6 of the Most Legendary Overnight Paddling Trips in North America
Pierre Trudeau, the former prime minister of Canada, once said: “What sets a canoeing expedition apart is that it purifies you more rapidly and inescapably than any other. Travel a thousand miles by train, and you are a brute; pedal five hundred on a bicycle and you remain basically a bourgeois; paddle a hundred in a canoe and you are already a child of nature.” There’s nothing like gliding through the water, fighting the elements, and then setting up camp for a peaceful night or two in the wilderness.
If you’ve been feeling the pull to get away from work and spend more time in nature in your boat, we’ve put together a list of the best overnight trips in North America for both beginners and experienced paddlers.
Note: Always reach out to a local outfitter for more information about a route, conditions, and campsites.
1. Boquillas Canyon, Rio Grande Village to La Linda Crossing, Texas
What could be better than a relaxing float down the iconic Rio Grande? The Boquillas Canyon section lazily weaves its way more than 30 miles through the last of the Upper Cliffs in the Big Bend area as the river approaches the border with Mexico. The tranquil water is very calm until you get toward the end, where there is a rapid and a 4- to 6-mile section in the desert that often has a strong headwind (though you can take out before you get that far down).
While it’s possible to do this section in an overnight trip, many paddlers take their time and extend the journey to three to four days. There are plenty of campsites along the riverbank and shuttle services that operate in the area.
2. Baja Peninsula, Mexico
Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate
The Gulf of California between the Baja Peninsula and mainland Mexico is reasonably protected, making it a good spot for those with less paddling experience. The clear blue water, sandy beaches, and impressive rock formations make this is one of the most beautiful paddling spots in the world. The best part? It’s highly likely that you’ll see plenty of marine life (even whales!) and be sure to bring snorkeling gear to peek at life below the waves.
One of the best trip options is paddling out to Isla Espiritu Santo, a protected national marine park that is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another great option is the Bay of Loreto National Park.
3. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota
With nearly 1,200 miles of waterways along the boundary of Canada and the United States, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) has glacially carved cliffs and canyons, rocky shores with towering formations, and sandy beaches surrounded by forestland. The paddling here isn’t that difficult, but the remoteness can be daunting for newer paddlers.
There are many options for overnight (or longer) paddles thanks to 2,000 designated campsites throughout the area. Permits and fees may be required.
4. Maine Island Trail, Maine
Difficulty: Intermediate to Experienced
This 375-mile trail stretches from the New Hampshire border to Canada and has more than 200 wild islands to explore. Take an overnight trip or stay a little longer to paddle around the waters along the coast of Maine on the oldest water trail in the country.
Many paddlers tackle a section or specific area at a time, like Casco Bay. There’s no official route to follow so do your research ahead of time and don’t forget to bring a map.
5. Iceberg Alley, Newfoundland, Canada
Difficulty: Intermediate to Experienced
If you’ve ever wanted to kayak among icebergs, Twillingate is the place to go. From there you can access Iceberg Alley, which stretches along the southeast coast of Newfoundland. The best time to see icebergs is May, but depending on the year, they can last until July. (Check the iceberg finder to see how many are out there at any given time.) As a general rule, stay at least twice the height or length of the iceberg away just in case of calving or flipping, but come prepared to be in awe of the massive blocks of ice.
6. Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
Get up close to glaciers, otters, and maybe even whales by heading to the Kenai Peninsula. Known as one of the best sea kayaking spots in the world, paddling the Gulf of Alaska is an experience you’ll never forget. Due to the rough nature of the water and potential weather, it’s recommended that you hire a guide if you’re not an experienced paddler.
There are some coastal camping options, and there are also two public use cabins in Aialik Bay. The Seward Paddling Association on Resurrection Bay is a great resource for information before heading out.
Written by Abbie Mood for RootsRated in partnership with Sea to Summit.