Places To Go Paddle Boarding

Here are our favorite places to go paddle boarding in the western United States. We have personally paddled and had a wonderful time in each of these places. None of these locations are super extreme and all are good choices for first time paddlers given good weather conditions.

Click on any of the places that are hyperlinked to get detailed advice for paddling in that location including:

  • Where to park.
  • Where to put into the water.
  • Where to paddle.
  • Special things you may want to see or do.
  • Tips and tricks based on our experience.

Our favorite places to go paddle boarding

We have taken our dogs with us in all of these places unless noted otherwise. Typically we always take our dogs and our kids with us..

What you have here is a balance between beauty, adventure, fun factor and a safe environment for all paddlers. These are places we have taken our entire family and had blissful days out on the water.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prudent. That is why we mention good weather conditions. For example, we wouldn’t paddle in any of these places with beginners if it were a super windy or cold cloudy day. We also wouldn’t go out if there were huge waves. So you do have to use some discretion.

Even on fairly windy days, you often can find a large cove or an area of a lake that is more protected from the wind to enjoy, for example.

For more information regarding how to prepare read:

Table of Contents

Click on any of the locations below and you will be taken to the description for that location.


  1. Mission Bay, CA
  2. Big Bear Lake, CA
  3. Mammoth Lakes, CA
  4. Monterey Bay, CA
  5. Lake Combie, CA
  6. Scotts Flat Reservoir, CA
  7. Bullard’s Bar Reservoir, CA
  8. Fuller Lake, CA
  9. Bowman Reservoir, CA
  10. Rollins Reservoir, CA
  11. Lake Tahoe, CA
  12. Sardine Lake, CA
  13. Gold Lake, CA
  14. Upper Salmon Lake, CA
  15. Long Lake, CA
  16. Smith River, CA at Hiouchi where South Fork Smith River and Smith River intersect.
  17. Siskiyou Lake, CA
  18. Mendocino Magic Hip Camp Lake in Laytonville, CA






Our favorite places to go paddle boarding in California

Since we live in California we have also paddle boarded the most in California. California is a big state, but since we live in the middle of the state, specifically the Sierra Foothills near Sacramento, we have been able to paddle board all over the state.

Here are the places that we have paddled that we highly recommend starting at the southern end of the state and moving north.

Mission Bay, CA is renowned for its sparkling waters, picturesque palm trees, and stunning sunrise views. The setting sun casts a truly magical light on the water, and at night, the serene ambiance is a sight to behold. This place's beauty is at its peak when it's early in the morning, with calm waters ideal for paddle boarding. Paddle boarding here is immensely fun as you get to enjoy the mesmerizing panoramas and vibrant cityscape.

Big Bear Lake, CA is one of our favorite places to go paddle boarding because it is a captivating sight surrounded by breathtaking mountains and lush greenery. Its crystal-clear waters reflect the beauty of the landscape, creating an ambiance of peace and tranquility. The pristine water surface promises a smooth ride in the morning and the chance to explore the shoreline's wildlife. The unpredictability of occasional wind gusts, especially in the afternoon, adds an exciting element to paddle boarding here. We suggest paddle boarding into the wind as you start out so that your journey back to your starting spot is easy later in the day when the wind is likely to pick up.

Mammoth Lakes, CA, is a geological marvel surrounded by the imposing Sierra Nevada Mountains. The atmosphere of tranquility is further enhanced by the vibrant colors reflected by the pristine waters of many beautiful mountain likes, each with individual character. The calm, cool waters make it a beautiful spot for paddle boarding. We started out by parking next to Lake Marmie and then paddling the length of the lake before portaging over to Lake Mary. WE paddled around Lake Mary, absorbing the breathtaking views the whole way around before portaging back over the road to Lake Marmie and down the other shoreline back to where we parked. We then put our paddle boards in the RV and drove up the road a bit further and paddled around Horseshoe Lake. We skipped Twin Lakes, which is lower on the mountain because it was just too crowded and we were tired. However, Twin Lakes is gorgeous as well and something well worth paddling, especially during the week when it is less crowded.

