22 U.S. National Parks You Must Paddle in 2024 | Perfect Paddles

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Find out where to paddle board, what paddle board gear you need, and where to camp in National Parks across the United States!

A wonderful function of SUP is in the ability to travel, seek the new, and explore unknown shores such as the beautiful National Parks located in the United States. This country is home to beautiful areas from the American West to the forested East. In those specific places lie treasure troves of National Parks perfect for your paddle board. This is a comprehensive list of some of the best parks and places to paddle board inside those parks. Are you ready to discover your next adventure? 

States Covered in the Article:

West Virginia

Best Time to Visit:

Each location is unique but as a general overview, we recommend checking out the associated National Parks weblink for seasonal weather information and the best times to visit.

You may be surprised how many parks are open year-round with opportunities to paddle board. The slower “off-season” months mean it may be easier to find accommodations at a better price, and smaller crowds so you can find a little peace all to yourself.

SUP Environments to Paddle In:

United States National Parks span the country. You can expect to encounter everything from oceans, lakes, rivers, swamps, bay, everglades, even whitewater adventures.

Recommended Gear List:

You only have a limited amount of space on your paddle board. First, while most paddle boards are able to hold overnight camping gear such as tents, sleeping bags, and food, the more you bring the more difficult your portages will be, and equally as important, the less performance you will have on your board with the added weight.

Your gear requirements will depend on the duration, environment, weather, and the necessary skills required to be successful.

Here is a list of items you should have in your basic SUP kit:

Non-Weather Dependent

PFD - USCG life vest
Leash — consider a quick release waist leash
Cellphone (don’t forget your charger or extra power source)
Waterproof case Like Duk Gear, one of our sponsored companies. Take advantage of savings by becoming a member today!
Dry bag
Hydration pack
Safe place for a spare key to you car, hotel, etc
I.D., cash and/or credit card
Water shoes
Extra paddle
Food for quick energy
iSUP with pump
Repair kit
Car straps
Beach towel - wipe down gear, etc
Weather apps like surfline, windy, etc
VHF radio
Signaling device - whistle, lights, mirror
First aid kit
Duct tape


A Paddle Board Buddy - someone with a similar skill level and ability level is ideal but it’s all about good communication for the most fun. Find a Paddle Buddy near you on Perfect Paddles HERE.

Weather Dependent Gear:

Coldwater booties

What to Wear:

The water temperature will determine your paddle board clothing. As a general rule, dress for immersion!

We suggest booties (thicker 5 to 9 mm is best for colder water but harder to feel and connect with your board), windbreaker, SPF long sleeve shirt for sun protection, leggings, neoprene vest, paddle jacket, or even a full wetsuit or drysuit. 

The more you paddle the more you’ll get to know what works best for you.

Check out more of our gear options HERE!

-Top two SUP outfitters in each location are located under each article section-

Member Discounts: To take advantage of exclusive discounts for our members be sure to sign up on our site! To become a member head HERE.

For more information be sure to check out our interactive map:

Places to paddle board in the US

Voyageurs National Park (Minnesota)

A paradise of interconnected waterways, ancient rock, and forested lands, this park near the Canadian border is a paddler’s dream. Almost entirely roadless, the site features four large lakes and 26 smaller inland lakes that together make up more than 30% of the park.

Explorers can navigate the wandering inlets, rugged shorelines, and hundreds of islands, while keeping an eye out for birds and other wildlife. The park preserves the trade route traveled by 18th- and 19th-century French-Canadian fur traders known as voyageurs, and you can get a glimpse into how these explorers traveled.

The Park Service leads a series of guided trips in the summer and fall, including free tours in north canoes—the traditional 26-foot boats used by the voyageurs themselves.

Perfect Paddles Note:

Voyageurs is probably the easiest place to paddle board on our list. The flat water is calm most of the day and makes for a great surface for beginners and experienced paddle boarders alike!

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:

Hang Loose MN, Carlos

paddle board in voyageur's national park
Lake Kabetogama, one of four large lakes that make up Voyageurs National Park.

Channel Island National Park (California)

Channel Islands National Park is a chain of five islands located off California’s central coast that’s often referred to as the “Galapagos of North America.” While visitors can arrange a visit to any of the islands by boat or plane, many people opt to take the ferry to the largest, Santa Cruz Island.

