The Best Places to Go Tubing + Rafting Near Sacramento
Sacramento is known for its beautiful rivers winding throughout the region, offering endless opportunities for recreation. Many are too shallow for motorized boats and are instead best experienced by tube or raft. Take a look at some of our favorite river stretches in the area for a lazy tube float or an exciting white water adventure with a professional rafting guide. Whether you prefer a slow-paced float or a white-knuckle thrill, these river adventures are sure to please.
A few words of caution! Many rivers prohibit the consumption of alcohol while on or near the river. Regardless of restrictions, it is advised to be extremely careful when mixing alcohol with tubing, rafting or swimming. Be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen, water and other summertime necessities when embarking on a river trip. It is also wise to bring a waterproof bag to store any valuables, including phones, in case of an emergency. Pay attention to warning signs along the river, which may indicate hazardous river conditions. Know your physical limits, as some currents may be stronger than you anticipate.
The American River — Rancho Cordova, CA
The American River is perhaps the most renowned destination for tubing and rafting in the area. In fact, Thrillist included it amongst the best rivers in America for tubing! There are plenty of ways to travel down the infamous American River, whether it’s via kayak, canoe, tube or raft.
If you’re looking for a self-guided relaxing float on a tube, you might consider starting at the Sunrise Boulevard river access point in Rancho Cordova and ending your float at River Bend Park. Pack the essentials, including water, sunscreen, a paddle, and of course — a hefty tube, so you can avoid getting punctures in the tube from rocks or branches. You’ll need more than one car to make this trip a success. Simply park one car (or more, depending on how large your group is) at the ending point, then carpool up to the starting point. Put car keys, wallets and phones inside a waterproof bag or container, and keep towels and any changes of clothes in the cars parked at the ending point. And last but not least, enjoy a leisurely float down this scenic portion of the American River!
American River Raft Rentals is located in the Sunrise Recreation Area in Rancho Cordova. If you don’t have your own equipment, this is the perfect solution for a stress-free float down the American River. Since 1974, American River Raft Rentals has become the largest and most experienced rafting company in California. They can help you organize rafting trips for groups of any size, offering rafts for 4, 6, 10 or even 12 people. Plus, you can grab any last-minute must-haves at their store, including sodas, snacks, sandwiches, sunscreen and other miscellaneous items.
Just down the road in Fair Oaks, you’ll find River Rat Raft & Bike, a raft and bike rental business with a special offer in store. In addition to renting a raft, you can opt for their all-inclusive river rafting trip with lunch, which includes a raft, life jackets, paddles, a shuttle, and a barbecue lunch. The lunch package is $50 per person, which is an excellent deal considering all it entails, including the convenience of a shuttle! However, this trip requires a minimum of 40 people. If you don’t have a large group, you can bring your own lunch, float along the river, and take the shuttle back to the shop for $5.
The American River — Lotus, CA
Located about an hour northeast of Sacramento, Lotus and Coloma are popular destinations for rafting along the American River. This portion of the river offers Class III and Class IV ratings, which includes some more intense rapids that are best experienced with a professional guide. Use caution if you venture into this section of the American River on your own!
OARS offers a variety of trips along the American River, including both the South Fork and Middle Fork. Book your reservation for the intensity and section of your choice — including a half or full day on the South Fork or a full day on Middle Fork. The Class IV Middle Fork adventure includes a journey through the “Tunnel Chute”, a long, tumultuous rapid concluding with a 90 feet of the river disappearing underground. The more laid-back South Fork adventure, and the option to cut your day short, is the perfect option for beginners, families, and anyone who simply wants to spend the day paddling in the California sunshine!
Upper Cache Creek — Sacramento, CA
Photo Courtesy of Whitewater Adventures
Book a trip with Whitewater Adventures for a unique and fun-filled experience traveling along the Upper Cache Creek. This trusted raft rental company offers a variety of trip packages, including one-day and two-day adventures, plus an optional Friday night VIP camping add-on for two-day rafters only. This additional night of camping includes a dinner, continental breakfast, priority camping, and a movie screening on the river!
Each rafting trip includes meals, and the two-day trip even has a first-class feast followed by their famous black light disco dance party along the river. This company sure knows how to make your whitewater rafting trip fun — and memorable!
The Truckee River — Tahoe City, CA
Photo Courtesy of Truckee River Rafting
Venture a bit further for a thrilling trip down the Truckee River, which flows out of the western shore of Lake Tahoe. Truckee River Rafting is your go-to source for experiencing the wonders of this beautiful river via raft. You will pass through peaceful, quiet stretches, enchanting pools, and exciting rapids. This family-owned and -operated business offers self-guided raft trips traveling from the access point in Tahoe City to the River Ranch, a stretch that extends a total of 5 miles. Parking is free and there is a shuttle at the end that will transport your group back to Tahoe City. Their durable, commercial-grade rafts can accommodate up to 10 people and groups of nearly any size are welcome. Top off your adventure with a hearty meal at the River Grill, located along the river near Truckee River Rafting.
The Sacramento River — Chico, CA
Photo Courtesy of Josh McNair, CaliforniaThroughMyLens.com
If you haven’t yet floated the Sacramento River in Chico, you are in for a treat — especially if you go during Labor Day! Each year on Labor Day weekend, some 4,000 people float the stretch of the river surrounding Scotty’s Landing, a popular local restaurant with tube rentals costing just $4 per day. But no matter what day you are floating the river, one experienced floater recommends starting at Scotty’s, where you can also find free parking, rent your tubes, and float down the river for about two hours until you reach the Irving Finch Boat Launch, where one or more of your cars should be parked in advance. This float is relaxing, scenic and easy-going!
Enjoy your relaxing and/or thrilling adventure on the river! What tubing or rafting spots would you recommend? Let us know in the comments below.