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How To Plan An Arizona Road Trip With Kayak


Modified: December 28, 2023

by May Amos



Embarking on a road trip is a thrilling adventure, offering the freedom to explore new places at your own pace. And when it comes to epic road trip destinations, Arizona undoubtedly ranks high on the list. With its diverse landscapes, stunning natural beauty, and numerous outdoor activities, Arizona is an ideal location for a memorable road trip.


But why limit your exploration to just the roads when you can also take your adventure to the water? Imagine gliding along serene lakes, powerful rivers, and hidden waterways, all from the comfort of your kayak. Arizona offers a wide range of kayaking opportunities, making it the perfect state for a road trip with your trusty paddle companion.


Whether you’re an experienced kayaker or a beginner looking to try something new, Arizona has something to offer for everyone. From the iconic waters of the Colorado River to the picturesque lakes of the Mogollon Rim, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing your kayaking destinations in Arizona.


In this article, we will guide you on how to plan an unforgettable Arizona road trip with your kayak. We’ll help you choose the right kayak for your adventure, discuss essential gear, provide a list of must-visit destinations in Arizona, guide you in finding the best campsites, share safety precautions and tips for kayaking, offer packing tips, and help you budget for your road trip.


So, get ready to hit the open road, grab your paddle, and immerse yourself in the natural wonders that Arizona has to offer. Your Arizona kayaking road trip is about to begin!


Choosing the Right Kayak for a Road Trip

When planning a road trip in Arizona with your kayak, one of the most important considerations is choosing the right kayak for your journey. The type of kayak you select will significantly impact your experience on the water, so it’s essential to make an informed decision. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a kayak for your Arizona road trip.

  • Kayak Type: There are different types of kayaks, including sit-on-top kayaks, recreational kayaks, touring kayaks, and inflatable kayaks. Consider the type of water you’ll be paddling on and your skill level to determine which kayak will suit your needs best.
  • Length and Width: The length and width of the kayak will affect its stability and maneuverability. Longer kayaks are generally faster and track better, while shorter kayaks are more maneuverable.
  • Weight Capacity: Consider the weight capacity of the kayak to ensure it can accommodate you, your gear, and any extras you plan to bring along on your road trip.
  • Portability: Since you’ll be on a road trip, it’s important to choose a kayak that is easy to transport and store. Inflatable kayaks or kayaks that can be broken down into smaller pieces are excellent options for road trips.
  • Comfort and Features: Look for a kayak that offers comfortable seating, adjustable footrests, and ample storage space for your gear. Additional features like fishing rod holders or a rudder system can enhance your overall experience.

Before making a final decision, it’s a good idea to test different kayaks to get a feel for their stability and comfort. Consider renting or borrowing a few different models to paddle around and see which one suits you best.


Remember, choosing the right kayak is essential to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable journey on the water. Take your time, do your research, and find the kayak that will make your Arizona road trip an unforgettable experience.


Essential Gear for an Arizona Road Trip with Kayak

When planning a road trip in Arizona with your kayak, it’s crucial to come prepared with the right gear to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience on the water. Here are some essential items you should have for your Arizona kayaking adventure:

  • Kayak: Of course, you’ll need a kayak that suits your needs and preferences. Whether you opt for a sit-on-top kayak, recreational kayak, or inflatable kayak, ensure it’s in good condition and properly equipped for your trip.
  • Paddle: Choose a paddle that is the right length and style for your height and paddling style. Lightweight and durable paddles will make your time on the water more comfortable and efficient.
  • Personal Flotation Device (PFD): Always wear a properly fitting PFD while kayaking. It’s a critical safety measure that can save your life in case of an accident or unexpected circumstances.
  • Waterproof Storage: Keep your belongings protected from water and moisture by investing in dry bags or waterproof cases. These will come in handy for storing your phone, camera, extra clothes, and other valuables.
  • Sun Protection: Arizona is known for its sunny weather, so be sure to pack sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from harmful UV rays.
  • Proper Clothing: Dress appropriately for kayaking, taking into account the weather and water conditions. Lightweight and quick-drying clothing is recommended, along with a hat and water shoes for extra comfort.
  • Navigation Tools: Bring a map, compass, or GPS device to help you navigate the water and stay on course. Familiarize yourself with the area you’ll be paddling and plan your route in advance.
  • First Aid Kit: Accidents happen, so ensure you have a basic first aid kit on hand with essentials like band-aids, disinfectant, pain relievers, and any necessary medications.
  • Food and Water: Bring enough food and water to sustain yourself throughout the day. Consider lightweight and non-perishable options for convenience.
  • Communication Devices: Carry a fully charged cell phone or a two-way radio in case of emergencies or to communicate with your travel companions.

