Adventure travel is a great way to experience nature, and Western North Carolina has more than its fair share of hiking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and even snow skiing opportunities.
For others, enjoying the great outdoor means kicking back at a campground in the North Carolina Mountains, or cooling off in a mountain stream with a fly rod in hand, trying to tempt some fresh trout.
But in our eyes nothing says “relaxing in nature” quite like river tubing in North Carolina, whether you’re just a few miles from home or on a full-blown tour of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Along with picture-perfect mountain streams, skyscraping summits, and deep dark forests, Western North Carolina is criss-crossed with creeks and rivers that are simply begging for a float. In short, river tubing in NC is fantastic!
Whether you’re exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Pisgah National Forest, or the NC Piedmont, there’s always an amazing river nearby.
Fortunately, there are also lots of outfitters to help you ease down the river with nothing but chilling (metaphorically, and sometimes literally) on the itinerary.
Read on for our picks for the 10 Best Places for River Tubing in North Carolina, including options for tubing in Asheville, Banner Elk, Boone, Bryson City, Cherokee, and Elkin NC.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Lakes in the North Carolina Mountains to Visit
River Tubing in North Carolina Guide
- Zen Tubing
- Silver Creek Tubing
- Headwaters Outfitters
- High Mountain Expeditions
- RiverGirl Fishing Company
- Loafers Glory Rafting & Tubing
- Smoky Mountain Tubing
- Deep Creek Tubing
- Dillsboro River Company
- Rocky Forest River Run
READ MORE: 20 Best Things to Do in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina
Tubing in Asheville NC
1. Zen Tubing
608 Riverside Dr/1648 Brevard Rd, Asheville NC • 1-855-936-8823
Sending folks down the fabled French Broad River, Zen Tubing has two locations in Asheville, one in the River Arts District and another in South Asheville. In our opinion, this is the best place for river tubing in Asheville.
At the South Asheville location, trips begin in mid-May and are offered 7 days a week until mid-September.
From the River Arts District location, trips run from mid-June to mid-August. Both locations have shuttles running from 10AM to 3PM.
Tubing outings from South Asheville have a float time of about 2 to 2.5 hours (depending on water flow), while floats from the RAD location generally last about an hour longer.
Their shuttles take tubers upstream and drop them off to float back to the Zen Tubing location, where they’ve parked.
After your tubing trip, you can enjoy a pint at one of Asheville’s Breweries or have a bite at one of the countless Downtown Asheville Restaurants.
READ MORE: The 30 Best Things to Do in Asheville NC
2. Silver Creek Tubing
5373 Green River Cove Rd, Saluda NC • 828-894-2331
Located about 30 minutes south on the I-26 from Asheville (close to Hendersonville), Silver Creek Tubing utilizes a lazy section of the Green River that meanders through the NC Piedmont.
Depending on how the seasonal weather pans out, Silver Creek generally starts running trips in May and will keep them rolling until September.
They’re open 7 days a week and generally start putting people in the water at about 11AM, with a closing time of 5PM.
The flow of the Green River is controlled by Duke Energy, which operates the Tuxedo Hydro Dam. So it’s important to call beforehand in order to verify Silver Creek Tubing’s schedule that day.
If you want a pick-me-up after your relaxing river float, there are lots of great Hendersonville NC restaurants nearby to choose from.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Hendersonville NC
Tubing in Brevard NC
3. Headwaters Outfitters
25 Parkway Rd, Rosman NC • 828-877-3106
Located just over an hour from Asheville and 10 minutes from Brevard, Headwaters Outfitters specializes in fishing and paddling trips.
But they also offer a short and lazy adventure floating down the French Broad River.
The length of this trip varies between one and two hours, depending on the water level of the river at the time.
Headwaters recommends making reservations for their NC river tubing trips. They also suggest starting earlier in the day, because it’s possible to go twice if you do!
In late spring and early fall in North Carolina, this means 10AM, but during peak summer it’s 9AM.
Though Headwaters (and most NC outfitters) has a no-alcohol policy while on the river, there is a taproom and food trucks located at the store/offices.
READ MORE: The Top 15 Waterfalls Near Brevard NC (Transylvania County)
Tubing in Boone NC
4. High Mountain Expeditions
4391 Castle Ford Rd, Boone NC • 828-202-7292
If you want to try tubing in the NC High Country, High Mountain Expeditions offers trips that begin just outside the mountain town of Boone.
The 2-hour, 2-mile float takes tubers down the New River, which is one of the oldest rivers in the world.
Tubing trips are available daily during the summer, with departures from 10AM to 4PM. But High Mountain Expeditions does requires a reservation, which can be made online or by calling 1-800-262-9036.
The company also offers whitewater rafting trips, cave adventures, canoe and kayak rentals, and guided hikes to nearby attractions.
After your river tubing trip, grab a microbrew at one of Boone’s Breweries, or a meal at one of Boone’s Restaurants.
