5 Best Rafting Trips Near Yellowstone and Grand Teton

Whether you want to ride the rapids or enjoy a leisurely float, the rivers near Yellowstone National Park deliver.

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“Montana Whitewater” Photo: Montana Whitewater

Nothing beats a whitewater rafting adventure for escaping the summer heat. Although there is no rafting inside Yellowstone, the waterways surrounding the park offer up everything from lazy floats to intense rapids—pleasing everyone from kids and grandparents to adrenaline junkies. Find your perfect whitewater (or flat water, as the case may be) adventure on these favorite rivers.

NOTE: Because of COVID-19, not all rafting companies opened for summer 2022. Please check with individual companies to find out their summer schedule.

1. Snake River in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

This large, long waterway rises in Yellowstone and travels more than 1,000 miles through Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon and Washington to become the Columbia River’s largest tributary. The most popular rafting section of the river runs from Grand Teton National Park through Jackson Hole, the area surrounding Jackson, Wyo.

“Rafting and floating the river is my favorite way to see the park,” says Evan Toal, a guide for more than eight years and the head boatman at Jackson Hole Whitewater. “It’s the best way to take in the beauty of the area in a peaceful setting that is unobstructed by roads, buildings or any other human-made structures.”

Whitewater Rafting Trips on the Snake River

The Snake River offers both whitewater and mellow scenic float trips. “Whitewater” means more rapids and more adrenaline as you navigate through the Snake’s rushing waters. There are a number of companies that offer whitewater rafting trips on the Snake River.

Barker-Ewing rafting on the Snake River in Jackson Hole. Courtesy photo

Barker Ewing by Jackson Hole Whitewater rafting on the Snake River in Jackson Hole. Courtesy photo

Hop on a boat with Barker Ewing by Jackson Hole Whitewater for whitewater fun and adventure on the Snake River. It offers daily 8-mile rafting trips from mid-May through mid-September (call for exact dates as they change according to weather). The trips take approximately 3.5 -4 hours round trip from Jackson, Wyo. www.barker-ewing.com

Rafting down the Snake River with Mad River Boat Trips

Rafting near Yellowstone with Mad River on the Snake River. Photo: Mad River Boat Trips

Whitewater trips with Mad River Boat Trips are divided into three categories of rafts: classic adventure, small and super small. The smaller the boat, the bigger the adventure. Each trip covers eight river miles near Alpine, Wyo. The classic adventure is best for those that want a taste of whitewater rafting without any white knuckling. The raft holds 10-12 people and has several non-paddling positions if you’re not sure you’re up to wielding a paddle. www.mad-river.com

Scenic Float Trips on the Snake River

If you’re looking for a more relaxing way to take in the majestic scenery of Grand Teton National Park and the surrounding area, then a scenic float trip is in order. Enjoy a secluded trip down Snake River within Grand Teton National Park and experience the park in a unique way. Bring a camera or binoculars because it’s possible to see a variety of wildlife, such as bald eagles, moose, elk and otters.

For most companies the minimum age limit is 6, but depending on the difficulty and intensity of the river at the time, the age limit could increase.

Spotting an eagle while floating through Grand Teton National Park

Spotting an eagle while floating through Grand Teton National Park Photo: Barker-Ewing Scenic Float Trips

Barker-Ewing Scenic Float Trips pioneered commercial trips down this scenic section of the Snake River in 1963. Float 10 miles with a knowledgeable guide to experience the natural beauty and wildlife on your trip. Rafters often spot moose, beaver and eagles. And, if you’re really lucky, you might spot a wolf or a bear. barkerewing.com

Barker Ewing by Jackson Hole Whitewater offers a 7-mile scenic float trip outside of Grand Teton National Park. Your guide will provide you with information on the the geology and ecology of Snake River and the wildlife living in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. A discount is applied to all fares purchased online. www.barker-ewing.com

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Grand Teton Lodge Company, based in the national park, offers float trips on the Snake River. Choose a morning, afternoon, lunch or dinner float for epic scenery and wildlife. gtlc.com