The ferry runs year-round to the island and within an hour, you’ve arrived!

Experienced paddlers can rent a kayak and arrange to have it transported to the islands for exploring solo. Otherwise, Channel Islands Adventure Company is the only outfitter permitted to offer guided tours.

From a kayak you can explore the rugged shoreline, disappear in and out of massive sea caves and take in the magnificent wildlife of this marine sanctuary.

Perfect Paddles Notes:

If your ideal mode of transport is a paddle board it is possible, but highly inadvisable, to paddle directly to the shores of the islands. But due to shipping lanes and other obstacles, we highly recommend taking an inflatable paddle board with you on the ferry where you will then be able to inflate and paddle at your leisure. For additional information be sure to head HERE for an excellent write up by our friends at The Roam Wild.

Another great way to enjoy Channel Islands National Park is by backpacking through the park. For more information on that fun activity, click HERE.

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:

Paddle Method, Marina Del Rey (Member Discount)
Mike’s Paddle, Alameda

Paddle Board in Channel Islands National Park

Channel Island National Park. Source

New River Gorge (West Virginia) 

(Our newest National Park as of January 2021 - woohoo!)

Nestled between the lush forests, sheer cliffs, and marshy wetlands of West Virginia is the New River Gorge, a historic outdoors and adventure sport hub that attracts around one million visitors every year. It’s also the United States’ newest (and West Virginia’s first) national park and preserve.

“The New River Gorge is truly one of West Virginia's most treasured playgrounds and largest tourist attractions because of its whitewater rafting, hunting, fishing, outdoor sports and natural beauty,” said West Virginia's Sen. Joe Manchin in a press release.

The legislation, along with Covid-19 relief, is part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, an omnibus spending bill that President Trump signed on December 27.

The move comes as the state continues to emphasize its tourism industry, which brought in $4.6 billion in 2018, the last year for which data is available. After seeing declines in tourism revenue from 2012 to 2016, the sector grew between 2016 and 2018.

Come see the United States’ newest national park! And have a blast exploring it from the platform of your very own paddle board.

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:

Adventures on the Gorge, Victor
Ace Adventure Resort, Oak Hill

Paddle board in US newest National Park
The New River Gorge Bridge. Source

Kenai Fjords National Park (Alaska)

With more than 750 nautical miles of rugged shoreline, there is no better way to experience Kenai Fjords National Park than by sea kayak. Adventurous paddlers can explore a remote wilderness where glaciers meet the sea and remnants of the ice age still remain.

Venture into uncharted coves and caves are hidden among the magical fjords, pass by floating icebergs, and perhaps even experience a close encounter with a sea lion, orca, or humpback whale.

Perfect Paddles Notes:

For the paddle board enthusiast, you can rent a board in Seward or Homer, both close-by towns, and either paddle on your own or go with a guide! It’s truly the best way to see the rugged coastline of Alaska. For additional information, be sure to check out this post HERE.

Paddle board in the icy waterways of this US National Park
The wonderful paddling views. Source 

Dinosaur National Monument (Utah)

Within Dinosaur National Monument, Utah’s Green River twists through scarlet canyons, yawning valleys and lush ledges of piñon pine and box elder, offering paddlers a river trip with scenery that rivals those of Grand Canyon National Park.

Beyond striking geology and indescribable views, a 3- to 5-day Gates of Lodore rafting trip offers fun, Class III whitewater, incredible hiking opportunities to secret waterfalls and side canyons, and the chance to see ancient artifacts that have been preserved in a geologic time capsule.

Perfect Paddles Notes:

To ensure your safety and the safety of others with you, we highly recommend a guided trip with the fantastic outfitter located nearby called Adrift. They write on their website, “Adrift is the only outfitter in Dinosaur National Monument that provides guided SUP trips on the Yampa and the Green River.

Our top-quality SUP River Guides are happy to help you navigate these 5 or 4-day river paddle board trips, which can be for just you, you and one other person, or a group of friends and family.”