Having the right gear will not only enhance your comfort and safety but also allow you to fully enjoy your Arizona kayaking road trip. Be prepared, stay organized, and have a fantastic adventure on the water!


Planning your Itinerary: Must-Visit Destinations in Arizona

When embarking on a road trip in Arizona with your kayak, it’s crucial to plan your itinerary to maximize your time and explore the best destinations. Arizona is filled with stunning natural landscapes and waterways that offer incredible kayaking opportunities. Here are some must-visit destinations to include in your Arizona kayaking road trip:

  • Lake Powell: Located in northern Arizona and spanning into Utah, Lake Powell is a mesmerizing destination with its clear blue waters and towering sandstone cliffs. Paddle along the lake’s intricate shoreline, explore the numerous coves and canyons, and even camp on its sandy beaches.
  • Colorado River: The iconic Colorado River flows through the heart of Arizona, offering breathtaking scenery and exciting kayaking experiences. Launch your kayak from various access points along the river and enjoy the thrill of navigating its rapids or simply relax and float down the calm stretches.
  • Salt River: For a wild and scenic experience, head to the Salt River in the Tonto National Forest. This river offers both thrilling whitewater sections and tranquil stretches ideal for leisurely kayaking. Keep an eye out for the diverse wildlife that calls this area home.
  • Apache Lake: Surrounded by the Superstition Mountains, Apache Lake is a picturesque reservoir known for its calm waters and stunning vistas. Paddle along the lake, taking in the breathtaking scenery and enjoying the tranquility of the desert landscape.
  • Antelope Canyon: While not a traditional kayaking destination, a visit to the famous Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona is a must. Take a guided kayak tour through the slot canyon’s narrow passages and marvel at the unique rock formations and light filtering through the cracks.
  • Roosevelt Lake: Located in central Arizona, Roosevelt Lake offers excellent kayaking opportunities amidst beautiful surroundings. Explore its hidden coves and quiet corners, take in the panoramic views, and even do some fishing if you’re so inclined.
  • Watson Lake: Nestled in the Granite Dells near Prescott, Watson Lake is a scenic gem that beckons kayakers with its unique rock formations and tranquil waters. Paddle through the maze of granite boulders for an unforgettable experience.

These are just a few of the many incredible kayaking destinations in Arizona. Depending on the duration of your road trip, you can easily incorporate these places into your itinerary. Remember to check the access points, permits, and regulations for each location and plan accordingly. With these stunning destinations, your Arizona kayaking road trip is bound to be a memorable adventure.


Finding the Best Campsites Along the Way

One of the joys of embarking on a road trip with your kayak in Arizona is the opportunity to camp amidst the stunning natural landscapes. There are numerous campsites scattered throughout the state, offering a chance to fully immerse yourself in the beauty and tranquility of the outdoors. Here are some tips to help you find the best campsites along the way:

  • Research and Plan Ahead: Before hitting the road, research the campsites along your route and make a list of potential options. Look for campsites that offer convenient access to the water or are situated near the kayaking destinations you plan to visit.
  • Check for Amenities: Determine what amenities you require, such as potable water, restroom facilities, showers, and fire pits. Many campsites in Arizona offer these amenities, but it’s important to check beforehand.
  • Reservations and Availability: Some popular campsites in Arizona require reservations in advance, especially during peak seasons. Plan your itinerary accordingly and make reservations to secure your spot. However, if you prefer a more spontaneous trip, look for first-come, first-served campsites along your route.
  • Consider National and State Parks: Many national and state parks in Arizona offer beautiful campsites and convenient access to kayaking spots. Consider camping within these parks to enhance your outdoor experience and take advantage of their facilities and nature programs.
  • Research Local Regulations: Each campsite may have different rules and regulations regarding camping, campfires, and noise. Familiarize yourself with the specific guidelines for each campsite to ensure you have a peaceful and respectful experience.
  • Explore Dispersed Camping: If you’re looking for a more remote and secluded camping experience, consider dispersed camping on public lands. Check the regulations and guidelines for dispersed camping in the areas you plan to visit.
  • Be Prepared and Leave No Trace: When camping, remember to pack out what you pack in and leave no trace behind. Respect the environment, wildlife, and other campers by following Leave No Trace principles.

