When it comes to kayaking near Sacramento, the hardest decision you’ll have to make is where to go first! Just beyond the city limits are some of the most beautiful lakes, rivers, and hidden gems — and they are all waiting to be explored by you! From tours and rentals to the top paddling destinations, here’s everything you need to know to plan a fun day on the water. Before you go, make sure to request access to our free Vacation Guide for more great tips about things to see and do in Northern CA.
Here Are the Best Places to Kayak Near Sacramento
The American River
Nothing will get your heart racing like a whitewater kayaking adventure down the American River! The South, Middle, and North Forks offer countless runs for kayaking and rafting. From thrilling Class III, IV, and V rapids to easy floats downstream, there is something for everyone here. Expert kayakers looking for a challenge will love flying down the thundering rapids at Chili Bar Hole. If you’re a beginner looking to hone your skills, we recommend paddling one of the Class II stretches. Located on the South Fork, the three-mile Class II “Coloma to Lotus” run is an excellent option for novice kayakers. Have fun and enjoy the views!
Slab Creek Reservoir
Located in a gorge within the South Fork of the American River, this hidden gem is secretly one of the best places to go kayaking near Sacramento. Very few people know about Slab Creek Reservoir, but that is exactly what makes it special. You won’t find motorized boats or crowds of tourists here. Instead, you’ll discover a serene flatwater environment and picturesque views. Enjoy the peace and quiet while you glide past lush pines, towering canyon walls, and sparkling waterfalls.
This quiet lake has a five mph speed limit for boaters, and the calm waters make it a prime destination for kayaking. There are four different areas where you can launch a watercraft on Lake Natoma, and each offers diverse scenery. Keep an eye out for wildlife as you paddle past the tall bluffs, native vegetation, islands, and coves. It’s quite common to spot egrets, ducks, herons, osprey, or even eagles!
Jenkinson Lake (Sly Park Lake)
Located in the El Dorado National Forest, a world of adventure awaits you at Jenkinson Lake. Also nicknamed “Sly Park Lake,” it’s known by visitors and locals as of the best places to go kayaking near Sacramento. Crystal clear water, sandy beaches, and dramatic landscapes are just the beginning of what you’ll discover here. The area is also a great spot for fishing, hiking, biking, and a variety of other outdoor activities. After you paddle around the lake and take in the incredible sights, row back to shore and enjoy a picnic lunch under the trees.
Kayak Rentals and Tours
Now that you know all of the best places to go kayaking near Sacramento, you’ll need to rent your gear! Here are some of the top kayak rental and tour services in the area:
Current Adventures Kayak School and Trips
Whether you’re searching for watercraft rentals, tours, or instructional classes, Current Adventures Kayak School can provide it all. Book one of the whitewater classes on the American River, or enjoy a leisurely moonlight paddle on Jenkinson Lake or Natoma Lake. The possibilities are endless!
If you plan to rent a kayak from this agency, you may paddle on lakes and rivers except for the South Fork American. The rental location at Jenkinson Lake reopens in May, where you can rent kayaks on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. Call 888-452-9254 to book a tour, class, or rental.
California Canoe and Kayak
California Canoe and Kayak can provide the perfect watercraft for a day trip to Lake Natoma. In addition to rentals, this full-service retail shop also offers classes and moonlight paddle tours on the lake. Call 510-893-7833 for information about tours or rentals.
Sacramento State Aquatic Center
Another great option for travelers exploring Lake Natoma, the Sacramento State Aquatic Center rents canoes, sit-on-top kayaks, hydro bikes, beach cruiser bicycles, and more. They also offer beginner kayaking classes, including their popular Sunset Paddle Class. Call 916-278-2842 for inquiries.
The River Store
Located less than five miles from Eden Vale Inn, The River Store features a wide array of rental equipment including kayaks, inflatable kayaks, rafts, paddles, and more. Their rentals may not be used on the South Fork of the American River between Chili Bar and Salmon Falls. Walk-in rentals are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. We recommend reserving your kayak ahead of time by calling 520-626-3435.
Enjoy More Outdoor Adventures at Eden Vale Inn!
After an exciting day exploring our beautiful Northern California rivers and lakes, paddle on home to Eden Vale Inn. Our Placerville bed and breakfast is a short drive from Sacramento and offers the ideal accommodations for a weekend getaway. All of the best kayaking and paddleboarding spots, whitewater rafting tours, and hiking and biking trails are just minutes away!
Each of our guest rooms offers luxurious amenities, comfortable furnishings, and private bathrooms. When you reserve a stay in our Cottonwood Room, you can even enjoy your own private patio! With a king bed, gas fireplace, and serene garden views, this quiet retreat is the ideal place to unwind after a fun day outdoors.
Don’t wait to make a reservation; check our availability and start planning your Northern California getaway today!