Must-See Paddle Board Lakes Across the US (2023 Guide)

Sep 8, 2022 | Guides

One of the best things about stand-up paddle boarding is its versatility. You can launch a paddle board just about anywhere that people swim, surf, or kayak. But this can also be a double-edged sword—having so many options can be overwhelming, even for experienced paddlers. That’s why we put together this ultimate guide to paddle board lakes across the US.

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One of the best things about stand-up paddle boarding is its versatility. You can launch a paddle board just about anywhere that people swim, surf, or kayak. But this can also be a double-edged sword—having so many options can be overwhelming, even for experienced paddlers.

That’s why we put together this ultimate guide to paddle board lakes across the US. No matter where you live or which states you want to visit most, we’ve got the inside scoop on great places to SUP.

Contents show

The Best Lake for SUP in Each US State

Because the US is such a large country, the climate can vary greatly between each state. This is great news for you as a paddler. Even in the middle of December, there are warm places to paddle board like Florida and SoCal.

Double-check each area’s climate before you plan a trip to any of the paddle board lakes we recommend. Once you figure out which time of year has the perfect weather, you can start gearing up for your SUP adventure.

Finally, always check the Coast Guard’s website to get emergency contact info for the area you’ll be visiting. Save the appropriate phone number just in case of emergency while you’re out on the water. (1)

The West

Glacier Bay, Alaska

This is one of the only places in the world where you can touch an iceberg from your SUP! You might also spot local wildlife like seals, whales, and even bears. Glacier Bay isn’t suitable for novice paddlers, so save this one until you’ve got some experience under your belt.

You’ll need to take a helicopter, jetboat, or ferry from Juneau to get here, plus all the appropriate protective gear in case you fall in. But with a little planning, this is one of the most memorable paddle board lakes in the country.

Lake Powell, Arizona

If you don’t think of lakes when you picture Arizona, you aren’t alone. But a visit to Lake Powell will forever change your perspective. Often called a desert wonderland, this lake’s natural rock formations were carved by millions of years of wind and erosion.

Whether you keep it simple with a paddle board rental package or haul in all your own gear, the breathtaking sights make for an unforgettable experience.

Lake Tahoe, California

This is one of the paddle board lakes that truly has something for everyone. If you’re looking for a vacation where you can paddle, gamble, enjoy the hot springs, and so much more, this giant body of water can’t be beat. Best of all, it’s just a short two-hour drive from Sacramento International Airport.

Grand Lake, Colorado

Grand Lake couldn’t be more aptly named. With 500 surface acres of water, it’s the largest natural lake across the state.

It’s also a very popular destination thanks to the town of Grand Lake. Shopping and dining options, a great beach for sunbathing, and a marina full of rental options make Grand Lake an especially fantastic choice for groups and families.

Keauhou Bay, Hawaii

Did you know SUPs are great for more than just paddling? Keauhou Bay is a very popular spot for SUP fishing with both locals and tourists. Just keep in mind that tour boats arrive and depart from this bay frequently.

We suggest getting on the water early in the day for a calm and quiet fishing session.

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Whether you’re a long time paddle boarder or just getting started, there is something for you here.

Payette Lake, Idaho

We love Payette Lake because there’s something for every level of paddler. In the North Fork area, you’ll find 9 miles of flatwater which is perfect for a remote excursion. South Fork is only 6 miles long, and a bit more popular with visitors.

Finally, Montour Reach has a bit of moving water without any rapids. Sand banks also make it a perfect challenge for intermediate-level paddlers.

Upper Whitefish Lake, Montana

This is one of our favorite paddle board lakes because it’s so unique and remote. Nestled in the Stillwater State Forest, Upper Whitefish Lake is usually uncrowded year-round.

There’s a great campground nearby, but this lake isn’t your typical tourist town. The nearest stores and restaurants are about an hour’s drive away. Make sure you have absolutely everything packed before taking off and get ready to enjoy some breathtaking mountain views.

Santa Rosa Lake State Park, New Mexico

On average, New Mexico enjoys 273 days of sunshine every year. (2) With 3,500 acres of calm water and a very comfortable climate, there’s almost never a bad time to visit Santa Rosa Lake State Park.

