Overnight Canoeing Trip within 3 hours driving from Boston

Hi all,
I am looking to take my 4 year old on a 3 day canoeing destination that can provide for overnight camping. We have already done Ipswich River and Saco River. Are there other options out there?

Your insight is much appreaciated.


Upper section of the Connecticut River through NH and VT has lots of campsites. Not wilderness by any stretch of the imagination - paddling mostly through farmland. I suppose you could even do an up and back if you didn’t want to shuttle.


not seeing much google maps. charles and merrimac look to be developed. I assume you are looking for a river to overnight canoe on. Like ecks suggestion of the connecticut river.

I had hoped to see more suggestions for my own benefit, but I know there is not a lot within 3-hours of Boston. Connecticut River is definitely your best bet. I have never done it, but there are also campsites on the Connecticut River in CT


There is one paddle-in campsite in RI.

Burlingame Canoe Campsite
Pawcatuck River – RI

No reservations, first come first serve, but there are 4-5 campsites there, so even if you’re there with other people it is easy to spread out.

Maybe one of the lakes up in NH/ME:

Umbagoog Lake
Cambridge/Errol, HH

Richardson Lake
Andover, ME

Squam Lake
Holderness, NH

Reservations required and you usually need to reserve early. I have a mid-week reservation in June on Umbagoog - an island site near the Magalloway and Androscogin Rivers – very nice. It can be windy on the lakes – real windy. I have never been to Richardson or Squam Lake, but have friends who have and recommended them.

If you are willing to drive a little further you may find something on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.

Maybe a little ambitious with a 4-year old, but I love the Moose River Bow.

Moose River Bow Trip
Jackman, ME

We usually use a shuttle to skip the long paddle up Attean and the portage over to Holeb Pond.

The CT River south of Middletown has some nice spots to paddle, but be aware of boat wakes. The bottom makes them get larger in spots, and there’s a good bit of traffic, especially on the weekends, that can make it a jumbled mess of good sized chop.

I’ve seen more than a few canoes and kayaks take a swim there. Years ago (many, in fact), I took my Dad and Nephew out of Essex, and crossed to Old Lyme. There was one area just outside South Cove in Essex we paddled through just before crossing to Old Lyme that had Dad yelling “Wa-hoo!” in the bow, and my Nephew had the death grip on the gunwales.

Only reason I mention it is that the OP said he has a 4 year old.

Squam lake or Umbagog

I’ve been looking for the same. I’ve been bugging my wife & kids about trip planning since late last year, and they didn’t want to think or hear about it all winter. They’re willing to talk now that it’s spring, but all the good spots are already taken, just as I warned would happen.

Squam gets sold out as soon as they open reservations in Feb. Umbagog fills up quick as well. There are still some mid-week openings there, but not in the good spots. Waterbury reservoir in Vermont still has some spots last I checked, but it’s not exactly wilderness. I’m thinking of calling the private camps on Richardson and Aziscohos next. These are all ~4 hours from Boston. The Adirondacks are great, but more like 5 hours drive.

I’m curious how your experience went on the Saco river. I did Saco with some friends circa 2000 and it was kind of crowded even back then. I’ve been told that it’s overused now and the camp sites are a big drunken party all summer long.

Thank you for your help.
I have not been to Saco River since 2005 or so. I am sure it hasn’t gotten any better since then.
Best regards.

Thank you.

This is exceptionally comprehensive and helpful. Thank you so much.