Ahhh…nothing beats a nice day on lake. As you venture into the heart of the Pacific Northwest you’ll come across a landscape of verdant forests, rugged coastlines, and majestic mountains. But amidst the vast wilderness, there’s a tranquil experience that you just can’t get anywhere else — a canoe gliding silently across a cool blue lake with towering pines framed against the backdrop of misty mountains.

Whether you’re a seasoned paddler or someone yearning for a serene escape, the lakes of the PNW promise an experience that lingers in your memory, long after the ripples have settled.

Top Canoeing Destinations in the Pacific Northwest

Lake Quinault

Tucked away within the embrace of the Olympic National Forest, Lake Quinault offers more than just a canoeing experience. As you paddle, you’re graced with views of dense rainforests, their ancient trees standing tall and proud, whispering tales of eons past. The gentle lapping of the water, combined with the distant calls of native birds, crafts a soundtrack that’s pure PNW magic.

Ross Lake

Journeying to the North Cascades reveals the beauty that is Ross Lake. Not just a lake, but a reservoir, its waters possess a crystalline clarity that seems almost surreal. Paddling here isn’t merely about the act, but the surroundings. Towering mountain vistas, their peaks often kissed by snow, reflect upon the lake’s surface, creating a mirage that’s both majestic and humbling.

Lake Wenatchee

Positioned gracefully near the charming town of Leavenworth, Lake Wenatchee is a testament to the diverse landscapes. On one side, you’re treated to an expansive view of mountains, their slopes painting a picture of rugged beauty. On the other, dense forests stretch out, their green canopy a stark contrast to the lake’s serene blue. Every stroke of the paddle here promises a new perspective.

Suttle Lake

Venturing into Central Oregon, Suttle Lake emerges as a sanctuary for those seeking solace on water. The lake’s waters possess a unique shade of blue, reminiscent of clear skies on a sunny day. As you glide, the rhythmic sound of water against wood accompanies you, and the world seems to slow down, allowing you to absorb every moment, every sight, every emotion.

Why Go Canoeing on a Lake at All?

Natural Beauty

It’s only in the Pacific Northwest that you’ll find the mix of calm lakes that mirror rich blue skies, lush forests that echo with the whispers of ancient pines and towering mountain ranges with snow-capped peaks in the distance. As you glide on a canoe, the water’s surface is barely disturbed by your paddle, you’re not just observing this panorama—you’re becoming a part of it. The serenity is palpable, as if every droplet, every tree, and every stone has a story to tell, and they’ve all paused to share it with you

Accessible Adventure

Canoeing in the PNW isn’t an exclusive club for the seasoned adventurer. It’s an open invitation, beckoning both the curious beginner and the experienced paddler. The gentle lakes offer a forgiving playground, allowing newcomers to get a feel for the paddle and the rhythm of the waters. For the seasoned, the lake provides meditative retreat to refine strokes or simply drift in contemplation. It’s an adventure where the thrill isn’t about conquering, but about connecting—with nature, with oneself, and with the very essence of exploration.

Wildlife and Nature Encounters

The pristine waters and surrounding habitats of the lakes are teeming with life. As you paddle around in your canoe, keep your senses alert for the majestic sight of a bald eagle soaring overhead, its keen eyes scanning the waters for a catch. Along the forested shorelines, you might catch a fleeting glimpse of playful otters slipping into the water or hear the distant call of loons echoing across the lake. Every paddle stroke might bring a new discovery, adding layers to your canoeing adventure, making it not just a journey on water but a deep dive into the region’s vibrant ecology.

Gear Up Before You Go

Choosing the Right Canoe

Embarking on a canoeing journey demands selecting the right canoe, one tailored to the region’s calm lakes and the nature of your trip. The Pacific Northwest has a diverse array of water bodies, from tranquil lakes to white-water rivers. For those who favor the peaceful ambience of lakes, certain canoe types emerge as top contenders.

  • Recreational Canoes

    These are typically wider, providing added stability, making them ideal for those new to canoeing or families with children. The design incorporates a roomy hull, which allows ample space for essentials—be it a packed lunch, fishing gear, or photography equipment. Its construction focuses on ensuring a smooth experience for shorter, leisurely trips on calm waters.

  • Touring Canoes

    If you’re looking at extended periods on the water or considering multi-day lake expeditions, touring canoes are designed with such requirements in mind. They’re generally longer and have a streamlined shape for improved tracking and efficiency over significant distances. Their built ensures they handle larger loads and offer a consistent paddling experience.