The water is also great for swimming since it’s about 30-40 feet deep. This lake must be one of New Mexico’s best-kept secrets because no matter when you visit, it’s rarely crowded. 

Washoe Lake, Nevada

It’s no secret that Americans flock to Nevada for all kinds of fun activities. What might surprise you is that you don’t have to go anywhere near the Vegas Strip for the best SUP spot in the state.

Despite sharing a name with Washoe Lake State Park, the lake itself isn’t overly crowded. Year-round campsites with water, grills, showers, and picnic areas make this spot perfect for day trips and overnight adventures.

Trillium Lake, Oregon

This is one of the most popular paddle board lakes, and for good reason. People love to camp, fish, hike, and spend the day on the water. On clear days, you can see Mount Hood in all its majesty while you paddle.

Best of all, no motorized vessels are allowed on Trillium Lake. It’s great for kiddos and beginner paddlers to learn the ropes in a safe and calm environment.

Great Salt Lake, Utah

The Great Salt Lake in Utah is the biggest salt lake across the Western Hemisphere. (3) Because the concentration of salt is so high, you’re more buoyant here than any other body of water. It also makes for gorgeous reflections as the sun rises and sets.

Especially if you’ve never visited the Great Salt Lake before, a SUP adventure is the perfect way to take in the ethereal setting.

Lake Chelan, Washington

Lake Chelan is one of the most popular spots for watersports in the state of WA. There’s no end to great launch locations, and you’re likely to meet some friendly people out on the water.

Because this lake is so close to Washington’s snowy mountains, the water stays cool and refreshing year-round. August is typically the peak month for water temperature, and peak season for visitors.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

This national park is made up of several great paddle board lakes. A few of them, like Jackson Lake, allow for motorized vessels and SUPs. But most lakes in Grand Teton are reserved for human-powered vessels only. (4)

If you’re planning a trip out here, think about the type of vessels you and anyone in your group prefers. There’s nothing worse than planning a day of boating and floating just to discover your chosen lake doesn’t allow motors.

The Midwest

Gray’s Lake Park, Iowa

You can’t talk about unforgettable SUP spots without mentioning Gray’s Lake Park. Sandy beaches, rental options, and limits on motorized vessels make this a hidden gem, but it gets even better.

The walkways illuminate the lake and shoreline with neon lights, making for gorgeous scenery after dark. This is one of the only spots we’ve found that allows you to SUP at night.

Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Starved Rock State Park is famous with locals for its breathtaking waterfalls and moss-covered cliffs. It’s truly a modern oasis, and best explored from your SUP.

Wildlife flocks to this idyllic location, including bald eagles and pelicans. It’s no wonder this spot is the most popular attraction in the state of Illinois.

Eagle Creek Reservoir, Indiana

Connected to Eagle Creek State Park by a short bridge, this reservoir checks all the boxes for a great SUP lake. The heavy limits on motorized vessels not only keep the waters calm year-round, but also make it easy to appreciate all the fish and wildlife.

You’re welcome to enjoy some SUP fishing while you’re here. There are less amenities and rental options than busier bodies of water in Indiana, but we feel it’s well worth a visit. The sights here are gorgeous no matter when you visit.

Shawnee Mission Park, Kansas

Shawnee Mission Park is not only one of our favorite paddle board lakes, it’s also a bustling park. It’s the opposite of Eagle Creek Reservoir in many ways. Here, you’ll find more family-friendly activities in addition to paddle boarding.

Lots of picnic areas, the gorgeous 120-acre lake, and dog-friendly amenities make this a perfect location for enjoying nature with any group.

Torch Lake, Michigan

Torch Lake is often called “a slice of the Caribbean.” With crystal clear waters, big parties, and panoramic views, we think the nickname fits perfectly.

You should know motorized vessels are very popular here. It’s normal to see jet skis, ski boats, windsurfers, and more on the water.

Combined with the nearby casinos and numerous parties, this spot can be a little much for children and families. Save this spot for a solo getaway or an adults-only adventure.

Lake Superior, Minnesota

Lake Superior is one of the few spots on this list that isn’t great for beginners and children. Because the weather and conditions can quickly change, it’s better to check this one off once you’ve got a fair amount of experience under your belt.