Monterey Bay, CA is known for its gorgeous coastline, abundance of wildlife, and crystal-clear waters. It is one of our favorite places to go paddle boarding because of all of the sea life.  We love seeing otters, dolphins, and seals frolicking in their natural habitat while we are paddle boarding. The tranquil waters at Lover’s Point or starting at the Harbor make for beautiful paddle boarding adventures. On a calm day you can paddle along the coast where you are sure to see marine wildlife and may experience ocean swells and kelp which adds to the thrill to paddle boarding.

Lake Combie, CA, is one of our favorite places to go paddle boarding because it is never crowded and the back slough offers a serene environment, with tree-laden shores and vibrant aquatic life adding to its charm. The mirrored surface of the lake gleams as it captures the changing colors of the sky, making it an ideal setting for paddle boarding. The peaceful ambiance, with only the singing birds and gentle sounds of nature will sooth your soul, however, it is a private lake, and you must know a resident and be invited to paddle on Combie Lake.

Scotts Flat Reservoir, CA, is nestled in the thick forests of the Sierra Nevada just above Grass Valley and Nevada City, CA. The dense vegetation surrounding the clean, blue water creates a dramatic contrast, a beautiful sight to behold. The serene water surface of the reservoir is perfect for paddle boarding in the morning before the wind kicks up. It is fun to paddle down the 850-acre lake to where the river flows in, relishing the breathtaking views and beautiful sandy beaches.  
We strongly recommend you bring a seat along since the wind can really kick up in the afternoon at Scotts Flat. If you paddled down to where the river enters then you will be paddling into the wind on your way back. It is a simple thing to bring a folding stadium chair like we suggest in our Best Paddle Boarding Seats article. That way you will be comfortable and have a wonderful day whether or not there is wind. We actually came up with the idea for Sit Down Paddle Board while paddling back to the car on Scotts Flat. We were paddling back to the car while comfortably seated and making great headway and passed at least 5 other paddle boarders that looked miserable. They were either standing and going backwards, painfully kneeling, or sitting hunched over and uncomfortable. We got a lot of very envious looks before someone jokingly offered us $100 for our $10 folding chairs and the idea was born!

Bullard’s Bar Reservoir, CA, is a reservoir tucked in the middle of a forest of trees. The turquoise-colored water makes for a stunning sight, especially at sunrise and sunset. The calm waters, especially early in the morning and where the river enters the reservoir lend themselves naturally to paddle boarding. The reservoir's vast size promises a fun and adventurous journey, as you can chart your course and enjoy the landscape at your own pace.

Fuller Lake, CA, is surrounded by lush greenery with stunning views of the Sierra Crest providing an awe-inspiring backdrop. The crystal-clear water mirrors the attractive landscapes, making for an incredible paddle boarding experience. For a little excitement paddle up to where the water enters the lake on the opposite side from the dam and run the rapids while trying not to tip over.

Bowman Reservoir, CA, is a gem nestled in the Tahoe National Forest. The tranquil water surrounded by dense woodlands creates a beautifully serene high mountain landscape. It's a beautiful sight as you paddle board across the placid waters before the afternoon winds kick up. The reservoir's extensive size adds to the fun, allowing you to explore its many inlets and the surprising wildlife. It is one of our favorite places to go paddle boarding because we found a secret pool with amazing jumping rocks that our kids love. We paddled down one arm and then left our paddleboards where a small stream entered the lake to find a beautiful pond surrounded by waterfalls and big jumping rocks.

Rollins Reservoir, CA, displays a panorama of breathtaking beauty - lush forests, clear blue waters, and bountiful wildlife. The reflection of the surrounding landscape on the calm water provides a beautiful backdrop for paddle boarding. Navigating between small islands and the lake's many arms add an adventurous edge to the paddle boarding experience.

Lake Tahoe, CA offers spellbinding views of the snow-clad Sierra Nevada Mountains reflected in the clear blue water. The islands, beaches, and underwater boulders make it a beautiful place to paddleboard. It is fun as there are numerous hidden bays, beautiful beach stops, and spectacular beaches to explore. Our two favorite places to go paddle boarding on at Lake Tahoe are Sand Harbor State Park and Emerald Bay.

