7 Stunning Kayaking Locations in The Sierra

Finding the perfect lake kayaking spot in the Sierra is both easy and subjective. With so many accessible lakes to choose from it really does become a personal choice and preference. Is it the location that makes it special or is it the people that are with you? Or in some cases maybe it is the lack of people with you? Do you like large lakes with miles of shoreline or do you prefer smaller lakes that allow you to just float and take in the scenery?

Traveling the scenic routes of the Sierra will definitely provide you access to many variety of lake fronts. So if you have not tried one of these seven lake kayak adventures, add it to the bucket list and lets go play in the water.

Seven Great Lake Kayaking Adventures in the Sierra Nevada

#1 – The Lake Tahoe Water Trail

This seven segment adventure trail gives you both options, solitude, and the best views in entire west in our opinion. Find the secret coves and float over prehistoric boulders. Enjoy water clarity of over 100 feet and the towering granite and volcanic features that surround Lake Tahoe.

Explore the Rocky Shoreline of Lake Tahoe in Completely Clear Kayaks! The Crystal Cove Tour is one of Lake Tahoe’s newest experiences and offers an incredible paddle along the north shoreline of Lake Tahoe! This guided clear kayak tour will take guests along a tour path which includes: an array of depths to explore, beautiful sandy beaches, crystal clear coves and the iconic giant boulders. *Please Note: Guests will not be permitted to exit the vessel during their experience. Pets are not permitted on tours from this location. 

Duration: 1.5 Hour Tour Type: Shoreline Tour Vessel Type: Completely Clear Kayak Level of Difficulty: Beginner Limitations: Ages 6+ Pet Friendly: No Departs From:(Check-In Location)Clearly Tahoe Shop893 Tahoe Blvd. #800Incline Village, NV 89451

#2 – Silver Lake & Caples Lake – HWY 88

Silver Lake is a personal favorite of mine, as it is also the first lake I ever kayaked. A slower paced lake with islands, a large shoreline with granite and trees, lakeside waterfalls and a rugged skyline to the east that makes sunrise or sunset kayaking spectacular.

#3 – Union & Utica Reservoir – Ebbett’s Pass / Bear Valley

These two lakes are a paradise for floating in the high country. Easy access and no motorized boats, but not as well traveled as the neighbor at Lake Alpine right off HWY 4. The two lakes separated by the smallest of land bridges. Take your choice of floating through the granite walls with your dog, or enjoying the variety of birds and great scenic peaks all around.

Loon lake crystal basin
Loon lake crystal basin

#4 – Loon Lake – The Crystal Basin

If you have never visited the Crystal basin on the west side of Desolation Wilderness. Located between Highway 50 and Interstate 80, this is a must visit location. With crystal clear waters that rival Lake Tahoe, Loon Lake is a summer paradise. Boasting granite outcrops, forest lined shores and a water way that actually combines into a second lake.

#5 – Echo Lake

This gateway to “desolation Wilderness” lake is a fantastic morning kayak location near Lake Tahoe. Afternoon winds can, at times, make this a difficult location late in the day. However the western skyline into Desolation wilderness, combined with the forest and manzanita bush shore lines, makes this a very relaxing paddle.

#6- June Lake Loop

The entire loop of lakes has easy access and great views. Personally I just love June lake, keep it simple and enjoy the horizon as you paddle from east to west into the Sierra front. Of course with al the lakes so close who is to say you shouldn’t hit each of them on a one day kayak bonanza.

#7 – Tenaya Lake

Ok we realize that Tenaya belongs on its own special list of places. But driving across Yosemite National Park it is hard to deny Tenaya Lake magic in making you feel so relaxed and insignificant at the same time. Paddling these pristine waters with the Cathedral range towering over your shoulder is a perfect afternoon adventure.

Featured Hero Image: Courtesy of Clearly Tahoe



Publisher of Sierra Rec Magazine. An avid hiker and explorer of mountain lifestyle and adventure. I love to discover new trails, hike along rivers and hang a hammock along the shores of a mountain lake. I often great people on the trail and have found some of my favorite places from the advice of people I meet in the Wilderness. I love the sierra and just like sharing what I know.

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