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:

Adrift Dinosaur, Jensen
Paddle Moab, Moab

Views from the park. Source 

Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)

The main attraction may be the underground cave tours, but 31 miles of the Green and Nolin Rivers flow through the heart of Mammoth Cave National Park, offering canoes enthusiasts and kayakers peaceful paddling and riverside camping opportunities.

There’s no whitewater within park boundaries, so families and first-timers can float along with the swift current, passing by dramatic bluffs, whimsical trees, and watching for wildlife peering out from the wooded wonderland that lines the water.

Perfect Paddles Notes:

While there isn’t a convenient place to rent a paddle board nearby, this is the perfect route for the adventurer to take their inflatable paddle board or hardboard on their own to the gentle waters of the nearby river. Enjoy a tour of the cave and combine it with a fun afternoon on the river!

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestion(s):

SUP Kentucky (Member Discount)

Mammoth Cave National Park. Source

Big Bend National Park (Texas)

The Rio Grande River in Big Bend National Park delivers on dramatic scenery, fun whitewater, and accessibility. There are multiple trip options through several different canyons, including a multi-day wilderness trip on a remote portion of part of the river preserved as Wild & Scenic.

But within the park boundaries, paddlers can enjoy the dramatic beauty of the Santa Elena Canyon as the Rio Grande winds through a narrow gorge that towers up to 1,500-feet high. At high water levels, it’s considered a relatively straight-forward trip for rafters and kayakers, and even canoeists can make this one- to three-day trip during lower water levels.

Perfect Paddles Notes:

Big Bend is the perfect spot for a multi-day camping and paddle board adventure. Take advantage of the open-air while you and a friend make camp for the evening on the shore and get ready for the next big adventure! For some motivation check out this article HERE.

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:

Most of the outfitters permitted to operate in the park use rafts, kayaks and or canoes - all great ways to experience the Rio grande. Generally, the past 20 years has brought a lot of low water with minimal white water so bringing your own inflatable paddle board (for the properly experienced) can be the ultimate way to experience this epic canyon.

As always when paddling somewhere new or where there’s moving water it is best to connect with the local guide and park rangers to get the most up-to-date info, and to file a float plan before you launch. This park has spotty-to-no service for your phone so be extra prepared.

Lakeside Paddle (Member Discount)
The Expedition School (Member Discount)The Rio Grande. Source

Canyonlands National Park (Utah)

In the heart of Canyonlands National Park, the Colorado River twists its way through Cataract Canyon, a spectacular land of towering walls, bright orange mesas, buff-colored pinnacles, and maroon buttes.

For paddlers, a rafting trip down this famed stretch of the Colorado River has it all: breathtaking scenery, multiple days of easy floating followed by wild Class III-IV whitewater, and incredible access to hiking in the park’s remote Maze and Island in the Sky Districts.

Perfect Paddles Notes:

Canyonlands can seem like a maze to those unfamiliar with the twisting landscape. That is why we highly recommend the paddle board enthusiast reach out to Paddle Moab. They’ll be able to guide you personally if you’d like or at least point you in the right direction to make sure your trip is fun and of course, safe!

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:

Adrift Dinosaur, Jensen
Paddle Moab, Moab

Paddle board in Canyonlands National Park
“The Loop.” This natural wonder is located six miles above the Green River confluence. Source

Yellowstone Lake (Wyoming)

The shores of Yellowstone Lake, the continent’s largest high elevation lake, have steamed and simmered in geothermal flux for thousands of years in Yellowstone National Park. You can access the lake’s largest geyser basin — West Thumb Geyser Basin — on a heavily-trafficked 3/8-mile hike.

Or, take the route less-traveled and opt for a guided Yellowstone Lake kayaking trip that takes you on a longer, more intimate tour of the West Thumb area from the unique perspective of a sea kayak. Watch steamy geysers gush, mud pots bubble, and hot springs sear. Or, go on your own. Yellowstone Lake, as well as many of the other lakes within the park, offer a number of paddling and backcountry camping opportunities.

Perfect Paddles Notes:

Just as an advisory though, paddling is prohibited on all streams in the park, but paddlers can of course access the big lakes and ponds. This spot is relatively safe compared to others on our list but you will have to take your own paddle board if you want to enjoy time on the water!

