Looking for an offbeat way to cool off this summer? Aside from the usual pools, waterparks, and swimming holes, give river tubing a try. It's a relaxing way to enjoy some natural scenery while you float the day away. Whether you want to drift along slowly with a beer in hand or tackle some thrilling whitewater, there's a river for you somewhere in the United States. Here are 25 of our favorites.
The 25 Best Tubing Destinations in America
The Guadalupe River north of San Antonio holds a reputation for being the "party river" -- in other words, this is where you go to float when you want to have a drink (yep, it's legal), listen to some music, and have a few laughs with a big contingent of college students. The river is served by several tubing companies out of New Braunfels.
Another great floating choice in Texas, but without quite as many crowds, the spring-fed San Marcos River between Austin and San Antonio "is deliciously cold and clear," notes Culture Map Austin. Thrillist recommends renting a tube and grabbing a shuttle from Texas State Tubes in San Marcos or Martindale.
One of Seattle magazine's picks for "favorite river floats" in the state, western Washington's Snoqualmie has scenery in spades, with pines and mountains beyond. The Matador Network recommends trying out a rope swing if you're feeling adventurous. Rent a tube from Fall City Floating, or bring your own and hop on their shuttle for cheaper.
Floating down the French Broad River is an essential Asheville experience and while the water is flat, expect a lot of company during your trip (bring a cooler and get social). There are several companies based in Asheville that offer tube rentals and shuttles to the river.
The Farmington River west of Hartford is the place to be if you want a few more thrills than the typical flat-water tubing experience can offer. As Visit Connecticut notes, there are three sets of rapids in about 3 miles, and you'll be navigating around boulders and other tricky obstacles. Rent a tube at Farmington River Tubing in New Hartford.
Designated a state scenic river, the Mohican meanders through north-central Ohio, not far from Amish Country. This is a relaxing, all-day affair -- plan to spend four to five hours on the river -- and float season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Rent a tube and hop on a shuttle at Mohican Adventures in South Loudonville.
Far upriver from the nation's capital, the Potomac looks much different than that city's wide, flat water. Where the Potomac meets the Shenandoah, more adventurous tubers can take on Class I, II, and even III rapids while floating past historic Harpers Ferry, site of John Brown's raid on a federal arsenal in 1859. Harpers Ferry Adventure Center in Purcellville, Virginia, provides tubes and shuttle rides.
Voted "Best Fun on a River" by Philadelphia Magazine, tubing down this river border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey is a family-friendly way to get out of the city and beat the heat. Choose a trip with Delaware River Tubing in Milford and you'll be treated to a free meal at a floating hot dog shack.
One of Jetsetter's picks for "epic" tubing the United States, floating down the Salt River through Tonto National Forest offers a novel way to escape the brutal Arizona summer heat. Choose from two- to five-hour trips with Salt River Tubing in Mesa, just outside Phoenix. There are also themed events throughout the year.
Close enough to Minneapolis to make it a day trip, northwestern Wisconsin's Apple River is hugely popular with tubers -- it might even be home of river tubing's inventor, David Breault, owner of the Terrance Nite Club. Jetsetter cautions that weekends can get raucous, so it's best to take kids during the week, however. Several companies rent tubes and run shuttles from Somerset, including Float Rite Park.
One of Men's Journal's top spots for tubing in the U.S., the 'Hooch is a refreshing respite from the Georgia heat just northeast of Atlanta. There are several points where you can begin a float, but one popular place to rent a tube is at Cool River Tubing in Helen, which offers two float options and even some waterslides halfway through your trip.
One of the Travel Channel's picks for "Tube Trips You Must Take," the scenic Ichetucknee River northwest of Gainesville is notable for its clear, spring-fed water and great bird watching. Authentic Florida warns that holidays and weekends get crowded as locals flock here to cool off. Tube rentals are available at Ichetucknee Springs State Park.