There are quite a few rental options along the shore, but check out Black Beach if you have your own gear. The black sand and unique rock formations make for some unforgettable sights, but there aren’t any rental options near this specific part of Lake Superior.

Big Lake State Park, Missouri

Big Lake State Park is awesome because it offers the best of both worlds. It’s one of the more popular paddle board lakes thanks to shallow waters, campsites, and even premium cabins available for rental.

But it’s quiet enough that you can always find a great spot to watch the sunset or take in all the wildlife. This spot is great for newbies, groups, and families with its balance of modern amenities and natural scenery.

Standing Bear Lake, Nebraska

Standing Bear Lake is one of the smaller paddle board lakes on our list, but that’s not a bad thing. A smaller lake stays calm even during high winds, making this spot perfect for families and novices.

Our favorite thing is all the coves and back areas available to explore. If you’re after something different from the typical destination-lake experience, Standing Bear Lake can’t be beat.

Harmon Lake, North Dakota

Harmon Lake is an up-and-coming spot for paddle boarding. In the last few years, permanent SUP rental shops have started to pop up along the shores.

What’s really interesting is the variety of activities offered by these shops. Weekly fitness classes—including SUP yoga—are available starting in June. If you’re familiar with how to navigate on a paddle board and you’re looking for something new, you’ll find plenty of options here.

Lake Erie, Ohio

Lake Erie is famous for fishing, but it’s also a great spot for stand-up paddle boarding. There are rental shops all up and down the shore offering everything from beginner lessons to giant group paddle boards.

Basically, there’s something for everyone here. From learning the ropes to family outings, you can have just about any kind of SUP adventure imaginable on Lake Erie.

Sylvan Lake, South Dakota

Sylvan Lake is convenient because it’s just a few miles from Mount Rushmore. Because the water is just shy of 13 feet deep, falling off your SUP is no big deal here. You’re likely to see people hopping off their own paddle board to take a quick swim, or even diving off the small rocks jutting out of the lake.

There’s also a popular paddle board rental shop here. It’s great for beginners and groups who want to try a SUP for the first time.

Mirror Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Mirror Lake is great because it’s currently a lesser-known SUP spot. The shores aren’t dotted with rental businesses and restaurants, unlike many of the paddle board lakes we’ve featured here.

The cliffs, copper-toned water, and unique landscapes make for some memorable sights. You’ll also find plenty of great places to camp, making this a great location for relaxing getaways.

The South

Lake Nicol, Alabama

This lake has been a favorite of locals and university students for decades. The picturesque cliffs, serene water, and restrictions on motorized vessels are just a few reasons why Lake Nicol is a popular SUP spot.

You can paddle north or south from the lake’s convenient boat ramp, and you can rent whatever you need from nearby paddle board shops.

DeGray Lake, Arkansas

DeGray Lake is a wonderful happy medium when it comes to paddle board lakes. It’s not the biggest or most popular lake in the state, so it’s never completely packed with people.

But because of the nearby DeGray Lake Resort, you’ll still have tons of vendors and amenities to choose from. It’s the best spot to enjoy all the high points of a lake town vacation without the usual annoyances.

Silver Lake, Delaware

Because of Delaware’s location on the peninsula, most SUP opportunities here are in the ocean. And paddle boarding in the ocean is always more challenging than on a lake.

That’s why we have to mention Silver Lake. Rental options, calm waters, tons of fishing spots, and diverse wildlife make for an unforgettable experience even if you’re a complete beginner.

Coastal Dune Lakes, Florida

The Coastal Dune Lakes are made up of 15 naturally occurring lakes, and they all share 1 unique quality. Every single one is fed by a freshwater source, but they’re less than 100 feet from the Gulf of Mexico—which is saltwater.

You’ll see several wildlife species native to saltwater environments bouncing between the lakes and the gulf. Observing this incredibly unique ecosystem from the tranquil waters of whichever lake you choose is quite a unique experience.

Tallulah Falls Lake, Georgia

Clocking in at 63 acres, this lake is one of the smallest and oldest in the state of Georgia. The limit for motorized vessels here is just 5 horsepower, so the water stays calm even on high-traffic days.