Solitude Float Trips are 100 percent in Grand Teton National Park, which means you’ll see a totally different side of the park than the majority of people who visit. As you float through the park, your Solitude guide will share fun facts about the wildlife, the geology and the people who have left their marks in the area. You’ll start at Deadman’s Bar below the famous Snake River Overlook where photographer Ansel Adams took his iconic shot. Trips are two hours long and six trips leaves per day. grand-teton-scenic-floats.com

Mad River Boat Trips’ 13-mile serene float is also on the Snake River with iconic Teton views on a calm stretch of water. All 10 seats on the boat are non-paddling positions, so you can sit back and relax as your guide navigates you through world-class scenery. www.mad-river.com

Mad River Scenic Float with Teton Views

Mad River Scenic Float with Teton Views Photo: Photo courtesy Mad River Boat Trips

2. Yellowstone River near Gardiner, Montana

The mighty Yellowstone River winds for almost 700 miles through some of the park’s most stunning scenery: Yellowstone Lake, the Upper and Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone, a 2,000-foot-deep canyon on the north side of Blacktail Deer Plateau.

From the park, it flows east through Montana and North Dakota, eventually joining the Missouri River. It offers a ton of fun in terms of rafting trips along the way.

Yellowstone Rafting with Flying Pig Adventure Company

Yellowstone Rafting with Flying Pig Adventure Company

At Yellowstone National Park’s North Entrance sits the town of Gardiner, Mont., where you can literally load into rafting boats from town into the Yellowstone River. The river is a great one for families. Plus, the river flows along one of the borders of the park, making it a unique way to see a different side of the landscape.

“You can’t raft on the rivers in the park, so it’s the closest you’ll get to rafting in the park,” says Thomas Davis, co-owner of Wild West Whitewater Rafting. “It’s a great stretch of river whether you are looking for splashes or something more. It’s not overwhelming, so it’s pretty much good for all age levels.”

Flying Pig Adventure Company, based in Gardiner, Mont., runs several trips here. All of Flying Pig’s raft trips launch from behind the Flying Pig Camp Store right in Gardiner, Mont. Choose from an 8-mile trip (Class I, II, and III rapids), an exhilarating, more technical 18-mile ride through Yankee Jim Canyon (Class III-IV), or a totally immersive overnight trip. Flying Pig also offers lodging, horseback rides, guided fly-fishing, a camp store, park tours and more. flyingpigrafting.com

Rafting with Montana Whitewater

Rafting with Montana Whitewater Montana Whitewater

Montana Whitewater Rafting and Zipline Company offers half-and full-day trips on the Yellowstone (Class II-III). Their Yellowstone EcoTour Zipline, based in Gardiner, offers zips on the mountains bordering Yellowstone, sky bridges, and multiple 1,200-foot ziplines soaring 200 feet above Cinnabar Creek. yellowstoneraftzipline.com

Rafting the Yellowstone River. Photo by Ondrus courtesy of Paradise Adventure Company

Rafting the Yellowstone River with Paradise Adventure Company Ondrus courtesy of Paradise Adventure Company

Paradise Adventure Company launches from two locations, Gardiner and Pray, Mont., to run 6, 8 and 18-mile trips on the Yellowstone River. www.paradiserafting.com

Also in Gardiner, Mont., Wild West Rafting runs float trips through the Yellowstone’s majestic Paradise Valley, which is a gorgeous landscape just south of Livingston that stretches just north of Yellowstone. Framed by the Absaroka range and the Gallatin range, it’s great for wildlife watching and photography, as well as high-quality whitewater and scenic river trips. Trips are suitable for the entire family, from beginners to more seasoned thrill-seekers. wildwestrafting.com

3. Gallatin River near Big Sky, Montana

From its source in the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park, the Gallatin River courses north for 100 miles to join the Madison and Jefferson rivers in the quaint, small town of Three Forks, Mont. Its upper 40 miles dish out the most thrilling whitewater, with miles of rapids, rocks and waves.

