8 U.S. Canoe Trips That’ll Transport You Into the American Wild
Paddle through these waters for wildlife sightings, stunning scenery, and more.
Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.
You don’t have to strap on a giant backpack or hike 10 miles to get out into the wilderness — finding solitude can be as easy as loading up a canoe, pushing off, and dropping a line in the water. On a canoe trip, you need not worry about squeezing past others on a narrow trail or lugging around liters of water — everything you need is right in the boat with you.
These canoe trips take you from above the Alaskan Arctic Circle to the swamps of Georgia and are guaranteed to provide a much-needed reset (with a side of adventure). Plus, they’re all in the U.S., making it easy to find a nearby route that suits your style, whether it be braving rapids and overcoming grueling portages or sitting back with a line in the water and a beer in your hand.
1. Salmon River, Idaho
Also known as The River of No Return, the Salmon River takes boaters through 46 miles of recreational river trail, before reaching the 79-mile section of designated “wild” river. Canoers looking to take on the full 46-mile recreational route can put in at North Fork and take out at Corn Creek — a journey with tall canyon walls and some of the oldest known rocks in the state — or apply for a permit to venture into the “wild” section of the Salmon River.
2. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota
For a paddle that’s just as beautiful as it is remote, it’s hard to top the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northeast Minnesota. The wilderness area, which is composed of 1,500 miles of canoe routes over 19,000 acres and 1,100 bodies of water, is accessible primarily by canoe. Here in the deep north, boaters are rewarded with scenery that’s still wild and unparalleled solitude.
3. Northern Forest Canoe Trail, New York to Maine
This 740-mile trail starts in New York and ends in Maine, passing through Vermont, Quebec, and New Hampshire along the way. While there’s nothing like the satisfaction that comes from completing the entire stretch, you can take your pick of the route’s 23 rivers and streams, 59 ponds and lakes, and 65 portages to create your own shortened itinerary — whether it be a day trip or a long weekend excursion.
4. Noatak River, Alaska
If true isolation is at the top of your list, it doesn’t get much more remote than the Noatak River. Located above the Arctic Circle, this river route passes through a glacial valley, alpine tundra, deep canyons, and open plains. As you float this easy to moderate river, you can drop in a line or keep an eye out for Alaskan wildlife, including grizzly bears, caribou, and sheep.
5. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
If the cooler weather up north doesn’t sound appealing, consider a trip to Georgia, home of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Heavily forested cypress swamps and “swamp prairies” offer two different takes on watery terrain that lure canoers looking for a multiday excursion in the South’s lush wilderness.
6. Green River, Utah
Utah’s Green River is a great choice if you’re a newbie to the canoeing world, or if you’ll be traveling with small children. The river is wide and mellow, with plenty of wildlife and scenery. You can drop in at Green River State Park and take out at Ruby Ranch two days later, or float all the way to the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers.
7. Buffalo National River, Arkansas
The beautiful Buffalo River passes through the Ozark Mountains and traverses alongside giant bluffs as it runs through quiet pools and tumbling rapids on its way to the White River. Once you reach the confluence, make sure to dip a toe to feel the distinction between the typically cooler White River and the warmer Buffalo waters. This trip can be as short as an afternoon paddle or as long as a multiday journey on the Buffalo River’s 153 miles — either way, you’ll want to keep your fishing gear on hand for the river’s renowned smallmouth bass fishing.
8. Tuolumne River, California
Thrill seekers will find their match on the Tuolumne River, which runs through deep gorges and forests on its way from the high Sierra Nevadas to the Central Valley. Along the way, you’ll be treated to wildlife sightings and excellent trout fishing as you navigate your way around Class IV rapids. Although the Tuolumne put-in is near Yosemite, the 149-mile body of water doesn’t have too much boating traffic, thanks to regulations on the number of trips permitted to launch each day.