Produced in partnership with Founders Brewing Co.
Few activities have that get-away-from-it-all payoff like paddling trips. A self-contained afternoon paddle excursion—whether you’re launching within city limits or on a river flowing away from them—can offer more adventure, hour-for-hour, than most any daylong activity you can dream up. With that in mind, here are five places to make the most of a day playing hooky on the water.
- Lake Tahoe, CA
At 6,225 feet above sea level and with 191 square miles or surface area, Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in the U.S. But facts and figures aren’t the draw: The improbable, render-you-speechless blue water is. The best way to take it in: up close and personal, from a kayak or paddleboard. Embark on an exploration of Emerald Bay before the crowds (and the chop) arrive mid-day, and you’ll be gobsmacked by views of the Sierra peaks above and the cold freshwater depths below. You can find a wealth of information—from campground and lodging intel to maps—at laketahoewatertrail.org. Who knows, once you’ve completed an afternoon loop or two, you might start scheming about a complete circumnavigation: 72 miles in total. It’s one for the bucket list.
- Asheville, NC
Like it old school? The French Broad is said to be the third oldest river in existence. The newest way to enjoy it, relatively speaking, is the standup paddleboard. Rent one of those—or a kayak—at French Broad Outfitters, and you can choose a tour to suit your mood, from a lazy paddle around Asheville’s studio-studded River Arts District (with a stop for BBQ at 12 Bones) to a slightly more ambitious six-mile tour past the grounds of Biltmore, the 250-room, robber-baron-era mansion. And if you want to scale up from there, the French Broad River Paddle Trail provides plenty of options, either for longer day-trips or multi-night adventures.
- Milwaukee, WI
We’re all in on new perspectives on familiar places. So we think the best way to see Cream City these days might be from the seat of a kayak, on the recently expanded Milwaukee Urban Water Trail—where you can see the revitalization of the Milwaukee River up close. Rentals (and guided tours) can be had from the Brew City Kayak, but if you have your own gear, there are plenty of public launches (all marked on the map drawn up by Milwaukee Riverkeeper). This is not your everyday paddling trip—being Milwaukee, you can choose a route that takes in scenery like the Harley-Davidson Museum, and a few pubs, too. Wilds of a different sort.
- Sanibel Island, FL
This Gulf-side 12-mile-long barrier island might seem sleepy and slow…unless your eyes are on the wild. Do so on the Commodore Creek Trail, a 2.5-mile paddle in the massive J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, where you might encounter dolphins, manatees, and hundreds of species of birds in the largest undeveloped mangrove forest in the U.S. Kayak rentals, expertise, and suggestions for longer routes, can be had at Tarpon Bay Explorers. (Pro tip: By paddling out early, you’ll see more of those aforementioned critters, avoid sunburn, and clear up your afternoon for a beer by the beach.)
- Austin, TX
There are plenty of places to dip a blade in Texas if you are looking for solitude. Lady Bird Lake, right in the center of the capital city, is not one of them. And that’s cool: a paddling trip here tends to be more of a relaxed social cruise, man. On a sunny day, you’ll see all manner of Austinites out on the calm, motor-free six-mile span—from coeds to crunchies, often shouting from boat to boat. Start from the launch at Zilker Boat Rentals and your trek will begin with a canopy-lined half-mile paddle through the cool green waters of Barton Creek, before it terminates in Lady Bird Lake, where you can paddle under as many bridges as you like, taking in the skyline from below. Time your cruise late in the day and you might catch some of the 1.5 million bats departing from the Congress Avenue Bridge. Keep aboard your craft: Swimming in the lake isn’t allowed. And don’t miss a post-paddle jump in at the spring-fed Barton Springs pool. It’s next door, essentially, to the Zilker dock.
THE GEAR TO LAUNCH YOUR NEXT PADDLING TRIP
A Bigger Inflatable Board
Inflatable paddleboards have made huge strides in quality and stability. Case in point, the Red Paddle Co. 10’8″ Ride, an improvement on an already-great design that bumps up volume—so you can bring along your kid, or a dog—yet still maintain stability and speed. If you’re going solo, a bungee cord system allows easy stowage of gear. [$1,349, redpaddleco.com]
The All-Day Beer For Adventure
Your summer beer just got a whole lot better. Founders All Day Vacay features soft wheat malt, low bitterness, and the right amount of stone fruit and citrus notes, to become your go-to summer adventure beer. At a sessionable 4.6 percent ABV, you can enjoy a few over the course of a long afternoon’s adventure. [foundersbrewing.com]
A Tougher Carry-Along Cooler
Able to carry 20 cans and keeping ice cold for over 24 hours, the Orca Coolers Walker is more than capable of a long day’s paddle into night. Welded walls and a magnetic closure make it built to be used and abused over and over. [$200; orcacoolers.com]
Clearer-than-glass nylon lenses allow the Rheos Cooper sunglasses to float, meaning your day on the lake won’t be marred by some lost sunglasses should they fall into the drink. That light weight makes them more comfortable on your face, too. [$55; rheosgear.com]
A Life Jacket for Any Paddling Adventure
A comfy, low-profile life jacket will capably carry you from one of type of paddling adventure to the next. Kokatat’s Hustle, covered in rugged ripstop nylon, features a pair of PVC-free foam panels that wrap any size torso for all-day comfort, with adjustable shoulder and side straps that loosen when needed. The large clamshell front pocket keeps extra on-water items handy. [$139; kokatat.com]
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