Where to Kayak, Canoe and Paddle Board in the Twin Cities

Since Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes, it should come as no surprise that there are tons of kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding opportunities right in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul 7-county area.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Best kayak and canoe spots in the Twin Cities

Whether your preferred watercraft is a kayak, a canoe or a stand-up paddle board—or you’ve yet to try one of these—there’s a paddling opportunity close to you.

There are hundreds of lakes in the metro—yes, hundreds! In fact, according to LakePlace.com the county that has the fewest lakes (Ramsey) still has over 100 of them. And the county that has the most lakes (Hennepin) has over 300.

There are 1, 387 lakes in the Twin Cities 7-county metro area!

We also have three major rivers—the Mississippi, Minnesota and St. Croix—and many smaller ones, too.

Of course paddling is an option on any lake or river with a public access. On Twin Cities Outdoors we’ll highlight the waterways that are part of the parks systems, as well as official water trails.

A note about paddling: PFDs—Personal Flotation Devices—(or life jackets) are the most essential safety item you have. Don’t be a statistic! Be safe when you paddle. See Minnesota’s PFD laws here.

Another note about paddling: Almost all these lakes are also open to motor boat traffic. Keep in mind that bigger boats have the right-of-way. Know boating rules and use common sense around other boat traffic.

Keep your eyes and ears open for them. And wear bright clothing (or paddle a bright boat) so you’re easy to see. Drivers of bigger boats aren’t always looking for paddlers.

Let’s take a look at where to kayak, canoe and paddle board in the Twin Cities…

Anoka County (North)

Anoka County has 12 paddling destinations in its Regional and County Park system, plus all or part of three official water trails.

Click here for Paddling in Anoka County

Carver County (Southwest)

Carver County has three paddling destinations that are part of Regional Parks or Reserves. A state water trail also flows through Carver.

Click here for Paddling in Carver County

Dakota County (South-Southeast)

Dakota County’s paddling options include a section of a state water trail and two regional parks.

Click here for Paddling in Dakota County

Hennepin County (West-central, includes Minneapolis)

Hennepin County has 13 county and regional parks and reserves that offer paddling options. Most are on lakes, but there are a couple river trips, too, most notably the Mississippi.

Click here for Paddling in Hennepin County

Ramsey County (East-Central, includes St. Paul)

Ramsey County has four parks—national, state and regional—that have paddling options on either the Mississippi or Minnesota Rivers, or on lakes.

Click here for Paddling in Ramsey County

Scott County (South-Southwest)

Scott County paddling opportunities are mostly in regional parks on lakes, but also includes the Minnesota River.

Click here for Paddling in Scott County

Washington County (East)

The best of Washington County paddling is on the St. Croix River—which is a National River Trail. There are some lakes to paddle in some of the parks, too.

Click here for Paddling in Washington County


Discover Minnesota’s state water trails that flow through the Twin Cities area


When you’re ready to get outside the Twin Cities for your paddling adventures, head north. Minnesota has some of the best inland paddling on the planet!

Lake Superior, for sea kayaking, and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), for canoeing, are world-class paddling destinations.

People come from all over to paddle there. Be sure you do, too—at least once!

Don’t worry if you don’t have the right boat and gear—there are plenty of outfitters.

Paddling guide cover

Twin Cities Paddling Guide

Published in 2020, our 52-page digital Paddling Guide is the easiest way to find local lakes and river trails in all seven counties of the Twin Cities metro area.

Click here for the details…