3 Best Places To Go Kayaking In Yosemite

A view of Yosemite

Yosemite is located in the central part of California. The beautiful things about Yosemite are the fantastic waterfalls and granite monoliths. Moreover, kayaking in Yosemite is one of the best ways to spend your time.

If you plan to visit Yosemite, kayaking is an excellent way to explore the nooks and crannies. Furthermore, there are many rivers in Yosemite to enjoy your kayaking adventure.

Millions of tourists visit Yosemite National Park every year. For example, 2.27 million tourists visited Yosemite in 2020.

Kayaking in Yosemite is fun and exciting. Before you can enjoy kayaking in this tourist center, you must know the best places to bring your kayaking dream to life.

To enjoy kayaking adventure, going alone is boring. If you plan a trip to Yosemite, go with your loved ones. Make sure you also go with a quality and stable kayak.

It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or an old-timer at kayaking. Everyone can enjoy kayaking at Yosemite.

The purpose of this article is to uncover the best places in Yosemite for kayaking. We encourage you to read on as we explore the three best places to go kayaking in Yosemite!

Merced River

Merced river is located in the southern part of the Yosemite National Park. This river is renowned for its steep terrain. This spectacular river is about 233 kilometers in length.

To fully observe the beautiful scenery of Yosemite National Park, paddling or kayaking gives you a better chance to explore. Furthermore, if you happen to forget your kayak at home, you can rent one at a budget-friendly price.

You must obey safety regulations before canoeing or kayaking on the Merced River. Some of the regulations include wearing personal floatation devices at all times and paddling in restricted areas. For example, you are not allowed to kayak 3 miles downstream of Sentina Beach Picnic Area.

Moreover, if you are canoeing or kayaking on the Merced River, the beautiful sights you’ll see include the Yosemite Falls and the breathtaking Half-Dome. Don’t miss out on kayaking on the Merced River!

Tenaya Lake

Tenaya lake is found in the alpine region of Yosemite. This lake is in between the Meadows and the valley of Yosemite. It is the second-most popular place to kayak in Yosemite after the Merced River. In addition, this lake has a height of 8,250 feet.

Furthermore, Tenaya lake is not crowded like other places in Yosemite. You can enjoy the stillness that comes with kayaking in Tenaya lake. To enjoy the adventure of kayaking on this lake, come with one or two friends. For example, the Bridalveil falls in Yosemite is usually overcrowded, unlike Tenaya lake.

One minor drawback of kayaking on this lake is that there is a road that runs through the northern edge of the lake. You’ll have to make a U-turn when you reach this edge if you want to see the full view of this lake, kayak near the western edge of the lake.

Woman kayaking on Tenaya Lake.

Tuolumne River

Do you want to enjoy kayaking? Head to the Tuolumne River. This river is located just outside the Yosemite National Park. Furthermore, this river runs through the major landmarks of the National Park.

For safety reasons, summer is the best time to go kayaking and paddle rafting on this river because of the low flow level. To enjoy your kayaking adventure on this river, go early in the morning. The water level starts reducing around 11 am from the Holm Powerhouse.

About 1 million tourists visit the Tuolumne River every year for recreational activities. This is not surprising because this tourist attraction is one classic California whitewater run. Moreover, if you are a kayaking newbie, this river is not recommended. This river is one of the most challenging whitewater rivers in the United States.

Yosemite Half-Dome

Kayaking In Yosemite: 7 Safety Tools You Need

Before you embark on a kayaking adventure in Yosemite, safety tools are important. These safety tools offer you a better chance of survival if things go south. We’ll briefly highlight the 5 most important safety equipment to kayak in Yosemite. This list does not contain the types of clothes to wear. So allow the weather to determine your choice of clothing.

Lifejacket (PFDs)

You can afford to forget everything at home, but don’t leave a personal floatation device at home. If you are a newbie or an expert at paddling or kayaking, wear your life jacket. An experienced kayaker can become stuck and need a life jacket to stay alive. No kayaker or swimmer outgrows a life jacket.


