5 Destinations for Epic Kayak Trips

Kayaking: it's like the aquatic version of hiking. Whether you're camping or just spending the day outside, this water sport is an allows you to experience familiar places from the water, which often provides a different perspective from what you see and find on land.

When the summer sun is high and you're looking to cool off and explore at the same time, check out these kayaking destinations.

More: Need to Know: Before You Buy a Kayak

1. Channel Islands National Park, California

Located off the coast of Ventura, California, these islands offer never-ending views of the ocean landscape, a large network of trails and ocean wildlife sightings including, seals, sea lions and dolphins. Despite its beauty, these islands don't get many visitors so you can truly discover this location without many distractions.

Kayak trips are the best way to truly experience the islands' natural beauty. The National Park Service protects a large portion of the ocean stretching beyond the borders of the actual islands. This encompasses an expansive kelp forest, which provides food and shelter for hundreds of species, including friendly sea lions—watch for them as you paddle through. You can also explore sea caves along the coastal cliffs, specifically the Painted Cave.

You can kayak on your own or with a guide, and it's recommended that beginner kayakers go with a guide.

Camp in the Area: Santa Rosa Island

2. Congaree National Park, South Carolina

The southeastern United States offers plenty of opportunities for kayak trips, and one of the best destinations is in the heart of South Carolina: Congaree National Park.

Congaree protects the largest expanse of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in this area of the country. The park is also an important floodplain, which allows you to experience the old-growth forest as you paddle through the slow moving creeks.

As you explore the area, look for deer, river otters, woodpeckers, turtles, snakes and raccoons as well as giant loblolly pines and swamp tupelos. While there are plenty of water trails to choose from, don't forget to try Cedar Creek. The park also has a limited number of kayak tours each year. These provide more of an interpretive journey, perfect for families who are new to kayaking.

You're expected to bring your own kayak to the park. If you don't own one already, rent everything from one of the outfitting companies in the nearby city of Columbia.

Camp in the Area: Poinsett State Park

More: 4 Tips for Choosing the Right Kayak

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