8 Reasons You Should Be LA River Kayaking (And Our Favorite Spots to Go)

Thinking of spending your summer on the shores of the Pacific? What about an escape to paradise to ward off the winter blues?

Regardless of the season, you're in for a treat when you visit the LA river. While visitors and residents of The Golden State are known for their propensity to head outdoors and bask in the sunshine, this lesser-known spot is quickly gaining popularity, and for good reason.

Not only does LA river kayaking offer you a chance to explore the region in a new way, but it also gives you a great workout, allows you a chance to engage with friends, and gives you an up-close look at some of the wildlife lucky enough to call this state home.

Today, we're discussing eight reasons why you need to kayak here soon, as well as a few other hidden LA gems to check out.

Ready to learn more? Pick up that paddle and let's get started!

1. You Can Go on a California Safari

That's right. While most of us are used to associating safaris with excursions in other parts of the world, you can go on a nautical one right in your LA backyard. 

Through tour groups including LA River Kayak Safari, you'll go on a guided tour of the river and its surrounding areas. This particular one combines both biking and kayaking for an all-around body workout that's sure to get your blood pumping.

As you journey across the Elysian Valley, your instructor will share information about the area, including its history as well as future plans for development. The three-hour trip covers almost two miles in all.

Other tour groups, including LA River Expeditions, cover both the Elysian Valley as well as the Sepulveda Basin. 

2. It's a Natural Oasis in the City

Los Angeles is known for many things, and chief among them is its Hollywood heartbeat. It's a thrilling, fast-paced concrete jungle filled to the brim with allure. Yet, after a while, even its most devoted residents are ready to step outside of the city limits and enjoy the nearby natural areas. 

This is where kayaking in southern California truly pays off.

The LA River is set apart from the hustle and bustle of city life but is still close enough to urban amenities that you never feel stranded. Whether you go for a few hours or the entire day, you'll be back in time to grab some in In-n-Out and head back home to clean up before hitting the LA nightlife scene. 

3.  It Opened for Kayaking Only Recently

It wasn't until 2011 that parts of the LA River were deemed appropriate for kayaking. One year prior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared that the entirety of the river was navigable.

Once the go-ahead was given to traverse the waters, the Paddle the LA River pilot project began. In short, this was a six-week project that ran from August 13 to September 26, 2011. During this timeframe, guides led persons aged 10 to 89 on tours of the river around the Sepulveda Basin.

That eye-opening experience built community and encouraged interest in the river. In response, the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) and the City of Los Angeles approved the Sepulveda Basin and Elysian Valley portions open for kayaking. 

4. You Can Kayak in Fantastic Weather

Currently, if you want to go on a California kayak along the LA river, you're required to do so between the months of May and September. Lucky for you, that happens to encompass the very best of the city's seasons.

Late spring to early fall in Los Angeles is defined by warm weather, crystal clear blue skies and a departure from the bleakness of winter. This makes it an ideal time to engage in watersports and see all of the natural beauty that defines this region.

5. You Can Choose Your Comfort Level

Does navigating around some refreshing rapids sound like a great way to spend the afternoon? If so, head up to the Elysian Valley. Here, you'll find more vigorous water events, including rapids, that make it ideal for more experienced kayakers looking to get their adrenaline pumping.

Or, maybe you're in the mood for a more relaxing paddle where you can talk to friends and simply soak in the day. In this case, the more serene and calm Sepulveda Basin is more your speed. Take in the wildlife and enjoy the flora. This is a trip to be savored slowly and intently. 

6. You Don't Have to Bring Your Own Gear

Traveling to LA for the week? You can't exactly take your kayak on the plane as a carry-on. Even if you live here full-time, the idea of bringing a kayak, along with the all necessary safety equipment, with you every time you want to get outdoors, can be a hassle.

What if you want a spur-of-the-moment adventure? If any city is designed to allow that kind of healthy, impulsive thrill, this would be it. 

Thankfully, when you book a guided kayak tour, all of that is taken care of for you. Your kayak, in addition to all needed equipment, transportation, instruction and even insurance is ready and waiting. All you have to bring is your appetite for adventure.

7. It's Great Even When the Water is Low

You might think that kayaking near Los Angles would only be worth it when the water is high. However, if the day for your paddle comes and you notice it's lower than you'd like it to be, go ahead and come out anyway.

Why? The wildlife that lives near the river, including white herons and egrets, are more likely to be around during this time. You'll also have a better view of the striking landscape that surrounds the river.