There are beautiful waterfalls visible whether you paddle north or south, and the scenic Tallulah Gorge State Park is found just offshore. There’s more than enough here to fill an entire day making memories on your SUP.

Grayson Lake, Kentucky

Grayson Lake has a delightfully intricate shoreline, full of coves and cliffs just waiting to be explored. We always make a point of heading to Grotto Falls, located in one of the most quiet and secluded parts of the lake.

It’s impossible to explore every nook and cranny of this lake in one day, making it a great spot to stand-up paddle board again and again.

Lake Fausse Pointe, Louisiana

You can spot all kinds of wildlife at almost every lake featured today, but here you can also study history. The Chitimacha Native Americans once called this area home, and you can check out several of their artifacts during your visit.

Lake Fausse Pointe is very popular thanks to its size and being just an hour’s drive from Lafayette. You can rent a paddle board here, but you’ll also have to watch out for motorboats on the lake.

Deep Creek Lake, Maryland

Deep Creek Lake is set against a stunning mountain backdrop in Maryland. Because of its mountain setting, paddle boarding isn’t possible in the winter. But holding out for summer is well worth the wait.

As a destination lake, this spot boasts everything from lifeguards to beach shower houses. You can launch your SUP from the convenient canoe/kayak launch, which is open until dusk. This is the best spot to escape Maryland’s stifling summer temperatures.

Pickwick Lake, Mississippi

Pickwick Lake is a gorgeous body of water that sprawls across 3 different states, but we prefer to launch from J.P. Coleman State Park in MS. From here, you can access campsites, the RV campground, and even rental cabins.

This spot also has a 50’ waterfall, one of the tallest in the state. There aren’t many paddle board lakes like this with both convenient amenities and breathtaking natural wonders.

Fontana Lake, North Carolina

We think that the best SUP spots have beautiful clear water, little to no boat traffic, and lots of spots to explore. Fontana Lake checks every single box.

The only thing to watch out for here is the complex shoreline. It’s a blast to scout, but make sure you use a map or even hire a guide to avoid getting lost.

Broken Bow Lake, Oklahoma

One of our favorite things about Broken Bow Lake is its accessibility. There are so many different marinas and beaches you can launch from, and the shoreline is chock full of campground options.

This spot is so serene, it’s become quite popular for SUP yoga. You’re welcome to have a solo session or join up with one of the many companies offering group classes.

Lake Wylie, South Carolina

Lake Wylie is known as one of the great paddle board lakes. As it becomes more popular, rental shops on the lake are offering more and more activities to visitors. From all-day excursions to morning yoga classes, there are unique options no matter what your experience level is.

Lake Ocoee, Tennessee

If you’ve ever wanted to try out sailing or surfing with your SUP, this is a fantastic spot. Lake Ocoee is actually 3 lakes clustered together. Each of them is great for touring or cruising on a paddle board.

You’ll experience a fair amount of wind on the water here, which is why it’s perfect for other SUP activities.

Inks Lake State Park, Texas

This lake is our number one pick for a family getaway. You won’t find the modern waterfront tourist town here—instead, it’s a consistently serene place to paddle. There’s even a paddle-only zone for kiddos and beginners to safely learn the basics.

You can also try out swimming and SUP fishing, and there are even options for paddle board rentals. It’s perfect for a family to try out stand-up paddle boards in a safe and quiet space.

Occoneechee State Park, Virginia

Home to the largest lake in the state, this spot isn’t as crowded as you might expect. The weather conditions and motorized boat traffic make the water a bit choppier than many other lakes. (5)

We think this lake is best suited to more experienced paddlers because of the sometimes-unpredictable conditions. But the diverse wildlife and gorgeous views are well worth the extra effort needed to navigate these waters.

Summersville Lake, West Virginia

This lake is the biggest and most popular in the state of WV. Thanks to its size and diverse ecosystem, you’ll see people doing everything from cliff diving to SCUBA diving on any given day.

There’s loads of caves and waterfalls you can only access from a SUP, plus lots of fishing opportunities. You can easily fill an entire day and still not see everything this lake has to offer.

