NH or ME or VT canoe trips options with no motor access

Recently moved to new England from the PNW and looking for places to go with my wife and young kids and dog.

We are looking for places that are first come first serve ideally though ok with reservation systems. However, since coming out here and just using topo maps to find places, we have been surprised how many have lakes have a lot of waterfront development.

Looking for ideas for canoe camping options on lakes or rivers with no motor traffic.

I’ve seen the Northern forest canoe trail which has some promising options, but even then, it looks like there are a number of the lakes that still have motor traffic.

We are located in Manchester NH, so the closer the better, but definitely looking for remote places. Are happy to carry our canoe a mile or so to put in, but would also be great if less as our kids are young and limited in their ability to assist:)

2-3 day trips would be great. Lake trips are nice given the simpler logistics vs shuttling cars.


Look up bow loop on the Moose River in ME. It gives you both lake and river and it returns to the starting point. There are a few portages.


Peter, thanks for the suggestion. will check it out

Maybe farther than you care to drive, but the Adirodacks are the largest park in the US outside of Alaska (more area than Yellowstone and Yosemite combined) and have hundreds of waterways and lakes. Over a million acres are wilderness reserved for non-mechanized recreation. It has some of the most remote wild lands in the nation in terms of distance from a paved road.

maybe you already know all this, but over the years I’ve met quite a few people from the western states who express surprise that there is such a vast wild area in the Northeast.

Welcome to New England. I moved back after living on the east side of Washington and Oregon for 37 years. As you’re discovering, it’s an older, more settled landscape back here. There’s actually more water to paddle here but most of the lakes are developed in some way or another and allow motor boats. Multi-day paddle trips without seeing lakeside development or encountering motor boats are rare unless you’re up in interior Maine or the Adirondacks in New York.

Otherwise you’ll find campgrounds located on semi-primitive lakes with speed limits or limitations on motor size. It can still be an enjoyable trip but you won’t find truly quiet isolation throughout most of New England other than the exceptions mentioned. But then, quiet isolation is becoming a rarity in the PNW as well. You have to go north into British Columbia.

For my wife and I it’s a matter of perception and expectations. We have accepted that we’re likely to see some shoreline development and encounter other boaters, especially on popular lakes in the summer, but we can still enjoy our day out on the water.


Since Willowleaf mentioned the Adirondacks, let me say that the Raquette River is my favorite. You can stay in Tupper Lake and do out and back day trips or you can launch in Long lake and take a couple of days to get to Tupper Lake. You will find both lean-tos and campsites along the way and one longish portage. The people at Raquette River Outfitters will shuttle your car. Unfortunately, neither of my suggestions will be completely without motorboat traffic.


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Appreciate all the replies.

Been exploring the Merrimack over the last week or so since it is so close and we can head out around 4pm and still get some time in.

Today did a section north of us near Franklin down to the park and ride off exit 17 on 93.

Another issue out here is figuring out which canoe to use. We have a Wenonah escape an old town camper and an '83 old town thats a bit more river orientated. The old towns are much heavier but the Merrimack even this early in the summer has some pretty shallow areas and the Wenonah isn’t nearly as durable as the royalex boats.

Are there good sources of beta for the northeast to help decide when royalex is needed and when I can use the lighter/more fragile boat?

Thanks again for all the feedback.

My goal is always to drive as little as possible but I am intrigued by what you guys say about the Adirondacks.

Of course comparing it to the Bob Marshal/Frank Church wilderness maybe a stretch (I haven’t been so am maybe just biased), but I do love the concept of including settled areas within a park/conservation space. In India, the Great Himalayan National park does the same and I like that idea more than kicking out those who traditionally live in a place in order to make a park.


I grew up in the Monadnock region a little to the West. Don’t know about camping, but for day trips I’d recommend Powder Mill Pond (on the Contoocook), Willard Pond, Gilmore Pond, and Nubanusit (portaging over to Spoonwood). Granted I only get back occasionally but I loved paddling these waters.

Buy the Quiet Waters book, you won’t regret it. We plan most of our trips from that book. And welcome from NH!

I’m going to Umbagog in a couple of weeks. Richardson Lake also has campsite. Lots of campsites on the Connecticut River along the NH/VT border. Not particularly remote, mostly paddling through farmland, but generally nice campsites within reasonable paddling distance of each other. There is the Saco from Conway to Hiram (avoid on weekends). The Moose River Bow is a nice trip, but I usually skip the portage from Attean into Holeb. I’m sure that are tons of places in ME.

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Have to agree, that is a great area. Only been there once. We did Long Lake to the Raquatte River to Stoney Creek to the Saranac Lakes ending at Saranac Village. Would love to get back there again to do some other sections. You could get a site on the Saranac Lakes and do day trips.

Thanks for all the info and the book recommendation. Looking forward to picking that up.


The Connecticut River Paddlers’ Trail. There is a website where you can order a map showing carries and camping. The upper Ct sounds more like you are looking for, starting somewhere below Pittsburg NH for a relaxing paddle, different degrees of rapids and free camping.