10 Best National Parks For Water Sports

Our research is editorially independent but we may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

If you’d like to enjoy a vacation of one of the beautiful national parks in the United States this summer, the heat could be a bit of a concern at some. But planning a trip to one of these top national parks that offer an array of exciting water sports will open up all sorts of possibilities while providing a refreshing respite when temperatures get a little too hot. These parks, in particular, offer a fun escape with lots of time to cool off in the water.

YOU'RE ALL SET!

Look out for our newsletters in your inbox soon.

Biscayne National Park, Florida
Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park, Florida

While the Florida Keys are sure to be hot in the summer, Biscayne National Park is almost all water – just 5 percent of it is land, which is primarily mangrove shoreline and coral reefs. In fact, the park boasts the world’s third largest reef. Just an hour’s drive from Miami, this family-friendly destination offers the ideal destination for enjoying water adventures. Look forward to snorkeling your way through all sorts of tropical fish, from parrotfish to angelfish, as well as manatees and vibrant coral.

Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park, Maine

Other than being one of the most scenic national parks, Acadia National Park makes a great beach getaway, home to two beautiful beaches, Sand Beach and Echo Lake Beach. Sand Beach boasts an expansive sandy shoreline that offers the opportunity for relaxing in the sun and taking quick, refreshing dips in the cool water, while Echo Lake Beach edges warmer waters for longer swims. Visitors can also take a kayak, rowboat or canoe out on to the water and enjoy activities on land like hiking to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain on the Atlantic coast.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
rafting in the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The Grand Canyon is a great place for a rafting trip. Look forward to riding the rapids while taking in a variety of fantastic views that include waterfalls, side canyons, archaeological ruins and much more. Multiple outfitters offer whitewater trips that traverse 240 miles of the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park to Lake Mead.  If you’re up for more, head to the remote corner of the canyon that’s home to Havasu Falls, a bucket-list-worthy destination in Arizona. It’s one of the most stunning sights in the world that includes brilliant turquoise pools for swimming.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Munising

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Located on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore doesn’t experience extreme summer heat, but with 42 spectacular miles of Lake Superior coastline, studded with sand dunes, magnificent waterfalls and multi-colored sandstone cliffs that change their hue under the rays of the sun, it’s incredibly scenic and offers a host of adventures on the water. The view of the  15-mile-long swath of  500-million-year-old cliffs painted colors may best be seen from a kayak. There are also seven backcountry campsites along a 40-mile water trail for the ultimate camping/kayaking trip.

Everglades National Park, Florida
Everglades National Park lake view and pelican

Everglades National Park, Florida

The opportunities for paddling in Everglades National Park are practically endless, though you might want to go at the very beginning for an end of the summer season to avoid the worst of the heat. Some of the best places to paddle include the Turner River, Flamingo, Halfway Creek and Florida Bay, where you can canoe or head out in a sea kayak through mangrove swamps. The Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail is fabulous for canoeing enthusiasts where you’ll be able to see everything from manatees and dolphins to crocodiles and alligators.

Olympic National Park, Washington
Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park, Washington

Olympic National Park is one of the most breathtaking parks in the country, yet it’s also one of the less-visited parks, offering the chance to enjoy all sorts of stunning sights and activities on and off water without the crowds. This park is home to everything from soaring mountains to turquoise lakes, hot springs, waterfalls and wild coastlines along the Pacific Ocean. The pristine waters of glacially-carved Lake Crescent are ideal for a refreshing swim or getting out on a watercraft.  Rentals, including pedal boats, row boats, hydro bikes, kayaks and canoes are all available for exploring this vast body of water.

Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Located just west of Juneau, Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park is renowned for offering some of the best tidewater glacier sea kayaking in the world. Many paddlers head up West Arm by boat from Glacier Bay Lodge and are picked up exploring the 16 tidewater glaciers in the park, including the granddaddy Muir. You may even witness calving, an unforgettable natural phenomenon that’s accompanied by the booming sound of ice cracking and crashing into the water below. Viewing wildlife like whales is almost a given.

Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts
Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts

Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts

New England’s most famous stretch of beaches can be found along the Cape Cod National Seashore. cape. It features a historic fishing village with a thriving artist community along with boardwalks, lighthouses, tidal flats, kettle ponds, barrier islands and 15 beaches for swimming and fishing. It’s the ultimate place to enjoy the sand, surf and a variety of activities on the water.

Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park, California

While most people envision mountains and activities like rock climbing and hiking when thinking of Yosemite National Park, it’s also home to a number of pristine rivers and streams for enjoying activities on the water. One of the best things to do on a hot summer day is to float down the Merced River stopping for a picnic at one of the two main beaches, along the way, Sentinel and Cathedral. You can also enjoy swimming on the Merced, and just outside the park, thrilling whitewater rafting rides along stretches of the Tuolumne and Merced rivers.

Channel Islands National Park, California
snorkeling on Catalina Island

Channel Islands National Park, California

One of the best places to snorkel in the continental U.S. can be found just off the southern coast of California in Channel Islands National Park. The park’s coves, sea caves and kelp forests make it a fantastic destination for divers, snorkelers and swimmers. The areas that are the best for exploring the underwater world are the east side of Santa Cruz Island, Anacapa and Santa Barbara islands.

You May Also Like
13 Best Resorts in the Catskills, NY