Are you wanting to explore the lakes in Greenville, SC? If you have been searching for “lakes near me” and can never figure out the best fit for your day trip, we have you covered! Playing in the lake during the hottest months is a wonderful idea for summer family fun.
This list will give you the low-down on tons of recreational lakes only a short drive away. Whether you want to take the kiddos for a swim, teach them how to fish, pull them along for a thrilling knee-boarding excursion, rent a kayak, or spend the weekend camping lakeside, read on.
We have compiled the best list of recreational lakes in the Upstate for swimming, fishing, boating, or camping. The only thing you’ve got to do is gather your troops and decide which one to try next!
If you’re wondering “Where are the best and most beautiful places to kayak near me?”, then we have you covered! Kristina enjoys kayaking with her kids and lists out some great places to get on the water kayaking in Greenville, SC and the Upstate.
I can’t remember where my love of kayaking started but it’s been such a fun activity for my family in the Upstate that we go often in the summer.
I’ve been kayaking with my two kids since my youngest was about three years old. Admittedly, I was nervous the first time I took them out but once I got the hang of it, we had a blast.
I rented tandem kayaks (a double kayak with a jump seat, perfect for little kids) the first few times I went out with them but then got my own Perception tandem…and then bought a couple more.
I go every chance I can. So, if you love kayaking, Greenville, SC has plenty to offer!
If you like to SUP (stand-up paddleboarding), this list will be helpful also!
Tips for Kayaking With Kids
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Make sure everyone wears a PFD (personal flotation device). This is for the safety of all. PFDs are a hot topic in the kayaking community but it’s not a chance you want to take when kids are involved. Places that rent kayaks will almost always have them available.
Bring enough snacks and water. Smaller kids can’t paddle and you’ll need to occupy them if they get fussy if you can’t find someplace to beach the kayak and let them get out and play around in the water.
Bring sunscreen and reapply it often. I’ve gotten sunburned more times than I should have.
Have a map of the lake/river, whistle, and first aid kit for safety reasons.
Research the area ahead of time to know if you need a permit to kayak and if you can swim in the lake or not. We tell you here what we know about each location.
Lastly, Paddle SC is a great, local resource for paddling in the Upstate.
Places to Kayak Near Me: Upstate, South Carolina
Lake Placid in Paris Mountain State Park
No private boats on Lake Placid but canoe and kayak rentals are available for a small fee. You can also swim there. The lake is really small and good for a beginner kayaker. Experienced kayakers will get bored.
Fees: Yes, you’ll pay a fee to enter the park unless you have a SC State Parks pass. Rentals are a separate fee. Address: 2401 State Park Road, Greenville Distance from Greenville: In Greenville
Saluda Lake is a 331-acre reservoir where you can stand up paddle board, kayak, and canoe. You can also rent kayaks from various outfitters at the lake. Launch at Buckskin Road in Easley for free access.
Fees: You can pay around $7 to put in at Fins on Saluda Address: 605 Motor Boat Club Road, Greenville Distance from Greenville: miles
Pinnacle Lake and Lake Oolenoy in Table Rock State Park
Pinnacle Lake and Lake Oolenoy, a 36-Acre lake and a 67-acre lake (respectively) with a boat ramp on Lake Oolenoy. Canoes, kayaks, and pedal boats are available for rental on Pinnacle Lake for a fee and you can bring your own kayak to Lake Oolenoy.
This lake is a great kayaking spot and is a nice spot for a beginner’s skill level. Canoeing and kayaking with kids on Pinnacle Lake is a great memory maker!
Fees: You’ll pay a fee to enter the park unless you have an SC State Parks pass. Rentals are a separate fee. Address: 158 Ellison Lane, Pickens Distance from Greenville: 40 minutes
Lake Cunningham & Lake Robinson
Lake Cunningham and Lake Robinson, 200-acre and 800-acre lakes (respectively) are very calm and great for beginners. There’s a place to rent kayaks near the entrance to Lake Robinson.
Fees: A boating permit is required and costs $5 for residents per outing or $30 per year. Address: 2544 Mays Bridge Road, Greer (Lake Robinson); 2844 N. McElhaney Road, Greer (Lake Cunningham) Distance from Greenville: 25 minutes
Upper Saluda River
Paddling SC has several trips you can take on the 70-mile stretch of the Upper Saluda River around Greenville. The access points at Dolly Cooper Park and Timmerman Road are the ones I see most mentioned in local kayaking groups. A local business, the Saluda River Rambler, will shuttle kayakers and their boats along the river, which is a fantastic option. They also rent yaks!
A public boat ramp provides access to the 300-acre Broadway Lake in Anderson. Swimming is permitted.
Fees: $2 per boat launch fee Address: Between US 76 and SC 28, Anderson Distance from Greenville: 45 minutes
Lake Bowen is a sizeable 1,534-acre with two boat ramps and 33 miles of shoreline. This is a huge body of water, so plan accordingly. Read more about Lake Bowen in our KA review.
Fees: Daily boating fees range from $20-$40 depending on if you’re a resident of Spartanburg County. Address: 8515 Highway 9, Inman Distance from Greenville: 40 minutes
Boyd’s Millpond is a small lake in Laurens County that is perfect for kayaks since boats with motors no larger than 15 horsepower are allowed here. There is one public access boat ramp.
Fees: None Address: Boat ramp is at Karl H. Dixon Memorial Park. The park is located on Boyd’s Mill Pond Road just off SC Highway 252. Distance from Greenville: 45 minutes
The Green River in Saluda, NC is great fun for a kayaking trip. We went tubing there and lots of people were kayaking, enjoying the smaller rapids. You’ll need to figure out how to get you and your kayaks back to your car though if you kayak this river since it’s a one-way, downstream route. Or you can call one of the local outfitters and arrange kayak rentals or transportation.