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:

Gradient Mountain Sports, Cody
Caryn Flanagan (Paddle Pro), Jackson

Yellowstone Lake. Source

Glacier National Park (Montana)

Glacier National Park is a 1,583-sq.-mi. wilderness area in Montana's Rocky Mountains, with glacier-carved peaks and valleys running to the Canadian border. It's crossed by the mountainous Going-to-the-Sun Road. Among more than 700 miles of hiking trails, it has a route to photogenic Hidden Lake. 

While paddling is popular on Glacier National Park's Swiftcurrent Lake, you can have the waters of Lake Josephine all to yourself if you make a simple 200-yard portage.

Perfect Paddles Notes:

This is truly one of the most beautiful spots on our list. You’ll be amazed at the picturesque landscapes and the gentle calm waters you’ll find yourself in. Get out there!

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:

Montana River Guides, Alberton

Views at Glacier National Park. Source

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (Wisconsin)

With its stunning rock formations and cool sea caves, Devils Island may be the most-visited of Wisconsin's Apostle Islands in Lake Superior, but with 20 other islands (19 of which have camping), paddlers can find plenty of solitude.

Perfect Paddles Notes:

The thing to remember about Apostle Islands is that they are, of course, islands. Plan your trip accordingly by bringing your own paddle boardas there are no places to rent in the area. We recommend an inflatable paddle board for ease of storage and transport. To get a full understanding of how to get there, we recommend taking a look at the National Parks Website on Planning Your Trip.

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:

Door County Paddleboard, Egg Harbor (Member Discount)
Cave Point Paddle and Pedal, Sturgeon Bay

places to paddle board in Wisconsin
Views from the water at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Source

Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

This park is world-famous for its steep, dramatic, multicolored canyon walls. Most visitors take in the enormity of this geologic wonder from overlooks along the rim. A trip on the Colorado River is an excellent way to enjoy even more of the park’s spectacular scenery—including views that simply can’t be experienced from above.

To explore the Colorado’s 277 miles of exhilarating whitewater (ranging from Class I to Class V), visitors can hire one of more than a dozen private tour companies for single-day or multi-day tours. Or apply to get a permit for a self-guided tour using the park’s lottery system. It’s a bucket list trip for experienced paddlers.

Perfect Paddles Notes:

We recommend staying in the Class I to III (at the most) sections of the river. Anything higher and it is only for the extremely experienced paddlers. We also suggest hiring a guide to safely watch you and your group for the duration of the trip. For those solo adventurers, to obtain the correct permit you first must head HERE

Before you even apply you first must be at least 18 years of age, have the required paddling experience, and enter a lottery which is only open for three weeks in February each year and you will be contacted through email about the results. 

With a permit, you have a choice of either spending 2-5 days on the river or 12-25 days. 

If you go the shorter route your launch point will be at Diamond Creek on the south rim of the canyon. If you choose the  extended stay, then you will be launching from Lees Ferry, which is located in the northern area of the Grand Canyon, close to the Utah border.

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:

Go Stand Up Paddle, Rio Verde (Member Discount)
Lake Powell Paddleboards, Powell (Member Discount)

paddle board in the United States' most famous national park
Views of the Colorado. Source 

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument (Maryland)

The Choptank River isn’t just a part of the rustic landscape where Harriet Tubman spent her early years brutally enslaved in Maryland; it was also a likely route north toward abolitionist safe houses on the Underground Railroad.

The river may also have served as a critical source of news for enslaved communities before the Civil War. Free black sailors, or “Black Jacks,” often formed secret communication networks along major waterways to share information.

Today, this river that once symbolized hope is now a local paddling favorite, with several different water trails that meander through the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge—a sanctuary for birds that has changed little since the time when Tubman experienced it.

The best place to start your journey is to rent a canoe or kayak at the historic Bucktown Village Store, the site of Tubman’s first act of defiance where she nearly was killed by a blow to the head while attempting to assist an enslaved man.

Perfect Paddles Notes:

The waters here are relatively calm and easy to navigate. This is the perfect spot for any paddle board owner to take their board out by themselves and enjoy an afternoon under the sun. Just be sure to check with the rangers that you are allowed to drop in at your desired spot. Enjoy!