Sardine Lake, CA, is an alpine lake enveloped by the towering peaks of the Sierra Buttes and dense forest. It is one of our favorite places to go paddle boarding because of the sheer beauty of the area.  There is no better way to explore the entire lake than by paddle board.  The glittering crystal clear water ringed by wildflowers in summer offers an enchantingly beautiful scene. It is wonderful for paddleboarding as one can drift peacefully, tie up and nap and have a yummy lunch on cobalt waters with a magnificent view. The kids love exploring the granite shores and taking in the stunning Alpine views from the water while they try to drown each other...

Gold Lake, CA, is marked by blue-green waters, alpine background, and lush meadows. The beautiful sunset view, with the water shimmering under the golden rays, adds to the spectacular visual treat. Paddleboarding at Gold Lake serves as a fantastic voyage amid nature's grandeur. The thrill of adventure enhances when you navigate through the water exploring various small islands and shores. We like to paddle up the side of the lake into the wind from the Gold Lake Campground or the put in next to Gold Lake Stables. At the top of the lake we beach our paddle boards on the beach at the Gold Lake 4x4 Campground and hike the short distance to Little Gold Lake. We will usually have our lunch there or back at the paddle boards before returning to where we started. If the wind has picked up, it is really fun to stand or sit while riding the waves with the wind pushing you really fast down the middle of the lake. We strongly recommend you bring a seat along since the wind can really kick up at Gold Lake. It is a simple thing to bring a simple folding stadium chair like we suggest in our Best Paddle Boarding Seats article. That way you will be comfortable and have a wonderful day whether or not there is wind.

Upper Salmon Lake, CA, surrounded by its gorgeous high mountain landscape and serene water, is a treat for the eyes. The captivating view of sunrise over the lake adds an extra appeal, while the quiet ambiance is perfect for paddleboarding. Being in the middle of the water, surrounded by nature's untouched beauty, is what makes paddleboarding here so enjoyable. This is one of our favorite places to go paddle boarding because of the sheer beauty of it.  Depending on where the wind it coming from, we love to paddle either clockwise or counter-clockwise close to shore all the way around the lake. We will often stop halfway around, attach our leashes to a bush, eat lunch and have a little nap. Pure heaven!

Long Lake, CA Located in Lakes Basin, CA, Long Lake is ensconced in a high alpine setting surrounded by majestic peaks. You can only access the lake by hiking a couple miles with your paddle board, but the trip is worth it! Surrounded by steep mountains, the tree-lined shores and the glass-like surface of the water contribute to a tranquil and beautiful setting. The terrain is too rugged to hike around the lake, so the only way to truly explore it is by paddle board. Its calm, azure waters provide an ideal setting for paddle boarding. The fact that you can paddle alongside lush, verdant forests and towering peaks is what makes the experience enjoyable here. We love to paddle all the way around close to the shoreline and stop to have lunch on the island in the middle. Nothing better than a private island for a yummy lunch in stunning surroundings.

Smith River, CA at Hiouchi is one of our favorite places to go paddle boarding because it provides the fascinating appeal of clear, emerald-green waters flowing against the backdrop enthralling landscapes including Jeddidiah Smith Redwood State Park. The ravishing combination of towering trees, diverse wildlife, small rapids and clean beaches promises a stimulating paddleboarding experience. We like to do a shuttle where we put in at the Forks River Access and Boat Ramp and paddle down to the funky little pedestrian bridge that crosses the river at Jedediah Smith Campground. We drop a car at the parking inside the campground near the pedestrian bridge ahead of time, so it is just a matter of getting out of the water, following the path from the river to the campground with our paddle boards. It is such a gorgeous trip on the water thru the trees where we always spot a variety of birds and mammals. This section of the river is very calm and no issue all summer long, but you can run the river all the way down to the Hiouchi trailhead as long as the water is not too high. We usually have breakfast at the Historic Hiouchi Café and get advice regarding water conditions if we are uncertain and we check out the conditions from the pedestrian bridge as well.

