March 12, 2021
As California mitigates health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, some travel restrictions may remain in certain communities. Call the local and regional tourism offices to learn more about the restrictions in your intended destination. Thank you for reading, and stay safe.
The Golden State is home to many rivers, bursting from the mountains and seamlessly merging into the ocean. Boating, canoeing, jet-skiing, and paddleboarding are a few of the many things to do—but for low-effort adventures, tubing is the go-to recreational activity.
Tubing requires very little energy and little to no skills in exchange for a whole lot of fun. You might wonder: “Where are the best places to go tubing near me?” To answer that, we’ve compiled a list of the best places to go tubing in the Golden State. Stock up on sunblock and fasten your life jackets—your adventure begins now.
The Best River Tubing Destinations in the Golden State
Taking a tubing adventure on the Yuba River is a quintessential California experience that makes for an exhilarating escapade. The ride starts at Hallwood on the north bank of the river. As soon as you start floating, soak in the majestic views and stop at different beaches until you reach Shad Pad Park.
Certain parts of the river are more fit for rafting, so stick to calmer waters. Bring along a map since phone service isn’t always available along the river. After you’re done tubing, explore the untarnished swimming holes and forests. Shuttle services aren’t available at the Yuba River, so travel with a plan.
Wondering what to do this summer? Try river tubing on the Sacramento River. While the cold river water isn't the most pleasant on a cloudy day, it’s perfect to escape from the scorching sun. The tiny islands and the wildlife around the coves fascinate you as you float down the flowing river. For the ultimate tubing adventure, start at Irvine Finch Boat Launch and let the water carry you away.
Upon reaching your final destination, indulge in a delightful meal on the waterfront patio at Scotty’s Landing to recharge your body. There’s no doubt that this adventure offers one of the best river tubing experiences in Northern California. But, there are other spots worth checking out as well. Consider starting at Butte Creek—Sacramento River’s less crowded tributary with slightly rougher water.
The Merced River has to be one of the best places to go river tubing in California. The three-mile stretch is as scenic as it gets. Whether it’s the vibrant poppies on the rugged shores or the tranquility of gliding across the river, this tubing experience is unlike any other. Your adventures can take anywhere from two to four hours—it all depends on how much time you like spending in the water. The best time to go river tubing on the Merced River is in the summer, so plan a trip in June or July.
Whenever you find yourself in Yosemite National Park, let the Merced River carry you away from your everyday life. Soak in the sun, cruise through the pristine waters, and don’t forget to admire the beauty and diversity of California.
If it’s not already, Lake Tahoe has to be on your bucket list of California lakes worth visiting. While hiking, camping, and fishing are the most popular activities here, tubing down the Truckee River is also a must. This ride is a great way to admire the meadows and the forested canyons that come into view as you're floating away. The water is shallow with occasional rapids but the best part is that you get to stop at the many banks to soak in the magical scenery. Enjoy the spectacular panoramas while cooling off in the summer sun.
Don’t end your adventures with tubing—go for a swim in one of the many shallow rivers and make the most of your action-packed day. Check out the nearby Donner Lake,too, for more water-related activities.
Kern River meets all the criteria—it’s one of the best river floating spots in the Golden State. Once the season changes, people flock to this destination to embark on adventure, so throw on your lifejacket between August and October when the water is low enough.
Make your adventure even more exciting by inviting your friends or getting the whole family to join you on the relaxing trip down the flowing river to Hart Park. Nature lovers can even stay the night at the Kern River Campground—one of the best river camping destinations in California. If you’re a fishing enthusiast, the nearby Lake Isabella is a wonderful spot for all skill levels.
This can’t-miss Sonoma summer activity offers some of the best adventures in the Golden State. The two-mile stretch from Steelhead Beach to Sunset Beach in Forestville is the best tubing route, so get ready for a memorable float downstream.
Since the Russian River flows much slower during summertime, it’s best to start early, but keep in mind that it gets very crowded when schools are closed. If you happen to go tubing during the holidays, you’ll see a lot of families celebrating with live music and entertainment.
While all the fun can easily distract you, don’t forget to drink lots of water and apply sunscreen. Make sure not to stay out on the river for too long—the scorching sun can lead to dehydration and heatstroke.
Lower American River
Ask just about anyone from California and they’ll tell you the best place to go tubing is on the Lower American River. Though kayaking, canoeing, and rafting are the most popular activities, river floating here is the coolest. Whether you’re renting or bringing your own float tube, make sure they’re still in good condition. (And, if you’re packing snacks, make sure to keep them in a water-proof container or splurge on small inflatable boats for your personal items.)
The San Juan rapids are the liveliest part of this ride—sit back and take in the views the rest of the time. The river can get pretty crowded, so you may want to bring a squirt gun and soak a few consenting strangers on your ride.
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