Pittsburgh kayakers rejoice! The Steel City is home to some of the most beautiful and diverse paddling in Pennsylvania. With three major rivers converging here, kayakers and canoeists have their pick of moving water ranging from easy Class I floats to challenging Class III whitewater. And that’s not even counting the area’s dozens of flatwater lakes.
Easy Kayaking Spots in Pittsburgh
If you’re new to kayaking or looking for an easy float, head to North Park Lake. This man-made lake is located just north of downtown Pittsburgh and offers calm waters perfect for beginners. For a longer kayaking trip, put in at Aspinwall Riverfront Park and paddle downstream towards Fox Chapel. Along the way, you’ll pass by parks, restaurants, and other attractions. Be sure to stop at OTB at the North Park Boathouse for a pint of beer before continuing on your journey.
Where to Launch: Rachel Carson Trail, Allison Park, PA 15101
Aspinwall Riverfront Park
Aspinwall Riverfront Park is located just outside of downtown Pittsburgh in the borough of Aspinwall. The park offers kayak and canoe rentals, making it a great option for those looking to explore the Allegheny River. Be sure to check out the kayak launch before heading out on your journey. The park also has picnic tables, grills, a playground, and a walking trail along the river.
Where to launch: Aspinwall Marina 285 River Ave, Aspinwall, PA 15215
North Park Lake
North Park Lake is located just north of Pittsburgh. The park itself is 65 acres and has tons of activities such as a golf course, an ice rink, baseball fields, a nature center, and trails.The lake is a great spot for kayaking, as it offers calm waters and beautiful views. The lake is also stocked with fish, so be sure to bring your fishing rod along!
Where to launch: North Park Lake Boat Ramp 303 Pearce Mill Rd, Allison Park, PA 15101
Southside Riverfront Park
Southside Riverfront Park is located on the south side of Pittsburgh, along the Monongahela River. Paddle your canoe down the river, past Station Square, where you may take in views of both Mount Washington and the city of Pittsburgh. The park offers kayak and canoe rentals, making it a great option for those looking to explore the river. The park also has a walking trail, a playground, and a picnic area.
Where to launch: South Side Public Boat Launch Pittsburgh, PA 15203
Bush Recreation Area
Bush Recreation Area in New Alexandria is home to the recreation space of Loyalhanna Lake. The area is popular for kayaking, fishing, and swimming. The Bush Recreation Area also offers a playground, a picnic pavilion, and horseshoe pits. It is also the perfect family getaway with campsites tucked away in forest with views of the lake. There are tons of wildlife. Bring binoculars and look out for eagles and ospreys.
Experienced Kayak Launches in Pittsburgh
While the three primary rivers are mainly for beginner paddlers their sheer length of them means there are sections that are good for experienced kayakers. The Ohio River Water Trail is the longest river in the area and has smaller trails on it ideal for some rapids. Those wanting a whitewater experience should head to the Lower Youghiogheny.
Ohio River Water Trail
The Ohio River Water Trail runs for 69 miles from its milepost zero into downtown Pittsburgh. Flowing through three states, Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania it is a While there are some sections for beginners, experienced paddlers will enjoy the length and scenery of this river. The trail is home to many cultural and historic heritage sites. Those interested in history will truly enjoy combing nature, a paddle, and some museums as an education excursion. For a full guide to the Ohio River Water Trail check out their brochure and map.
Where to launch: Rochester Boat Ramp Rochester, PA 15074
The Loop, Lower Youghiogheny
The lower Youghiogheny is home to what is known as “The Loop.” Here experienced paddlers can find whitewater sections of rapids that are Class III and Class IV. For those looking for calmer waters, check out the middle section of the Lower Youghiogheny. Youghiogheny River Water Trail website has maps and detailed information about each section.
The 9-mile paddle of Beaver River provides a great intermediate trail for those wanting to experience rapids up to Class III. Naturalists will enjoy wildlife viewing, camping, and fishing. For a full guide to the area check out this brochure and map.
Where to launch- Bevington Boat Access Wampum, PA 16157 https://goo.gl/maps/WdkK43z5JBMThq6m6
Little Beaver Creek
The Little Beaver Creek is a scenic river that will require some experience given the change from Class I to Class II and Class III. Start at Lison Ohio and paddle down 12 miles passing through the rich natural setting filled with deer, birds, beavers, and other wildlife.
