10 Lakes with Paddle-Up Camping Sites | LakeWizard

Key Takeaways

  • Paddle-up camping combines adventure with nature's tranquility.
  • Access to select, picturesque paddle-up sites is just a paddle away.
  • Our curated list offers trustworthy recommendations for your next trip.

Imagine waking up to the soft lapping of water against the shoreline, the first rays of sunshine glimmering on the surface.

Sounds perfect, right?

If you're keen on mixing camping with watersports, then paddle-up camping sites are your ideal getaway.

Paddle-up camping offers a unique blend of adventure and tranquility, letting you escape the crowded trails to find your slice of wilderness.

With your trusty paddleboard or kayak, you have the freedom to explore hidden coves and reach campsites that are off the beaten path, often teeming with serenity and natural beauty.

Knowing where to go is key, and that's where we come in.

With our insights and expertise, we're here to guide you to some of the most scenic lakes that cater to paddle-up camping.

We've done the research, so you can trust our recommendations to find that perfect spot for your next water-bound retreat.

Let's dive into the serene world of lakes that welcome you and your paddlecraft to camp along their shores.

Table of contents


Voyageurs National Park (Minnesota)

Ever dreamed of camping right at water's edge?

Well, strap on your life jacket, because Voyageurs National Park is your dream destination!

Imagine waking up to the gentle lapping of water against your canoe—yes, this could be your morning wake-up call at one of the many paddle-up campsites found in the park.

Why pick Voyageurs?

It's because you truly get to connect with nature.

With the park nestled right on the U.S.-Canada border, it’s a watery wonderland with over 218,000 acres to explore.

Picture this: Rainy Lake, Kabetogama Lake, and Namakan Lake; just three of the pristine bodies of water you can paddle across as you seek out the perfect camping spot.

Getting there is an adventure itself—you might:

  • Navigate across one of the vast lakes.
  • Trek down a picturesque trail.
  • Canoe through the quieter backwaters.

Don’t own a boat?

No worries!

Rentals are available, and so are water taxis, for those who prefer to kick back and enjoy the ride.

Some insider tips:

  • Call ahead to the Kabetogama Lake Association at (800) 524-9085 to get the lowdown.
  • Bookmark the Voyageurs National Park service station number (218) 875-2111, just in case.
  • Looking for a kayak or canoe? Hit up Voyageurs Adventures at (800) 465-2925.

Camping at Voyageurs isn't just about the tranquility or the pristine wilderness—it’s about the adventure.

Every paddle stroke brings you closer to that idyllic spot, be it the rugged Bald Rock or a hidden cove that’s calling your name.

Ready to embark on this paddler’s paradise?

Happy camping, and don't forget the marshmallows for toasting under the stars!

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (Minnesota)

Have you ever yearned for a true-to-nature camping experience?

Well, listen up, because Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in Minnesota is a camper's paradise.

Picture paddling through tranquil waters to your private camping site, surrounded by unspoiled forests.

Sounds amazing, right?

Here's what you need to know:

  • Location: Northeastern Minnesota, within the Superior National Forest
  • Size: Over 1 million acres
  • Lakes: More than 2,000!
  • Paddle-up campsites: Over 1,000 sites for that authentic wilderness feel

Imagine gliding along in your canoe, choosing from an incredible 1,500 miles of canoe routes.

Want specifics?

Places like Basswood Lake and Knife Lake have campsites calling your name.


You've got it – nearly all campsites are paddle-up, no hiking required.

The BWCAW is a paddler's utopia, layered with forests and dotted with clear, glacial lakes.

Curious about history?

It's been protected since 1964, keeping it as pristine as it was centuries ago.

Need gear?

Don't fret – rental options range from $40 to $60 per day for canoes, and if you're in the mood to splurge on full outfitting, it's around $115 per person, per day.

Feeling adventurous?

Consider a guided five-day canoe trip, a chance to fully immerse yourself without the worry of planning.


