21 U.S National Parks with SUP Spots You Don’t Want to Miss!

In Destinations, Featured, Newsletter by Daniel

A wonderful function of SUP is in the ability to travel, seek the new, and explore unknown shores. The United States is home to many such novel areas from the American West to the forested East. And in those specific places lies a treasure trove of National Parks perfect for the act of SUP. This is a comprehensive list of some of the best parks and places to paddle inside those parks. Come along with us and discover your next adventure!


States Covered in the Article:
West Virginia

Best Time to Visit:

Each location is unique unto itself but as a general overview, we recommend checking out the associated National Parks web link for seasonal weather information and the best times to visit. You may be surprised how many parks are open year round with opportunities to SUP. The slower “off-season” months mean it may be easier to find accommodations at a better price, and smaller crowds so you might even get a little peace all to yourself.

SUP Environments to Paddle In:
United States National Parks span the country and you can expect to encounter everything from oceans, lakes, rivers, swamps, bay, everglades, even whitewater adventures.

Recommended Gear List:
When spending time on the water, you only have a limited amount of space. While most 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.

Each SUP adventure will be different in duration, environment, weather, and the necessary skills required to be successful which ultimately will determine your gear requirements.

With that in mind, 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 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:

Your SUP clothing will be determined by the water temperature. As a general rule, dress for immersion!

In general, 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-

Buddy Deals: Don’t forget to take advantage of our fantastic Buddy Deals for exclusive discounts for our members! To become a member head HERE.

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

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.

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

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:
Hang Loose MN, Carlos

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.

If your ideal mode of transport is a SUP 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 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.

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:
Paddle Method, Marina Del Rey (Buddy Deal)
Paddle Sports Center, Santa Barbara (Buddy Deal)

Channel Island National Park. Source

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:
Paddle Method, Marina Del Rey (Buddy Deal)
Mike’s Paddle, Alameda

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 SUP.

Perfect Paddles Outfitter Suggestions:
Adventures on the Gorge, Victor
Ace Adventure Resort, Oak Hill

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

For the SUP 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.

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.

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

While there isn’t a convenient place to rent a SUP nearby, this is the perfect route for the adventurer to take their inflatable 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 (Buddy Deal)

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.

Big Bend is the perfect spot for a multi-day camping and SUP 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 iSUP (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 (Buddy Deal)
The Expedition School (Buddy Deal)

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.

Canyonlands can seem like a maze to those unfamiliar with the twisting landscape. That is why we highly recommend the SUP 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

“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.

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 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.

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.

The thing to remember about Apostle Islands is that they are, of course, islands. Plan your trip accordingly by bringing your own SUP as there are no places to rent in the area. We recommend an inflatable SUP 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 (Buddy Deal)
Cave Point Paddle and Pedal, Sturgeon Bay

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)—the force that carved all of this beauty into being—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—period.

We recommend staying in the Class I to III (at the most) sections of the river on a SUP. Anything higher and it is only for the extremely experienced paddlers out there. Additionally, we suggest hiring a guide to safely watch over you and your group to make sure you are okay for the duration of the trip. For those solo adventurers, to obtain the correct permit you first must head
HERE. There you will see the application for a Noncommercial River Permit.

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. 

If you are rewarded a permit then 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 (Buddy Deal)
Lake Powell Paddleboards, Powell (Buddy Deal)

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.

The waters here are relatively calm and easy to navigate. This is the perfect spot for any SUP 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 (Buddy Deal)
Capital SUP, Annapolis (Buddy Deal)

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 undammed rivers 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.

The Buffalo National River is perfect for SUP. 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

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.

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 (Buddy Deal)
Amelia Island Paddle Surf Co. (Buddy Deal)

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.

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

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 eel grass beds that are home to bat rays, leopard sharks, harbor seals, and other wildlife, and look up 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.

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 (Buddy Deal)
Mike’s Paddle, Alameda (Buddy Deal)

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.

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.

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

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.

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 (Buddy Deal)
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.

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!

Yellowstone Lake. Source

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.