The state of Pennsylvania is home to a variety of unique and interesting waterways. And for this reason, it has become home to the most thrilling white water rafting and kayaking adventures in America. From scenic trips on peaceful rivers to adrenaline-inducing journeys through class IV rapids, you’re sure to find something that suits your taste. In this post, I will list the 14 top white water rafting and kayaking destinations in Pennsylvania. So grab your gear and get ready to experience some of the best water-based fun in the country.
White Water Rafting & Kayaking Destinations in Pennsylvania
1. Youghiogheny River Water Trail
One of the most notable places to visit in Western Pennsylvania is Ohiopyle State Park. And within the park is the Youghiogheny River, which is often named as one of the best White Water Rafting and Kayaking Destinations in Pennsylvania.
There are three sections to choose from Upper, Middle, or Lower Yough. The Upper section is ideal for experienced kayakers looking for intense whitewater rapids. The middle section is for intermediate kayakers who want to feel the excitement of rolling Class II-III rapids. And finally, the lower section should be your pick if you’re a beginner wanting some leisurely time on the water while admiring Pennsylvanian wildlife and scenery.
You can also camp there if you want to make it into more than just a day trip. The state park also has some impressive hiking trails if any visitors are interested in doing something besides white water rafting or kayaking.
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2. Presque Isle State Park
Presque Isle State Park is another great location to enjoy canoeing and kayaking in Pennsylvania. The park has one of the largest freshwater beaches on the East Coast, which makes it perfect for spending some time on the water.
The Lake Erie waters surrounding the park provide a challenging yet rewarding white water kayaking experience. The high waves and shifting currents take some time to get used to, but after you get the hang of it, there is no better place than this.But if you’re after a less challenging trip, there are several smaller lagoons that provide calmer water for casual kayaking and canoeing.
That being said, there are still things to see. The beaches in Presque Isle State Park can’t be beaten by any other beaches in Pennsylvania (and that says a lot). Plus, you will get up close to Lake Erie’s wildlife with your guided tour or kayak rental.
Overall, the kayaking in the area was great, and it helped me see some of what Lake Erie has to offer wildlife-wise. If you are looking for a relaxing day on the water, you should definitely check out this part of Pennsylvania.
3. Allegheny River Water Trail
The Allegheny River is another amazing destination for those who enjoy a good whitewater rafting or kayaking experience. Like many waterways in Pennsylvania, the rapids on this river vary tremendously from one area to another. Some areas barely have any rapids, while other areas are filled with them.
This water trail stretches for over 85 miles, which means that there are plenty of opportunities to explore the area. One of the most popular stretches for rafting is the section near the Oil City. This section is full of thrilling rapids that are perfect for experienced rafters. And if you’re just starting out, there are some calmer sections outside the Oil City where you can enjoy kayaking.
Overall, if you’re looking for an exciting combination of beauty and danger, then the Allegheny River is your best choice. In fact, it has been ranked as one of the best white water rafting and kayaking destinations in Pennsylvania severally.
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4. Slippery Rock Creek Gorge
Slippery Rock Creek is one of the finest white water rafting destinations in Pennsylvania. In fact, the Slippery Rock Gorge is a National Natural Landmark, and it just so happens to be one of the most impressive gorges in Pennsylvania.
The Slippery Rock Gorge consists of many fun rapids, which makes it an ideal spot for rafters. The rapids range from Class II to IV. So when planning your trip, you will need to be aware of what section you want to target. And because there isn’t really a calm section on this beautiful Creek, you are guaranteed to get a thrill out of your trip.
No matter how you decide to experience the Slippery Rock Creek Gorge, you are in for a great time. The gorge is big enough to keep things exciting and not too physically or mentally demanding.
5. Lake Nockamixon
Another strong contender for one of the best whitewater rafting and kayaking locations in Pennsylvania is Lake Nockamixon. With three waterways that feed into it, it provides a lot of opportunities for those looking to spend time on the water.
The lake provides a challenge with Class I-IV on Tohickon Creek. This is a 3.9-mile stretch with six aggressive rapids, making it perfect for the experienced rafter. There are several launch sites along the Creek, which make it easy to get out on the water during your rafting trip.
And since Tohickon Creek has a lot of obstacles and drop-offs, it is not suitable for kayaking. However, the Haycock Run and Three Mile Run are good for kayaks. These are the remaining waterways that flow into Lake Nockamixon, and they offer a nice blend of natural scenery and calm waters.
6. Three Rivers Water Trail
The Three Rivers Water Trail is a 75-mile stretch of recreational water that includes the Allegheny, Monongahela, Youghiogheny, and the Ohio rivers. Each river has its unique characteristics and provides some great white water rafting and kayaking opportunities. The Monongahela River is known for its challenging rapids, while the Ohio River is for less experienced people. And finally, the Allegheny River is for the experienced.
There are many places to access these waterways along their course, including marinas and outfitters, where you rent your equipment and enjoy your trip. Some of the outfitters even offer guided tours with the equipment included.
7. Delaware River Water Trail
The Delaware River was ranked as one of the top 10 best American rivers for thrill-seeking kayakers and white water rafters. The river offers all sorts of experiences, from rolling rapids for beginner rafters to challenging rapids for experienced rafters.