  • The BWCAW is wilderness camping. That means bring your Leave No Trace A-game!
  • Permits are a must – don't leave home without securing one.
  • Respect the tranquility and beauty of the area, and it'll be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

Ready to paddle and camp among the stars?

The Boundary Waters are calling!

Lake Powell (Utah/Arizona)

Have you ever wanted to sleep under the stars after a day on the water?

Well, Lake Powell is your picture-perfect spot.

Spanning across Utah and Arizona, it's an oasis of tranquil water juxtaposed against dramatic red cliffs.

  • So, what makes Lake Powell a paddler's paradise? Paddle boarding here isn't just a sport—it's an expedition through history and nature. Imagine gliding over clear waters with towering canyons on either side. Remember to pack your camera; the views are Instagram gold!

Think about paddle-up camping: it’s like drive-in camping but so much cooler because your car is a canoe or kayak.

Here, you've got plenty of campsites that are only accessible by water, which means your slice of paradise is just a few paddle strokes away.

  • Curious about where to dock your kayak for the night? Spots like Antelope Point and Lone Rock Beach are calling your name. Just remember to respect the land and leave no trace, so the next adventurers can enjoy the same unspoiled beauty.

Remember, always check for any permits you might need.

It's a bit of homework, but hey, it's worth it to keep this place pristine, right?

In short, if you're looking for that perfect blend of adventure and solitude, Lake Powell should be high on your list.

Pack your paddles, grab your tent, and get ready to create memories that will last a lifetime.

Who knows what hidden coves and beaches you'll discover?

Lake Umbagog (New Hampshire/Maine)

Ever imagined paddling through serene waters to find your perfect camping spot?

Well, Lake Umbagog is your dream come true!

Straddling the border of New Hampshire and Maine, this pristine lake is nestled within the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, boasting some of the most peaceful paddle-up campsites around.

Peaceful and scenic—could it get any better?

Here's what you need to know:

  • Reservations? Yep, plan ahead! You can book a campsite up to 11 months in advance. Just mark your calendar to grab your site at either 8am on weekdays or 9am on weekends.
  • Facilities? There's a mix of amenities for different tastes. Want the basics? Go remote. Love a little comfort? Choose a site with water and electric hook-ups.
  • Sites and Cabins: With 27 sites at the base park campground and 34 remote sites sprinkled around, you've got options. Not to mention, there are 10 cozy cabins if that's more your style!

And now for the fun part:

  • Electric and Water hook-ups: 27 sites await with these modern conveniences.
  • Remote Sites: Seeking solitude? Go for one of the 33 remote campsites accessible only by boat.
  • Cabins: Don't fancy tenting? Choose from 2 cabins at the base campground or 4 remote ones—talk about an adventure!

Remember, group camping is a no-go on family sites, but don't let that stop you.

Your paddle awaits.

So, grab your gear, pick up your friends (or enjoy some 'you' time), and head over to Lake Umbagog.

The loons are calling, and that campfire isn't going to light itself!

Lake Chelan (Washington)

Have you ever paddled to your campsite?

At Lake Chelan in Washington, you can do precisely that!

This stunning waterway carved by glaciers beckons adventurers with its crystal-clear depths and scenic campsites that are only accessible by boat.

Get this: Lake Chelan is not your typical lakeside camping experience.

It boasts designated boat-in campsites managed by the U.S. Forest Service, providing that exclusive feel you're after.

Imagine setting up your tent where the only access is by the water—talk about a unique getaway!

Plus, if you're all about ease and convenience, the southern end of the lake has two road-accessible campgrounds operated by the state park system, perfect for those times you want to enjoy nature without the extra paddle.

The park is a generous host with 139 acres of lakeshore forests to explore and a 6,000 feet long shoreline that features a sandy beach.

Access it via a stairway from the campground and dip your toes in the refreshing waters.

