Did you know you can see Glacier National Park while white water rafting? You float down the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, with Glacier National Park on one side and the almost completely wild Bob Marshall Wilderness Park on the other side.
Some of the time it’s a calm float down the river, with no paddling involved, so you can take in the mountains and the Tamarack trees while watching for wildlife. We only saw birds on our trip, including an eagle, but our guide Blaine said sometimes they have spotted a bear or a moose beside the water.
Then occasionally you hit some rapids to paddle through with instructions from the guide and a bit of bouncing around. This fork of the Flathead River parallels a road and train tracks, so there’s no illusion that you’re in the middle of nowhere, but the scenery is impressive the whole way.
Come on a Glacier National Park Whitewater Rafting Tour
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I shot some video while we were on this Glacier white water rafting trip with my knock-off GoPro and that came out better than the photos did. Obviously the river is higher after rains or during the spring snow melt, so our trip was more of a scenic one than a hard-core adrenaline adventure. Check it out here:
Whitefish Montana White Water Rafting
The company we went Glacier National Park rafting with was Glacier Guides, located a short drive from Whitefish. So you could stay in Whitefish and return there or you could stay somewhere around West Glacier. Or go all in and get a package deal with the rafting company and stay at one of their lodges. They even have one you hike three days to get to if you really want to get remote.
I’ll admit I was a little worried that I’d be freezing cold on this trip and my extra temperature sensitive wife was even more so. It wasn’t all that sunny and warm like it would be in the middle of summer. What to wear for Glacier Park rafting takes on added significance when you know the water is running cold all year. I went in September, when it’s at its warmest, but even then the water temperature is in the 50s. Come in June and you’re rafting in fresh Montana snow melt. Brrrr!
Thankfully the Glacier Guides folks provide full wetsuits if you want them, so we were far more comfortable than I expected. Also, the time of year determines how wet you’re going to get as well. The rapids were pretty tame when I went because the water was not very high. In the early summer, however, it can be gushing much harder and you might get splashed more.
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If you’re wearing a wetsuit, it’s best to bring shorts, leggings, or long underwear for the bottom and some kind of synthetic, quick-dry shirt for the top. If you have water shoes, great, but if not they’ll loan you some booties. They also have waterproof pullover jackets to use and of course the life jacket vests.
You have to wear a helmet too, so you may want to put some kind of scarf or hat under that. There’s not really much exposed skin for sunscreen, but putting it on your face, neck, and hands wouldn’t be a bad idea. As usual when you go rafting, no jewelry or items that can go overboard easily. Blaine said one woman lost her diamond engagement ring in the water.
The Glacier Rafting Experience
This Montana rafting trip lasts a few hours and Glacier Guides provides the transportation there and back. The put-in and take-out spots are flat and easy, so you won’t be asked to help carry a raft down steps or a riverbank (I’ve had to do both on other rafting trips.) They provide various package deals that include lunch or dinner if you want. We had to be somewhere and didn’t take advantage of this, but the group before us was eating lunch when we arrived and it looked tasty-mostly organic and locally sourced.
Costs run $61 to $101 for a half-day scenic float up to a full-day white water rafting trip with dinner. You can also choose a two-person inflatable kayak instead of the group raft with a guide if you have at least a bit of kayaking experience. See the full menu at their site, including combinations with hiking or horseback riding. They also have experienced fishing guides.
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This is a great day of fun before or after your excursion into Glacier National Park and it’s right at the beginning or end of the Going to the Sun Road, depending on which direction you’re headed.
This is an eight-mile trip and it takes two or three hours depending on how fast the water is flowing. As I write this, the season is about to wrap up, but you can make reservations far into the future for when you’re planning to be in the area. Rafting trips run from June 1 through October 15.
For more information on what to do in the area, including Whitefish, Kalispell, and Flathead Lake, see the Glacier Country website.