Adventure Guide

Your Guide to Paddling the Upper Klamath Canoe Trail

Plan an easy-going outing on the scenic waterway near Upper Klamath Lake.

Measuring nearly 30 miles long and up to eight miles wide, Upper Klamath Lake is the largest freshwater body west of the Rocky Mountains—and a beloved outdoor destination just northwest of Klamath Falls. There, birdwatchers keep an eye out for roughly 350 species between fall and spring; paddlers patrol its many ecosystems in summer; and anglers fish for largemouth bass, perch, and redband trout all year long.

One of the best ways to explore the reservoir is via the 9.5-mile Upper Klamath Canoe Trail, a marked path through the marshlands, riparian forests, and quiet springs of Upper Klamath Lake. Slow currents, plentiful wildlife, and an easy-to-follow path make the trail a popular activity whenever the weather warms up—so keep reading for tips on finding an outfitter, paddling solo, and spying wildlife along the Upper Klamath Canoe Trail.


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What is the Upper Klamath Canoe Trail?

Explaining the popular paddling trail on Upper Klamath Lake

What exactly is the Upper Klamath Canoe Trail, anyway? Think of it as a 9.5-mile-long hiking trail—only instead of walking that distance, you paddle it in a canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard. 

Paddlers get on the water and access the trail at one of two public boat launches—Malone Springs Day Use Area in the north and Rocky Point Day Use Area in the south; the put-in points are about 35 to 45 minutes northwest of Klamath Falls, and the trail is most popular between May and September. 

From there, the well-marked trail spans four connected segments and covers riparian forests, marshland, and other ecosystems at the far northwestern corner of Upper Klamath Lake—one of the best lakes in Oregon

The trail is technically on the lake, but it remains largely protected from open waters and offers plenty of lazy currents for beginners and those in search of a relaxing paddle. That peaceful adventure makes it easy to see why the canoe trail is one of the best things to do in Klamath.

Enjoy Natural Beauty, Wildlife, and More

Enjoy a lot of what makes Klamath so special

No two trips on the Upper Klamath Canoe Trail are ever quite alike. Wildlife sightings and a blend of ecosystems make every outing on the scenic trail a new and exciting experience.

At the height of summer, for instance, you will almost certainly see bright yellow wocus plants at the base of grasses and bushes along the trail; the water lily, easily identified by its cup-shaped yellow flower, has long been a traditional source of food for the area’s Klamath and Modoc people.

Wildlife sightings also vary with the seasons. Some of the most common bird species around the furthest reaches of Upper Klamath Lake include great egrets and wood ducks in summer—and American white pelicans and great blue herons in fall. These birds, many of which stop in the Klamath Basin while migrating between Alaska and South America, don’t always appreciate close encounters with paddlers—so please stay on the trail at all times to protect nesting birds in the surrounding environments. (Along those lines, please view nesting birds and birds with their young from a distance.)

Birds are far from the only animals along the canoe trail. Other wildlife along (and around) the Upper Klamath Canoe Trail include raccoons (which skitter along the shoreline and on logs in the canoe trail’s shallow waters), beavers (whose habitats—known as beaver lodges—looks like giant piles of twigs and sticks), river otters (who dart through the water and frolic near the shoreline), and deer (which walk through the forests of fir and pine back on shore). For your best shot at seeing wildlife, try paddling in the early morning or early evening—when animals are most active.

Get Started With Help From Local Outfitters

Here’s where to grab rentals and sign up for guided tours

If you don’t have your own kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard, you’ll find plenty of local outfitters who offer rentals and tours of the Upper Klamath Canoe Trail.

One of the best-known outfitters is Crater Lake Zipline. In addition to its namesake adventures, the local company offers beginner-friendly, paddling tours of up to two hours—all just a 10-minute drive from Crater Lake Zipline's headquarters. The outing includes a safety briefing, a fitted life jacket, and interpretive information while enjoying a peaceful paddle around Malone Springs. Paddlers can reserve a tour on its own or as part of a Skyak package that includes a zip line tour through the Fremont-Winema National Forest canopy just outside Klamath Falls. Rentals are also available, with drop-off and pick-up options available at the Rocky Point Day Use Area and Boat Launch.

Explore Southern Oregon offers half day kayaking tours on the canoe trail, or make it a combo with half day on the water and a half day trip to Crater Lake National Park. A light snack and bottle of water are provided, but be sure to come prepared with sunscreen and sun protective clothing such as a lightweight shirt, hat, and sunglasses. 

Paddlers can also sign up for a three-hour tour through Sky Lakes Wilderness Adventures, which offers a one-way trip through the quiet marshland. Tours include one or two guides (depending on group size), kayaks, paddles, life jackets, and all necessary instruction. If you'd rather paddle on your own, rentals and shuttle services are available.

Just 0.1 mile from the Rocky Point Day Use area, meanwhile, is Rocky Point Resort. In addition to offering overnight stays, the local lodge rents kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards for exploring the Upper Klamath Canoe Trail.

However you get on the water, note that all paddlers must carry one U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for every person on board—and that all children 12 and younger must wear a properly fitted, U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device whenever the boat is underway. And if you’re paddling on your own, make sure to obtain a Waterway Access Permit before getting on the water.

Adventure Guide Find Your Trail: Hike, Bike, and Explore

Klamath County's trails are more than just pathways; they're immersive experiences that showcase the region's diverse landscapes and rich history. Each offers a unique perspective on the area's natural wonders, from underground caves to serene water trails. As you embark on these trails, you'll discover breathtaking scenery and the stories and legends shaping this remarkable region. Pick the path less traveled, or choose one of the nation’s most legendary trails: no matter where you begin, Klamath’s variety of trails will surely put you on a path to discovery.

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