It’s imperative, regardless of your canoe choice, to confirm its buoyancy capabilities, especially if you intend to carry additional gear. This not only ensures safety but also provides peace of mind as you traverse the serene lakes of the Pacific Northwest.

Gear Essentials

Before drifting into the serene embrace of the lakes, ensuring that you have the right equipment is crucial.

  • Paddles

    While it may sound obvious, it’s essential to ensure your paddles are of the right length and material suitable for lake canoeing. Having a spare paddle is always a wise decision.

  • Life Vests

    As discussed earlier, this non-negotiable safety item should fit well and be designed for paddling activities.

  • Waterproof Bags

    The PNW, while stunning, can be unpredictable in its weather. Ensure your essentials, electronics, and any other valuables are secured in waterproof bags or containers.

  • First-Aid Kits

    Accidents, however minor, can happen. A basic kit with band-aids, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and any personal medication is vital. Add a whistle for emergencies.


A day of paddling and baking in the sun can leave you pretty hungry and very thirsty. Make sure to bring enough items to fix both those problems.

  • Snacks

    Opt for non-perishable, high-energy snacks. Think trail mix, granola bars, dried fruits, and nuts. These offer sustained energy and are easy to manage on a canoe.

  • Hydration

    Fresh water is a must. Consider using reusable bottles or hydration packs. If your journey spans multiple days, packing a portable water filter can be beneficial.

Comfort & Utility

When you’re amidst nature, comfort enhances the experience and utility ensures you’re prepared.

  • Sunscreen

    The water reflects sunlight, making it even more vital to protect your skin from UV rays.

  • Hats

    Preferably wide-brimmed, it’ll keep the sun off your face and neck, while also providing a shield against any light rain.

  • Insect Repellent

    Lakeshores can be buzzing with insects, especially during certain times of the year. Stay bite-free with a good repellent.

  • Map or Compass

    For larger lakes or unfamiliar territories, navigation tools are invaluable. While digital tools are handy, always have a traditional map or compass as a backup.

More Than Just Hot Springs: A Journey Beyond the Springs

Hiking & Nature Walks

While the waters of the Pacific Northwest invite serene exploration, its lands are no less beckoning. Families will find a haven of trails, from gentle nature walks to more challenging hikes, suitable for all ages and experience levels. For instance, the Olympic National Park offers trails like the Hoh Rainforest Hall of Mosses – a relatively short loop, but one that immerses walkers in an ancient, moss-draped wonderland. It’s a living storybook, where every twist and turn reveals the timeless tales of nature.


For families journeying in an RV, the parks roll out a carpet of welcoming campgrounds. Many of these are strategically located near popular canoeing destinations, ensuring that water adventures are just a stone’s throw away. RV-friendly spots like the Colonial Creek Campground by Ross Lake offer both the essential amenities and added bonuses such as lakeside views, fire pits, and close proximity to hiking trails.


The lakes and rivers of the Pacific Northwest are more than scenic retreats; they are teeming with life. Anglers, both young and old, will appreciate the rich diversity of freshwater fish in the region. Whether you’re casting a line from your canoe or from a serene lakeshore, the prospect of reeling in species like trout or salmon adds an exciting dimension to the experience.

Local Attractions

The area around here isn’t just about untamed wilderness; it also offers plenty of culture, tradition, and local charm. As you’ll find visiting small towns, you’ll stumble upon delightful farmers markets offering the freshest of local produce and handcrafted goods. Towns, especially during the summer and fall, often host festivals celebrating everything from music to local harvests. And then there are landmarks – unique to the PNW – like the towering Astoria Column in Oregon, offering panoramic views, or the captivating Mystery Soda Machine in Seattle. Each attraction, big or small, offers a slice of the local flavor, ensuring families have a well-rounded and enriching journey outside of canoeing.

Pair Canoeing With An RV Trip

Out of all the adventures that the Pacific Northwest lays out for explorers, canoeing on its pristine lakes holds a special place at the top. There’s simply nothing better than leaving a busy city, getting out on the water and enjoying a day in nature.

And what better way to embrace this journey than from the comfort and convenience of an RV? RVs make it easy to bring your canoe and all its gear. Plus, coming home to a comfortable room after a long day on the water makes for a perfect day start to finish.

Take the vacation you deserve and find the RV that suits your needs.