Grand Teton was one of my favorite national parks long before I actually visited. There’s just something so mesmerizing about those distinctly rugged, craggy peaks. So as soon as I started planning a Bozeman > Big Sky > Yellowstone National Park > Jackson Hole vacation, I knew floating the Snake River was an absolute must.
Don’t get me wrong: There are many heavy-hitting national parks in this country. Heck, there are several heavy-hitting national parks in the western United States alone! There’s the impossibly vast Grand Canyon, Yosemite’s iconic Half Dome, the remote wilderness of Glacier, and of course, Grand Teton’s otherworldly neighbor, Yellowstone. But for me, none of them hold a candle to the Tetons. Well, maybe Glacier…
Planning a Grand Tetons float trip
As I started planning things to do in Grand Teton National Park, I remembered seeing photos of people on the water directly in front of the Tetons. I had no idea what that body of water was at the time (or what they were doing — were they on a boat? Fishing? Swimming?), but I knew I needed to be there.
I quickly learned that the pictures I saw were of people floating the Snake River. As it turns out, a scenic float in Jackson Hole is widely considered the thing to do. I usually avoid “touristy” attractions, preferring to explore on my own, but when in Rome, right? At least, when Rome happens to be insanely beautiful Jackson Hole.
My quest to find the best Snake River float trip was a bit overwhelming at first. There are dozens of Jackson tour companies, each promising the best Grand Tetons float trip. Almost all of them have wonderful reviews, but I noticed huge price disparities and distinct differences in people’s trip photos. Many — like mine — included head-on views of Grand Teton, but others, well, didn’t.
In the midst of obsessing over hundreds of Tripadvisor reviews, I finally figured out that only a few Snake River float trip outfitters actually operate inside Grand Teton National Park. Aha!
Floating the Snake River inside GTNP
According to the National Park Service, only “authorized concessionaires” can take guests on a Snake River float trip within the boundaries of GTNP. The major difference between authorized concessionaires and other outfitters is their approved routes. To put it plainly, it’s a tremendous difference.
Authorized concessionaires run their Snake River float trip on a pristine 10-mile section beginning at Dead Man’s Bar and ending in Moose Landing. You’re inside Grand Teton National Park enjoying head-on, panoramic views of the Tetons the entire time. I honestly can’t imagine floating the Snake River any other way!
The other Snake River float trip outfitters operate their tours on a stretch that’s just south of GTNP, through mostly private land. I’m sure it’s beautiful — this is Jackson Hole, after all — but there’s no way it compares.
Eight companies are listed as authorized concessionaires for floating the Snake River, but several are private guest ranches. I consistently came across three names in my research:
Triangle X Ranch (operating as National Park Float Trips)
After agonizing over more reviews (admittedly, I’m that girl — I don’t know how I survived before Yelp or TripAdvisor!), I settled on Triangle X float trips.
Triangle X Ranch has been floating the Snake River for over 50 years, their reviews are near-perfect, and they offer both sunrise and sunset float options. In case you don’t know this about me, watching sunrises and sunsets from as many different places as possible is one of my “things.”
Triangle X float trips
To be fair, I’m sure we would have had a wonderful experience with any of the outfitters on my shortlist. At the same time, I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job than Triangle X float trips. Does that make sense?!
Our Snake River float trip was about three hours total. A Triangle X Ranch guide met us at the trip’s endpoint, then drove us to the starting point, about 15 minutes away. This way, our vehicle was right there waiting for us when we got off the boat.
We had a phenomenal Snake River float trip guide. He’s a seasoned angler and a 20-plus-year Jackson native, so he’s a wealth of knowledge. Between expertly steering our raft and telling us when the best photo ops were coming up, he told us about the Tetons’ geology and taught us how to identify juvenile bald eagles.
Fun fact: they don’t get their signature white heads until adulthood. He also explained how mighty and “advanced” the Snake River is, even in this more calm section. In fact, on our float he pointed out a channel that wasn’t there just a few hours earlier!
Triangle X float trips generally run from mid-May to late September. Summer weather in Jackson Hole can be unpredictable, so wear layers. You will not get wet while floating the Snake River. You shouldn’t, anyway! I wore leggings, a light long-sleeved top, North Face fleece jacket, Chacos, and a beanie. Halfway through, I ditched my jacket and hat. We paid $159 for two of us, plus a $40 tip — money very well spent.
If you’re looking for things to do in Grand Teton National Park, floating the Snake River with Triangle X should be at the top of your list. They also offers guided fishing trips and although we didn’t stay at the Triangle X Ranch this trip, we got a sneak peek and it is to die for. #2021goals.
One final note: we visited Jackson in August 2020, during the height of COVID-19 chaos. Triangle X had excellent safety protocols in place, including reduced capacity on the rafts from 20 to just 8-10 passengers. We had plenty of room to socially distance and felt safe at all times.