The Gallatin River is also home to the Fly-Fishing Adventure Center, located at Karst Camp, a private riverfront property, on the banks of the river. Options include the Learn to Fly-Fish Program for beginners and families and guided trips on the Gallatin, Yellowstone, and Madison Rivers. yellowstonefish.com

Rafting the Gallatin River with Montana Whitewater

Rafting the Gallatin River with Montana Whitewater Montana Whitewater

Montana Whitewater Rafting and Zipline Company (locations in Gardiner and Big Sky) runs trips down the Gallatin River, from a Class I-II scenic float in the Gallatin River Canyon to full-day runs into Class IV whitewater. Half-day, full-day, and overnight trips are available. The Gallatin and Gardiner locations also offers zipline tours. montanawhitewater.com

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4. Madison River West of West Yellowstone, Montana

Most famous for its excellent fly-fishing, the Madison River also offers great miles for rafting and tubing. From its origins on the west side of Yellowstone National Park, the river flows northwest through Bear Trap Canyon and more remote terrain to finally join the Missouri River near Three Forks, Mont.

If you don’t opt for a tubing float down the Madison River near Bozeman, Mont., you’re going to be really envious of all the tubers you see having an amazing time floating down the Madison River as you drive Hwy. 287 from Big Sky toward Ennis and Virginia City. It’s really worth setting aside a day to float the Madison River under Montana’s big sky.

Floating down the Madison River in inner tubes

Floating down the Madison River in inner tubes Photo: Courtesy Montana Whitewater

Montana Whitewater Rafting and Zipline Company offers a shuttle and rental tubes, including coolers, for trips on the Madison River. This is a great option for families with children or anyone looking for a mellow day out on the river. The company also offers a much more intense rafting trip: full-day wilderness rafting through the Bear Trap Canyon (Class II-IV). montanawhitewater.com

5. Shoshone River between Yellowstone and Cody, Wyoming

Teddy Roosevelt declared this stretch of country from Yellowstone National Park’s East Entrance to Cody, Wyo., as the most scenic 50 miles in America. But don’t take his word for it. Go see it yourself as you drive out of Yellowstone’s East Entrance toward Cody.

While rafting through this gorgeous area, you’ll see the spectacular scenery of the Wapiti Valley on the North Fork of the Shoshone while bouncing over Class II rapids. Two-hour to half-day trips are available. Don’t forget to look beyond the river for wildlife. The riverbanks are full of wildlife including eagles, elk and deer.

Do you have a young family? Take a float on the milder sections of the river. Outfitters can be found in Cody, Wyoming. Visit the official Cody Yellowstone site to learn more.

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Classic Boats… Classic Adventure!

a man riding on a raft in a body of water

You Can’t Go Wrong with Mad River’s Classic Whitewater Boats!

There are non-paddling and paddling positions in this raft. Most people choose this option because they are first-time rafters or are traveling with small children. This trip features our standard size raft. This raft is an AIRE inflatable, self-bailing, 18’3” raft. It seats 16 people per boat. There are non-paddling and paddling positions in this raft. Mad River’s experienced guides will share the history of the area as well as information about the incredible local flora and fauna. The Snake River Canyon is rich in geological history and your guide will point out some of the features that make this canyon unique. You may see river otters, osprey, and bald eagles on your trip. A lucky few might even catch a glimpse of a mountain goat, a mule deer, an elk, or even a grizzly or black bear.

Overview of the Snake River:

People come from all over the world to experience our newly designated “Wild and Scenic” river. The Snake River in Jackson Hole has been classified as a class I-III river, meaning that you can enjoy anything from a flat water scenic float in the north to exciting whitewater rapids in the Snake River Canyon to the south.

Course of Trip:

All whitewater trips launch from West Table Boat Ramp in the Snake River Canyon and wind their way south toward Alpine, WY, exiting the river at Sheep Gulch Boat Ramp. Guests travel 8 river miles from start to finish. There are about 8 sets of rapids, ranging from class I to III. Rapids include Station Creek, Double Draw, Blind Canyon, Big Kahuna, Lunchcounter, Ropes, Champagne, and Cottonwoods.

Best Suited For:

Classic boats are best suited for families with kiddos 6 to 9 years old (must weigh 50 pounds), solo travelers, active seniors, first-timers, multi-generational travelers, or large groups.

Rentals Available:

Need to borrow some of our gear? You can rent Booties ($5), Wetsuits ($10), and Wetsuit Jackets ($5) at check out or the day of your trip!

