Culture / Travel

Texas’ Best Float Trips: The Top Tubing Destinations and Hidden River Escapes

BY // 07.21.18

Nothing says Texas summer like a float trip. As temperatures skyrocket into the triple digits (and stay there), the best way to beat the heat is one of the Lone Star State’s favorite past times.

You’ve seen the heat advisories, now take our advice: a tubing trip down the river is just what you need.

No two float trips are the same. Trips range from a two-hours-long getaway  to an all-day excursion. If you’re into the scenic views, you can take in everything from cypress trees to limestone bluffs and even urban landscapes if the river takes a turn through the city.

Then there’s the mood — from laidback and serene to Mardi Gras.

PaperCity’s rounded up the top five rivers for float trips this summer, and one honorable mention. They cover every kind of river retreat.

A few must-haves on your float: sunscreen — reapplying is everything — a cooler, water, drinks of your choice, koozies, snacks and a trash bag. What not to bring: your expensive new sunglasses, no matter how cute. You’re guaranteed to lose them, and no one wants you losing it on the trip.

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You can bring your own tubes to these spots, but stopping by an outfitter is highly recommended for tube rental and shuttles.

So go ahead. Float on.

Guadalupe River

The Guadalupe is nothing short of legendary. It’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone brings up float trips. These are the waters you want if you’re down to get a little fratty in a big group. Think about it — all the fun of a party without even having to stand up.

It’s rowdy-meets-relaxing, especially on holiday weekends. Imagine a bevy of friends with boozy beverages in hand while you float past limestone bluffs and bald cypress trees. Alcohol is definitely approved. Just don’t you dare bring Styrofoam or glass.

Floats can take you anywhere from two hours to six hours, depending on where you take off.  The famous Horseshoe Loop is a quintessential section for floaters. You can float for two and a half to three hours before you can hop off on the exit by the bridge over Farm to Market Road 306. Whitewater to 4th crossing is a good bet, too.

Some outfitter options: Whitewater Sports, Tube Texas, Tube Haus and Andy’s River Toobs.

tubing texas tubes
Many of the rivers allow alcohol — just don’t bring any glass or styrofoam. (Photo courtesy of Texas Tubes)

Comal River

Come one, come all to the Comal River. This is the go-to for first-time floaters. It’s the shortest navigable river at just three miles long in total, calm and quick enough for you to take multiple trips.  You can drift downriver in these cool spring-fed waters, which peak at just 72 degrees year-round.

The best part? The Comal feeds into New Braunfels’ epic waterpark, Schlitterbahn. If you want just a taste of the river, hop on one of the rides that splashes you out into it. It’s a great end to a day at the aqua park — after plenty of Dippin’ Dots, of course.

After that first feel of the crisp waters, you’ll want to grab an inner tube and jump into the Comal and mosey down the heavily shaded path.

Some outfitter options: Rockin’ R, Texas Tubes, Comal Tubes and Texas Tubes.

San Marcos River

This Guadalupe tributary is hands-down the most popular float trip in Central Texas, running through the very heart of San Marcos. The cool spring-fed waters are some of the cleanest around, and you don’t have to drive far from Austin to float here.

The San Marcos is popular with novices and veterans alike, especially students. The lazy river weaves through the Texas State University campus, making it an undeniable draw at the end of finals season.

The city park behind Strahan Baseball Stadium is the ideal entry point. Throw your head back and kick back for a mile, sailing through three exciting small waterfall drops.

Some outfitter options: Texas State Tubes, Tubes San Marcos and Tube Texas.

Frio River

This is one river where muy frio means muy bueno. Spanish for cold, the “Frio” delivers the promised ice-cold waters for an unbeatable float trip. The long, scenic Frio River makes for a trip you’ll never forget, in part because it’s more peaceful than party.

This float trip is considerably less crowded than its counterparts, giving it a truly secluded feel. You could even call it remote as you glide down the river under a shady canopy of Cypress trees.

You can get into this refreshing-but-not-freezing river at Garner State Park, You’ll be able to float a good mile and a half down before getting out at Country Road 350. We’ve got to warn you: time will stand still, and the trip’ll be over before you know it. Feel free to go another round.

Some outfitter options: Tube Texas, Frio River Outfitter and Andy’s on River Road.

Colorado River

This one’s not as widely traveled, but allow us to float the idea. The Colorado River is the longest river in the entire Lone Star State. That means ample opportunity to get yourself in the water, meaning you can have all different sorts and styles of float trips on just one river.

The flow is gentle and serene, with a few quick shallows here and there. The beautiful banks are lined with trees, making for a perfect Insta shot. The area is home to tons of wildlife, so keep an eye out for birds you won’t see just every day.

The Colorado River also stands out for its sand bars and islands. You can pull off and relax at these spots, slowing down your pace if you feel like it. It’s a classic, easy river for overnight trips. Hop in just east of Austin in Bastrop, on Highway 71.

Some outfitter options: Bastrop River Company and Dagger Blackwater.

Honorable Mention: Barton Creek Greenbelt

Here we go: the trip that everyone wants to take, but few dare to. It’s not exactly official. You won’t find outfitters in the area, making it a more labor-intensive, DIY kind of experience.

But if you’re down to Bring Your Own Tube, this is a great destination. You won’t have to drive all the way down to New Braunfels or San Marcos. It’s wild and free, and no outfitters means it’s literally free.

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