the C&O Canal area, but once you’ve parked, you can stay as long as you want in the park. You can also use a National Parks Annual Pass if you’ve got one, and entrance is free.

Maryland Heights Harpers Ferry - Hiking Near Washington DC
The Maryland Heights trail offers stunning views of historic Harpers Ferry.

Moderate Hikes Near DC

Maryland Heights Trail

  • Location: Harpers Ferry, WV
  • Trail Length: 4.5 or 6.5 miles
  • Highlights: Stunning view of the merging of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, old Civil War fortress

One of our favorite hikes near Washington DC, the Maryland Heights Trail offers the best views of Harpers Ferry, a National Historic Park and important landmark of the Civil War. Here, the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers converge, as do the borders of three states – Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. However, don’t let this forested, rural area fool you – Harpers Ferry is just an hour away from Washington DC.

There are two trails available that stem from the Maryland Heights trailhead – the overlook and the full trail. If you’re strapped for time or want to spend the afternoon exploring the town of Harpers Ferry, we recommend opting for the shorter trail, which brings you to the most stunning viewpoint in the entire park. The viewpoint is full of boulders and captures a bird’s eye glimpse of the convergence of the rivers, as well as the town of Harpers Ferry and the historic iron bridges that lead into it.

Photo Credit: Compass Points Media (Flickr CC)

Whiteoak Canyon

  • Location: Shenandoah National Park, VA
  • Trail Length: 7.3 miles
  • Highlights: This trail passes through 8 (yes, EIGHT) waterfalls! Need we say more?

Arguably one of the most epic waterfall hikes near Washington DC, the Whiteoak Canyon Trail is a moderately difficult and stunningly beautiful 7.3-mile trail where you’ll definitely get your fill of waterways and falls. Located in Shenandoah National Park, this trail is perfect as a Washington DC day trip or as part of a longer weekend trip in the park.

During the course of the Whiteoak Canyon Trail, you’ll get to see a total of 8 waterfalls of varying sizes and strength. If you’re hoping to catch some good photography opportunities, go during the fall when the leaves turn all kinds of bright and beautiful warm colors.

Photo Credit: Thomas (Flickr CC)

Dark Hollow Falls

  • Location: Shenandoah National Park, VA
  • Trail Length: 1.4 miles
  • Highlights: A beautiful waterfall to reward you after this short, steep hike!

One of the most popular hikes in Shenandoah National Parks, Dark Hollow Falls has the advantage of being both challenging and short, meaning you can pair it with another day hike in the park (or with a visit to a local brewery or winery after!). This steep uphill hike leads to one of the most stunning waterfalls in the entire park – a giant marvel made up of several smaller cascades.

Photo Credit: Mike Procario (Flickr CC)

Sugarloaf Mountain

  • Location: Dickerson, MD
  • Trail Length: 5.9 miles to summit and back
  • Highlights: Beautiful mountaintop views of the rolling hills and valleys below, wildflowers in the spring and summer

A stunning mountaintop hike, Sugarloaf Mountain is an awesome place to go hiking near DC in Maryland. Within the Sugarloaf Mountain hiking area, there are several different trails you can choose from, including the Blue, White, and Purple trails. Here’s a hiking map of the entire Sugarloaf area.

Most of the trails are moderately difficult with uphill trails leading to spectacular views of the fields and rolling hills of pastoral Maryland.

Photo Credit: MudflapDC (Flickr CC)

Wolf Rock & Chimney Rock

  • Location: Catoctin Mountain Park, MD
  • Trail Length: 3.5 miles
  • Highlights: Amazing views on a picturesque rocky outcropping!

A moderately steep, shorter trail located in Catoctin Mountain Park, MD, Wolf Rock & Chimney Rock Trail is a family-friendly but challenging hike up to a few rocky views of the nearby mountains. It’s the most difficult trail in the park, and while we’ve rated it moderate, you should be careful as the trails are quite narrow and can get icy and slippery in wet or cold weather.

Shenandoah National Park - Hikes Around Washington DC
Hiking in Shenandoah is a fantastic day or weekend trip from Washington DC.

