While you might have checked off some of the larger rivers from your #PABucketList, such as the Schuylkill, Lehigh, and Yough, consider adding these small, scenic waterways known for both their high-quality fishing and non-motorized water recreation, e.g., kayaking, canoeing, and tubing.
Home to more than 2,000 miles of water trails in 28 designated waterways, Pennsylvania’s outdoors is the place to be when temps soar into the 90s. Many trails offer easy access and close to home opportunities – ideal for physical distancing and avoiding large crowds.
Traveler Tip: Happy Travelers can find additional information online from the Pennsylvania Environmental Council before planning their next great excursion. As always, please follow all health and safety guidelines while exploring PA’s greater-than-great outdoors.
1. Clarion River
Named Pennsylvania’s 2019 River of the Year, the Clarion River Water Trail meanders through narrow valleys and hardwood forests for 110 miles. Flowing from Johnsonburg through Cook Forest to Clarion and ultimately joining the Allegheny River near Foxburg, the trail offers forested mountain slopes teeming with wildlife, intermittent water riffles, and rock outcrops providing a picturesque backdrop for outdoor recreation.
2. Pine Creek
Pine Creek Water Trails are undoubtably one of Pennsylvania’s most scenic and historic waterways. Begin your journey at the Big Meadow Access Area in Ansonia where adequate public parking is available. It’s here that the water connects at Pine Creek Gorge. Navigate a 17-mile stretch of dynamic terrain and be awarded with stunning forested views and steep canyon walls.
3. Yellow Breeches Creek
Originating on South Mountain in Michaux State Forest, the world-renowned limestone stream, Yellow Breeches Creek, winds through scenic farmland, forested areas, local community parks, and the region’s suburbs, ultimately joining the Susquehanna River at New Cumberland. The main stem is approximately 49-miles long and 60-feet wide at its middle stretch, where you can enjoy fly fishing, nature watching, and a leisurely float down the creek.
4. Loyalhanna Creek
Loyalhanna Creek Water Trail provides an exciting variety of paddling experiences: whitewater and moving flatwater through scenic ravines, including Chestnut Ridge, and still water on Loyalhanna Lake with open views for bird and wildlife watching. Above Ligonier and through Loyalhanna Gorge, the stream offers Class I and II whitewater rapids.
5. French Creek
As "One of Pennsylvania's foremost aquatic treasures," French Creek Water Trail is arguably one of the most ecologically significant waterways in the commonwealth with its outstanding water quality and rich biodiversity, as well as its notable history. Begin paddling at Union City Dam in Erie County and float 78 miles to the junction with the Allegheny River. Fun fact, in 1753, George Washington named the creek as he traveled along it in efforts to dislodge the French troops from the area.
6. West Branch Susquehanna Water Trail
Flowing 228 miles in total, the West Branch Susquehanna Water Trail is one of two principal branches of the mighty Susquehanna River and a beautiful journey through northern PA. A paddler's paradise, this scenic water trail flows through remote and mature hardwood forests, past historic river towns, and alongside rolling farms.
7. Potato Creek
On Potato Creek Water Trail, choose between three canoe and kayak launch areas. Unload canoes behind the ballfield in Crosby on Route 46 to float 6.4 miles to East Smethport or continue your adventure and float 10.9 miles to Coryville towards Turtle Point then another 2.7 miles to reach the Larabee Y for great access to the Allegheny River.
8. Juniata River
Paddle along the eastern slopes of the Allegheny Front along the Juniata River Water Trail. This component of the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg Main Line Canal Greenway offers a 320-mile corridor of natural wonders, history, culture, and recreation following the path of the historic Main Line Canal.
9. Kiski-Conemaugh Water Trail
Canoe and kayak along one of southwestern PA’s scenic river systems – the Kiski-Conemaugh Water Trail. Paddle your way along an 86-mile stretch that borders Somerset, Cambria, Westmoreland, Indiana, and Armstrong counties. From Freeport Community Park in Freeport to Greenhouse Park in Johnstown, and all the parks in between, travelers can choose from 11 access points to experience the trail! Features include Conemaugh and Packsaddle Gaps, nearby bike trails and campgrounds.
10. Slippery Rock Creek
An oasis for experienced paddlers, Slippery Rock Creek Water Trail runs through McConnell’s Mill State Park to the confluence of the Connoquenessing Creek. The waters are classified as a class II to IV river with six separate access points. While at the park, enjoy a portion of the North Country Scenic National Trail, which crosses eight northern states from New York to North Dakota.
11. Hidden River Canoe Trail
Enjoy a sunny afternoon winding through scenic coves, wetlands, and a stream hidden from view. The Hidden River Canoe Trail on Moraine State Park’s Lake Arthur is marked with five interpretive “points of interest” that take you past wetlands, wood duck boxes, scenic coves, beaver dams, and osprey nesting stands. Along the way, wander Vanport limestone rock formations unique to this section of the park.
12. Connoquenessing Creek
The Connoquenessing Creek Water Trail meanders along a beautiful nature trail complete with covered benches, allowing travelers to rest, relax in solitude, and enjoy the sound of rushing waters while taking in the inspiring scenery. "The Connie" offers water sport lovers a wide variety of activities with kayaking and canoeing at the top of the list for experienced paddlers, while beginners can enjoy guided experiences through Connoquenessing Outdoors.
13. Sunnyside Paddling Park
An unknown spot to many but a favorite among paddling enthusiasts, Sunnyside Paddling Park, an official Olympic Slalom Training site, provides access to the moving waters of Spring Creek. The trail offers the perfect speed for beginner kayakers and canoers.
14. Mahoning River
Flowing between Pennsylvania and Ohio, the Mahoning River Water Trail offers Class I waters -- perfect for beginner paddlers. Keep the outdoor adventures going when you park along the Stavich Bicycle Trail and cruise the 12-mile paved pathway to enjoy colorful wildflowers and regional wildlife.
15. Oil Creek
Oil Creek State Park and water trail, situated between Titusville and Oil City, offers a scenic float. Classed as a beginner’s creek under normal water flow conditions, several small paths and trails lead from the park roads to the water. Travel down 47 miles to the Allegheny River through the heart of Pennsylvania’s historic Oil Region.
16. Neshannock Creek
Categorized in two distinct sections, the Neshannock Creek offers scenic views for rafters, hikers, bikers, and bird watchers alike. The northern section includes the Neshannock Creek Gorge, featuring class I-II whitewater rapids. The southern section, known as Big Run, is 1.5 miles long and is a Class III-IV. History buffs can marvel at the abandoned coke ovens along the trail, evidence of the region’s former steel industry.
17. Sinnemahoning Creek
The Sinnemahoning Water Trail offers paddlers more than 75 miles to explore through picturesque landscapes. Spend the day in the heart of Pennsylvania’s Wild Elk Country as you paddle through the Bennett Valley. Enjoy a scenic adventure in Bucktail Natural Area in Driftwood Valley and wonder at the beautiful Elk and Sproul State Forests in Sinnemahoning Valley.
18. Shenango River
Get out on the water with a kayaking or rafting adventure on the Shenango River Water Trail. With multiple launch points, choose your own adventure of up to 23 miles. The easy-flowing Class I float time makes Shenango a fantastic option for the entire family. Along the way, park your boat in Greenville to enjoy a picnic lunch or hike the Shenango Trail.
To learn about additional water trails in Pennsylvania, check out the visitPA website or the Fish and Boat website. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more PA inspiration. Don’t forget to sign up for our monthly Happy Thoughts e-newsletter so you never miss an update.