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Best American Adventures: Learn Paddling at Nantahala Outdoor Center

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We've just updated our popular America's
Best Adventures
feature with 50 new trips, bringing our grand total to 100 iconic escapes (see the map, state-by-state list, and photo gallery, too). So no matter what your pleasure—hiking,
heli-skiing, surfing, climbing, biking, or paddling—we've got the perfect adventure
for you. Check in each day for a new, out-the-backdoor adventure highlighted here on our blog.

By Doug Schnitzspahn; Photograph by Pat McDonnell, NOC

While the American West gets so much of the love
when it comes to adventure, the underappreciated South lays claim to an
abundance of whitewater. And it’s not just the rapids that make
paddling here so special. A paddling culture has grown up down South,
highlighted by big events such as the Gauley River Festival in West
Virginia or facilities like the U.S. National Whitewater Center in
Charlotte. The heart and soul of the South’s whitewater scene, however,
is the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), tucked up in the deep, wooded
folds of the Appalachians.

The school is one of the top places in
the country for kayakers and canoeists to learn and perfect their
craft. Here, you can do anything from gain confidence in your roll to
train for an Olympic slalom course. If you’re looking for a basic
learn-to-kayak course, the center runs two- and five-day classes March
though September for any ability level.

NOC touts its experience
teaching since 1972—but what really differentiates this school from so
many others are the instructors themselves. These aren't college kids
or river rats looking to make a few bucks, but some of the best
paddlers in the world, including Olympian Wayne Dickert and expedition
paddler Anna Levesque. If you are looking for more than a class, NOC
runs whitewater trips out its door, across the South, and as far afield
as the Dominican Republic, the Galápagos, and Bhutan.

Need to Know: Sign up for a two-day whitewater kayak course with Nantahala Outdoor Center (, starting at $449.