While a life jacket helps you stay afloat, a helmet protects your head against trauma. It is not uncommon for kayakers to be tossed around by water currents. Unfortunately, some kayakers lose their lives by hitting their head against debris.

You especially need a helmet when kayaking on the Merced River in Yosemite. It is the hardest part of Yosemite to navigate due to high water level. An hat or helmet also protects you from the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays. Regardless of your experience at kayaking, always wear a helmet. It is better to be safe than sorry!

Kayaking Whistle

Go with a kayaking whistle to Yosemite, this item is as important as your life jacket. If things suddenly go south while kayaking, draw the attention of others to your plight by blowing the whistle as hard as you can. Furthermore, attach the kayaking whistle to your life jacket.

Whistles are not the same, make sure you buy whistles that are made purposely for kayaking or paddling. Conventional whistles are not as loud as kayaking whistles. Air horns are also good alternatives, but they are bulky and not budget-friendly.

Dry Backpack

While kayaking in Yosemite, bring a dry bag with you. The essence of this bag is to keep your stuff dry. Some of the items you can keep in the bag include an identity card, food, towel, and mobile phones. These items come handy in case of emergency. Make sure the bag is waterproof to safely protect your belongings.

Food And Water

Kayakers get easily dehydrated because of the effects of sunlight and wind. To quench your thirst while kayaking, bring a bottle of water along! Water of the Merced River and Tenaya Lake are not drinkable due to the high salt content.

Decent Footwear

Get decent footwear before getting into a kayak. Proper footwear protects your feet against water hazards. A situation can arise in which you’d have to walk. Moreover, experiences show that kayakers without proper footwear are more at risk of suffering foot injuries.

We recommend going for footwear that covers the whole foot. Get sneakers or water shoes that can protect against dangerous materials such as rocks and seashells. Neoprene socks are the best for cold water kayaking. On the other hand, sandals are the most suitable for warm conditions.

Rope Throw Bag

A rope throw bag prevents a swimmer from drowning. Keep this device in your bag before hitting the waters. You can not tell when you’d need it. A kayaker in danger uses a rope throw bag to bring himself to safety.

Kayakers on Merced River.

Regulations And Restrictions Of Kayaking In Yosemite

Yosemite is a popular tourist destination in the United States, so it is governed by rules and regulations. For your pleasure and safety, you must obey these rules and regulations.

Before hitting the waters at Yosemite, make sure the river conditions are favorable. You don’t want to risk your paddles to hit bottom rocks. Kayaking in shallow waters is anything but fun!

The Merced River and the Tenaya Lake are the two most popular spots to kayak in Yosemite. For a hitch-free adventure, come with your kayak. There is no place to rent one in Yosemite. In addition, the month of June and July are the best time to kayak in Yosemite.

The following are some restrictions to know before you take your kayak to the Merced River:

  • The Yosemite little valley; a part of the Merced River is always open for kayaking or rafting.
  • You can’t bring a car to reach Merced River, you must hike a minimum of 5 miles to access this point
  • Tourists must secure a wilderness permit to spend a night at Yosemite.
  • Kayaks must be assessed by officials for quality and stability. Therefore, bring a standard kayak before coming to Yosemite.
  • Tourists must not drag their kayaks or rafts on vegetation. This offense attracts a fine.
  • Every tourist must put on a personal flotation device to kayak on the Merced River.
  • It is forbidden to retrieve a lost vessel by using a trailer in Yosemite.
  • Some parts of Yosemite are difficult to navigate, always exercise caution.
  • 13 years old and under must always wear their PFDs at Yosemite.


Going kayaking in Yosemite is fun if you stick to the rules and regulations. The three spots discussed above are the best places to kayak in Yosemite. For safety reasons, kayak only in areas you can navigate. Go along with a camera to capture this memorable adventure.

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