READ MORE: 20 Best Things to Do in Boone NC
5. RiverGirl Fishing Company
4041 Todd Railroad Grade Rd, Todd NC • 336-877-3099
The RiverGirl Fishing Company is another great spot for tubing near Boone NC, offering tubing trips on the South Fork of the New River.
River tubing usually gets going in late April or May, as soon as the water temps warm up. After that, River Girl is open 7 days a week from 9AM to 5PM, with trips leaving at 9AM, 12:30PM, and 2PM.
This company specializes in supremely comfy tubes, complete with backrests and cupholders. They also have ropes and carabiners families and groups can use to tether their tubes together.
This float takes between 3 and 4 hours, depending on the level of water flow.
For those seeking additional adventures, check out the nearby hiking trails, waterfalls, and ziplining in Boone NC.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Cabin Rentals in Boone NC
Tubing Near Banner Elk NC
6. Loafers Glory Rafting & Tubing
2637 Hwy 226 N, Bakersville NC • 828-688-9290
Located in the Pisgah National Forest less than 30 minutes from Burnsville NC, and at roughly a midway point between Banner Elk and Asheville, Loafers Glory Rafting & Tubing uses the Toe River for its floats.
This enjoyable NC tubing trip takes roughly 2 hours, and trips begin by late May. Advance reservations are required.
Though it’s not very near a large town or city, Loafers Glory is conveniently located near great Blue Ridge adventures like Grandfather Mountain State Park, Mount Mitchell State Park, and Emerald Village in Little Switzerland.
Depending on your itinerary, this could be considered either Banner Elk tubing or Asheville tubing, and there are a lot more outdoor adventures to be had in between these two great mountain towns.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Banner Elk NC
Tubing in Cherokee NC
7. Smoky Mountain Tubing
1847 Tsali Boulevard, Cherokee NC • 828-497-4545
Smoky Mountain Tubing offers tubing trips down the Oconaluftee River in the Nantahala National Forest, which runs through the town of Cherokee and into Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Floats with Smoky Mountains Tubing take about 2 hours, and cover a span of roughly 3 miles on the river.
During the summer season, tubers can begin taking trips as early as 10AM, and they can launch as late as 5PM.
To float with Smoky Mountain Tubing, all participants need to be at least five years old.
Fishing and pets are allowed here, but note that there is a $50 charge for damaged tubes.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Cherokee NC & the Qualla Boundary
Tubing in Bryson City NC
8. Deep Creek Tubing
1881 W Deep Creek Rd, Bryson City NC • 828-488-2587
For tubing near Bryson City NC, Deep Creek Tubing rents tubes to float down Deep Creek in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
If you’re seeking great places for tubing in the North Carolina mountains, it really doesn’t get much better than that!
The Deep Creek Tubing facility is located near the park entrance. So tubers can rent their tubes for the day, head into the park, and float down Deep Creek to the facility at whatever pace they please.
Deep Creek Tubing has a huge selection of tubes suitable for all sizes, and they are open from 9AM to 9PM.
Included in this tubing adventure is one of the area’s most beautiful waterfalls, Tom Branch Falls, which broadsides the creek as it drops about 60 feet down to it.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Bryson City NC & Swain County
9. Dillsboro River Company
18 Macktown Rd, Sylva NC • 828-507-2428
Located less than 20 minutes from Cherokee in Sylva NC, the Dillsboro River Company offers more uptempo NC tubing adventures on two sections of the Tuckasegee River.
The Downstream High Adventure tubing trip moves 5.5 miles through Class I and II whitewater rapids, and is only recommended for tubers who are 16+ and in good physical condition.
The Upstream tubing trip has a slower pace, with a shuttle ride upstream and a 2- to 4-hour float back to the Dillsboro River Company.
Tubes at this place are adult size only, so this is not necessarily a good family tubing spot.
But it’s fun for adventurous travelers looking for tubing with a slightly extreme edge!
READ MORE: The 25 Best Western NC Small Towns To Visit (and Live In!)
Tubing in Elkin NC
10. Rocky Forest River Run
Rocky Forest Trail, Elkin NC • 336-469-8652
Located in the town of Elkin (in the North Carolina Piedmont), Rocky Forest River Run sends river rats down the Yadkin River on a short, sweet trip.
The journey, which takes guests from Crater Park to RFRR, is almost 3 miles and lasts about 2 hours.
This leaves guests plenty of time in their day to explore some of the area’s great NC Wineries, or the awesome hiking trails in Stone Mountain State Park or Doughton Park.
They no longer offer their 4 to 5-hour Yadkin River rafting trips from Rhonda to RFRR, but they do have a longer trip for those who want to try kayaking down the river.
Rocky Forest River Run is open Saturdays and Sundays from 9:45AM to 5:30PM. Customers should make reservations in advance and arrive around 20 minutes early. —Jonathon Engels; lead image via Canva