Top 5 Stand Up Paddle Boarding Spots in Chicago
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Chicago is one of my favorite places to paddle and just so happens to be my home - which is pretty amazing. I’ve paddled in the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean, through waves on the east and west coasts, and many lakes and rivers in between, but Chicago is still my favorite. Here are my top 5 SUP spots in Chicago.
If you talk to any Chicago resident, they will cringe at the thought of falling into the Chicago River. Since the water is pretty calm and the wind isn't as strong as on Lake Michigan, the risk of an experienced paddle boarder falling into the river is low. However, it is absolutely worth the risk! The best time to paddle the river is early spring or late fall, before or after the tour boat season, but a nice summer paddle is also amazing. If you launch early in the morning, you may have the river all to yourself. It's incredible. It feels like the entire city is yours and the architecture is on display just for you.
This is one of my favorite spots because it's literally in my backyard. I can see the harbor from my balcony and it's about a half mile or mile walk to two different spots perfect for launching. You can also launch from 12 Street Beach and paddle around the Planetarium to the harbor. If launching from Monroe Harbor, you can paddle between all the beautiful sail boats, anchor and have lunch, read a book, or venture outside the harbor and paddle to the Adler Planetarium.
This is another spot that is near and dear to my heart. When I first moved to Chicago, I lived in Old Town and still consider it one of the best areas to live in the city. North Avenue Beach is on the east side of Lincoln Park at the end of North Avenue. You can rent paddle boards here or launch your own board off the beach. The views of the city are breathtaking and in the summer, you may hear energetic music from the beach.
Montrose Beach is a little further north near Montrose Harbor. Montrose has ample parking that can be accessed by exiting Lake Shore Drive at Montrose, but it gets very crowded in the summer. It can also be accessed by bike from the lakefront trail path. The beach at Montrose is huge and even includes a dog beach! You can rent paddle boards here from Kayak Chicago or launch your own board. There is even a protected cove that is perfect for experimenting with SUP yoga.
The South Lagoon is located between the Lincoln Park Zoo and Lake Shore Drive. The Lagoon is a great choice when the wind and waves on Lake Michigan are a little too rough for SUP. This area is protected and can be accessed from Diversey Harbor, which is a designated launch point on the Lake Michigan Water Trail. Be prepared to duck underneath the Diversey bridge as you enter the lagoon from the harbor! You can also paddle to Lake Michigan from Diversey Harbor and south to North Avenue Beach.
Chicago is an underrated beach town and provides so many ways to connect with nature including options to explore Lake Michigan and the Chicago River on a stand up paddle board. Although the summers can be short, they are amazing and paddling the city helps make the most of it!