Are you an RV owner or a tent aficionado?

Don't fret, you're covered with 144 campsites, including 17 full hookup sites, 18 with water and electric, and the rest standard, ensuring everyone finds a spot to relax.

Let's not forget the need-to-know details:

  • Day-use fee: $10/day or your ticket to an entire year of fun with a $30 annual Discover Pass.
  • Amenities? Picnic tables, fire rings, grates, and more.
  • Park hours: Sun up to sun down; check the specific season times for precise hours.

So, grab your paddle, pack your camping gear, and set course for an adventure on Lake Chelan.

Ready to make memories?

See you on the water!

Saranac Lake (New York)

Ever dreamed of paddling to your own campsite on a secluded island?

Saranac Lake offers just that!

Nestled in the Adirondacks, Saranac Lake is more than just one lake; it's a series of waterways including the Lower, Middle, and Upper Saranac Lakes.

Imagine this: you're in your canoe, gliding across clear waters with the scent of pine wafting on the breeze.

You've got 87 campsites to choose from, accessible only by water, dotted across these three lakes.

Lower Saranac Lake is your gateway to adventure, featuring miles of boating recreation and even a set of locks for an authentic seafaring experience.

On the shores of Middle Saranac Lake, find yourself a spot and take it all in; the campsites are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Here's a tip: be an early bird to snag the best site!

Upper Saranac Lake welcomes you with its primitive charm.

Set up your tent and let the starry night sky be your evening entertainment.

Remember, these sites are also up for grabs without reservations.

Now, just picture waking up to the gentle lapping of water against your canoe, ready for a day of exploring and lounging beside the lake.

What's better than that?

  1. Essentials:
  1. Camping Gear
  2. Boat or Canoe
  3. Reservations for Lower and Middle Lakes

Pro tip: Call Adirondack Lakes & Trails Outfitters for rental needs—they know the ropes.

Don't have a boat?

No worries.

With rental services aplenty, you're all set for a watery escape.

So, what do you say?

Ready to paddle your way to an unforgettable camping experience at Saranac Lake?

Shenandoah River (Virginia)

Did you know that the Shenandoah River isn't just a Johnny Cash song, but also a paradise for paddlers like you with a taste for adventure and tranquility?

Now, let's talk about camping under the stars and awaking to the gentle flow of a historic river.

How's that for an open-air suite?

The Shenandoah River paddle-up camping offers an exceptionally scenic experience with its main stem formed at Front Royal, VA.

Imagine paddling over 57 miles until the river meets the Potomac at Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

And guess what?

A 35-mile stretch in Virginia is even designated as a state scenic river—talk about a paddle-worthy accolade!

  • Paddle-in Campsites: You'll find ample paddle-in sites along the 5.2 miles of inviting shoreline.
  • Difficulty: Whether you're a seasoned paddler or just starting out, you'll appreciate the gentle sections and manageable Class I riffles. It's a splash of fun without the whitewater worries!

Pack your canoe or kayak—heck, even a tube if you're feeling laid-back—and escape the daily humdrum.

Your floating chariot awaits for a blissful expedition followed by a campout where the only canopy above is a blanket of stars.

Isn't that the kind of magic you were searching for?

Remember, for those of you without a vessel, local outfitters are on standby to get you afloat.

All set for your next paddling escapade?

Your storybook river adventure on the Shenandoah is only a paddle away!

Lake Ouachita (Arkansas)

Have you ever experienced the tranquility of paddle-up camping?

Imagine gently slicing through clear waters, surrounded by lush national forest.

Well, let me introduce you to your next adventure spot: Lake Ouachita in Arkansas.

Why choose Lake Ouachita?

With over 40,000 acres of pristine waters, it's not only Arkansas's largest lake, but it's also one of the cleanest in the country.

What's more exciting than having the freedom to paddle to your heart's content and camp on your own little piece of paradise?