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:

Walk on Water SUP, Ocean City (Member Discount)
Capital SUP, Annapolis (Member Discount)

paddle board in Maryland's National Park
The shores of the park. Source

Buffalo National River (Arkansas)

The Buffalo is the country’s first national river and one of the last remaining rivers that is not damned in the contiguous United States.

Its 135 miles flow freely through beautiful Ozark forests and bluffs of limestone and sandstone, offering challenging whitewater conditions in the upper section and calmer Class I rapids in the middle and lower sections.

There are not many roads or established overlooks in the park; the best way to experience the beauty of the water is to be out on it, navigating the cliffs, springs, waterfalls, and multicolored rock. Just be alert and prepared for fast-changing conditions.

Perfect Paddles Notes:

The Buffalo National River is perfect for a paddle board. The relatively calm waters are easy to navigate and explore. Combine this with plenty of places to drop-in (once you find your way on the road) and you have one of the best places to SUP in Arkansas. Highly recommend a visit and exploration!

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:

SUP Outfitters, Eureka Springs

paddle board in this Arkansas national park
The beautiful waterways. Source

Everglades and Biscayne National Parks (Florida)

Which of these two landmark parks is the best South Florida paddling site? It is nearly impossible to choose, so if you can, make time to enjoy both.

Biscayne (shown here), on the one hand, is the premiere marine park in the National Park System, with its brilliant blue bay, its shallow mazes of lagoons and creeks, and its coasts lined with mangrove trees.

The Everglades, on the other hand, is a park that offers unique wilderness experiences—such as the Ten Thousand Islands and the Wilderness Waterway Trail, which extends for 99 miles from Everglades City to Flamingo—as well as shorter, more accessible options on its rivers, creeks, and open bays.

Wherever you explore, you’ll get new perspectives of a part of the world where the balance of fresh and brackish water nourishes a unique world of plant and animal life.

Perfect Paddles Notes:

For comprehensive information on paddle boarding in Biscayne head HERE. And for a deeper understanding of paddling the Everglades be sure to check out this link HERE.

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:

Lake Life Paddle, Belle Island (Member Discount)
Amelia Island Paddle Surf Co. (Member Discount)

paddle board in Florida's National Parks
Biscayne National Park. Source

Dry Tortugas National Park (Florida)

Almost 70 miles (113 km) west of Key West lies the remote Dry Tortugas National Park. This 100-square mile park is mostly open water with seven small islands. 

Accessible only by boat or seaplane, the park is known the world over as the home of magnificent Fort Jefferson, picturesque blue waters, superlative coral reefs and marine life, and the vast assortment of bird life that frequents the area.

Perfect Paddles Notes:

A trip to Dry Tortugas is perfect for taking an inflatable SUP with you to use. Overnight campers can take advantage of their stay on the island by inflating their boards and exploring the crystal-clear waters that surround Fort Jefferson.

Spend the night and watch the sky explode with stars! Truly a magnificent sight that you will not be able to forget. 

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:

Sunshine SUP Tours, Key West
Lazy Dog SUP, Stock Island

paddle board in tortugas national park
Fort Jefferson. Source

Point Reyes National Seashore (California)

Explore the West Coast’s first marine wilderness area by kayak or canoe at Drakes Estero in Point Reyes National Seashore. See sandbars appear and disappear with the tides, forming fingers that reach from the shoreline out into the Pacific Ocean.

Paddle through eelgrass beds that are home to bat rays, leopard sharks, harbor seals, and other wildlife, and lookup for pelicans, osprey, and other shorebirds soaring overhead.

This inlet is open to canoes and kayaks from July to February and closed the rest of the year to protect a prime seal-pupping habitat.

Perfect Paddles Notes:

If you are in travel mode and unable to bring your own SUP to the party, be sure to check out Blue Water Kayaking for all of your SUP rental needs! Paddling Point Reyes is not to be missed, so make sure you have the proper equipment before heading out!

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:

Napa Valley Paddle, Napa (Member Discount)
Mike’s Paddle, Alameda (Member Discount)

point reyes seashore national park
Point Reyes’ natural beauty. Source

Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway (Minnesota and Wisconsin)

With more than 255 miles of water and relatively few visitors, the Saint Croix and Namekagon Rivers provide long stretches of solitude and adventure within their verdant, tree-lined banks.

