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THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES TO KAYAK IN AND AROUND PITTSBURGH

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RYAN DEER

FEB 13, 2020

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Kayaking is the best. And no matter what you’re looking for, Pittsburgh has you covered. Believe it or not, our city is consistently ranked as one best kayaking cities in the US. Three rivers, endless fun. But we also have water trails, multiple classes of rapids, and untouched wilderness waiting to be paddled. Pack up some gear and head to these epic kayaking spots around Pittsburgh.

Best of all, you don’t even have to own a kayak.

Why is there a sea of yellow always crowding the North Shore? It’s because once you rent one of those vibrant-colored kayaks (Kayak Pittsburgh will hook you up), you get the most iconic Pittsburgh waterway experience around. Not only do you get a view of the skyline from the Point, but you can cruise by PNC Park, Heinz Field, and under about a million bridges (that’s an exaggeration). And this is your opportunity to say cthat you’ve kayaked three rivers in the same day.

When “urban” seems a little too busy and you want a nearby easy paddle, you head to North Park. There, Venture Outdoors (the same folks that keep the North Shore kayak-game strong) runs a tight ship, launching kayakers out onto beautiful North Park Lake. As long as it hasn’t down poured in the past couple days, you can float about in the lake’s crystal clear waters (they’re muddy if it rains). Fitt tip: Tie off your kayak and your day at the North Park Boathouse, home to Over The Bar Bicycle Cafe. Order a craft brew while sitting around the fire pit on their patio.

You want to find hidden treasure? Put in at the Harmarville Boat Launch in the Allegheny River and you’ll find a kayaking adventure that’s pure gold. Secluded from the urban sprawl of the Burgh lie the two untouched islands that make up Allegheny Islands State Park. The lower (34-acre) and upper (14-acre) islands are completely undeveloped, allowing you to explore natural vegetation and wildlife. Beach yourself along the shore and follow the beaten path of other “yinzsplorers” for a wild adventure close to home. Sadly, like the Mon Wharf, they flood from time to time. But what does it matter? You’re in a kayak!

Visiting Moraine State Park is always a good idea. Whether it’s a fall hike to watch the leaves change or a summer on the beach, that 45-minute drive due north is always so, so worth it. But if you’re a kayaker who enjoys peace and quiet, this is your playground. When you go to Moraine, you get Lake Arthur, a 3000ish-acre lake. That means that you can start kayaking and likely not see another kayaker for a very long time. Next time you need “you-time” and a great workout to boot, paddle here.

This next type of kayaking involves considerable experience…and a helmet. For an epic ride, put your kayak in Slippery Rock Creek at the Rose Point Bridge (right off US-422). From here, you’ll traverse some Class-IV rapids and float through the Slippery Rock Gorge in McConnells Mill State Park (aka outdoorsy wonderland). And if you stop at Eckert Bridge, you’ll have time to do the run twice in one day. Note: This can be some next-level kayaking. Please take all proper precautions and kayak at your own risk. BYOK.

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If kayaking down a river scares the living daylights out of you, maybe you should start with the Class-I flatwater trip offered by Hazelbaker’s Bottom Yough Outfitters. They’ll set you out on a leisurely six-hour, 13-mile float down the Youghiogheny River (pronounced ‘yawk’, of course) from Connellsville to Layton. Too much kayaking? Try their 4-hour, eight-mile journey from Dawson to Layton. FYI: Schedule ahead of time to avoid additional fees.

Ohiopyle’s white water is a rush. Maybe you’ve flown through their natural waterslides on your backside. But that’s child’s play whenever compared to their Class-I to Class-IV rapids. Our recommendation (we insist): Take the beginner’s Whitewater Kayak Instruction from Wilderness Voyageurs in Ohiopyle State Park. In no time at all, you’ll be dropping over a waterfall…and live to tell the tale!

Amongst kayakers, some people just like to float. And if you’re in that chill crowd that just likes to take in the surroundings, sit yourself in a kayak on the Conemaugh River. You can catch this lazy river (that actually flows all the way from Johnstown) just 45-minutes east of the city in Saltsburg. Once you’re there, Saltsburg River & Trail will help you out with all of your kayaking needs.

When you’re ready for an urban adventure, put your kayak in at the South Side Works boat launch. From there, you’re set to explore the Monongahela and the riverfronts of the South Side and Station Square (don’t get hit by the Gateway Clipper fleet). Plus, if you don’t have your own kayak, but are looking to invest…REI conveniently sells top-of-the-line vessels a few steps from the boat launch.

Unlock a Journey to Becoming Your Healthiest Self
UPMC Health Plan

Unlock a Journey to Becoming Your Healthiest Self

Get gamified help to exercise more and reduce stress with the Odyssey app by UPMC.

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