Yellowstone National Park. The Tetons. Hundreds of miles of rivers. Wilderness filled with moose, bear, wolves and more. With so many outdoor attractions awaiting, it’s no wonder Jackson Hole, Wyoming is such a popular destination with outdoor enthusiasts. It is especially popular among rafting enthusiasts and those looking for new thrills to experience while on vacation.
Outside of skiing, Jackson Hole is most notable for its rafting trips down the Snake River. This 1,078-mile-long river, which is the largest tributary to the Columbia River, begins in Yellowstone National Park and winds its way down through Grand Teton National Park before arriving just north of Jackson. The real fun begins in an eight-mile section of river gorge and rocky, evergreen-lined shores.
Today we’re giving you the scoop on this fun, family-friendly section of whitewater rafting in Jackson Hole!
Best whitewater rafting in Jackson Hole
If there is one thing this part of the country has no shortage of, it’s rivers. Aside from the Snake River in the immediate vicinity, there are several others within an hour-drive or so to look into as well for whitewater rafting trips.
The Snake River is interesting as it provides both calm waters for once-in-a-lifetime wildlife viewing trips and fun sections of rapids. The eight-mile stretch that runs near Jackson Hole ranges from class II to III rapids, with sections sometimes as high as IV during spring snowmelt. This makes for a fun, but safe, trip for beginners and kids.
Gros Ventre River
A short 41-minute drive northeast of Jackson will bring you to the Gros Ventre River. One particularly fun whitewater area is a five-mile stretch below Slide Lake. This section offers class III and IV rapids for an extra exciting time. You will need to take out at the Teton National Park boundary, however, as rafting is prohibited within the park.
Located 44 minutes southwest, the Greys River also offers class III to IV rapids. Check out the six-mile length near Little Greys River, which includes several fun rapids, including one named Snaggletooth.
If you’re seeking an extended tour on the river, head southeast an hour to the Hoback River. A bit tamer than the others listed above, this 20-mile section in Sublette Teton county ranges from class I to III. An overnight trip is not out of the question here and there are plenty of campgrounds nearby as well if you are looking for overnight accommodations that are a little less rugged.
Rafting companies in Jackson Hole, WY
With the awesome whitewater opportunities the Snake River provides, there is no shortage of rafting companies based in Jackson Hole. Here are some of the top-rated ones in town.
Sands Whitewater & Scenic River Trips
Being in business for over 50 years, you can rest assured that these folks know the Snake River in this area like the back of their hand. Sands offers eight-mile whitewater rafting tours of the “Grand Canyon” (as the Snake River Canyon is referred to as) in two different raft sizes. All of their whitewater tours run for about three hours.
Sands offers three to four launch times each day, depending on the time of year, and the rafting season typically runs June through September.
For specific dates, you can contact them at 866-312-4957.
- 14-person raft – $65 for kids (6 to 12), $80 for adults (13+)
- Eight-person raft – $85 for adults and kids (6+) alike
Dave Hansen Whitewater & Scenic River Trips
If you’re looking for a company that even the locals agree is the best, check out Dave Hansen. Voted as the “Best Rafting Company” in Jackson Hole for seven consecutive years, the staff here will ensure you have a blast and stay safe too as you take in the scenery and run thrilling rapids through eight miles of the Snake River Canyon.
Each whitewater trip generally runs around 3.5 hours.
- Standard raft (10 to 14 people) – $87 for adults, $70 for kids ( to 12)
- Eight-person raft – $93 for adults and children (6+)
- Dave Hansen also offers combo whitewater and scenic float trips in both the standard rafts and eight-person vessels. Call them at 307-733-6295 for more details.
Barker-Ewing offers an array of trip options, from standard whitewater rafting trips to hosting wedding parties and family reunions. Be sure to check out their package trips as well, including a Continental Breakfast Scenic Float & Whitewater Rafting trip and a Wildlife & Whitewater Combo.
Call for more details at 307-733-1000. Trips usually run from late-May through September and last three to 3.5 hours altogether.
- Standard raft – $87 for adults, $70 for kids (6 to 12)
- Small boat – $93 for adults and kids (6 to 12)
Mad River Boat Trips
Mad River offers three different boat sizes, making your experience on the Snake River a little more customizable. All of their trips are available from mid-June through mid-September and run between three and 3.5 hours in length. For just a little extra, you can also enjoy a riverside lunch with some trips.
Call 1-800-458-7238 for details.