Little Seneca Lake, Washington DC

This lake is a fantastic respite from the hustle and bustle of DC. One unique feature of this lake is its water trail, a series of markers with information about local wildlife. As you paddle, you’ll likely see turtles, ducks, and other paddlers out for a leisurely adventure.

The Northeast

Candlewood Lake, Connecticut

This lake is one of the few that’s suitable for paddlers of all levels. The cove most people launch their SUP from is about a mile of calm, no-wake water. Beyond that, the open lake is always busy with motorboats and watersports.

Beginners can have a blast navigating around the large cove and eventually challenge themselves to stay afloat on the open lake. And because it’s a whopping 25 miles long, expert paddlers can easily attempt all-day tours.

Middle Lake, Cochituate State Park, Massachusetts

Middle Lake is so named because it’s the middle of 3 lakes located in Cochituate State Park. We like this one best for stand-up paddle boarding because motorized vessels aren’t allowed, which keeps the waters nice and calm from dawn till dusk.

There is a daily parking fee of $8 to MA residents and $30 to non-MA residents, but you can pay from your mobile phone. (6)

Highland Lake, Maine

This lake is very accessible since it’s only an hour from Portland, but that makes it extremely popular too. Crowds are common here throughout the summer, so arrive early to find convenient parking.

Launching is quick and easy thanks to the public boat ramp, which you’ll find at the very end of Lowell Farm Road.

Umbagog Lake, New Hampshire

Umbagog Lake has been hugely popular as a SUP spot since it was declared a state park in 1998. We’re fond of this spot because you can choose the kind of trip you want to have.

Paddle near the campsites and cabins if you’re looking to meet new friends. If you want a remote experience where you can just sit back and observe wildlife, opt for a camping location you can only access from the water.

Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey

Even though it’s known as the Garden State, NJ has plenty of options for paddling. Our favorite here is the gorgeous Lake Hopatcong, with 50 miles of shoreline surrounding its sprawling 2,560 acres. There are even small islands dotting the lake for you to explore.

We suggest visiting mid-week if possible, as there’s quite a bit of boat traffic during the weekends and evenings.

Skaneateles Lake, New York

The Finger Lakes region in New York is known for breathtaking scenery, but we think Skaneateles Lake is the crown jewel. This location is known for having some of the cleanest water in the country—nearby towns even draw from it for their drinking water.

There’s an adorable village on the north end of the lake. If you’re searching for a romantic getaway, look no further.

Blue Marsh Lake, Pennsylvania

Blue Marsh Lake is worth visiting at least once a year for paddle boarders. The lake itself is great, but we always have to stop by the Crank in Wernersville. The Crank provides a SUP experience we haven’t found anywhere else.

Their shop not only caters to beginners, but also rents out state-of-the-art SUP gear to experienced paddlers. We love trying out the latest innovations in this gorgeous setting.

Lake Champlain Paddlers’ Trail, Vermont

As stand-up paddle boarding continues to grow in popularity, more and more states are embracing the activity. Lake Champlain Paddlers’ Trail is a perfect example.

This trail is over 120 miles of water and winds through New Hampshire, Quebec, and Vermont. Thanks to hundreds of campsites spread along the trail, there’s no better spot to enjoy a multi-day SUP excursion.

How to Find Unique Places to Paddle Board Near You

Now you know about the best paddle board lakes in every US state. But if you want to try a spot that’s off the beaten path, go for it! That’s one of the best things about stand-up paddle boarding. You can do it in just about every public body of water nationwide.

To find more unique places to paddle board near you, all it takes is a few thoughtful Google searches. Think about your level of expertise with a SUP and go from there.

Experienced paddlers might try “best SUP rivers in the US.” If you’re still getting the hang of everything, search for something like “calmest body of water near me.” When you get a little creative with your searching, you’ll have no problem finding one-of-a-kind paddle board lakes anywhere you want.

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1. United States Coast Guard, District and Regional Command Center Contact Information

2. National Centers for Environmental Information, Global Summary of the Year Location Details

3. Britannica, Great Salt Lake

4. National Park Service, Grand Teton Boating and Floating

5. Virginia State Parks, Lake Paddling at Virginia State Parks

6. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Cochituate State Park


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