With paddling weather on the horizon, many of us are digging out the dry sacks and PFDs in preparation for getting on the water. Early summer paddling is often preferred to paddling later in the season because of its cooler temps and high water levels that make for fewer portages. So, whether you’re just getting started or you’re a certified expert, here are 5 northeastern spots to check out this summer.

Credit: Effie Drew

The Allagash Wilderness Waterway, ME

A 92-mile waterway in Northern Maine, the Allagash Wilderness Waterway is a paddler’s paradise–even attracting the likes of Henry David Thoreau in 1857. The trail is a chain of lakes, rivers, and streams that starts at Chamberlain Lake and ends at Allagash Village. The waterway is known for its proximity to wildlife, including moose, otters, great blue heron, eagles, and more.

While paddling the entirety of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway takes between seven and 10 days, the many put-ins and take-outs along the waterway allow for easy day trips or a single overnight adventure. Hit the Allagash in early summer for the season’s best fishing and higher water levels, but be sure to prepare for the black flies that dominate the area until mid-July.

Credit: Effie Drew

Saranac Lake, NY

A classic Adirondack destination for paddlers, Saranac Lake area can accommodate all skill levels. Beginner paddlers gravitate towards the Saranac Lakes (Upper, Middle, and Lower) and nearby Lake Flower for a relaxed paddle, while more experienced paddlers often choose to check out the Saranac River for incredible backcountry views close to frontcountry amenities.

As Saranac Lake is a popular destination during the summer and fall, visit in early summer to beat the crowds–and reserve the best campsites at the last minute.

Tupper Lake, NY

Another popular Adirondack destination for paddlers of all abilities, Tupper Lake offers plenty of opportunity for those looking for full-day or overnight adventure. Paddle to Bog River Falls for a beautiful view (and maybe a quick slide down its smooth surface) and even reserve a campsite on one of the many islands throughout the lake.

While the lake is certainly beautiful all year round, many appreciate the blooms and spring migration of birds that flock to Tupper Lake in spring and early summer.

Kayaking on the Saranac. | Credit: Chris Morris

Lake Willoughby, VT

A glacial lake in Northern Vermont that’s up to 300 feet deep in places, paddlers flock to Lake Willoughby for its incredible crystal clear waters and surrounding wildlife. Many choose to put-in at South Beach and paddle the length of the lake for an 11-mile day. As the lake tends to get crowded throughout July and August, check out Lake Willoughby in early summer to appreciate its beauty and solitude.

Accommodations are available at the Mountain Lake Cottages, the Willoughvale Inn and Cottages, and nearby campgrounds.

Androscoggin River, NH

Starting in Erroll, New Hampshire, the Androscoggin River makes its way from Lake Umbagog in northern New Hampshire to Merrymeeting Bay in Maine. The Androscoggin’s 168 miles means that different sections of the river are appropriate for differing levels of experience, so be sure to choose a portion of the river that matches your skill level. For beginners, we recommend this easy half day point-to-point from the Durham River Park to the Lisbon Falls Miller Park boat launch.

Anglers in particular flock to the Androscoggin in early summer, as it’s the best time to catch rainbow, brown, and brook trout.