Siskiyou Lake, CA, is an unforgettable lake surrounded by dense forest and a striking view of Mount Shasta. The mirror-like water offers reflections of the surreal surroundings, making for a beautiful day on your paddleboard. It is one of our favorite places to go paddle boarding because there is something for everyone at Lake Siskiyou. While the adults will enjoy exploring the numerous inlets and crannies around the lake, the kids (and kids at heart) will love the splash zone at the Lake Siskiyou Camp Resort. You don’t have to be staying there to climb on the Ninja Warrior style floating challenges..

Mendecino Magic Hip Camp Lake in Laytonville is the largest privately held reservoir in Northern California. Here you can experience a breathtaking paddle, sometimes in the mist that rises off the water early in the morning or late in the evening. There are lots of interesting places to stop and explore as you circumnavigate the water. This is not a huge reservoir, but it is a fun one to explore if you are camping at Mendecino Magic since they are one of the only campgrounds just south of the Avenue of Giants.

Our favorite places to go paddle boarding in Arizona

Arizona does not have the sheer number of lakes that California has. We have made one trip to Arizona with our paddle boards. So far there is only one lake we would recommend.

Watson Lake, AZ is one of our favorite places to go paddle boarding because of its other-worldly beauty with unique granite boulders around the lake creating an interesting landscape. The blue water and the dramatic rock formations make it a perfect paddleboard destination in the spring and thru August. It is surreal paddling thru the various fingers which look like a labyrinth. Unfortunately, because this lake is only filled by winter rains and the water stays stagnant all summer during the hot Arizona summer, it fills with algae and can be very stinky in the Fall. For this reason, we recommend you go in the spring or early summer and skip it in the fall and winter.

Our favorite places to go paddle boarding in Oregon

Oregon has lots of wonderful lakes to explore. We have made several trips to Oregon to mountain bike ride and paddle board. In addition, Oregon is where we talked Julie’s 85 year old mother onto a paddleboard for the first time. It wasn’t long before she was paddling on her own everywhere we went.

Here are our favorite places to go paddle boarding in Oregon.

Lemolo Lake, OR is a gem located amidst a green forest near Crater Lake and lots of amazing waterfalls. The serene environment, the lush greenery, and the beautiful reflections on the calm water surface are truly alluring. The lake's calm, cool waters are perfect for paddleboarding. We enjoy spotting ospreys, eagles, and even the occasional turtles while paddling here. Lemolo Lake is where we first talked Julie’s 85-year-old Mother into getting on a paddle board with us! If you are camping at the KOA campground like we were, you may want to bring your paddle board dolly so you can inflate your paddle board at your rig and easily transport it to and from the lake.

Clear Lake, OR encased within wilderness, Clear Lake is one of our favorite places to go paddle boarding because of its surreal beauty with its sparkling blue water, lava flow and the surrounding lush forest. Unlike Clear Lake in California, this lake is crystal clear!  Not only can you see fully preserved trees underneath you in the water, but the forest surrounding the lake is interrupted by an old lava flow.  Giving off a sense of wonder, the clear water of the lake is perfect for paddleboarding. Be sure to wear your polarized sunglasses because the crystal-clear water reveals all kinds of interesting features on the bottom of the lake that you won’t want to miss. Also be sure to paddle all the way around to where the lava flow enters the lake so you won’t miss the amazing wild flowers and changes in vegetation.  The water in Clear Lake stays crystal clear because it is cold!  Be sure to read our article about the best shoes for paddle boarding so that your feet stay warm. 

Trillium Lake, OR is spectacular, with Mount Hood piercing the sky in the background. The scenic beauty is breath-taking and the lush greenery surrounding the lake makes it feel calm and peaceful. Paddleboarding across these serene waters offers stunning views of the mountain. It is one of our favorite places to go paddle boarding because we love exploring the wildlife, including the trout in the lake and the osprey in the sky.

Lake Marie in Winchester Bay, OR although small, is a picture of peace with its clean fresh water surrounded by lush trees. This secret little lake is a delightful surprise right on the coast at Winchester Bay. The calm water current makes it an ideal place to paddleboard and presents the opportunity to catch a glimpse of native birds and ducks while paddling around this small lake.

