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Kayaking In New Hampshire – Best Paddling in “The Granite State”

Mark Armstrong
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Kayaking in New Hampshire can lead to some amazing experiences, from viewing moose in their natural habit to seeing eagles soar above your head. This New England state is home to countless scenic lakes and rivers surrounded by stunning scenery, including mountains and forests.

From whitewater to flatwater, the Granite State can be the ideal place for a paddling excursion, no matter what your skill level. We’ve put together a few of our favorites to help you plan your next adventure.

Kayaking In New Hampshire - PinterestPin

7 Best Places To Kayak in New Hampshire

1: Souhegan River (best in Southern NH)

The Souhegan River can be a great place to paddle in Southern New Hampshire, as it flows through historic towns and peaceful countryside. There are many spots to launch canoes and kayaks, with one being at Kaley Park in Milford.

You can paddle along to Weston Park in Merrimack, roughly eight miles downriver. There are several other take-outs before Weston Park if you’re looking for a shorter trip, including at the Seaverns Bridge.

This river can be best if you have your own kayak, as there are no rentals in the area. There are kayak rentals available in the city of Nashua but you would have to arrange to take the rentals off-site to paddle the Souhegan, which may not be possible.

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I/II (easy) (the stretch between Greenville and Wilton is up to Class IV – difficult)

Where to launch & how to get there:

Kaley Park Boat Ramp, 448 Nashua Street, Milford, NH 03055. Park and boat ramp are behind the St. Joseph Medical Center.

2: Umbagog Lake

Umbagog Lake can be an ideal retreat from busy urban areas, as it’s surrounded by wilderness and wildlife. The lake sits on the state border with Maine, with parts of the eastern shores being located in Maine.

This 7,000-acre lake offers plenty of space to explore, with coves, islands, and backwaters that can make relaxing day trips. There is a public boat ramp with parking next to the campground at Umbagog Lake State Park at the southwestern end of the lake. Canoes and kayaks can be rented from the state park.

You can explore Thurston Cove and the Big Island from the state park launch. There are also remote cabins you can rent from the state park. These are accessible by boat only. As well as cabins, there are remote campsites dotted around the lake and on islands, which can let you make the most of your trip.

Class of Rapids rating:


Where to launch & how to get there:

Umbagog State Park, NH-26, Errol, NH 03579. The boat launch is around seven miles south of Errol on Route 26.

3: Lake Winnipesaukee

A man kayaking during a sunsetPin
Courtesy: Massmatt on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Lake Winnipesaukee is an expansive lake covering over 44,000 acres. There are hundreds of islands that can be explored, making exciting adventures whether you’re with your family or on your own. There are also several places to launch.

Some of the boat ramps have a launch fee if you’re not a resident of that specific town. However, there are public launch sites that have no fee.

A good spot to launch is at Leavitt Park Beach in Meredith where there is a public canoe and kayak launch. There’s another public kayak launch at States Landing Beach in Moultonborough.

Kayak rentals are available in Meredith and Moultonborough.

Class of Rapids rating:


Where to launch & how to get there:

50 Leavitt Park Road, Meredith, NH 03253. Take Route 25 east from Meredith to Leavitt Park Road.

4: Merrimack River (Manchester)

The Merrimack River can be both relaxing and exciting depending on which stretch of the river you paddle. There are sections of rapids as well as sections of flatwater, making it a good choice no matter what your ability.

For a more relaxed experience, you can launch at the public boat ramp in Hooksett. Around a seven mile paddle will bring you to the take-out just under the Amoskeag Street bridge in Manchester. This stretch has a dam above the put-in and one below, making it calmer water for beginners.  

Tips on buying a kayak for beginners

Below the dam and through Manchester there are several stretches of rapids, which can be better suited to experienced paddlers.

Canoes and kayaks can be rented in the town of Hooksett.

