Best Places To Kayak In West Virginia

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West Virginia, The Mountain State, is known for its breathtaking mountain scenery, unparalleled outdoor recreation possibilities, and some of the friendliest people in all of the United States. Whether you live in West Virginia or you are browsing the country for great kayaking spots, no matter your skill level, there’s a kayaking spot for you!

Kayaking is an increasingly popular activity and leisure in West Virginia, where both flatwater and whitewater kayaking can be enjoyed. West Virginia has many scenic kayaking spots, including Tygart Lake, The Bluestone river, The Gauley river, and Lake Stephens, to name a few. 

Kayaking in West Virginia is nothing short of breathtaking, and there are suitable locations for all kayakers, no matter what your skill level or experience is. Whether you are seeking out a calm day out on some still, relaxing waters, or you are ready to get your adrenaline pumping in whitewater, here are some of the best kayaking spots in West Virginia.

Kayaking In West Virginia

Regardless of your skill level, West Virginia is filled with kayaking spots that cater to all kayakers alike. The two main types of kayaking in West Virginia are flatwater kayaking and whitewater kayaking. 

Flatwater kayaking is popular in West Virginia, especially in the western lowlands, where streams meander through the wooded hills and meadows on their way to the Ohio River, and in the eastern panhandle, where the Potomac River runs down through the valleys on its way to the Atlantic.

Flatwater kayaking is also popular on lakes. West Virginia’s lakes are all the result of impoundment due to the state’s rugged geography. Trout Pond is the only tiny natural lake. Even though its huge lakes are primarily built to prevent flooding, they have the advantage of creating diverse ecological zones, which are often more diversified than natural lakes. 

West Virginia is famous for its whitewater kayaking. Class I to Class V rapids can be found throughout the state. Although numerous rapids can be found on the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers in the eastern panhandle, most whitewater streams are found in the Alleghenies and their foothills in eastern and southern West Virginia.

The Best Spots To Go Kayaking In West Virginia 

Here is our recommendation for some of the best spots to go kayaking in West Virginia regardless of your skill level or experience: 

Tygart Lake

Tygart Lake, with its quiet water and peaceful surroundings, could be considered a perfect site for families and beginners. Tygart Lake has a Class I rapids classification, making it a suitable flatwater kayaking experience.

This 1,750-acre picturesque lake near the Allegheny Mountains is bordered by trees and hills. The majority of Tygart Lake State Park is surrounded by water, with a launch right next to the marina. If need be, kayaks can even be rented at the swimming beach.

The Bluestone River

The Bluestone River is another gorgeous stream that provides a fantastic opportunity to get away from the busyness of life and go out on a scenic journey. Its unrivaled access to wildlife, along with its spectacular beauty, will have you spending countless hours in the water, with all of your attention fixed on the scenery around you. 

The bluestone river is not necessarily adrenaline-pumping or thrill-seeking, but it is navigable. Bluestone river’s rapid classification can differ in sections of its 20,3-mile length, though it is rated at Class II to Class III. In fact, one of the trickier aspects of this location is determining the optimal time to kayak because the waters are frequently low.

Lake Stephens

Lake Stephens is a 300-acre flatwater lake with a lovely hardwood forest surrounding it. There is a lot of flatwater here, making it perfect for kayakers of all levels. During the spring and summer, you’ll most likely see a few fishermen and kayakers as you make your way around. Kayaking is a breeze at Lake Stephens because of its still, quiet waters.

The lake is beautiful, with a reflection of the adjacent mountain in it. Several visitors have been lucky enough to see and photograph the black bear, deer, and even some blue heron. It would certainly be a good idea for you to bring your camera along!

The Gauley River

Now for something a little more on the wild side. The massive Gauley River has been designated as a haven for expert kayakers and adrenaline junkies alike. This vast river tends to flood and overflow its banks, making it a favorite spot for paddlers to host festivals. 

It can be a tricky river to maneuver, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area or new to kayaking. The rapids here range in difficulty from Class I to the intensities of Class V, requiring you to paddle continually – a difficult task if you are not used to it. It is highly recommended that you are physically fit and experienced before kayaking in the Gauley River.

New River

On the Lower Gorge, which runs downstream from Thurmond, the New River can provide some of the best whitewater in West Virginia, with some of those wild Class V rapids. The Upper Gorge section, accessible from Hinton, has some slightly calmer waters rated as Class III rapids.

The New River makes its way through the New River Gorge National Park, so you’ll undoubtedly get to see some beautiful scenery while paddling through the rapids. It is also worth noting that Thurmond has several rental options, so don’t worry if you do not have your own equipment.

Moncove Lake

Go ahead, do yourself a favor and search for some images on Google of Moncove Lake. It is a beautiful flat water lake with 140 acres of tranquil Class I water. It’s close to the Appalachian Mountains, and the surrounding forests and hills provide a scenic view that is to-die-for. 

It’s good to note that boat ramps and kayak rentals are available at Moncove Lake State Park. With on-site campsites and a wildlife management area, this might be a terrific base for your activities. The site is recognized for its diverse bird population.

Cheat River

With a mix of tranquil flatwater and dramatic rapids, the Cheat River may provide various paddling options. Between Parsons and Rowlesburg, the water route is 38 miles long and relatively tranquil with a rapid’s classification of Class I to Class II. 

If, however, you’re more experienced and looking for something a little more thrilling, like some Class III to Class IV whitewater, all you’ll need to do is drive north to Albright, where you can access guided tours through Cheats Canyon.


West Virginia is undoubtedly one of the most incredible locations to go kayaking. Its scenic views and various rapid classifications make it ideal for beginner and experienced kayakers alike. Make sure always to follow any state rules and regulations. Grab your paddle and a kayak, and get ready for a beautiful adventure!