Where to launch- Lisbon canoe & Kayak Boat Launch https://goo.gl/maps/LnQgg9pnwhXBHSFj6
National / State Park Kayaking Spots near Pittsburgh
If you’re looking for a more remote wilderness adventure, check out some of the beautiful nearby state parks for a traditional kayaking trip. The f offer stunning views and challenging whitewater paddling, while Ohiopyle State Park is perfect for beginners and families. Moraine State Park and Allegheny National Forest are also great options for those who want to explore the area’s diverse scenery by kayak.
Ohiopyle State Park
Ohiopyle State Park, located just an hour southeast of Pittsburgh, is a kayaker’s paradise. The park includes 20 miles of the Youghiogheny River, which flows through a deep gorge with towering cliffs and spectacular views. There are also more than 30 miles of hiking trails and plenty of other outdoor activities to keep you busy when you’re not on the water. \
Where to launch- Lower Yough Boat Launch Ohiopyle, PA 15470 https://goo.gl/maps/QVsQSA5xCQA3KyLa6
McConnells Mill State Park
Just north of Pittsburgh in Lawrence County, McConnells Mill State Park is another great option for kayakers looking for a little variety. In addition to kayaking and canoeing on Slippery Rock Creek, visitors can hike, rock climb, mountain bike, and even go horseback riding in this park. And be sure to check out the historic grist mill while you’re there.
Presque Isle State Park
Presque Isle State Park, located on a peninsula in Erie, PA, is the perfect place to kayak if you’re looking for a little lake paddling. With more than 11 miles of shoreline and plenty of coves and inlets to explore, kayakers will find plenty to keep them busy at this state park. And when you’re done kayaking for the day, there’s plenty more to do including swimming, fishing, hiking, and biking.
Where to launch: Captain John E. Lampe Marina Ft. of, Port Access Rd, Erie, PA 16507
Moraine State Park
Moraine State Park, located about an hour northwest of Pittsburgh, is a great option for kayakers who want to paddle on a lake but also have the option of paddling on a river. Moraine State Park includes both Lake Arthur, a man-made lake, and the meandering Shenango River. kayakers will find plenty to keep them busy at this state park. With more than 16,000 acres of land and water to explore, there’s something for everyone at Moraine State Park.
Where to launch: Pleasant Valley Boat Ramp Portersville, PA 16051
Recommended Kayaking Tours in Pittsburgh
For those with children or those that are beginners to paddling, this tour on the Middle Yough River provides a two-hour experience paddling through Pennsylvania’s rural areas on gentle rapids.
When to Visit Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh is a great kayaking destination any time of year, but the fall foliage is especially beautiful. There are several major events in Pittsburgh that kayakers will want to check out. The Three Rivers Arts Festival in June is a 10-day celebration of the arts, with music, theater, and visual arts performances throughout the city. The Pittsburgh Marathon in May is a 26.2 mile race that takes runners through some of the city’s most scenic areas. And the EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta in July is a three-day event that features kayaking, rowing, and dragon boat racing on the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers.
Weather in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh kayakers should be prepared for all types of weather, as the climate in the area can be quite unpredictable. The weather can change rapidly, so it’s always a good idea to be prepared for rain or shine. The average temperatures in Pittsburgh are highs in the mid-60s and lows in the mid-40s. However, kayakers should be aware that temperatures can drop drastically at night, so be sure to pack extra clothes if you’re planning on camping or kayaking overnight. And finally, while kayaking in Pittsburgh is generally a year-round activity, kayakers should consider the weather conditions before heading out on the water.
Need to Know for Pittsburgh
Kayaking in Pittsburgh is a unique experience. Urban kayaking has a different vibe than a remote wilderness adventure, but it offers paddlers an array of options for a day on the river. In Pittsburgh, you’ll find that the city is set up to welcome river traffic with waterfront restaurants, brewpubs, parks, and plenty of activities to keep your day interesting. If urban kayaking isn’t your thing, check out some of the beautiful nearby state parks for a more traditional kayaking adventure.