Swimming isn’t the only way to enjoy the water during summer. Spending time floating or tubing on a river provides a great way to enjoy scenic views and fresh air. The U.S. offers several rivers with areas that are calm and gentle enough for this relaxing water activity. These tubing destinations are also ideal for families traveling with kids or for those who don’t have a taste for rapids. Instead of having to worry about navigating rough rapids, you can sit back and drift lazily over the water as it carries you through natural surroundings. The following are some of the top destinations in the country for river tubing.
Shenandoah River, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
The Shenandoah River near Harpers Ferry provides mellow waters for tubing or rafting, while taking in spectacular sights. Guided tubing trips are available, although you can also rent a tube and head out on the water on your own. This area of the river includes a few miles of gentle waters with slight rapids in some spots. You can follow the current along the river for a relaxing experience, then set up camp or stay at a lodge nearby. When you’re not tubing, you can enjoy other activities in Shenandoah National Park, such as hiking and fishing.
Gatlinburg next to Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers several areas of flowing water for tubing, paddling, or swimming. Two of the top places to go for tubing are nearby in Little River and Little Pigeon River. Little River, located close to Townsend, offers a couple of sections for tubing, including a gentle, family-friendly area and a slightly more exciting area for floating with swimming holes nearby. The Little Pigeon River, which is close to Sevierville, offers over 2 miles of calm waters for tubing. Gatlinburg itself is packed with family-friendly attractions, and the foothills all around offer hundreds of Gatlinburg cabins with luxurious amenities available, so you can book a stay and easily get to one or both of these rivers.
Rainbow River, Dunnellon, Florida
For a tropical tubing trip, head to Rainbow River in Dunnellon. This area of Florida, located roughly halfway between Gainesville and Orlando, provides clear waters for tubing. While floating on the river, you can look below you to see fish swimming around. Tubing on Rainbow River takes a few hours, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the views and even see the bottom of this natural subtropical spring. The clear waters of the river also make it a good place for snorkeling if you want to explore the area up close. Rainbow River is part of Rainbow Springs State Park, which offers camping sites and lodges for accommodations. You can even go boat camping or equestrian camping.
Hudson River, New York
You might not think of the northeast as a top tubing destination, but the Hudson River in upstate New York offers a great place to enjoy this activity. Head to the Town of Lake Luzerne, and you’ll have the opportunity to go floating or tubing on the river, with guided trips from late spring through early fall. Going tubing or rafting on the Hudson means you might catch glimpses of local wildlife, including deer, ducks, beavers, and bears. Some tubing areas have gentle rapids that are only about a foot high, making them ideal for those with no rapids experience or families with smaller kids still in the stage of taking swimming lessons. Lake Luzerne offers a few charming places to stay, including waterfront cottages.
Gallatin River, Big Sky, Montana
The Gallatin River in Big Sky provides stunning views of the surrounding canyons, forests, and meadows. Guided rafting tours are available on the river, so you can make sure you see the best parts of the area while floating through the water. The Gallatin River has many areas where the water is flat, which provides the perfect spots for tubing. As you glide along the river, watch for local wildlife such as moose, bald eagles, and marmots. Accommodations in the Big Sky area range from rustic lodges and campsites to high-end hotels and inns. Staying in Big Sky offers a convenient way to hit the tubing spots and enjoy other outdoor activities during your vacation.
American River, Sacramento, California
The American River near Sacramento is a top place for tubing in the Golden State. The river has shallow areas where boats can’t go, which leaves more room for those on tubes or floats. Drifting along the American River takes roughly 4 hours to complete the trip. A few areas have slightly bumpy rapids, but most of this tubing route has calm waters. You can also go kayaking and fishing in the river, or explore local hiking trails when you’re not tubing. Accommodations in the area include resorts, inns, and riverfront camping spots.
Apple River, Somerset, Wisconsin
The Apple River in Somerset offers some relaxing areas for floating or tubing, while enjoying forest and woodland views. The river is known for having relaxing waters that are perfect for drifting along on a tube. Floating down the Apple River takes a few hours. Some tubing areas can get crowded during the busy summer months. The area has several campgrounds, cabins, and lodges to choose from during your stay.