10 Epic Paddles in Washington State
From hidden islands, to the peaceful coast, to rugged mountains, and everything in between, Washington state is home to some of the most magnificent paddle boarding opportunities in the country. Whether you’re planning a single day getaway or a multiday excursion, Washington has some of the best places to paddle! Pack up your kit and let’s start exploring.
If you’re in Seattle, the hustle and bustle of the city might distract you from the fact that a spectacular paddle is just minutes away. At the end of a long day, nothing beats a peaceful cruise on the water, and Lake Union is a fantastic place to do just that. A couple of miles from the city center, this quick escape is a favorite for locals and visitors alike. Grab a snack and your favorite brew and head out on the water to catch a sunrise, sunset, or just a peaceful moment among the busy city life.
Paddle boarders aren’t the only ones to flock to this supreme spot; wildlife is bountiful as well. It is here that the Haro Strait and Boundary Pass come together and form a haven for the wild orcas. Keep your eyes peeled for pods as they meandering through the waters, but don’t forget to look up as well--seal harbors often dot the coast while bald eagles fill the sky. Stuart Island may not be the most accessible area, but its combination of pristine waters and abundant wildlife make the trip worth it. If you want to plan a multi-day excursion, plan to camp at one of the two campsites at the southern and eastern ends of the island.
For an easier getaway in the San Juans, paddle out 4 miles due east from the Orcas Island Ferry to get to Obstruction State Park. You’ll see copious amounts of wildlife while still being close to civilization once you are ready for a break. The Park has 9 campsites that are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so overnight options exist as well.
Crystal clear, cold and crisp waters await you at Lake Wenatchee. Just two hours east of Seattle, this glacial fed lake is a wonderful place for a day’s excursion. You can fish for the multiple species that the lake is home to, or catch some rays as you relax and read your favorite novel. Morning is the best time to paddle as the lake is like glass; but pack enough supplies as you might want to spend the whole day soaking up the surrounding views.
Point Doughty State Park
If you’re looking for the ideal one-two punch, be sure to check out Point Doughty State Park. Start by paddling west along the shore and you’ll be rewarded with views of harbor seals, bald eagles, starfish, and even the occasional harbor porpoise. After you’ve worked up an appetite, you can dock at the Park to use the amenities and find a comfortable place for a bite. With your energy restored, take a quick hike to the ridge to achieve some stunning views of Mt. Baker and the surrounding islands over which it towers. The best part about the Park? It’s accessible only to boat traffic, so you know you’ll be in good company once you arrive.
One of the best kept secrets about Washington is nestled up in the northwestern most corner of the state. Take a drive through the Olympic Peninsula National Park and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a jungle. Situated amongst the lush green mountains are sparkling lakes and waterways prime for paddle boarding. One favorite is Lake Crescent, where breathtaking mountains rise high around you and pristine waters run deep below you. Enjoy portions of the 8.5 miles of lake length or find a small cove and spend the afternoon exploring the details--in either case, you’ll love the beauty and fun around every corner of this incredible lake.
Straddling the border with our neighbors to the north, Canadian and American citizens alike have enjoyed this waterway since it was created via damming of the Columbia in 1941. The resulting reservoir stretches over 125 square miles, or 80,000 acres with over 600 acres of shoreline. What does this all add up to? An incredible place for one or many days’ adventure on a paddle board. There are numerous access points around the lake that make it easy to get to the water. Fishing is a popular pastime here as well with numerous species active throughout the year. As with all locations, please remember to pack out your trash and follow the principles of Leave No Trace guidelines to minimize impact and maximize enjoyment for generations to come.
Alki Beach Park
If you like paddling in an area that also has interesting history, this is the perfect place for your next adventure. It was at this location more than 150 years ago that the first pioneer settlers met with Chief Seattle to establish the present-day megapolis of the same name. Head out around the Point to read up on the history and check out the memorial monument that was put in place to commemorate the historical significance of the area. Sunset, sunrise, or everything in between, a visit to Alki Beach Park is sure to open your eyes to Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains, and the stunning surrounding scenery that Seattle has to offer.
If hiking to earn your strokes is your idea of a good time, this is the perfect paddle for you. The elevation gain on the 8-mile trip is roughly 2,280 feet so bring plenty of water and snacks so you have enough energy to enjoy the water when you finally arrive at this alpine gem. The surrounding Cascade Mountains are jagged and spectacular, and are home to some of the most rugged conditions in the northwest. Snow lingers late into the summer, so bring proper layers but be ready to soak up the sunshine--there’s nothing quite like floating on the emerald green waters while basking in the warm summer glow.
With over 50 miles of lake, there’s no shortage of recreational opportunities to be enjoyed at Lake Chelan. A watersports mecca, there are plenty of places to find easy access to sensational locations. Chances are good that you’ll be in the company of other boating enthusiasts. If this is daunting, be sure to check out one of the smaller lakes near Manson, the Chelan River, or Riverwalk Park. Keep your eyes out for SCUBA divers, who are known to frequent a portion of the lake called the Lucerne Basin--one of the three deepest gorges in the nation. When it’s at its peak, the gorge drops more than 1,400 feet down in an area only a mile wide. For this reason, the water in the area stays cold and fresh well into the summer, making for the idea refreshment for beating the summer heat.
With so many epic places, it can be difficult to choose where to head on your next adventure. Fortunately, Washington state has access to some of the most incredible waterways in the country. Crisp glacially fed waters lay adjacent to lush forests and towering mountains and the result is some truly spectacular places to enjoy your paddle board. Ocras, bald eagles, and all sorts of natural wonders lay in waiting to be discovered by the intrepid adventurer. As always, make sure to check your local laws and regulations and always have proper safety gear and awareness. Paddling in the Evergreen State provides some truly epic opportunities, so be safe and have fun out there!
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