22+ Fantastically Beautiful Places to Kayak Near Greenville, SC

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Love to kayak but not sure where to go near Greenville? Kristina enjoys kayaking with her kids and lists out some great places to get on on the water in Greenville and the Upstate.

Kayaking on Lake Robinson
Lake Robinson

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. I was admittedly 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.

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 in the Upstate

Lake Placid in Paris Mountain State Park

No private boats on Lake Placid but you can rent kayaks and canoes for a small fee. You can also swim there. The lake is really small and good for beginners. 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

Saluda Lake is a 331-acre reservoir where you can paddleboard, kayak, 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

Pinnaccle 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.

Fees: You’ll pay a fee to enter the park unless you have a 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!

Fees: None; separate fee for the shuttle
Address: See access points for the Upper Saluda River
Distance from Greenville: Dolly Cooper Park is 15 minutes from Greenville

Broadway Lake

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

Lake Bowen is a sizeable 1,534-acre with two boat ramps and 33 miles of shoreline. Read About Melanie’s Trip to Lake Bowen.

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

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

Green River

The Green River in Saluda, NC is great fun for kayaking. 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

Green River

Lyman Lake

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 instate residents
Address: 200 Lyman Lodge Rd
Distance from Greenville: 35 minutes

Lake Rabon

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

Lake Russell

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

Lake Craig in Croft State Park

You can use your own kayak or rent one at Lake Tom Craig at Croft State Park. See what Maria thought about Croft State Park. Swimming is not permitted.

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 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

Congaree Canoe
Congaree Canoe Trail

Lake Issaqueena

This lake is part of the Clemson Experimental Forest. Reader Emily alerted us to the location of the boat ramp: “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

Lake Keowee

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. You can access Lake Keowee at several boat ramps around the lake plus through South Cove County Park, Mile Creek County Park, High Falls County Park, and Keowee-Toxaway State Park. Swimming is permitted.

Fees: There are fees for county park access but nowhere else.
Address: See this link for boat ramps
Distance from Greenville: At least an hour depending upon which boat ramp you use.

Lake Hartwell

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 a SC State Parks pass
Address: 19138-A Hwy 11 S, Fair Play
Distance from Greenville: 45 minutes

Lake Cooley

Lake Cooley is a 330-acre reservoir that has a boat ramp for private kayaks. You can also rent kayaks at the Lake Cooley Outdoor Education Center. Check out Melanie’s review of Lake Cooley. Swimming is not permitted.

Fees: The boating permit fee is $40 a year for Spartanburg County Residents, $80 a year for all other instate county residents.
Address: 100 Cooley Dock Road, Inman
Distance from Greenville: 35 minutes

Kayakes at Lake Cooley in Spartanaburg
Lake Cooley

Oconee State Park

Oconee State Park offers a swimming area and a lake to go kayaking. You can also rent kayaks and canoes. Read what a local mom thought of Oconee State Park.

Fees: Small fee per person to enter the state park unless you have a SC State Parks pass. Rentals are a separate fee.
Address: 624 State Park Road, Mountain Rest
Distance from Greenville: 90 minutes

Lake Murray

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

Lake Murray

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

Lake Lure

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

Lake Tugalo

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

Lake Jocassee

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). It’s my favorite place because it’s a lake of stunning beauty with a rainforest climate. 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 a SC State Parks pass. Rentals are a separate fee.
Address: 161 Holcombe Circle, Salem
Distance from Greenville: 90 minutes

Lake Jocassee

Looking for more water fun?

Here are Upstate SC lakes in the Upstate if you need some other options for water recreation.

Upstate, SC Lakes

Vacation time? Rent these vacation homes with kayaks and paddle boards!

Vacation rentals with kayaks and paddleboards

Where is your favorite place to kayak near Greenville, SC?

About the Author
Kristina Hernandez is a mom of two girls, freelance writer and photographer. Originally from New Jersey, she is in love with the Upstate and could not imagine raising her kids anywhere else. She enjoys hiking to waterfalls, kayaking, camping, cooking, and exploring all that Greenville has to offer. And she really loves baby goats. Follow her on Instagram at @scadventurer.

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Nathan Weaver
2 years ago

Howdy! My business, Saluda River Rambler, offers rental and shuttle on the upper Saluda in Piedmont!

1 year ago

These are great recommendations. I particularly love Green River in Saluda. The family always find this as our go-to place for kayaking and swimming.