On the Middle Loup in north-central Nebraska's rolling Sandhills, you can trade tubing for "tankin'" in a stock tank originally used to hold water for livestock, the Travel Channel notes. Tanks from Sandhill River Trips hold up to five adults during a half-day trip, but you can opt for a traditional one-person tube, too.
Tubing on the Yampa is a summertime favorite in Steamboat Springs, a town more noted as a winter ski resort. You won't encounter much in the way of white water, but you can make several stops at restaurants and bars along the way. There are several tube-rental options in Steamboat Springs, or you can go it alone with your own tube.
Bluffs and rock chimneys along the Upper Iowa River make for scenery that "looks more like Utah than Iowa," according to Midwest Weekends, which recommends bringing your own tube for a trip between Chimney Rock Park and Bluffton. Hruska's Canoe Livery also rents tubes and offers shuttles.
That's right -- you can go tubing on a ditch and tunnel system that helped water sugar crops on Hawaii's island of Kauai. You'll even need a headlamp because there are several tunnels along the way. Getting there is half the fun -- you'll have to hop on an all-terrain vehicle to get to the drop-off point. Kauai Backcountry Adventures is the exclusive tour operator.
Also popular with rafters, the Truckee begins at Lake Tahoe, curls around the lake and flows into Nevada. Calmer lately because of a lack of snow melt, the Truckee is ideal for tubing in its placid state, notes Thrillist. Sierra Adventures in Reno offers tube rentals and coordinated tubing trips with shuttles.
USA Today 10Best Readers' Choice for best tubing in the nation, the Portneuf River in southeastern Idaho is notable for its rapids and small waterfalls that make this more than just a lazy river float. Bring your own tube or rent one from Portneuf Rapids Tube Rentals or TPD Tubes in Lava Hot Springs. When you're done, go enjoy the town's mineral hot pools.
Spring-fed by the Ozark Mountains, the Current River in south-central Missouri is part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, and it's always temptingly cool on a hot summer day. KC's on the Current in Doniphan offers upgraded "Cadillac Tubes" with canvas bottoms -- more protection from rump-scraping rocks -- as well as bigger rafts and tubes for your cooler.
Eastern Michigan's Rifle River offers gentle stretches of water for a float as it meanders toward Lake Huron. As USA Today notes, it's also shallow, with a maximum depth around 2 feet that makes it great for kids or timid swimmers. Several outfitters offer tube rentals including River View Campground and Canoe Livery in Sterling. There, you can choose an hour-long trip, or spend all day on the river.
Western Massachusetts' Deerfield River offers several family-friendly floating options. To ditch the crowds, the Appalachian Mountain Club recommends putting in at Bardswell Ferry Bridge in Conway, a less-traveled stretch. Deerfield River Portage offers rental tubes and shuttles.
The Madison, which begins in Yellowstone National Park, is popular for fly fishing, but tubing is another well-established pastime. Outside Bozeman recommends slapping on the sunscreen before going, as there's little shade. There are several spots to rent tubes in Bozeman, including Big Boys Toys. They offer single, double, and even triple tubes -- and of course, tubes for your cooler.
Tubing on Boulder Creek isn't for the timid -- there are several whitewater sections that can be especially thrilling when snow melt is high and the water is running fast. Roots Rated warns that "the water is really freaking cold" earlier in the season, so wetsuits may keep you more comfortable than a swimsuit. Head to Whitewater Tube Co. in Boulder for rentals and shuttle service.
You'll be floating past parts of infamous Antietam National Battlefield when you tube on Maryland's shady, spring-fed Antietam Creek. River & Trail Outfitters leads guided four- to five-hour tours that include historical commentary. Points of interest include Burnside's Bridge, a point of strategic interest during the Civil War fighting.
Need a Disney alternative? Rock Springs Run at Kelly Park is just north of Orlando in Apopka. This natural spring is ideal for tubing, and there are lagoons for swimming, too. At 25 minutes, this is a relatively short float, but there are boardwalks that make repeat trips easy.
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