One of the most popular areas to kayak is the Delaware River Gap section which is known for its calm and light rapids. A great thing about this trail is that there are outfitters and guides available on almost all of the sections of the river. Although some people like to go it alone, using a guide will help you avoid any potential danger. Plus, they will provide you with tips and tricks to make your white water experience great.
Not only does this trail have plenty of opportunities for thrilling whitewater rapids, but it also features some breath-taking scenery. In fact, the Delaware River Gap National Recreation Area is one of Pennsylvania’s finest natural attractions. And this makes it one of the best white water rafting and kayaking destinations in Pennsylvania that you must visit.
8. Lehigh River Water Trail
The Lehigh River is also home to some great white water opportunities. It’s located near many different cities, which makes it a convenient destination for many people. The rapids are created by the Appalachian Mountains as the water flows down the valley, thus creating rapids that range from Class I, II, and III. This is the type of water that beginners should look for.
And in addition to its rapids, this water trail has its charm because you will enjoy natural scenery that is also impressive. Birds, fish, plants, and other wildlife can be observed along your trip.
While I wasn’t originally going to target this area on my trip, I am glad I did since we had an amazing time rafting these challenging rapids. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an exciting day on the river.
9. Schuylkill River Water Trail
There is a lot of history and tradition along the Schuylkill River, and this has made it named a State and National Heritage Area. And since colonial days, The Schuylkill River has been one of the most popular boating destinations.
The Schuylkill River Water Trail is ideal for those looking to get into kayaking or canoeing. The 128-mile water trail rustles through some of Pennsylvania’s best scenery, including fields, forests, wetlands, and historic towns. Therefore, this makes it one of the best White Water Rafting and Kayaking Destinations in Pennsylvania you should not miss.
And do you know about camping along the Schuylkill? I was not aware that there were campsites available throughout the length of the water trail. For those looking for a long and memorable camping experience, you can find many campsites near Philly.
Philadelphia has done a good job managing the riverfront area along the Schuylkill River Trail. So there are plenty of options within walking distance if you want to take your rafting trip out to dinner or drinks afterward, which I highly recommend doing at least once.
10. Loyalsock Creek
The Loyalsock Creek is one of the best water trails in Pennsylvania, with over 13 miles of white water rapids. This trail is great for paddlers, but it is also perfect for rafters looking for some exhilarating rapids with fun obstacles.
This action-packed stretch of river includes class II and III rapids that will thrill explorers of any skill level. There are plenty of areas where you can pull off for a break or change direction if things get too dangerous. In addition, you will find plenty of outfitters and related businesses in this area that will help you have the best experience possible.
11. Pine Creek
Sometimes, there is just something about a creek that makes it more exciting than a river for white water rafting and kayaking. Perhaps it is the fact that creeks are often far more rustic and natural. Pine Creek is an ideal example of this, as it contains some of the best mountain scenery in Pennsylvania. And for this reason, it is one of the best places for white water rafting and kayaking in Pennsylvania.
The trail hereis over a 17-mile stretch and offers paddlers a thrilling ride with rapids ranging from Class II and III. There are also guided kayak trips available, which I recommend taking them up on if you are a novice kayaker. The scenery is definitely one of the best aspects of this Creek, and paddlers will find themselves surrounded by lush forests filled with wildlife.
Unfortunately, since water levels drop in summer, this section of Pine Creek can become a little more difficult to navigate. Therefore, I recommend rafting here from March through May if you are looking for something memorable.
12. Swatara Creek Water Trail
If you are after an amazing kayaking or canoeing trip, then the Swatara Creek Water Trail should be your first choice. Here, you have over 8 miles of the water trail, mostly of Class I and II rapids. This means that if you are after a slow and easy water ride, then this is the trail for you. On the other hand, if you are after some of Pennsylvania’s most beautiful scenery, then you have the best of both worlds.
Finally, there are plenty of places to stop during your journey for refreshments. There are even more options if you want to stay overnight at one of many campsites along the Creek.
13. Cheat River Water Trail
The Cheat River is a gem in West Virginia, and it earned this title because of its impressive white water rapids. This section of the river offers Class III and IV rapids that will give even intermediate and skilled rafters a great white water experience. And not only does this trail has some thrilling rapids, but it also features plenty of breath-taking views along its water.
And since the river features many sections full of rapids, many people recommend using a guide service. However, if you’re feeling brave enough to test out your own luck, then there are plenty of outfitters that provide rentals. Best of all, there are plenty of outfitters in this area offering guided tours on the rapids. So if you don’t feel like trying it alone, you can always go with a group
14. Stonycreek Whitewater Park
The Stonycreek Whitewater Park is an awesome destination for paddlers of all levels, but it’s most popular with intermediate and advanced kayakers. This artificial whitewater course is the only one in Pennsylvania, which makes it a special place to visit.
The water level is controlled by an adjustable dam with three levels ranging from calm pools to bouncy class II-III rapids. This makes it ideal for families and beginners since you can control your experience with the help of an experienced guide. In fact, you’ll have plenty of company from other kayakers because the class II+ rapids draw a crowd.
These are just a few of the best White Water Rafting and Kayaking locations in Pennsylvania. Each river has its unique characteristics that make it a perfect destination if you’re looking to spend time on the water. And depending on your experience level or interests, all of the above locations offer something unique that can be enjoyed on your next trip.