One of the most scenic paddling destinations in the Upper Midwest, the park’s waters are relatively easy to navigate, though there are sections with rapids that can be challenging, especially in high-water conditions.

The rivers have numerous campsites along their routes, as well as excellent fishing opportunities, making this park an ideal place to bring a tent and a fishing pole for a relaxing multi-day getaway.

Perfect Paddles Notes:

Much like paddling the Grand Canyon, to paddle the Scenic Riverway solo may also require a special paddling permit to be on the water. For information regarding the process to attain one or if one is necessary please head HERE.

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:

Door County Paddleboard, Egg Harbor, Wisconsin
Hang Loose MN, Carlos, Minnesota

Views of the paddle. Source

Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)

Ansel Adams famously captured the meandering beauty of the Snake River as a photographer for the Interior Department in the 1940s. Now, you can launch your own boat into this living artwork and see a breathtaking cross-section of the park from the water.

Wind your way through the ethereal beauty of the Jackson Hole valley with the jagged beauty of the Teton Range looming 7,000 feet above you, and see some of the area’s diverse wildlife, which includes moose, elk, mule deer, lynx, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and trumpeter swans.

If the Snake River’s cold, rushing waters are too fast and furious for some boaters, visitors can also explore many of the area’s lakes, including the scenic Jackson and Jenny Lakes.

Perfect Paddles Notes:

To understand the rules and regulations for boating and other craft on the river be sure to check out the National Parks resource HERE.

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:

Gradient Mountain Sports, Cody
Caryn Flanagan (Paddle Pro), Jackson

Paddle board in Grand Teton
One of the park’s many beautiful lakes. Source

Olympic National Park (Washington)

In August 2014, engineers removed the last remnants of concrete blocking the Elwha River, completing the largest dam-removal project in U.S. history and letting the water flow freely for the first time in a century.

Now, the Elwha offers more than 70 miles of paddling through a lush wilderness landscape in the heart of the park, including Class II-IV rapids. And because the salmon now run freely up the river, the wildlife that depend on these fish, including birds and otters, are also easier to spot from the water.

Perfect Paddles Notes:

One word of caution- know where you are going to paddle before you head out! If you are inexperienced on whitewater rapids, do not go.

However, there are alternatives! A couple of great flatwater areas in the park include Lake Ozette and Lake Crescent. And if you’re the SUP surfer type, then head to La Push for a cliffside surf break!

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:

Salmon Bay Paddle, Seattle (Member Discount)
Blue Otter Outfitters, Anacortes

Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park. Source

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is the first national park in the United States and covers over 2 million acres of preserved land. The park rose to fame for its diverse wildlife and unique geothermal features, most notably with Old Faithful Geyser.

One of the best ways to experience the wonder of the park is from the standing position on a SUP. It provides a simple way to enjoy some of the most stunning places on the planet.

Imagine drifting within sight of elk, moose, deer, badgers, eagles, coyotes and wolves while enjoying mountain vistas that can’t be seen from a car or road. While paddling in the Yellowstone region, the views you see are similar to those enjoyed by Lewis and Clark during their landmark explorations.

Perfect Paddles Notes:

The best place to SUP in Yellowstone would have to be Yellowstone Lake. It stretches over 135 miles and is usually flat calm which is great for beginners. Within the site, there are plenty of places to camp and a spot to rent a SUP if you are unable to bring your own. Don’t miss out on this extraordinary experience!

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:

If you wish to rent a board outside of the park, there is only 1 option that is relatively close:
Gradient Mountain Sports, Cody

The most convenient option would be to rent within the park. Options for rentals can be found on the NPS website. The link is listed above!

Paddle board in Yellowstone
Yellowstone Lake. Source

Assateague Island National Park

Assateague Island is located near Ocean City, MD. It consists of a national park side and a state park beach. While you can paddle both and even catch some small waves on either beach, if you want to explore the flat water then a trip into the National Park is a must.

Once you're inside the park, you can explore sandy beaches, salt marshes, maritime forests and coastal bays. There is a section for wide-open paddling in a flat bay with an easy beach launch. Once on the water, you're likely to spot Osprey nests, manta rays in the water, and of course, the famous wild ponies that often populate on the shoreline.

