Have you ever thought of kayaking a national river trail anytime soon? Are you also planning a trip to Las Vegas? Won’t you need a break from gambling away your hard-earned money at the casinos? Look no further, as you are about to get an answer.

The Black Canyon Water Trail is a 30 mile long stretch of the Colorado River that begins at the Hoover Dam and ends at the Eldorado Canyon. Very few people are aware of this secluded canyon with beautiful skies, sandy beaches, crystal clear water, hot springs, and breathtaking coves and caves. It is only about 50 miles away from Vegas, so you should definitely add this experience to your Vegas plan.

In this itinerary, you’ll begin paddling from the Willow Beach Marina (milepost 52), visit the Emerald Cove and return back to the starting point.

Renting a Kayak

The marina store rents out kayaks for $30 an hour or $85 for a whole day. Hourly rentals are on a first-come-first-serve basis but daily rentals can be reserved online. The store also rents out canoes and other kinds of boats.

If you prefer a guided tour because you’re a total newbie to kayaking (or driving a car), there are a few companies that offer a package. This includes all of the following: a shuttle service from and to one of the many popular Vegas hotels, kayak rentals, and an experienced guide to navigate and educate you on the water.

#TravelSmart Tips

  1. At a minimum, spend at least three hours on the waters to explore at a relaxed pace.
  2. If you’ll be following the smart tip no. 1, make a daily rental reservation in advance. It’ll cost about the same as an hourly rental and guarantee you a kayak when you arrive.
  3. Allow an additional hour to get set up with the kayaks, signing off the waivers and applying sunscreen (loads of it, no kidding).
  4. Don’t arrive later than 1 p.m. The marina requires the rentals to be returned by 4 p.m.

Launch from the Willow Beach

In the first half mile of the trail after launching from the marina, you'll see unobstructed views of the blue skies. If you’re a first-time kayaker, you should use this time to get comfortable with your kayak and paddle. It was my first time on a sit-on type of a kayak, but it grew on me quicker than I expected.

Throughout the trail, a ton of motorized boats will pass you - jet skis, fishing boats and pontoon boats riding away so fast that the ripples may make you feel like your kayak might turn over. But stay focused because as soon as you enter the narrow stretch of the trail beyond milepost 53, the sight changes dramatically.

The canyon walls will now be taller and closer. Wildlife enthusiasts should keep an eye out for occasional sightings of the bighorn sheep and peregrine falcon. The contrast of the blue skies and the black canyon cliffs is bound to make you feel in a different world altogether.

As soon as you approach the milepost 54, you will notice a small beach area parked with kayaks. You may feel tempted to take a break out there but continue as you’re hardly a few minutes away from the mesmerizing Emerald Cove.

Shine at the Emerald Cove

Once you are about to enter the cove, be prepared to be enchanted. The change in the color of the water - emerald green, you guessed it right, will be magical. It's amazing to see the sun rays sparkle up algae and limestone floored cove so beautifully, giving that emerald green impression.

You’ll be fortunate to have more than 20 minutes by yourself out here before you see a new visitor, so soak in all the awesomeness. Take a dip in the ice-cold water if you have the courage.

For those who didn’t get enough and have more time and energy for the day, keep going upstream weaving through a number of scenic stops consisting of hot springs, short hikes, and natural saunas.

For others, it’s time to head back. Remember, the small beach you saw before? Make a halt there, lie down on the coarse sand and appreciate the ravines surrounding you. Revitalize yourself with a snack and get ready to hit the water again.

On your way back, try to be closer to the edges to get close-up views of the canyon. Once the steep canyon walls pass, go slow to observe flora and fauna along the banks.

#TravelSmart Tips

  1. The morning hours are ideal to avoid roasting yourself under the scorching sun. Skip that late night party in Vegas for this experience.
  2. Carry a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, snacks, and one big bottle of water.
  3. The thought of covering more points along the trail can be alluring but plan ahead of time. If you’re late to return your kayaks by more than 30 minutes, the rangers will come out on a boat to get you and will charge you a fine at the marina.
  4. Don’t expect a restroom on this itinerary. The closest one is at Arizona Hot Springs which is at milepost 60. Use the restroom at the marina in advance.

The Willow Beach to Emerald Cove itinerary returns the most value for the time spent on the Black Canyon Water Trail. This itinerary is perfect for kayaking beginners, travelers with a tight schedule and of course, the late-risers.

Give this plan a try on your Arizona/Nevada trip and let us know below how it goes. Happy Exploring!