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I to III (depending on stretch paddled)

Where to launch & how to get there:

65 Merrimack Street, Hookset, NH 03106. Boat ramp is located near the corner of Dundee Avenue and Merrimack Street.

5: Pawtuckaway Lake

Two women kayaking on a windy lakePin
Courtesy: Rickpilot_2000 on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Pawtuckaway Lake is a beautiful spot to paddle, with forest scenery and lots of areas to stop for a picnic or a paddling break. There are also many coves and islands that can be best explored by kayak or canoe.

This is a flatwater lake so it can be perfect for beginners and family trips. Pawtuckaway State Park can be a great place to launch and you can also rent kayaks and canoes right next to the canoe launch.

Most of the western and northern shores belong to the state park, where there are also hiking trails through the forest and a campground with campsites and cabins.

This can be a good place to view wildlife, with lots of birdlife as well as beavers and the occasional moose.

Class of Rapids rating:


Where to launch & how to get there:

From Raymond, follow Mountain Road north to Pawtuckaway Road. Follow the road to Pawtuckaway State Park Campground and Canoe Rental.

6: Androscoggin River

The Androscoggin River flows from Umbagog Lake before entering Maine and heading towards the Atlantic. It can be a scenic trip through wilderness, with a combination of up to Class III rapids and flatwater.

Launching in Errol, at the Route 26 bridge, you can paddle roughly eight miles through the Thirteen Mile Woods to the Seven Islands Bridge. This is a protected area of wild forest so it can be a great place to spot bald eagles and other wildlife.

You can continue to paddle beyond the Seven Islands Bridge and take-out at Pontook Reservoir, just before the dam. The reservoir and the entire stretch of river from Errol to the reservoir can be excellent for spotting moose.

You can rent kayaks and canoes, and arrange a guided tour from the launch area in Errol.

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I to III (easy to moderate/difficult)

Where to launch & how to get there:

29 Upton Road, Errol, NH 03579. The access point is across the road from the canoe outfitter.

7: Upper Ammonoosuc River

The Upper Ammonoosuc River flows along the edge of the White Mountains National Forest, home to stunning scenery, miles of hiking trails and plenty of wildlife.

The river itself can be a scenic spot, with overhanging trees creating a peaceful canopy to paddle under. It’s a slow-moving river for the most part, which can make it a relaxing trip for families and suitable for canoes. There are also sandbars where you can stop for a picnic.

One place to launch is at Gord’s Corner Store in West Milan. Kayaks and canoes can be rented from the store.

It can be around a 10-mile paddle from West Milan to the take-out in Stark. You can either take-out just before the village or at the covered bridge. Between the first take-out and the bridge is some Class II whitewater.

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I (easy), Class II beyond Stark (easy/moderate)

Where to launch & how to get there:

1156 West Milan Road, Milan, NH 03588. Launch is on the corner of Route 110 and Route 110A, next to the store.

NH Kayak Laws?

US Coast GuardPin

While kayaking or canoeing in New Hampshire it can be important to follow the state’s boating laws. These are provided as a guide. You should make sure to research the rules for your location prior to paddling.

  • A wearable PFD must be available for each person on a vessel.
  • Children under 13 must wear an approved PFD at all times while boating.
  • Registration is not required for non-motorized kayaks. Adding a trolling motor to your boat will require registration with the DMV.
  • Motorized kayaks cannot be operated by under 16s without adult supervision. Ages 16 need to carry a boater education card.
  • Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is illegal in NH. The blood alcohol limit is 0.08% for ages 21 and over, and 0.02% for under 21s.
  • white light is required to be displayed while paddling at night.

Kayak Rentals And Tours Around NH

Final Words

There are so many great places to paddle in New Hampshire that you could spend several weeks checking them all out. As well as scenic landscapes, it can be ideal for wildlife viewing – so don’t forget your binoculars.

Do you plan to paddle in any of these spots? Let us know. And give this a share if you want to help others discover new trips.

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