- Classic raft (16 people) – $86 for adults, $65 for kids (6+)
- Small boats (eight people) – $99 for adults and children (8+)
- Super small boats (six people) – $115 for adults, $99 for kids (10+)
For a more comprehensive list of rafting businesses in the area, check out this article from the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce.
Raft trips in Jackson Hole, WY
Whether you’ve never been whitewater rafting in your life, have experience under your belt and are looking for something with more thrills, or are somewhere in between, there is a whitewater rafting trip in Jackson Hole for you!
Continental Breakfast Scenic Float & Whitewater Rafting
If you’re looking for the best of both worlds, you can’t go wrong with this trip through Barker-Ewing. Enjoy a light breakfast of “cereals, croissants, fresh fruits, orange juice, hot chocolate and coffee” before you get off to an early start.
Next, you’ll head just south of the Grand Teton National Park boundary to begin your scenic viewing portion of the trip. You’ll enjoy wonderful views of the Teton mountains along the way as well as get a chance to view bald eagles, moose, bears and more. After this seven-mile portion of the trip, you’ll head back to the boathouse to get ready for your eight-mile-long whitewater adventure.
Prices range from $115 to $143.
Small Boats… Big Adventure!
For some heart-pumping fun from the get-go, try one of Mad River’s small boat tours. When it comes to whitewater rafting, the smaller the boat means the more action you get. You can expect to get wetter and wilder on this tour where you will be expected to do some real paddling.
With some quiet areas interspersed among the eight sets of rapids, you may be able to see some wildlife along your route as well, including glimpses of river otters, bald eagles and osprey. The small boat trip will run you $99 per adult and per child (8+).
Small Boat, Big Ride
For the ultimate adventure-seekers, there are the extra small rafts of Lewis & Clark River Expeditions. Boasted as the smallest guided boats in Jackson Hole, you will feel like you’re on a roller coaster as you tackle the rapids of the Snake River in their 13-foot boats.
Depending on water levels, you may also be able to take a dip in the calmer portions of this section of the river. The minimum age for this trip is 8 to 10 (depending on water conditions) and prices range from $80 for kids (8 to 12) and $88 for adults.
Jackson Hole overnight rafting trips
Unfortunately, overnight rafting trips are no longer offered by the few local companies that used to do so.
However, if you really have your heart set on an overnight trip and don’t mind that it’s not whitewater or rafting, check out these canoe/kayak overnight trips nearby.
Jackson Hole whitewater rafting prices
As you can see from the above sampling of local guided rafting companies, whitewater-only trips will run from about $70 to $115. Since all the tours are around the same time frame of three hours, prices are mostly dependent on which size of boat you decide to take. The smaller the boat, the higher the price of the trip.
For combo trips of whitewater rafting and scenic floating, you can expect to pay anywhere from $115 to $225, depending on the length and type of tour it is (wildlife-viewing, included breakfast or lunch, etc.).
When to go whitewater rafting in Jackson Hole
In general, late-spring through early-fall is the best time to go whitewater rafting in Jackson Hole. If you will not have younger children with you and want to avoid crowds, shoot for May or June. Temperatures will be on the rise and the rapids will still be bigger due to snowmelt from the mountains.
If you have kids with you, August and September may be your best bets. The season will be winding down and there shouldn’t be any concerns about potentially dangerous rapids for younger kids as the waters calm down during the summer months.
What to wear whitewater rafting in Jackson Hole
Preparing for a whitewater rafting trip is exceptionally easy. Here are a few things you will want to wear and keep in mind.
- Synthetic clothing. During the warmer months of July and August, a bathing suit will work just fine. Just be sure to avoid cotton clothing at all costs as it easily soaks up water. Many outfitters will offer wetsuits for rent during cooler times.
- Many companies also offer splash jackets at no extra charge. Be sure to check into this if you don’t have a rain coat, fleece or other water-resistant jacket with you for unexpectedly cold days.
- Secure shoes. Whether you want to wear tennis shoes you don’t mind getting wet or sandals is up to you, but rafting companies will require them to be some type of shoe with a heel strap so they do not come off. Some outfitters also offer neoprene booties to rent as well.
- A change of clothes for after. You will be on a bus for about 40 minutes back to Jackson after your trip. A set of dry clothes to change into is more than a good idea.
- Sunglasses, hats and sunscreen during the warm months. As with the shoes, make sure your sunglasses are secured with a strap.
No matter what level of thrills you are looking for, a whitewater rafting adventure in Jackson Hole is sure to please!