Top Places to Kayak in the Roanoke Region of Virginia

With all the picturesque rivers, lakes and landscapes in the Roanoke Region of Virginia, trying to narrow down your choices of kayaking spots can be difficult. Are any places better than others? Do any of them charge a fee to paddle? Are they family friendly?

If you’re in the Roanoke Region and looking for a fantastic place to kayak, we think you could have a great day out if you head to one of these beautiful locations.


Upper James River Water Trail

Paddle through the Blue Ridge Mountains on this 74-mile water trail that’s split up into 11 sections, beginning in Botetourt County and winding through Rockbridge County. Part of the trail has also been given Virginia Scenic River status, so it can be a fun way of exploring through picturesque landscapes.

There are several put-ins along the trail, as well as outfitters where you can rent kayaks or canoes. The river can be a calm and pleasant paddle, but there are also some Class I and Class II rapids along the route and spots for fishing.

New River Water Trail

The New River Water Trail in Giles County lets you paddle along 37 miles of natural river, featuring Class I to Class III rapids, making it an exciting day out for any paddler.

The New River was declared an American Heritage River because of its historical and cultural importance, and it can also be a great place to fish, and arguably one of the best fishing rivers in Virginia.

Jackson River

The Jackson River flows through the stunning Alleghany Highlands from Lake Moomaw to the Cowpasture River and offers excellent kayaking and fishing opportunities. There are portions of the river that are privately owned and can be seen on the local map, so it might be best to check in advance, especially if you plan to fish.

The Alleghany Highlands Blueway lets you explore the natural scenic river in your kayak or canoe, with some public access points along the route.

Roanoke River Blueway

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The Roanoke River Blueway offers a mixture of urban and country paddling along 45 miles of the Roanoke River from East Montgomery County Park to Smith Mountain Lake.

There are 17 access points along the river, where you can launch your kayak, and it’s advisable to keep to these points, as other areas of the land are private. As well as picturesque views and relaxing paddling, there are also opportunities for spotting wildlife and fishing.

Pigg River Blueway


The Pigg River includes Class I rapids and flows 8 miles from the Waid Recreation Area to Lynch Park, through peaceful woodland and farmland. With its shorter length, this water trail can be a good paddling trip for a day out, as it can take just 4 to 5 hours.

It’s a good idea to check the water levels before you head out, as this can affect the run. Also, if you like to fish, this could be a good place, as the Pigg River is frequently stocked with trout.


Carvins Cove


With over 12,000 acres of forest within a protected conservation area, Carvins Cove Natural Reserve offers plenty of outdoor recreation activities. The calm 630-acre reservoir could be a great place to explore if you’re new to kayaking, as it can offer scenic and relaxing paddling surrounded by mountains.

There is a fee to enter Carvins Cove at $7 per vehicle per day (March 2023).

Philpott Lake

At the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery and natural landscapes, Philpott Lake covers almost 3,000 acres and features 100 miles of shoreline to explore, with campsites and boat ramps around the lake, as well as hiking trails.

This could be a good choice for paddlers also looking to fish, as the lake is well stocked with walleye and black bass.

Lake Moomaw

Lake Moomaw, in the Alleghany Highlands, is a pretty deep lake that covers over 2,500 acres and lies within the George Washington National Forest, making it a picturesque spot for kayaking. There are also several campsites and boat ramps.

If you’re looking for opportunities for kayak fishing, then this could be a good spot, as it has a range of species, including catfish and panfish and is also known for its trout.