This canoe trip destinations article was originally published in Canoeroots and Family Camping magazine.
Imagine watching the first warm rays of dawn blush the frozen summits above your camp, or floating spellbound beneath steep ranks of silent forest. Backpackers have long bartered for a taste of priceless mountain beauty with heavy packs, tiny tents and crummy food. But mountain lakes oblige canoeists with a leisurely, pampered route into sublime scenery. Don’t forget the Dutch oven for fresh brownies.
YELLOWSTONE LAKE, Wyoming
At 20 miles long and 14 miles across, and perched nearly 8,000 feet above sea level, Yellowstone Lake in the famous park of the same name is large and high enough to create its own weather, quickly transforming the lake from mirror-smooth to meringue- choppy. With a healthy respect for change-able conditions—figure on one day in every three as an onshore wind/hiking day—canoeists can escape the motorized main-stream and penetrate into the wild heart of the park. The motorboat-restricted South-east Arm makes a fine weeklong, out-and- back trip from Sedge Bay. Watch for moose, elk, osprey, bald eagles, bear and even bison. www.nps.gov/yell
MALIGNE LAKE, Alberta
Ringed by snow-capped peaks and three ice fields, Jasper National Park’s Maligne Lake is the largest natural water body in the Canadian Rockies. Solitude seekers should visit in September and head for two canoe access only campsites at Fisherman’s Bay and Coronet Creek. Fisherman’s Bay boasts nearby vistas of iconic Spirit Island floating on jade green waters, while Coronet Creek lies 22 kilometers from the parking area, beyond the reach of most tour boats. Both are great places to dip a line for record-sized rainbow and brook trout. www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/jasper/visit.aspx
BOWRIN LAKE CHAIN, British Columbia
The Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit is a justifiably popular weeklong trip in central British Columbia’s Cariboo Mountains. Traveling 116 kilometers through 10 lakes, circuit paddlers can expect back-to-back two-kilometer portages, swiftly flowing rivers and sudden squalls of thermal winds in the steep-walled valleys. Bowron Lake Provincial Park’s excellent sandy beach swimming, waterfalls and plethora of alpine scenery are ample rewards. Wet your hull in late May, June or September for the choicest campsites and fewest portage trail pile-ups. www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/bowron_lk
HENDERSON LAKE, New York
Nestled in the mountainous embrace of the Adirondack Forest Preserve’s marquee High Peaks Wilderness lies little known Henderson Lake. As the crow flies, Henderson is just 15 miles south of the crowded Saranac Lakes, but in between is a roadless tract of 3,500-foot summits and steep, shadowy river valleys. Privately owned for over 175 years, this deep, clear lake is now open to the public, allowing paddlers to explore its many secluded arms. For an adventurous weekend of solitude even in mid-summer, brave the two-mile carry from the lake’s northwest end to the Preston Ponds and Duck Hole—14 miles roundtrip. www.visitadirondacks.com