By researching and planning ahead, you can find the best campsites along your kayaking route in Arizona. Whether you prefer developed campsites with amenities or secluded spots for a more rustic experience, Arizona offers a variety of options for every type of camper. So, set up your camp, gaze at the stars, and enjoy the peacefulness of the Arizona wilderness during your kayaking road trip.


Safety Precautions and Tips for Kayaking in Arizona

Kayaking in Arizona offers breathtaking scenery and thrilling adventures, but it’s important to prioritize safety while enjoying your time on the water. Here are some essential safety precautions and tips to keep in mind for a safe kayaking experience in Arizona:

  • Wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD): Always wear a properly fitting PFD when kayaking, as it can save your life in case of an accident or unexpected circumstances. Make sure it is U.S. Coast Guard-approved and suitable for kayaking.
  • Check Weather and Water Conditions: Before heading out, check the weather forecast and water conditions for the area where you plan to kayak. Be aware of potential storms, wind patterns, and water levels to ensure your safety.
  • Know Your Limits: Assess your skill level and choose kayaking routes and destinations that match your abilities. Avoid taking unnecessary risks, especially in unfamiliar waters or challenging conditions.
  • Inform Someone of Your Plans: Let someone know about your kayaking plans, including the location, expected time of return, and any specific routes you plan to take. This way, if you encounter any difficulties, someone will be aware of your whereabouts.
  • Stay Hydrated and Protect Against the Sun: The Arizona sun can be intense, so carry enough water to stay hydrated during your kayaking trips. Additionally, use sunscreen, wear a hat, and consider wearing UV-protective clothing to shield yourself from harmful UV rays.
  • Paddle with a Buddy: Whenever possible, kayak with a friend or in a group. It’s not only more enjoyable, but it also ensures there’s someone to assist you in case of an emergency.
  • Be Aware of Wildlife: Arizona is home to a variety of wildlife, including reptiles and larger mammals. Respect their habitat and keep a safe distance. Be cautious around water sources where animals may gather.
  • Carry Essential Safety Gear: In addition to wearing a PFD, carry essential safety equipment such as a whistle, a signaling device, a waterproof flashlight, and a basic first aid kit. These items can be valuable in emergencies or unexpected situations.
  • Keep Emergency Contact Information: Have emergency contact information on hand, including local authorities, park rangers, and any relevant emergency services. Store this information in your phone, a waterproof bag, or a laminated card.
  • Stay Aware of Boating Regulations: Familiarize yourself with the boating regulations and rules specific to the area where you plan to kayak. Adhere to speed limits, no-wake zones, and any other guidelines to ensure the safety of yourself and others.

By following these safety precautions and tips, you can have a safe and enjoyable kayaking experience in Arizona. Prioritizing your well-being and being prepared for potential challenges will allow you to fully appreciate the beauty of Arizona’s waterways while staying safe on your kayaking adventures.


Packing Tips for a Successful Road Trip with Kayak

When embarking on a road trip with your kayak in Arizona, efficient packing is key to ensuring a smooth and successful journey. Here are some essential packing tips to help you make the most of your adventure:

  • Organize your Gear: Before packing, create a checklist of all the gear you’ll need for your kayaking trip. Categorize and organize your gear into sections such as kayaking equipment, camping gear, personal items, and food supplies.
  • Protect your Kayak: Properly secure and protect your kayak during transportation to avoid damage. Use appropriate tie-down straps, foam padding, and a kayak cover if necessary. Inspect your kayak for any signs of wear or damage before and after each trip.
  • Utilize Storage Space: Maximize your storage space by using duffel bags, dry bags, or waterproof containers to pack your gear. Utilize all available space efficiently to fit everything you need for your trip.
  • Prioritize Essentials: Determine your essential items and pack them in easily accessible areas. These may include your PFD, paddle, snacks, water, sunscreen, and first aid kit. Keep these items within reach so you can access them while on the road or on the water.
  • Consider Weight Distribution: Distribute the weight evenly in your vehicle to ensure stability and safe handling. Avoid placing too much weight on one side of the vehicle or on top of other gear.
  • Pack for Changing Weather: Arizona’s weather can be unpredictable, so pack appropriate clothing layers that can accommodate different temperatures and weather conditions. Include rain jackets, extra warmth layers, sun protection gear, and quick-drying clothing.
  • Don’t Forget the Essentials: Along with your kayaking and camping gear, remember to bring other essentials such as your driver’s license, vehicle registration, insurance information, and a spare tire. It’s better to be prepared for any unforeseen circumstances.
  • Secure Loose Items: Ensure that any loose items are securely fastened to prevent them from shifting or becoming projectiles in the event of sudden stops or turns. This applies both to your kayak and the items within your vehicle.
  • Pack a Repair Kit: It’s always a good idea to have a basic repair kit on hand, including duct tape, bungee cords, zip ties, and any necessary tools for minor repairs to your kayak or other equipment.
  • Leave Room for Souvenirs: If you plan on collecting souvenirs or purchasing items along the way, leave some extra space in your vehicle for these mementos. It’s always fun to bring a piece of your road trip back home with you.