Fees: None Address: Put in at Fishtop Access, 2302 Green River Cove Rd, Saluda, NC Distance from Greenville: An hour
Lyman Lake is part of Spartanburg County Parks, kayakers are welcome to explore the water here. Boating is by permit only.
Fees: The fee for the watercraft is $60 a year for Spartanburg County residents, $120 a year for all other in county in-state residents Address: 200 Lyman Lodge Rd Distance from Greenville: 35 minutes
You can kayak at Lake Rabon but no swimming is allowed.
Fees: Permits are required for boating- $35 for non-county residents Address: The entrance to Lake Rabon is located on State Highway 252 in western Laurens County, approximately 5 miles from the Laurens District 55 High School, which is on US Highway 76. Distance from Greenville: 45 minutes
Access the lake on the South Carolina side through Calhoun Falls State Park, which has a boat ramp. Swimming is permitted.
Fees: You’ll pay a fee to enter the park unless you have a SC State Parks pass and you’ll need your own kayak. Address: 46 Maintenance Shop Road, Calhoun Falls Distance from Greenville: An hour and 20 minutes
Fees: You’ll pay a fee to enter the park unless you have a SC State Parks pass Address: 450 State Park Cross Road, Spartanburg Distance from Greenville: One hour
Congaree Canoe Trail
Paddle through the scenic river, water trails, and floodplains at Congaree National Park in Columbia and see all kinds of wildlife like snakes, maybe a wild hog or two, turtles, owls, and even gators. Put in at the Kingsnake Trailhead or take a kayak tour with Carolina Outdoors. Read our review of Kayaking in Congaree National Park.
Fees: None Address: 100 National Park Road, Hopkins Distance from Greenville: 90 minutes
“The boat ramp for Issaqueena Lake is on Issaqueena Lake Road. It’s a dirt road. I would suggest going in on the Six Mile side. It’s not very far from the entrance of the road on that side. There is a creek crossing if you go in from the Central side. My VW Jetta can make it through the whole path so it’s not anything crazy that requires 4wd, although it would make the drive easier.”
Fees: None Address: Old Six Mile Road, Clemson Distance from Greenville: An hour
This 18,500-acre mountain Lake Keowee offers it all – boating, kayaking, fishing, and swimming. It’s a developed lake, which means there are tons of homes on the lake, which means a lot of boat traffic. Just be aware of this if you’re trying to kayak and don’t like big wake waves.
Fees: There are fees for county park access but nowhere else. Address: See this link for boat ramps and access points Distance from Greenville: At least an hour depending upon which boat ramp you use.
Head to Lake Hartwell State Park for kayaking, where you can put in at one of the two boat ramps. Kayak rentals are available from local outfitters at the lake. This is also a really popular lake for larger boats so kayakers just need to be aware of the implications of wakes and other issues that present themselves when lots of boats are around. Swimming is permitted.
Fees: Small fee per person to enter the state park unless you have an SC State Parks pass Address: 19138-A Hwy 11 S, Fair Play Distance from Greenville: 45 minutes
Fees: The boating permit fee is $40 a year for Spartanburg County Residents, and $80 a year for all other instate county residents. Address: 100 Cooley Dock Road, Inman Distance from Greenville: 35 minutes
Fees: Small fee per person to enter the state park unless you have an SC State Parks pass. Rentals are a separate fee. Address: 624 State Park Road, Mountain Rest Distance from Greenville: 90 minutes
There are three public boat ramps to Lake Murray through Dreher Island State Park. This is a busy lake so kayakers need to be careful when it comes to watching out for boats and large wakes.
Fees: Fee per person to enter the state park unless you have a SC State Parks pass Address: 3677 State Park Road, Prosperity Distance from Greenville: 90 minutes
Sesquicentennial State Park
Sesquicentennial State Park in Columbia, SC has a small lake that’s perfect for trying out the sport. You can even rent kayaks at the park for just $5.
Fees: Park admission (free for State Park Pass holders, or $6 for adults and $3.75 for kids) plus $5 if renting a kayak. Address: 9564 Two Notch Rd, Columbia SC 29223
Where parts of Dirty Dancing were filmed, Lake Lure is just an hour from Greenville but feels a world away with the beauty of the area. There is a small beach there as well as boat ramps. You can also rent kayaks and other boats/paddleboards.
Fees: Non-motorized boat permits are $25/day or $50/week Address: 2948 Memorial Hwy, Lake Lure, NC Distance from Greenville: An hour
A beautiful lake on the border of South Carolina and Georgia that is calm and serene. You can swim there. The boat ramp is also used by the whitewater companies to pick up the rafters so it’s fun to see all of them there (but it makes for less parking since they use big buses). Also, the road to the ramp is dirt so it’s a little rocky.
Fees: None Address: Tugalo Boat Ramp, Bull Sluice Rd, Long Creek Distance from Greenville: 90 minutes
If you love kayaking, Greenville, SC has one of the best spots to get out on the water within driving distance. If you made it through this list, then congratulations, you get to learn that Lake Jocassee is the best place to kayak in our area (if not the whole state). When I am looking for places to kayak near me, It’s my favorite.
It’s a lake of stunning beauty with a rainforest climate, that can’t be beat! The water is clear as can be and swimming is permitted. There are five boat ramps and public access is through Devils Fork State Park. You also can rent kayaks from local outfitters.
Fees: There is an entry fee per person to enter the state park unless you have an SC State Parks pass. Rentals are a separate fee. Address: 161 Holcombe Circle, Salem Distance from Greenville: 90 minutes