Winter kayaking in solitude and clear water spots near southern California?

I’m planning my trips for Thanksgiving break and the winter holidays, and want to try solo kayaking. I live in Orange County. I’ve only kayaked a couple times before in a harbor, but I’d like to try it again, but this time at somewhere that has beautiful scenery, clear water, and without too many other people

Lake Tahoe seems like the perfect choice except that I heard it’s not good to kayak there in the winter

The Channel Islands but I’m concerned that the ocean tides instead of having flat waters could be a problem. Hoover Dam and Watson Lake in Prescott, AZ also seem like options, but I prefer closer spots to kayak at

Anyone have other recommendations?

Try the local reservoirs. They are close and the right size. Check the local fishing report for places like Lake Irvine, Lake Hemet and Lake Piru.
Unless you have a lot of experience stay off of Lake Tahoe and the Pacific Ocean.

Do you own your own boat and gear? If so, what type of boat and thermal protection do you have? This will tell us a lot about what may be appropriate gear-wise. Your description of your experience makes it sound like you are relative newbie when it comes to skills and experience?

I am a little confused about wanting closer. lake Tahoe is an 8 hour drive from OC, where Hoover Dam in only 4 hours. The river below Hoover Dam did come to mind early on.

Lake Tahoe is going into winter weather now. You are as likely to get snowed on as not over Thanksgiving. Lake temp isn’t that old (maybe 50s), but air temp could be below freezing many days.

Anything coastal (including Channel Islands) in SoCal, tides are not as much an issue as waves and winds. And winter is storm season, so you need to always be prepared for bigger stuff (watch forecasts, be ready to abandon plans if a storm comes in).

I don’t have my own boat or gear. Yes, I’m a newbie to kayaking

I’d love to go to Lake Tahoe, but its too far and the weather concerns me

Besides the local reservoirs like Lake Irvine, would Hoover Dam be an ok place to kayak this winter for a newbie like me?

I think you’d need a dry suit for any of those places in winter.

I think you could benefit from doing guided tours, as this would provide both gears and someone to make sure the safety aspect is all covered. In this case, and given your desire for limited distance and such, here are some you may want to consider

  • do a tour on Channel Islands
  • do a tour tour on Catalina
  • Head up to Morro Bay area and do a tour with Central Coats Kayaks (Tours | Central Coast Kayaks) or just rent from them or Avila Beach Paddlesports. Both good folks and would set you u right.
  • head out to do Black Canyon (the stretch below Hoover Dam) with one of the tour companies there (I don’t have experience with any of them).
  • Maybe head up to Monterey Bay and either do a tour or a rental (or two). Launch from Monterey Bay Kayaks beach in Monterey and heading out to aquarium is very nice. As is going to Moss Landing and heading in to explore Elkhorn Slough (2 rental/tour companies there - Monterey Bay Kayak and Kayak Connection).

The coastal trips around Christmas have a chance of seeing Gray Whales as they migrate south to Mexico.

1 Like

The Cove at Lajolla can fit what you are looking for dependent on weather conditions. It’s safe for beginner paddlers about 75% of the time in the winter, there can however be violent storms and huge surf, but on average it’s fairly tame if you stay away from the rocks and caves. If the waves are flat, the caves and rocks are very nice to explore. You can float over kelp forests and watch Garibaldi fish swimming beneath you, along with stingrays and leopard sharks. Would you be paddling your own sit inside kayak or sit on top or renting? Using a SOT you would be fine to plan on a trip, paddle solo and if the weather is bad explore Mission Bay or San Diego Bay. On the weekends and on the Holidays there will be lots of people around, but once on the water it’s easy to get away from the crowds. You’d need a wet suit and some basic skills, you could also take a paddling class, I think aqua-adventures still has classes and that would be a place to get started. You could also book a seacave tour with Lajolla Sea Cave Kayaks.

Same spot two different days …

If you want to drive a bit Elkhorn Slough at Moss landing is a great place for calm paddling, water isn’t exactly clear but you can see seals, sea lions, and otters. You can rent kayaks at Moss Landing, Kayak connection.

We just did some paddling at La Jolla (@SeaDart yes w/ sprayskirts, manage to score a couple right before we went.). Of course the sun didn’t really come out that day so we saw nothing below the water.
We also did the Newport Back Bay and then some around the harbor.
The Back Bay was great for bird watching, or photos (my thing), just catch it when the tide is out and the birds load up the area feeding on the mud flats. If we’d have been in the area longer we might have done the San Diego bay as we were staying in IB.

Hoover Dam requires a permit. The put in requires an escort. It is a long way away. It is only open on certain days.

Try some place close to home and easy to get to that does not require logistics like a shuttle or a permit.

Hoover Dam requires a permit even kayaking with a tour guide?

If you don’t bring your own gear, there will probably be many other people paddling at the rental location. If you can go early in the morning during the week it will be less crowded. Look at CL for rental companies. Try Lake Morena in SD, the Colorado River from Blythe to around Yuma, Newport Back Bay, Mission Bay, or Lake Skinner (rentals). There are rentals at Lake Hemet, but check the weather to see if they will be renting. I kayak at Lake Perris. We don’t call it beautiful, but it is interesting.