Choosing the Best Places to Paddle Board (2023 Update)

What are the best sorts of places that you can paddle board? Find out what are the best locations available for you to begin your paddle boarding adventures. In this guide, youll find everything you need, from our top paddle destinations, a community map, and tips for finding your own top picks!

Stand up paddle boarding (or SUP) has become one of the most popular watersports across the world. It can seem intimidating to first-timers, but you’ll be feeling more comfortable after just an hour or so on the water.

And thanks to the ever-growing popularity of SUP, getting the needed gear has never been easier. Most major bodies of water offer rental services. These days, you can even buy lightweight inflatable stand up paddleboards.

By far, the most time-consuming part of planning your adventure is finding great places to paddle board. But it’s not due to a lack of options—quite the contrary! You and your SUP are welcome in almost every public body of water.

This puts many people into analysis paralysis. That’s why we created this guide on picking places to paddle board. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll have all the necessary info to confidently select your next SUP destination.

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5 Amazing Places to Paddle Board in the US

Sometimes you don’t want to do exhaustive research just to get out on the water—especially when you’re on vacation. We get it! Below, you’ll find 5 of our favorite SUP locations across the US.

1.  Lake Nicol, Alabama

This lake is easy to access and conveniently located near Tuscaloosa. Because it doesn’t allow motorized vessels, the water is always smooth and calm. Perfect for beginners, families, or just getting away from it all.

English: NPS staff, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

2. Glacier Bay, Alaska

This is one of the only spots in the world where you can touch an iceberg from your SUP. However, it’s a bit of work getting here. You have to take a plane or ferry from Juneau to the bay. Keep in mind that the water here is frigid year round—save this spot until you’ve got some experience under your belt.

3. Lake Tahoe, California

This alpine lake has long been a vacation destination thanks to its clear waters and gorgeous scenery. With an average of 249 clear-weather days every year, there’s hardly a bad time to visit.

Keep in mind that as a popular tourist destination, you’ll have plenty of amenities… but also plenty of people all around you. It’s not exactly remote or quiet most of the year.

Quercus montana, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

4. Potomac River, Washington DC

Even locals are often surprised to learn that DC has several great places to paddle board. The part of the Potomac River than runs through DC not only offer Class I, II, and III rapids, but also tidal flatwater.

With such a wide range of conditions, there’s something for everyone here. You can even sign up for SUP classes that start in flat water, and slowly teach you to maneuver the rapids while having a blast!

Joshuahicks, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

5. Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park, Colorado

If you’ve visited Colorado for paddling, you know they take outdoor activities seriously. This whitewater park is a testament to that! Local engineers designed this park specifically to help paddleboarders learn the ins and outs of safe whitewater adventures.

With a regional airport just 15 minutes away and experienced instructors on-site, Glenwood Springs is an ideal SUP location for beginners and experts looking to up their paddle game. You’ll find the best weather May through September, but this is also peak season for the park.

When you plan your trip, take time to research the weather compared to where you live. If you can tolerate visiting in April or October, you’ll have to navigate around far fewer paddlers.

How to Find Unique Places to Paddle Board Near You

Whether you Google “places to paddle board near me” or “best places to paddle board,” the results are murky, to say the least. Best-case scenario, you get a couple articles calling out the biggest tourist traps in the area. At worst, you find information that’s at least a couple years old.

If you’re looking for truly unique SUP lakes, you’ve gotta change the way you Google. Think about what you really want out of this next trip.

Looking for a remote body of water that stays calm and smooth as glass? Try searching “lakes that don’t allow motorized boats.” Add “near me” or the state you want to visit to narrow down your results further.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Stand Up Paddle Board Anywhere?

Yes, you can SUP in any public body of water that allows recreational activities.

You might be imagining a day in the beautiful waters of Hawaii or a weekend getaway to your favorite lake. But that’s just scratching the surface of great places to paddle board.

Everything from rivers to in-ground pools are great opportunities for paddle boarding. Large, calm lakes and swimming pools tend to be ideal for beginners. When you SUP on calm water, it’s much easier to get a feel for balancing, stopping, and turning.

Once you’ve got the basics down, the world is your oyster! Today, people traverse river rapids, take hours-long ocean tours, and even host yoga classes on paddle boards.

Do I Need a License to Paddle Board?

No, you don’t need a boating license to paddle board. (2) But in the United States, there are 4 states which require paddle boarders to register with the licensing department: 

    1. Pennsylvania 
    2. Minnesota 
    3. Iowa 
    4. South Dakota 

The exact laws vary between US states. In Iowa, boards longer than 13 feet require registration. But in Minnesota, the threshold is only 10 feet. In Oregon, you don’t have to register but you do need to buy a Waterway Access Permit. 

The biggest thing to remember is that you’ve gotta obey the laws in the location where you’re paddle boarding, not the state where you live. And not only do you have to follow the registration requirements, you also have to follow local safety policies.

These laws are being updated as paddle boarding grows more popular, so always double-check before you get out on the water. Even if you’re paddle boarding in your home state, contact the local licensing department for current requirements.

Doing so could save you from hefty fines issued by law enforcement—and the fines are always more expensive than just registering your board.  

Use the Right Tools to Stay Safe

Planning a trip to paddle outside is always exciting. Getting out on the water and soaking up some sun is always a good time!  
The thing is, you can’t let excitement blind you to staying safe. Always be sure to have the right tools and safety gear for wherever you’re paddle boarding. We recommend you bring the following on every excursion: 

  • Personal flotation device (PFD) – This can be a life jacket, waist belt, or buoyancy aid. A PFD can be the difference between life and death out on the water, even for strong swimmers. 
  • Leash – Most SUP on the market come standard with a leash, and you should always attach it to your ankle. Leashes are often sold separately from inflatable paddle boards, but your life is well-worth the small added cost. 
  • Phone – Yes, we know electronics and water often don’t mix. But in the absolute worst case scenario—think swept away by a current—a communication device is your best lifeline. Pop it into a waterproof container and you’re set. Before your trip, look up the number for Coast Guard in the location you’ll be paddling. Save it in your phone in case of an emergency while on the water.  

With your safety gear squared away, you’re ready to explore the best places to paddle board! Have fun, be smart, and don’t forget sunscreen or a hat for your day on the water.  

Can't Get Enough SUP?

Paddle Outside is your resource for everything paddle boarding. From SUP reviews to top paddle destinations, gear, tutorials, and safety tips, we’ll help you get outside and on the water.

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