Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Kayaking Near Sacramento

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 in Northern California.

woman kayaking at sunet

Featured Location: 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. You can also leave from Henningsen Lotus Park to enjoy the views.

young man kayaking in Northern California

More Adventures Nearby

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.

Lake Natoma

This quiet lake has a five mile-per-house 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 one 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.

Brown’s Ravine at Folsom Lake

This unique outdoor lover’s location also boasts fabulous kayaking potential and stunning views. As one of California’s largest inland marinas that is open year-round, you’re sure to find some fun and adventure here.

happy couple kayaking together

Kayak Rentals & 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:

The River Store – Only 4 miles from the inn!

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 by calling ahead.

Current Adventures Kayak School & 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 all 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 & 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.

luxurious guest room at Eden Vale Inn

A Comfortable Place to Stay

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 beautiful guest rooms with luxurious amenities, comfortable furnishings, and private outdoor soaking tubs. Plan your Gold Country adventure today and look forward to the fun, adventure, and relaxation that awaits!

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