Our favorite places to go paddle boarding in Colorado

Colorado is gorgeous. An adventurer’s high altitude mountain paradise. We have only been to Colorado once and although we spent lots of time camping near beautiful lakes we ended up spending more of our time mountain biking and river rafting due to the friends we met up with and the time of year. Colorado is still pretty cold in June. Because it is high altitude and the air is thin, you may want to have an electric pump on hand to inflate your paddle board. Check out our favorite electric paddle board pump.

Crested Butte / Slate River, CO, delivers unparalleled beauty with lush green meadows against the backdrop of towering peaks. The calm waters of the river are perfect for paddle boarding. As you pass through the dense cottonwood trees and can spot various bird species, it makes for a fun and meditative outdoor adventure. We did a shuttle with some friends, putting in at McCormick Ranch Road in town and taking out where the river goes under State Highway 135. This is a popular 2-hour trip so you will not be the only ones on the water. One thing to know is there is one fork in the river early on. You likely will want to take the left side since it is calmer. The right side is fine also, but a little harder to get to. Just don’t be like John who didn’t make up his mind which what he wanted to go until too late. He ended up going right, barely and he flipped the paddle board over where the water hit the bank at the split. Fortunately, our friend Kristin, didn’t seem to mind having a little extra adventure on her first time out paddle boarding!!

Dillon Reservoir, Frisco, CO, offers panoramic views of snow-covered peaks, which add a surreal beauty. The reflections of mountains and surrounding forests in the still water set a perfect stage for paddle boarding. The fun lies in exploring the reservoir's extensive shoreline, quaint islands, and rich birdlife during your paddle boarding trip.

Taylor Park Reservoir, CO, is all about stunning mountain views, clear waters, and the beautifully painted sky during sunrise and sunset. It’s a beautiful place to paddleboard given the calmness of the lake and the sweeping views of the Collegiate Peaks. It's a fun journey as you can paddle out to remote parts of the lake, making it a great spot for fishing or birdwatching.

Our favorite places to go paddle boarding in Wyoming

Jackson Lake, WY, offers an awe-inspiring view of the Grand Teton range on its horizon. The impressive reflection of mountains in the blue-green water offers a perfect picturesque paddleboarding environment. The excitement scales up as you paddle through the smooth waters with a striking view, encountering wonderful wildlife along the way. We especially like the area of the lake near Pelican Bay.

Jenny Lake, WY, is an enchanting aqua-blue lake nestled in the Teton Range. It is one of our favorite places to go paddle boarding because the size, serene water and the stunning backdrop of the Rocky Mountains make it a perfect environment for paddleboarding. The rush of adrenaline is inevitable as you paddle across the lake, exploring hidden coves and getting closer to the imposing mountains. We love to paddle across Jenny Lake from a pull out along the road to the Boat Dock Trail to Hidden Falls Trail. There is a little beach near the trail where we park our paddle boards and have a snack before hiking up to see the falls. It makes for a spectacular day!

Granite Springs Reservoir & Middle Crow Creek at Curt Gowdy State Park, WY, exhibit a compelling mix of serene water bodies, verdant forests, and grand rock formations. The calmness of the reservoir and the creek offer a beautiful paddleboarding experience. The real adventure begins as you paddle amidst abundant wildlife, including the young male moose we surprised, and passing through fascinating rock formations.

Our favorite places to go paddle boarding in Montana

Montana has beautiful lakes and we love Glacier National Park.  They can be cold so come prepared! 

Lake McDonald, MT, in Glacier National Park, is one of the most beautiful locations, with a captivating blend of azure waters, towering mountains, and diverse wildlife. This peaceful lake with its crystal-clear waters and rocky bottom provides a picturesque location for paddleboarding. Your paddle boarding experience is amplified by the stunning view of sunlit mountains and the dynamic sights of the wildlife, making it an experience worth cherishing. We pulled over on the Going to the Sun Road close to the Apgar Campground and Amphitheater, inflated our paddle boards and had a wonderful family paddle here after a dusty morning of horseback riding. It was the perfect second half to our day.

So....where are you going to go?

We will continue to add to this page as our travels a paddle boarding adventures continue. Be sure to click on any highlighted locations to get all of the details regarding what to expect, where to park, where to paddle and any important things you will want to know ahead of time.

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We hope to see you on the water!

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