If you’re in Steamboat Springs this summer, tubing the Yampa River is a must! The adored pastime has flourished into one of Steamboat’s most anticipated summer activities. Following the initial spring melt-off and once temperatures have risen, the community primes their tubes to float the ‘Boat which typically kicks off in June and can last through September.
Since there’s always variance in the rivers condition, click here to see the most recent data on Yampa River discharge speeds and water temperatures. This season has proved to be excessively dry, so the sooner you can tube the Yampa the better off you’ll be from scraping your bottom on a rock. Although water levels are declining, the mountain air is warming meaning comfortable water optimal for adventure.
Whether tubing the Yampa is second nature or a new concept to you, our comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know to make it the best experience possible.
Renting Tubes at the Yampa River
The most common, hassle-free way to float the Yampa is by renting tubes. Tubes are available for rent daily through Backdoor Sports and Bucking Rainbow Outfitters Tube Shack in Downtown Steamboat Springs – both located along Yampa Street between 7th and 8th. These two companies have been managing the tube rental scene for years with unmatched attachment to the Yampa River. Backdoor Sports and Bucking Rainbow Outfitters Tube Shack make it easy to access the thrill of tubing while reducing the stress of transportation with complimentary shuttle services.
For $20 per person, both Backdoor Sports & Bucking Rainbow’s Tube Shack package a high quality tube rental, life jacket, and complimentary shuttle ride from the exit zone back to their drop in locations.
For an additional $3, both Backdoor Sports & Bucking Rainbow’s Tube Shack offer river shoes for rent (or bring your own) which are required to float.
Reservations are required for large groups (10+) and must be made in advance no later than 1:00 pm on the desired day as tubes can sell out fast. Since these companies have a commitment to preserving the Yampa River, they only allow select amounts of individuals river access at one time which means more tubing space for you to enjoy.
Backdoor Sports has over twenty years of tube rental experience.
Bucking Rainbow Outfitters Tube Shack makes floating the ‘Boat hassle free.
Backdoor Sports tubing department and Bucking Rainbow’s Tube Shack close when water levels get too low, water temperatures are too high or water oxygen levels drop too low which result in negative effects on aquatic life and ultimately hinder the tubing experience.
Fun for the whole family! Once situated, tube renters plummet from the access points behind Backdoor Sports or Bucking Rainbow’s Tube Shack into the rushing waters of the Yampa River.
You’ll then float approximately 2 miles through Downtown Steamboat Springs to the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge in West Steamboat which takes one hour.
All tubers must exit the river at the James Brown Bridge; you’ll be advised by several warning signs. Depart the river carefully and wait for your shuttle driver making continuous runs to transport you back to your rental facility.
Backdoor Sports offers tubing daily from 10:30 am to 4:00 pm. For more information on Backdoor Sports tubing guidelines, restrictions, and FAQ’s click here.
- To make a tubing reservation with Backdoor Sports call 970.879.6249.
Bucking Rainbow Outfitters Tube Shack offers tubing daily from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm. For more information on Bucking Rainbow’s tubing guidelines, restrictions, and FAQ’s click here.
- To make a tubing reservation with Bucking Rainbow Outfitters call 970.879.8747.
Buying Tubes in Steamboat
Conversely, the second option to floating the river is by purchasing your own tubes. This is the preferred method by locals because it can extend the duration of your tubing excursion by 2x allowing you to launch from different zones without restriction from the rental companies.
Since you’ll be without the catered expertise of a rental company, you and your group will need to consider where to buy a tube, how you’ll inflate the tubes, parking and transportation.
Walmart in Central Park Plaza or Walgreens off of Highway 40 supply affordable options of single person inner tubes, stylish pool floaties and specialty tubes such as inflatable rafts for between $10-$25.
If you find yourself at one of the big box stores staring into an empty shelf, know that several local retailers including One Stop Ski Shop, Boomerang, and Ski Haus got you covered with commercial tubes more capable of surviving your aqueous endeavor for between $20-$35.
The Yampa River offers some of Steamboat’s best summer views.
Any local gas station has air pumps to inflate your tubes, but buying a small air pump can streamline the process and reduce any hassle. Loaf n’ Jug in Central Park Plaza has an air pump that supports debit/credit cards.
Typically those who purchase tubes want the longest float and launch from Rotary Park located at 1600 Mt. Werner Road. Rotary Park is the furthest river access point from the James Brown Bridge exit and extends the average 2 mile float by an additional 1.5 miles.
Another common access point can be found in Fetcher Park, located at 1795 Fetcher Park Drive. Fetcher Park is a half mile down from Rotary Park and is a good option when there isn’t enough parking spaces at Rotary.
The sections of river at Rotary Park and Fetcher Park are far less intense meaning you’ll have a mellow introduction before hitting the rowdier sections of the float found in Downtown Steamboat Springs.
Many prefer to opt out of the downtown rapids completely and exit at Dr. Rich Weiss Park located at 125 Lincoln Avenue; also known as the “Hippie Hot Springs”. The water is warm at this merge point because of the runoff from the Old Town Hot Springs so it’s a perfect place to end your excursion by relaxing in the cozy water and lounging on the grassy hillside before you catching the free bus back to the closest stop to your vehicle or vacation rental property.
Feel free to continue past Dr. Rich Weiss Park and enjoy the slightly more aggressive float through Downtown Steamboat Springs before finally abandoning ship at the James Brown Bridge exit zone.
Unless a member of your group volunteers to shuttle or you park two cars, you’ll need to utilize the free Steamboat Springs Transit to commute from your exit zone back to your launch point.
From Dr. Rich Weiss Park, access the bus stop at 3rd & Lincoln Avenue and ride it back to Pine Grove Center (closest stop to Fetcher Park) or Central Park Plaza (closest stop to Rotary Park) or area closest to your vacation rental property.
From the James Brown Bridge, access the bus stop next to Lift Up (last pickup is 5:30pm) and ride it back to downtown or wherever is closest to where you parked or your vacation rental property.
Click here for the full summer bus schedule.
Rules for Tubing the Yampa River
- No food, drinks, or trash of any kind allowed on the Yampa River.
- Leave valuables behind – the river is unforgiving.
- Shoes or sandals (no flip-flops) with a heel strap are required when renting a tube. They’re encouraged for all other tubers.
- Life jackets are always recommended and are only required by rental companies when river discharge speeds are above average.
- If you’re riding the bus for transportation after tubing, you must be dry and have tubes deflated before boarding
Yampa River Tubing FAQs
How long does it take to float down the Yampa?
From Backdoor Sports or Bucking Rainbow’s Tube Shack, the ride is approximately 1 hour long and 2 miles in length to the James Brown Bridge exit point.
From Rotary or Fetcher Parks to Dr. Rich Weiss Park the ride is approximately 1 hour and 1 mile in length.
From Rotary or Fetcher Park to the James Brown Bridge totals approximately 2 hours and just under 4 miles in length.
When is the best time of day to go tubing down the Yampa?
The best time to float is mid-morning, before 12pm to lessen the chances of an afternoon thunderstorm or an overcrowded river. Be mindful of what times the rental facilities close and plan accordingly for when the last pickups are for each bus stop.
What should I wear to go tubing?
The river can be fast and unforgiving, so be sure to wear durable clothing that won’t easily fall off. Things like loose flip flops and sunglasses can easily be swept away, so try to wear something that you can secure to your body. Instead, opt for secure water shoes such as Chacos or Tevas, and secure your sunglasses with a strap.
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