Updated March 25, 2019
One of the many benefits of living in a place where you’re surrounded by lakes, rivers and oceans is that you have many opportunities to spend a few hours (or a few days) on the water. Even if you’re a beginning kayaker, there are plenty of safe, fun spots for you to learn the sport.
To get you started, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite places—some well-known, some not—to go kayaking in the Northwest.
PLACES TO PADDLE In WESTERN Washington
Seattleites looking to stay close to home can head to Lake Union or Lake Washington. Rent single, double or even triple kayaks from the Northwest Outdoor Center or Agua Verde Paddle Club and venture out from there. The route options are endless—paddle past the many houseboats on Lake Union, check out the Lake Washington Arboretum or head over to Gas Works Park.
Alki Kayak in Alki Beach (in West Seattle) also leads saltwater kayaking tours through Elliott Bay and the Duwamish River.
Beyond the city, your best bet is to kayak in the San Juan Islands—where it’s not uncommon to see orca whales (May to September), sea lions, otters or other sea creatures while you paddle. You can also pilot your way around beautiful Whidbey Island, where you might encounter bald eagles, great blue heron and harbor seals.
KAYAK THROUGH Oregon
If you’re in Portland, you can take a beginner-friendly trip down the Willamette River. In about three hours the Portland Kayak Company will lead you around Ross Island. Or head just 25 minutes north of the city and take a nice, gentle wildlife tour of Scappoose Bay.
Beyond Portland, cruise down to the Clackamas River, a whitewater river that flows through the Mt. Hood National Forest. It’s ranked Class III/IV+, so it’s perfect whether you’re looking for an easy, scenic paddle or a serious challenge. eNRG Kayaking leads tours down the Clackamas as well as the Santiam River and Willamette Falls.
For a longer, potentially more aggressive adventure, tackle either the Rogue or the Deschutes rivers. Outfitters offer group trips for all levels, as well as gear rentals for those who want to go at it alone.