  • Launch Times Chevron down
  • 8:15am, 10:15am, 12:15pm, 2:15pm
  • Launch times vary seasonally or may be altered due to extreme water conditions
  • When: 30 minutes prior to your scheduled trip time
  • Where: Mad River, 1255 South Highway 89 Jackson Wyoming 83001. Just 2 miles south of the town square, between Whole Grocer and Smith’s
    Grocery.
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Transportation from the Mad River Boat Wedge to the river and back is provided on every Mad River trip.

  • Bring a face mask (not required to wear while rafting)
  • Synthetic layers + bathing suit
  • Shoes that can get wet that will not come off your feet – no flip flops!
  • A sweatshirt/towel
  • Hats and sunglasses are recommended
  • Don’t forget sunscreen!

Included:

  • Professional river guide
  • Transportation to and from the river (all departures leave from the Mad River Wedge),
  • Personal flotation device (PFD)
  • Helmets (required in high water conditions)

Excluded:

Gratuity is not included in regularly scheduled departures. Standard gratuity is recommended at 20% of the rack rate.

Paddler’s Guide to Whitewater Rafting Lingo

a group of people riding on the back of a boat

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of a heart-pounding experience down the whitewater rapids of the legendary Snake River. When it comes to whitewater rafting, you’ll want to understand the language and lingo used, so you can react properly when given an instruction. Before you head off on your next adventure, brush up on a few specific whitewater rafting terms.

Easy enough, the bow is the front of the raft or boat you’re on. You’ll need to know this when being given directions.

Bump or Bumping

When you are on the water, your whitewater rafting guide may say (or yell) “Bump!” This generally will happen just before the watercraft hits a hard surface such as a rock. If you hear this, it’s best to lean into the center of the boat. Also, place the “T” of your paddle on the floor of the watercraft. Maintain your hand over the grip of the paddle when doing so.

Cubic feet per second or CFS describes volume. Specifically, you’ll hear this when describing the amount of water that’s moving past you at any given location. To give you a visual, one CFS is about the size of a soccer ball. If you are whitewater rafting on the Snake River, for example, this measurement is generally between 2,500 and 25,000 cubic feet per second. In other words, there are about 12,000 units of water moving past you every second.

Dig In!

Generally, this term is used when giving direction. You’ll hear your guide say “dig” or “hard forward, dig” while you are paddling. It is a description of a specific technique you’ll use. In it, you’ll want to push the paddle blade deep into the water. When doing so, you’ll reach the downstream current that’s deeper in the water. This is often necessary when you need to move your watercraft through larger holes.

Eddy out

Eddy out describes a hand gesture you’ll see used by guides when they need you to move to the side of the river. To notice it, you’ll see the guide place a hand in the air and motion it in a circle, and then point to the direction they want to move in.

The Line

The term line is used to describe the best path through a rapid or wave on the river.

Don’t make a common mistake and think an oar is a paddle. It’s a longer, stout pole that has a characteristic blade at the end. It’s also fastened to the boat.

Positive Pointing

On the river, your guide will “point positive,” which means they will point in the direction they want you to go. They may also be telling you where the proper line is when paddling.

A guide should never point at something and say, “Don’t go there…” That would be considered pointing negative, and is a river NO-NO.

Ready

We know you are excited now, but No, you are not technically ready. River guides will use this term to note that the watercraft is untied, you’ve coiled the lines, required training discussion is over, and all gear is in place. In other words, the boat is now fully readied by the guide, and can pull out of position at any time.

Wave Train

When rapids have three or more waves in consecutive fashion, this is a wave train. When this happens, the watercraft will move up and down rapidly, much like a thrill ride!

Come Join Us On the Snake River

How many of those terms did you know or think you knew but really did not? The goal of all Mad River guides is to keep you safe, while showing you a great time. Being able to communicate properly is one of the ways you can help accomplish both of those things.

So what are you waiting for? Book your whitewater adventure, and let our passionate Mad River guides show you a great time through the twists and turns of the Snake River.

Source https://www.yellowstonepark.com/things-to-do/rafting-water-activities/best-rafting-trips-near-yellowstone/

Source https://www.mad-river.com/jackson-hole-whitewater-rafting/classic-boats-classic-adventure/

Source https://www.mad-river.com/blog/paddler-s-guide-to-whitewater-rafting-lingo/

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