Difficult/Challenging Hikes Near Washington DC

Old Rag

  • Location: Shenandoah National Park, VA
  • Trail Length: ~10 miles
  • Highlights: Summit views of Shenandoah National Park, rock scrambles, and bragging rights!

Possibly the most popular (and one of the most challenging) hike in Shenandoah National Park, Old Rag can get fairly crowded during the summer months. But for good reason – Old Rag Mountain offers some of the most spectacular views of Shenandoah National Park, possibly the best on this entire list of hikes near Washington DC. It’s a whopping 8-10 miles from start to finish, largely uphill, so be sure you’re well stocked with water and snacks before you begin.

Also, it’s important to note that you might think you’ve reached the summit a dozen times before you actually do. Old Rag likes to play tricks on hikers with several false summits. The real summit comes after several scramble areas and has a sign designating it as Old Rag Mountain. You can breathe a sigh of relief once you finally see it!

Photo Credit: ehpien (Flickr CC)

Billy Goat Trail

  • Location: Great Falls, MD
  • Trail Length: 1.5 to 4.5 miles
  • Highlights: Stunning Potomac River and Great Falls views, an epic rock scramble up a cliff

One of the best hikes near DC, the Billy Goat Trail is a fun and adrenaline-inducing rock trail that runs alongside the Potomac River, right near Great Falls. The entrance/trailhead starts at the parking lot of the C&O National Historic Park – you’ll need to walk a bit along the canal before the official entrance to the Billy Goat Trail itself. Once you are on the trail, you can choose from a few different sections and trails, each ranging from 1.5-2 miles in length.

After you’ve started on the trail, it’s a bit of climbing and hopping over the rocky cliffside of the river before getting to the large, “famous” scramble up the side of a cliff. Leave your trekking poles at home – you’ll need your hands AND feet for this hike!

Loudoun Heights

  • Location: Harpers Ferry, WV
  • Trail Length: 7 miles
  • Highlights: Stunning views of Harpers Ferry, challenging uphill climbs

Located near Maryland Heights Trail in Harpers Ferry, the longer Loudoun Heights Trail is a perfect companion to Maryland Heights for a weekend trip to the Harpers Ferry area, or a perfect day hike for those short on time. This mountainside hike offers amazing views of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, as well as the historic iron bridges that connect Harpers Ferry to the other sides of the waterways.

Photo Credit: katie wheeler (Flickr CC)

Little Devil’s Stairs

  • Location: Shenandoah National Park, VA
  • Trail Length: 5.3 miles
  • Highlights: Amazing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, bragging rights for having completed one of the hardest trails in Shenandoah National Park!

Don’t let the name freak you out – Little Devils Stairs is one of the most fun and thrilling hikes near Washington DC. Located in Shenandoah National Park, the trail passes through streams, by waterfalls, and scales a few rocky scramble passes. It’s probably the #1 most difficult hike on our list, but also one of the most rewarding.

We’d only recommend this trail to experienced hikers – the trails can get difficult to cross. Bring trekking poles and lots of snacks and water. Little Devils Stairs is not too long but it sure is exhausting!

Important Things to Know Before Hiking near Washington DC

How to Get Around to Trailheads & Hikes Near DC

For the hikes within Washington DC’s city limits, you can easily get around without a car. There’s ample public transportation available in the form of the public buses and metro system. If you’d prefer, there’s also Lyft, Uber, Via, and regular taxis you can take.

However, if you’d like to go into Virginia and Maryland, we highly recommend renting a car. While there are buses that go out to many suburbs and hikes near Washington DC, you’ll often have to walk long distances and it’s kind of a logistical nightmare. Instead, we;d rent a car for the day and driving to the various hikes near Washington DC you’d like to try.

What to Bring With You for Hiking Near DC

  • 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.

Additional Links

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 men’s and women’s 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 off 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 you 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 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 men’s and women’s 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 off 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 you 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 an unforgettable experience!

Related Links to Kayaking in Philadelphia