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The Best Backcountry Paddling Trips to Take This Summer

Grab your canoe or kayak and head for the water on one of these six summer paddle trips.

From epic paddling trips to bucket-list hikes to local gems, there’s a whole world of adventures out there for you to have—and we’re here to help you do it. Outside+ members get access to the full text of all of Backpacker’s curated hike reports—including the six on this list—including directions, campsite and permit information, interactive maps, and more. They also get access to our complete archive, from epic trail stories to skills tutorials to full-length expert gear reviews. Not a member? There’s never been a better time to sign up.

Summer is unquestionably the season to get on the water. The long days, the overland heat, the leaping schools of fish—it just calls out for a kayak trip. But with drought gripping much of the western US and some rivers running at historically low levels, it’s a complicated year to be a paddler. We’ve searched out six of the best trips that you can still tackle this summer, from river paddles to coastline camping trips. Pick one that fits your skill level and start making plans.

Middle River, Middle River Forest County Park, Iowa

Photo: Todd Ryburn/ photography moment via Getty Images

This weekend trip down Iowa’s Middle River passes through 38.6 miles of farmland, forest, and fossil-rich rocks. Keep an eye on the shore to catch great blue herons fishing from the banks. Closer to your boat, river otters, turtles, and beavers swim the river in impressive abundance. Read More 

Caddo Lake, Caddo Lake State Park, Texas

Photo: wanderluster/E via Getty Images

You won’t run out of places to explore on this 27,000-acre lake bordering Big Cypress Bayou. Water hyacinth floats between the cypress buttresses, while alligators and largemouth bass ply the deeper waters. Read More

Ten Thousand Islands, Everglades National Park, Florida

Photo: doescreative/istock via Getty Images

It’s hard to beat five days of gulf coast beaches and inland swamps filled with alligators and colorful birds. This 43.5-mile tour of the Everglade’s Ten Thousand Islands region delivers exactly that, with a bonus chance of dolphin spottings off the coast. Read More

Lake Superior, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan

Photo: Shiriram Parki/istock via Getty Images

Hit up some of the most remote beaches and old-growth forest in the entire Porcupine Mountain Range on this 15-mile weekend paddle trip. Your hardest decision on-route: if you prefer sunrises or sunsets over this secluded corner of Lake Superior. Read More

Wailua River, Wailua River State Park, Hawaii

Photo: Haizan Zheng/istock via Getty Images

This 7-mile paddle heads past views of 5,148-foot Mount Waialeale and a recreated historic Hawaiian village to a lush grotto and waterfall complete with swimming hole. A rope swing only accessible by boat rounds out the ideal summer kayaking day. Read More

Resurrection Bay, Seward, Alaska

Photo: The Good Brigade/DigitalVision via Getty Image

This 6.5-mile out-and-back on Alaska’s Resurrection Bay brings paddlers to a crescent beach of fine gray gravel with views across the water to the glacier-carved peaks of the Kenai Mountains. Even in summer, remember to pack for Alaskan weather—rain gear tucked into the bow of your canoe or kayak could save the trip. Read More