Updated July 8, 2022. If you find navigating rapids during white water rafting is just a bit too daunting while kayaking is too taxing, river tubing might be the summer activity that’s just right. Slowly traversing the river with your family or friends (and a cooler of tasty snacks and cold beverages in tow) is an appealing way to spend a sticky summer afternoon.
For the best experience, remember to pack sunscreen, bug spray, a hat, and plenty of water; water shoes will also give you better footing on the slippery, algae-covered rocks than flip flops. To avoid disappointment, call or check the website or Facebook page for river levels, which can dramatically affect your experience, and book in advance if the outfitter offers it. That said, here are four places to get your float on.
Shenandoah River Outfitters
This company in Luray is celebrating fifty years of getting people on the picturesque Shenandoah via kayaks, canoes, rafts–and tubes. If water levels are higher, a tube trip will take you over riffles and ripples from Bealer’s Ferry to Foster’s; when the water is lower, the route is moved to a deeper section from Seakwood to Burner’s Bottom, through Compton’s Rapid. Trips book up quickly, so reserve online early to get your preferred date and time. The unguided trip is three miles, which takes between three-and-a-half to five hours and leaves rain or shine. Tubers must be at least 5 years of age and tickets are $25 per person, which includes a tube, life jacket, safety video, map, basic instructions, and transportation to and from the river; cooler tube rentals are $6. 6502 S. Page Valley Rd., Luray
Front Royal Outdoors
This outfitter in Front Royal offers a laid-back tubing trip on a three-mile stretch of the South Fork on the Shenandoah River, which includes a fun Class II rapid at the beginning followed by several Class I rapids as well as riffles; if you want a quick break, there are a few islands along the way. The trip takes between three and four hours depending on river levels and includes tube rental, shuttle service, life vest, basic instruction, map, and twine (to tie tubes together). A standard vinyl tube with a cupholder costs $25.64, while the deluxe tube ($30.39) is a luxury vinyl tube with a mesh bottom, backrest, and cup holder; cooler tubes are available for an additional charge. Tubers must be at least six years of age. It’s recommended to book in advance online, especially for weekend rentals. 8567 Stonewall Jackson Hwy., Front Royal
River Riders Family Adventure Resort
Located in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, this company offers several fun options for tubers. For the laziest ride, book the Flat Water Class I trip on the Shenandoah River, which lasts two to three hours. For a bit more of a thrill, opt for the two to three-and-a-half hour white water tubing trip on the Potomac River, where you’ll encounter Class I to III rapids. If that’s still not enough, you can book a five to seven hour jaunt, where you’ll do both trips, with time carved out in the middle for you to either enjoy a picnic lunch you packed or a meal at White Horse Tavern. All options can be booked either guided or unguided and include a life vest, and rates and age/weight restrictions vary depending on the option. 408 Alstadts Hill Rd., Harpers Ferry, WV
Grab your gang, pack the cooler, and head out for a lazy afternoon floating down the Shenandoah with Watermelon Park River Adventures in Berryville. Book your tubing session online, check in once you arrive, and you and your tube will be shuttled upriver to the launch via a quick bus ride. The trip back down takes two to three hours depending on river conditions. Tube rentals are $25 each, and a cooler tube is $15. Riders also have the option to purchase an all-day float pass (weekdays only), which lets you take several rides down the river for $40 a person. 3322 Lockes Mill Rd., Berryville
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