Never Worry about how to get back to your car when Kayaking

In this post, I’m going to tell you How can you go back to your car after finishing the river trip no matter you’re paddling alone or with your friends, I will give you all the methods I know and break down to the step by step actionable plan.

Let’s make a quick example. When you go kayaking by yourself. Right after you finish the trip and pull out the kayak from the river, and…What you do next? How can you get back to your car? I know it sounds silly but it does bother me. 

So, how to get back to your car after kayaking? The quick answer is you can hire a local outfitter to do the shuttle for you. This is a reliable option but sometimes you may not find anyone provides the shuttle service if you are not kayaking in those popular rivers.

Don’t worry, there are a few alternative ways to get back to your car.

kayak shuttle

Do Kayak by yourself


Hire outfitter

As I mentioned above, hiring a local outfitter to do the shuttle is the most efficient way when you paddle along.  Take an example, in the Allegheny River, there is a popular trip from Kinzua Dam all the way downstream. It is impossible to do a round-trip to go back where you started, so the Allegheny Outfitter provides the vehicle shuttle. How does it work? The outfitter will meet you at the put-in spot. You can unload all your gear and begin your trip right away. In the meanwhile, they will shuttle your vehicle to your take-out spot. So you don’t have to worry about anything about transportation. And, how much it cost? The rates vary depends on the length of your trip. In general, 15-20 mile will cost you about 50 dollars per vehicle. 30-50 miles will cost about 100 dollars. 


  • If you go kayaking alone, make sure to tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back.
  • You can buy a “season ticket.” 

In some rivers, the outfitter owner would love to set up a one time fee for a whole season if you negotiate with them. The best timing to find them is at the start of the season. They would like to have that cash right away.



No brainer. Here’s a quick guide:

  • Drive your vehicle to the put-in spot.
  • Change to your kayaking outfit and put the gear in the dry bag.
  • Unload the kayak and lock it.
  • Drive your vehicle to the take-out spot.
  • Prepare the warm clothes.
  • Lock your car and put your key into the dry bag.
  • Take a taxi, drive you to the Put-in spot.
  • Enjoy your fun ride.

Tips: Make sure to bring your keys with you all the time, don’t keep it in the kayak. Always secure them with personal stuff in a waterproof bag.


Bike Plan

A bike can mean both bicycle or motorbike, the only concern is that you might need one can fit in your vehicle. In this way, You can bring your kayak and your bicycle/motorbike altogether. Here’s a quick guide to how to do this.

  • Drive your vehicle with your kayak and bicycle to the put-in spot.
  • Unload your kayak and gear.
  • Drive your car to the take-out spot.
  • Prepare the warm clothes.
  • Lock your vehicle and put your key into a dry bag.
  • Ride your bike back to the put-in spot.
  • Lock your bike.
  • Enjoy your fun river trip.
  • Collect your bike after you finish.


By walk

Walks yourself with your kayak back to the start point.

You probably don’t need any guide for this, but I do have some advice. Carrying a kayak seems can be a heavy duty especially when you do it right after you finished your river trip. It might become harder than you imagine. So, you may have to invest in a kayak trailer. (Check out this article: 3 Best Aluminum Kayak Trailers.)  I use my kayak trailer to cross many roads and finish the river trip alone, sometimes I even don’t drive my vehicle. 

If you balance the trailer wheels under your kayak properly, the kayak will become very light. You can walk with it like towing your briefcase around on the road. Tips:  You can also attach a trailer to your bicycle or motorbike, that will make thing even more easier.

kayak tralier


RoundTrip or U-turn Back Trip

I suggest you go to a specific place for paddling, Disney World, they have the most peaceful and enjoyable water in the world and their river is always running in a circle.

Forgive me for the bad joke.  Choose a gentle, slow stretch of river where you can paddle upstream to your vehicle. You need to pick a river you really familiar with. If you don’t familiar with the river you don’t have the ability to prevent an emergency. You may be tired, or weather may change, or you may get in later than you thought. 

So I don’t recommend the first-time kayaker doing the round trip alone.  Once you have some experiences then you can be the hottest man in the water to do the upstream kayaking.

kayak round trip


Do Kayak with your Friend


Shuttle With Your Friend

If you have a friend willing to do the shuttle for you, we often called this generous friend a “Shuttle Bunny”. Never let go if you found one. They are a hidden gem in the kayaking world. Don’t forget always buying him/her a nice dinner after your trip, he deserves it.

If you can not find a shuttle bunny. Don’t worry, you can do it with your paddle pals. Although kayaking alone is exciting, paddling with other kayakers is always a safe choice for a beginner. Here’s a quick guide to share a shuttle with your friends.

  • Everybody drive their own vehicle or share one, but you need at least 2 cars.
  • Get to the put-in spot and change to your kayaking outfit.
  • Unload all the kayaks and gear and lock them. 
  • Choose one car to be your shuttle Car. It will stay in the put-in car park during the whole trip.
  • Everybody drives their own vehicle to the take-out point.
  • Put all of your warm clothes into your own vehicle excluded the shuttle one.
  • Lock your vehicle and put your key into the dry bag.
  • Use the shuttle car to drive all the kayakers back to the put-in spot.
  • Enjoy your ride.
  • After your trip, someone needs to drive the shuttle car’s driver back to his car.
  • Back to the take-out point and reload all your kayaks and gear into your car.
  • Have a nice drive home.

Extra Tip: Sometimes, You could leave more vehicles at the put-in spot if the parking location is easy to access. Just plan it for your best convenience.



Hope you find this article helpful and never confuse about how to get back to your car.  Here are all the solutions I knew. If you have any good ideas or you find some information in this post wrong or outdated. Please kindly leave your comment below. I will update as soon as possible. Thanks for reading. Happy Kayaking.

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