Canoe Camping in the Sierra Nevadas of California

canoeing in the sierra nevadas
Paddling across Cherry Lake in the Sierra Nevada mountain range

Dan Arbuckle, owner of Headwaters Kayak Shop, and his buddy, Josh, launched their canoe and gear onto Cherry Lake in California.

A 5-mile paddle brought them to their campsite where they tried some fly fishing (the fish weren’t biting!) enjoyed their steaks cooked over a campfire, and relaxed away from work and people for a couple days.

Watch Dan’s 6-minute video of their experience:

About the Sierra Nevadas

The Sierra Nevada mountain range of east-central California is world famous for such destinations as Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park. 600 miles long, the range encompasses three national parks, two national monuments and almost two dozen wilderness areas.

Cherry Lake, the lake in this video, sits just outside Yosemite, less than 4 hours from San Francisco.

Dan says:

“I love this area because you get the steep granite walls like you'd find in Yosemite, but without the crowds.

It's also lower elevation than most Sierra lakes which makes it a great destination for early season paddling. The swimming holes along Cherry Creek are legendary later in summer, although when we were there the river was running way high.

“The whole trip we only encountered one group of people that came in by float plane. Other than that we had the entire place completely to ourselves.

“I also like that you only need a wilderness permit to camp. You don't have to deal with all the restrictions of the National Parks.”

About Canoe Camping

Canoe camping is a wonderful experience, especially in a wilderness area with few people, no traffic noises and no city lights.

You may choose to go all-out with an outfitter near your chosen destination. They’ll set you up with canoe, paddles, PFDs, food, gear and cooking equipment.

Or outfit yourself: Collect your own gear, find a friend and head for a water trail.

canoe camping sierra nevadas
Where Cherry Lake meets Cherry Creek

Here are a few basics to keep in mind when planning a canoe camping trip:

  • Be aware of any special regulations and permits needed, especially in protected wilderness areas.
  • Practice leave-no-trace: Pack all your trash out with you. Build campfires only in designated areas. Leave wildlife and the environment undisturbed.
  • Be safe! Bring a first aid kit and know how to use it. Always wear your PFD.
  • If you’re camping in bear country, there are special considerations.
  • Know the weather forecast for your destination. Pack and dress accordingly.

And have fun!

(All photos courtesy of Dan Arbuckle)

(Other sources:, Wikipedia)

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