With these packing tips, you’ll be well-prepared and organized for your road trip with your kayak in Arizona. Remember to double-check your gear and supplies before hitting the road to ensure a stress-free and enjoyable adventure.


Budgeting for your Arizona Road Trip

Planning a road trip with your kayak in Arizona requires careful budgeting to ensure you have a fantastic adventure without breaking the bank. Here are some tips to help you budget for your Arizona road trip:

  • Transportation Costs: Consider the costs associated with transportation, including fuel, vehicle maintenance, and any tolls or parking fees along the way. Factor in the distance you’ll be traveling and the fuel efficiency of your vehicle.
  • Kayaking Essentials: Take into account the costs of essential kayaking equipment, such as the kayak itself, a paddle, a personal flotation device (PFD), and any additional accessories you may need. Compare prices from different retailers to find the best deals.
  • Lodging and Camping Fees: Research the cost of campsites, RV parks, or other accommodations where you plan to stay overnight. Some campsites may require a reservation fee, so budget accordingly.
  • Food and Water: Plan your meals and estimate the cost of groceries or dining out during your road trip. Consider packing non-perishable foods to save on costs and to have picnic meals while on the go.
  • Entrance Fees and Permits: Some recreational areas or national parks in Arizona may require entrance fees or permits for kayaking or camping. Research these fees in advance and incorporate them into your budget.
  • Activities and Excursions: If you plan on participating in any guided tours, kayak rentals, or excursions, consider the costs associated with these activities. Look for discounted packages or group rates to save on expenses.
  • Insurance: Review your insurance coverage, including auto insurance and any specific coverage you may need for kayaking. Ensure you have adequate coverage to protect yourself, your vehicle, and your kayaking equipment.
  • Souvenirs and Extras: Set aside a small amount of your budget for souvenirs or additional expenses you may encounter along the way, such as park souvenirs, local crafts, or unexpected purchases.
  • Contingency Fund: It’s always a good idea to have a contingency fund for emergencies or unforeseen circumstances. Set aside some money as a safety net for unexpected expenses that may arise during your road trip.
  • Discounts and Deals: Look for discounts or special deals on accommodations, activities, or equipment rentals. Many websites, travel agencies, or local visitor centers offer promotions that can help you save on your expenses.

By considering these factors and creating a detailed budget, you can ensure that you have adequate funds for all aspects of your Arizona road trip with your kayak. Remember to be flexible with your budget and make adjustments as needed, prioritizing the key elements that will make your adventure memorable and enjoyable.



Embarking on a road trip with your kayak in Arizona is an incredible way to explore the diverse landscapes and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the state. With a well-planned itinerary, the right gear, and a focus on safety, your Arizona kayaking road trip is sure to be an unforgettable adventure.


From the stunning waters of Lake Powell and the Colorado River to the serenity of Apache Lake and Watson Lake, Arizona offers a myriad of captivating kayaking destinations. Take the time to research and plan your itinerary, ensuring you visit the must-see spots and discover hidden gems along the way.


Remember to prioritize safety by wearing a personal flotation device (PFD), checking weather conditions, and informing someone of your plans. Pack wisely, organizing your gear, protecting your kayak, and bringing essential items like a first aid kit and communication devices.


As you navigate through Arizona’s waterways, take in the breathtaking scenery and wildlife, while also respecting the environment and following leave no trace principles. Stay hydrated, protect yourself from the sun, and pack accordingly for changing weather conditions.


Budgeting for your road trip is crucial to ensure a stress-free experience. Consider transportation costs, lodging and camping fees, food and water, entrance fees, and any additional activities or excursions you plan to undertake.


Ultimately, an Arizona road trip with your kayak is an opportunity to connect with nature, challenge yourself, and create lasting memories. So, hit the open road, paddle through serene waters, and embrace the adventures that await in the beautiful state of Arizona.