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The Best Places to Go Canoeing in California

The Best Places to Go Canoeing in California

Got a canoe? We’ve got news for you—here are the best places to go canoeing in sunny California.


5 min read

June 24, 2021

Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream; merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, California’s but a dream. You have no reason to be a couch potato this summer—there are just too many places to go canoeing in the Golden State and the crystal-clear waters await. Paddle among lush greenery with wildlife sightings aplenty, or plan a canoe trip surrounded by mighty mountains. Whichever you end up choosing, the soothing experience provides a much-deserved reset. 

Got a canoe? We’ve got news for you—here are the best places to go canoeing in sunny California. 

Great Places to Canoe in Southern California

Puddingstone Reservoir is a 250-acre artificial lake, where you can go fishing, swimming, windsurfing, canoeing, and camping.

Puddingstone Reservoir 

There’s no better way to escape the scorching SoCal heat than by going to an awesome place to canoe. And if you’re still wondering where to go, Puddingstone Reservoir is the ideal destination to cool off. Five miles of shoreline are at your disposal; you won’t have any problems setting up a basecamp to explore the abundance of the area.

One of the things that make Puddingstone Reservoir one of the best places to canoe is the plethora of bird watching opportunities—there are more than 250 species of birds spotted in the area. In addition to paddling, you’ll enjoy splashing around the beaches and catching bass.  

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Castaic Lake

If you’re a Valley girl through and through, you’ll be glad to know that Castaic Lake is only 40 minutes away. This reservoir in SoCal boasts 29 miles of shoreline, where you can easily explore hidden coves and find your own private beach. 

Castaic Lake is divided into two bodies of water—Lower Lake is where you go to avoid powerboats and take advantage of the calm waters. Enjoy a scenic getaway from Downtown L.A. at the reservoir and paddle to the 425-foot tall Castaic Dam, a major attraction at Castaic Lake. 

Paddle through the sparkling waters of Lake Hughes and experience the timeless beauty of the lake first thing in the morning.

Lake Hughes

Located within the Sierra Pelona Mountains, Lake Hughes is a hidden gem in Southern California you just can’t miss. Here, you’ll be spending stress-free weekends paddling over tranquil waters—sounds like the perfect canoe place to us. Compared to other lakes in the area, Hughes is pretty small. Do you know what that means? It’s never crowded here. 

Beginners love canoeing here—Lake Hughes accommodates paddlers of all skill levels. This slice of heaven is such a serene place to go canoeing that you can even have lunch while paddling. Enjoy a rustic mini getaway from the hustle and bustle of L.A. and let nature take the lead.

The Best Places to Go Canoeing in Central California

Utica Reservoir is a small but stunning body of water with a rocky, forested coastline and several islands perfect for canoeing and exploring.

Utica Reservoir 

As far as paddling is concerned, Utica Reservoir in Stanislaus National Forest is always a top choice when it comes to fantastic places to go canoeing. One would think that this small body of water can be easily paddled in a few hours. And while that’s not too far off from the truth, you’ll discover endless hidden passages and colorful lily ponds that could take you days to fully explore. 

Canoeing at Utica Reservoir means passing through babbling brooks, getting lost in secluded coves, and admiring large rock islands that extend far beyond the water—this experience can only be described as unique, and the only place you can do it is in Central California

Lake Clementine

Oh my darling, Clementine, we can never get enough of this wonderful place to go canoeing in Central California. Lake Clementine is nestled at the bottom of a broad and deep valley, with evergreens and cottonwoods shielding the body of water from bustling cities. Drawing thousands of visitors annually, this reservoir offers premium paddling opportunities near the Gold Rush era-town of Auburn. With eight miles of navigable waters, you’ll keep boredom at bay. 

While Lake Clementine is a local favorite for canoeing, water skiers and wakeboarders also come here to splash around during the summer months—it’s open to boat traffic. Whichever water-related activity you enjoy here, incredible views of rolling hillsides follow you every step of the way. 

Sugar Pine Reservoir is the perfect family outing. Take advantage of the boat ramp to sail and canoe over the clear blue waters.

Sugar Pine Reservoir

The Central Valley packs lots of outdoor activities, and one of them is canoeing at the peaceful Sugar Pine Reservoir. It doesn’t matter if you’re visiting during the busy summer months—boat traffic here is always minimal. A dense concentration of conifers meader down to the edge of the reservoir, creating a pathway that leads to hidden trails. 

As you canoe on the undisturbed reservoir, you’ll find occasional fisherman and sometimes even windsurfing enthusiasts practicing their skills. When you’re not paddling, feel free to explore the biking trails in the area. Bear sightings are frequent in the area, so make sure to be on the lookout at all times.

The Best Places to Canoe in Northern California

Spectacular granite mountains surround Lake Faucherie, and you may explore their peaks and waterfalls on foot.

Faucherie Lake 

Granite mountains greet you as you make your way to Faucherie Lake in Tahoe National Forest. If you’ve been needing to go off grid, this is the place to be—no motorboats, no engine noises, just peace and solitude.   

Novice paddlers enjoy canoeing at Faucherie Lake since it’s beginner-friendly. But beware of the winds that come up every now and then. The best time to take your boat is either morning or evening when the water is tranquil. After getting a much-needed dose of relaxation, traverse the trails that take you to the waterfalls along Canyon Creek, and if the water’s not too cold, it wouldn’t hurt to go for a swim. 

Gold Lake

There’s no need to state the obvious, but we’re doing it anyway—Gold Lake is truly one of the best places to go canoeing not just in NorCal, but all of the Golden State. As one of the most scenic lakes in the region, Gold Lake offers prime paddling opportunities for beginners. Mornings and evenings are the ideal times to hit the water since the NorCal winds are likely to appear during the afternoons. 

Keep in mind that Gold Lake is a popular destination for water-related activities, meaning you won’t have total seclusion here. While it doesn’t get that crowded, prepare to share the water with powerboats.

Canyon Dam, many natural springs, Last Chance and Benner Creeks, Hamilton Branch, and the lake itself are the ingredients that make up Lake Almanor.

Lake Almanor 

As the largest reservoir in northwestern Plumas County, Lake Almanor provides incomparable paddling opportunities in the region. Many are intimidated by the size of this reservoir, but we promise that Lake Almanor is anything but alarming. Numerous boat launch accesses allow you to canoe on different sections of the lake. 

Floating on the water with Mount Lassen standing proud sounds like a paradisiacal experience. Since this reservoir is a mountain lake, make sure to avoid canoeing during the afternoon when it gets too windy. Opt for an evening canoe trip and soak in the dramatic sunset views while the glimmering waters bestow peace upon you.

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