You cannot see all of Yellowstone by car in one day, so we have a tip for you.
Don’t try. Plan to spend at least a half day out of your car rafting the Yellowstone River with Wild West Rafting next to Yellowstone’s North Entrance. The company offers half-day, full-day and overnight trips, plus trips that offer a horseback riding and rafting combination.
“There’s no better way to experience the beauty of the area and the beauty of Montana than in a raft,” says Thomas Davis, co-owner of Wild West Rafting based in Gardiner, Mont., noting the Yellowstone River is the largest undammed river in the Lower 48.
Plus, with Wild West Rafting, you’ll be floating along the border of Yellowstone National Park for the first four miles of all trips, catching sight of wildlife like elk and bison, depending on the day. Since you cannot legally raft in the park, it’s the closest you’ll get to rafting in Yellowstone. If you don’t want to get in a boat, sign up for a one-hour or two-hour horseback ride that brings you in the heart of the Yellowstone area’s gorgeous scenery.
Join Wild West Rafting near Yellowstone’s North Entrance
The stretch of Yellowstone River you raft offers a fun, splashy day without extremely technical rapids. But for those who just want to casually float down the river, you can sign up for a wet or dry Scenic Float.
Otherwise, you can choose a half-day, two-hour rafting trip that offers a mix of easy rapids and calm sections. Or opt for a full-day, 4-5-hour, 18-mile trip that includes a picnic prepared by Wild West on Lunch Island. The full-day offers a mix of Class 1, Class II and III rapids (class II are easy rapids and class III are moderately difficult), making for a fun experience. Either trip is good for almost all ages levels, but you need to weigh 40 pounds or more.
“It’s perfect for families, but you’re still going to have an excellent time,” Davis says.
But for those who have rafting experience and are looking for the ultimate thrill ride, Wild West Rafting offers a class III and class IV rapid experience on its Small Boat Big Water trip. It’s a five-mile stretch of river only offered in May and June.
“If you’re with college buddies or have rafting expertise as a family with teenagers, you can go on class IV rapids,” Davis says.
Do an Overnight Rafting Trip near Yellowstone
Wild West Rafting also offers a 21-miles overnight rafting trip down the Yellowstone River. Why do an overnight river rafting trip, especially if you’ve never done one?
“If you’re having a good time on the river, you always want to go longer,” Davis says. “The river changes so much from moving through a high-desert plateau to valley ranch land with big mountains and then through the big granite walls of Yankee Jim Canyon, which finally opening up into Paradise Valley.”
Plus, you’ll float into a gorgeous camp already set up with your luggage ready for you. You’ll sleep in comfortable cots in cool tipis in a meadow along the river. While you will be sleeping outdoors, you’ll enjoy eating a steak dinner by lantern-light and a cowboy-style breakfast in the morning prepared by your guide.
“It’s a way to truly experience the wilderness and still be in your comfort zone,” Davis says.
Wild West Rafting
220 West Park St.
Gardiner, Mont. 59030