So, pack a pair of binoculars and head toward the water. This might not be your traditional kayaking experience, but it's one you'll never forget.

8. You Can Attend a Boat Race

Every year, the LA River boat race is held at Glendale Narrows. From a Boat Float Pageant and Parade to invigorating challenges appropriate for all skill levels, the event is already a cherished part of the local culture. The best part? It's based on a pay-what-you-can-afford scale, and no one is turned away.

Whether you're better suited for the simple Fun Course or want to try your hand at the more difficult Down River or multisport courses, you're sure to find a place to fit in. With an awards ceremony held at nearby Frogtown Brewery, there's no reason not to come out and raise some money to help support local river expeditions.

Other Nearby Places We Love

Once you've finished taking in all that kayaking southern California has to offer, you may be interested in extending your time away just a little longer.

In this case, it's wise to take advantage of all of the local businesses and eateries located around the LA River. Here are a few close-by places to check out.

Cactus Gallery

Are you interested in checking out the local Los Angeles art scene? If so, there's arguably no better place to do so than this artisanal gallery located less than one mile from the river in the Elysian Valley area. From the tiny to the oversized, there is a wide range of works located in this gallery, depicting the conglomeration of talent that calls this region home. 

Cactus Gallery is located in a neighborhood area that is affectionately known as "Frogtown." It's adjacent to the city's beloved arts corridor along York Avenue. Here, you'll find a monthly art walk, other galleries, a happening live music scene and more. 

Frogtown Brewery

If you attend the LA River boat race, you'll see for yourself how hip Frogtown Brewery really is. The independent craft brewery is serving up tasty pints and delectable local eats from nearby food trucks.

The cuisine ranges from gourmet fish tacos to doughnuts and fried chicken, making this a must-do stop during your river journey. Wash it down at the taproom, where seasonal and special-release brews are served up alongside local favorites, like the Spritzerweisse, a tart cherry Berliner Weisse sure to leave your taste buds spinning.

Griffith Observatory

Hey, you came to LA to see stars, right? Located on Mount Hollywood in Glendale's Griffith Park, the Griffith Observatory is owned by the City of Los Angeles and is open to the public. 

Visit the planetarium, take in the exhibits, lose your breath while viewing the sky through a public telescope and grab a bite at the on-site cafe. You can even attend a star party for a mesmerizing look at some of the area's most illustrious beings.

Forest Lawn Memorial Park

Also located in Glendale, Forest Lawn Memorial Park is a mausoleum that also showcases American artwork and includes towering statues of some of the most iconic presidents including Washington and Lincoln.

Stroll through the free museum to see some of the collections up close. Keep in mind that some of the world's most famous people, including Michael Jackson and Walt Disney, chose these idyllic grounds as their final resting spot, so approach this spot with respect as you take it in.

The Americana at Brand

Want to indulge in a little shopping while you're out and about? The Americana at Brand is a gorgeous outdoor mall filled to the brim with every kind of shop you could possibly need. 

Located across from the Glendale Galleria, it also features an on-site cinema as well as local and chain restaurants, making it the perfect spot to spend a date night. During the holidays, it's lit up with twinkling lights, a Santa House, and a nightly artificial snowfall that adds that perfect dash of magic. 

Randy's Donuts

It's both iconic and delicious. No one looking to kayak California can do so without working up at least some kind of appetite. What better way to refuel than with a maple iced cake or vanilla crueller from Randy's Donuts?

The Inglewood location is its original spot and has been for more than 60 years, though there are also newer locations in Century City, El Segundo and Hollywood.

Don't worry, you can't miss it. You'll know you're close when you spot the giant doughnut affixed to the top of the building. You might also recognize this place from its myriad appearances in movies and television shows. Hint: Iron Man has sat on the doughnut. 

Gear Up for LA River Kayaking Today

Maybe you're heading to LA for a few nights of sightseeing and hopeful celebrity spottings. Or, perhaps you're going for work, a family vacation, or a weekend away with friends. 

Better yet, maybe you already live here and you're ready to explore the city on a deeper level. 

Either way, we'd love to come along for the ride.

Our California-themed clothing is ideal for all of your adventure needs, giving you that instant cool you can only find on the West Coast. Whether you're on an LA river kayaking trek or chowing down on the best seafood of your life, you'll want to look your best.

Our apparel is designed with the active Californian in mind, made with materials that move and stretch as you do.

You're in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and you've got decisions to make and a fun day to plan. We'll take the guesswork out of your wardrobe so you can get the adventure started. Check back with us for updates and browse our inventory to see our latest designs. 

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