It’s a question we get all the time: what’s the best season to raft the Snake River? The answer is easy – all of them! (Okay, three of them. Snowmen don’t paddle hard enough to make good rafting buddies.) Spring, summer, and fall in Jackson Hole each bring fun and unique qualities and we love experiencing each of them from the river.
Spring Rafting on the Snake River
Early season (April-June) is surprisingly one of the best times to raft in Jackson Hole. While April – June may be considered summer season in many parts of the country, it’s definitely springtime in Jackson! The weather can still be a bit cooler, and other summer activities like hiking can be more limited. This is a great season for rafting though! Not only are the groups smaller, lots of animals are in the process of their spring migrations. As elk depart their winter feedgrounds, they travel along the same 13-mile stretch of river that our scenic floats cover. There’s nothing like watching native wildlife against a backdrop of the bright green valley and towering snow-capped peaks.
Early June provides the most thrilling whitewater of the entire year. The snowmelt from the mountains reaches its highest point and the rapids are rockin’! If you’re looking for an adrenaline-fueled ride, this is it: Lunchcounter Rapid – a world-class wave train – can have 20-foot high waves this time of year! (Be aware that age limits for our whitewater adventures can vary during this time, so give us a shout with any questions.)
The water is still chilly in the late spring, and the air can be nippy, too – daytime highs in May tend to hover in the mid-60s F, and into the 70s as June arrives. But don’t worry! Dave Hansen has you covered (literally) with high-quality wetsuits for whitewater trips, and cozy blankets for scenic floats.
Summer Whitewater and Scenic Floats
The months of July and August bring some pretty spectacular rafting weather in Jackson Hole; afternoons hover in the low to mid-80s, which is ideal for playing in the Snake River. It’s no wonder rafting is one of the most popular summertime activities in Jackson. The river runs crystal clear and is the perfect temperature for a dip! (Take the plunge on your whitewater trip and you’ll become a member of the Snake River Swim Team – with a bracelet to prove it!)
Big Kahuna – one of the river’s most exciting rapids – is in full swing during the summer months, as are many others over the 8 miles of whitewater fun. Dave Hansen offers plenty of different launch times throughout the day, so whether you’ve got a morning hike lined up, or mouthwatering dinner plans, you can enjoy a trip that fits into your vacation schedule. Floating down the Snake River with Dave Hansen’s expert guides is great for first-time rafters and families as well as folks who have some whitewater experience under their belts.
Summertime is also ideal for scenic floats, especially for those who want to experience the magic of the river, but aren’t up for getting soaked. Kick back on a raft and enjoy the cool river breeze as you take in some of the native wildlife that frequents the riverbank. Let your guide point out all of the wonders around you. And for the littlest members of your crew – who might be too young to join the whitewater fun this year – they’ve got the chance to earn their Junior Guide badge!
Floating the Snake River in Fall
Many locals will tell you that fall is their favorite time in Jackson Hole. It’s not tough to see why. Fewer visitors mean that the valley is quieter, but the beautiful weather likes to hang around for a while. September highs are often in the 70s, and cloud-free bluebird days are frequent. Daytime lows can dip into the 40s, so we adjust our launch times to make sure that you’re enjoying the river during the warmest part of the day – especially if you’re getting splashed!
Since the flow of the Snake River is controlled by the Jackson Lake Dam, there’s plenty of water for exciting whitewater all the way into October. So, while other activities might be wrapping up for the chillier months, we’re still out having a blast.
It’s also the chance to witness some of the most dramatic changes in the valley. The cooler evenings start to turn cottonwoods and aspens breathtaking shades of gold. Elk, deer, and even bears take the change as a hint to move towards their wintertime spots. Autumn brings colors and mountain light that is truly spectacular, and best enjoyed from a raft on the river.
Okay, we admit that it’s kind of a trick question. There is no best time of year to raft the Snake River in Jackson Hole – we love them all! Regardless of when your travel plans bring you to this special place, we hope you’ll join us for one of the best family activities in Jackson.