In between sessions you can rest, relax, and enjoy some time on the edge of the continent.

Perfect Paddles Notes:

If you want to see the wild ponies, you might have to look in two places. First, check the beaches at the state park and national side. You'll be able to see down the entire shoreline so spotting them is pretty easy. If they aren't on the beach, head into the bay side where they are often spotted along the shoreline eating sea grass and staying in the shade. Just be sure to keep away from them. They seem friendly but they are wild! Make sure to keep your distance and appreciate their presence from afar. 

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:

Walk on Water SUP, West Ocean City, MD (Member Discount)
OC SUP and Fitness, Ocean City, MD

Conclusion - The US NP’s offer one paddle of a lifetime after another!

There are truly endless spots to explore on a SUP. And with the extreme biodiversity in each of these locations, you’ll never find yourself feeling bored.

It is our hope that with this list you’ll be motivated to get out there, discover the unknown, and conquer a new place on the map of the world creating memories that will last a lifetime.

If you have any additional questions or would like some traveling advice, reach out to us HERE! We’re always willing to help. Until next time- keep feeding your call of the water. 

UPDATED: May 2024

Do you like to avoid the crowd? We understand parks like Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and others are a must-visit on any trip but they can also be quite congested.

We've updated our National Parks article with 15 additional spots that are the least-visited parks on a yearly average.

So you can have all of the adventures with half the crowds! Information and numbers of yearly visitors are included below!

Virgin Islands 167,540 yearly visitors

We've all heard of the Virgin Islands. Their tropical shores are full of turquoise water, white sands, and palm trees. It's a regular paradise. But did you know they only receive about 170,000 visitors a year? That is a lot less compared with other parks and especially beaches.

St. John is probably the most popular of the islands and the location of the perfect spot to rent a board while you're there. Stop by SUP St. John for all of your SUP needs and have a fantastic time!

paddle board in the virgin islands national park

Pinnacles 165,740 yearly visitors - Salina Valley, California

Located in Salinas Valley, California, Pinnacles National Park is described on the National Parks website as, "Massive monoliths, spires, sheer-walled canyons and talus passages define millions of years of erosion, faulting and tectonic plate movement.

Within the park's boundaries lie 26,000 acres of diverse wildlands. The park is renowned for the beauty and variety of its spring wildflowers."

And within the park's borders are a few small water lakes to paddle, picnic, an enjoy the afternoon taking in some tremendous views.

This park is perfect for the adventure SUP enthusiast with their own inflatable board to pack up and go.

Skip the line at Joshua Tree and Yosemite and head to Pinnacles if you want a fun time in the California wilds without the crowds.

paddle board in pinnacles national park
River inside Pinnacles: Source

Great Basin 120,248 yearly visitors - Baker, NV

Outside of the Las Vegas strip, Nevada has ton to offer the wilderness enthusiast in terms of landscapes, wildlife, and beauty. After you're done putting all your chips on Red 23, head to the eastern part of the Nevada wild for an awe-inspiring look at Great Basin.

It's described as, "A place of extremes. From rugged mountain peaks to vast underground caverns, this 77,100-acre park in Nevada appears barren and desolate at a glance, yet supports a vast array of plant and animal life. Some of the most interesting facts about this park have to be seen to be believed."

Take an inflatable paddle board with you to spend time on the water under the looming mountains and get a real taste of the Nevada lifestyle.

Paddle board in Nevada

Congaree 119,306 yearly visitors - Hopkins, SC

"Known for its giant hardwoods and towering pines, Congaree's floodplain forest includes one of the highest canopies in the world. The park provides a sanctuary for plants and animals, a research site for scientists, and a tranquil wilderness setting for walking and relaxing in."

Or paddling in! When you enter the park stop at the information center and as about the Canoe Trail - the small river that runs through the park. You can follow the trail on your SUP, taking plenty of breaks along the way to gaze at the high canopied trees.

paddle board in one of South Carolina's favorite national parks

Kenai Fjords 115,882 yearly visitors - Kenai Peninsula, Alaska

Dress appropriately!

