Unique kayaking, canoeing, and paddling destinations near Asheville, NC

This scene at Lake Santeetlah really floats our boat. | Photo by @i.heart.mari

Kayaking, canoeing + other kinds of paddling are great ways to explore the Asheville area — not to mention, these water sports offer physical and mental health benefits that extend far beyond a day on the water. 

But before we dive in, let’s talk about paddling safety, so you don’t capsize:

City Editor Laura had a blast rafting the Chatooga with Wildwater guides. | Photo by Paul Provost

Here are a few local options for getting your feet wet:

French Broad River | Asheville, NC | Did you know this ol’ broad is one of the oldest rivers in the world? Though the most popular trip is the 7-mile stretch from Hominy Creek to Pearson Bridge, check the French Broad River Paddle Trail for a slew of day trip ideas or overnight routes.

Nantahala River Gorge | Bryson City, NC | This 8-mile gorge offers a blend of whitewater rapids + placid pools for paddling. Note: All private boating activity on the river requires a USFS Nantahala River Permit

Green River | Saluda, NC | Though this river is most famous for its Narrowsa dangerous steep creek that attracts elite whitewater kayaks from all over the world — its Upper and Lower sections offer safer, less sinister runs which are perfect for beginner + intermediate paddlers

Chatooga Wild & Scenic River | This rugged, gorgeous river (federally protected since 1974 by the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act) stretches fifty miles, running from North Carolina through segments of Georgia + South Carolina, ending at Lake Tugaloo in North Georgia. 

Lake Santeetlah | Robbinsville, NC | Considered one of the “most unspoiled lakes in North Carolina,” 80% of this lake’s 76-mile shoreline is in the Nantahala National Forest. Pro tip: rent kayaks, ski boats, or pontoon boats at the Santeetlah Marina.