Accommodations: You’ll find a variety of camping options:

  • Class AAA (full hookups)
  • Class B
  • Class D
  • Hike-in Tent Sites

Craving a solid roof over your head?

There are cabins available too!

Fun fact: Did you know Lake Ouachita boasts a hefty population of fish?

Grab your fishing gear because bream, crappie, catfish, striped bass, and largemouth bass are just waiting to be caught in the lake's open waters and quiet coves.

Activities: Apart from kayaking and canoeing to your campsite, you've got swimming, skiing, scuba diving, and boating at your fingertips.

And for the little adventurers, kayak tours are available, welcoming even those without prior experience.

So, are you ready to paddle away from the humdrum of everyday life and wake up to the gentle lapping of lake waves?

Pack your bags, grab your paddles, and meet me at Lake Ouachita!

Lake Jocassee (South Carolina)

Have you ever heard of a lakeside utopia where you can just paddle your way to an unforgettable camping experience?

Well, let me take you on a little virtual tour of Lake Jocassee, a real gem tucked away in the heart of South Carolina.

What makes Lake Jocassee stand out?

It's almost entirely undeveloped—a rare find, right?

Imagine clear, mountain-fed waters hosting paddle-up campsites within Devils Fork State Park.

We're talking prime waters for kayaking, boating, and fishing.

And guess what?

You're just a hop and a skip away from Greenville, SC (1 hour), Asheville, NC (1.5 hours), Atlanta, GA, or Charlotte, NC (less than 2.5 hours)!

Here's what you need to know to get the most out of your visit:

  • Accessibility: The only public launch into this pristine lake is through Devils Fork State Park.
  • Camping Options:
  1. RV camping
  2. Tent camping
  3. Backcountry tent camping
  • Capacity: Up to six people at the Double Springs Boat-in Campsite, so grab your friends or family for this adventure!
  • Natural Beauty: Surrounded by stunning scenery including rhododendrons in spring bloom, and you might even spot a loon or a bear.
  • Fishing: Get your rods ready because this lake is known for trout fishing. Just picture yourself reeling in a big one on a misty morning.

Now, don't forget to follow "Leave No Trace" principles.

It's all about respecting the wildlife and keeping the place as pristine as you found it—park staff work tirelessly to maintain its natural beauty.

Ready to paddle your way to serenity?

Lake Jocassee is more than just a body of water—it's a paddler's haven with a side of tranquility.

Pack your gear, your sense of adventure, and let's make some waves!

Elephant Butte Lake (New Mexico)

Have you ever paddled your way to a campsite?

At Elephant Butte Lake State Park in New Mexico, you can glide across New Mexico’s largest body of water, pack a tent, and make camp right by the water's edge.

Imagine waking up to a serene lake view and the gentle sounds of waves—you can make that dream a reality here!

  • Location: Central New Mexico, north of Truth or Consequences
  • Reservation Window: Up to 6 months in advance for camping

This reservoir is fed by the Rio Grande and flaunts a long list of outdoor adventures.

Are you a fan of kayaking, jet skiing, or stand-up paddleboarding?

This lake has room for you and all your toys.

Not to mention, safety first, right?

Remember to wear your life jacket as you enjoy the lake's various water sports.


  • Sandy beaches
  • Restrooms
  • Picnic areas
  • Playgrounds
  • Developed sites with electric and water hook-ups

Fishing enthusiasts, get your rods ready!

With a reputation for record-sized bass, crappie, and bluegill, why not try your luck?

For those with a love for the great outdoors, miles of trails await your hiking boots or your bike.

And for the campers, Lions Beach offers sites (specifically Loop B with sites 66 through 79) that boast gorgeous lake views right from your camper window.

Feel pumped for an aquatic adventure followed by a night under the stars?

Mark your calendar for a trip to Elephant Butte Lake State Park!

With daily entrance reservations available 30 days in advance, why not plan your next paddling journey here?