"The 700-square-mile Harding Ice Field is one of only four remaining ice fields in U.S., and is also the largest ice field entirely within U.S. borders. The park's rugged coastline includes beautiful tidewater glaciers and abundant marine wildlife."

Make sure you have a fitted and sealed drysuit as well as an experienced guide before you even consider SUP in this national park.

Kenai Fjords is truly an outdoorman's dream. Full of towering mountains and glacier-filled bays, it's unlike any other place in the United States.

paddle board in kenjai fjords national park

North Cascades 30,885 yearly visitors - Washington State

Want a taste of the Alaskan wilderness without the long (and expensive) travel? The second best choice has to be the North Cascades in northern Washington.

"Just three hours from Seattle, North Cascades National Park's rugged beauty is characterized by jagged peaks, deep forested valleys, cascading waterfalls, and over 300 glaciers — more than any other U.S. park outside of Alaska."

Paddle the bright tuqiouse water and spend the night under the stars - a perfect combination!

paddle board in Washington state's national park

Isle Royale 6,493 yearly visitors - Lake Superior

Isle Royale is aremote island that sits along the shores of Lake Superior. To visit this spot and paddle, you'll definitely need an inflatable paddle that you can carry on your back!

To get there you will need to take a ferry to the island where you will be able to explore the untouched wilderness that is left to grow and populate.

It's described as, "A cool climate, crystal-clear waters, and the wild North Woods forest characterize Isle Royale National Park. The park encompasses a total area of 850 square miles including submerged lands which extend over four miles out into Lake Superior, and 99% of the land mass is federally designated wilderness."

The waters are perfect for SUP so plan accordingly and get out there!

paddle board in Lake Superior's national park

Lake Clark 4,948 yearly visitors - Port Alsworth, AK

"Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is a land of stunning beauty. Volcanoes steam, salmon run, bears forage, and craggy mountains reflect in shimmering turquoise lakes. Here, too, local people and culture still depend on the land and water. Venture into the park to become part of the wilderness."

With just under five thousand visitors a year, you'll be able to spend time in a place not many people have the ability to explore. And to couple that with SUP, you'll be able to create an experience that would be altogether unforgettable!

Paddle board in Arkansas


National Park of American Samoa 4,819 yearly visitors - Samoan Islands in the Pacific

"The National Park of American Samoa is a national park in the United States territory of American Samoa, distributed across three islands: Tutuila, Ofu, and Ta'ū. The park preserves and protects coral reefs, tropical rainforests, fruit bats, and the Samoan culture. Popular activities include hiking and snorkeling."

Let's get out of the cold weather paddling for a second and make our way back to the tropics.

In this national park that receives less than five thousand visitors a year, you can expect to be paddling in the conditions SUP were born in - bright sunshine, clear blue water, white sandy beaches, and palm trees.

Head here if you're looking for an adventure in paradise!

Paddle board American Samoa National ParkSource

Gates of the Arctic 2,872 yearly visitors - Alaska

There is a reason why the Gates of the Arctic National Park only receives less than three thousand visitors a year - it is the northernmost park in the United States and is situated entirely on the Arctic Circle.

Because of this, or the average adventurer and paddler, it is not the place to mark on your calendar for your next trip, but if you're more of an extreme personality - consider this place the ultimate challenge.

National Geographic describes it as, "The ultimate North American wilderness. Along with Kobuk Valley National Park and Noatak National Preserve, Gates of the Arctic protects much of the habitat of the western arctic caribou.

Grizzlies, wolves, wolverines, and foxes also roam over the severe land in search of food."

We included it on our list as it is relatively unknown to those unfamiliar with Alaska and the parks designated within the state, but be forewarned, to visit the borders of the Gates of the Arctic is to undertake an adventure, unlike anything you've ever done before.

paddle board in Alaska's National Park

Ready to Get Out There?

Set to paddle some of these beautiful locations? First, make sure you have the proper SUP knowledge and experience to be successful.

To find out everything you need to know to have fun and stay safe head to our Knowledge/Resources section where you will find additional articles full of helpful information.

And once you're on the water, be sure to share your stories with us so that we may help inspire other paddlers around the world!



About the Author


Daniel is a travelling author with a passion for exploring new waterways and sharing his experiences with the world.

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