Glacier Guides and Montana Raft

Best Time For Rafting – Glacier National Park

Rafting Glacier National Park Glacier Guides & Montana Raft

Whitewater rafting and scenic floats on the Wild & Scenic Middle Fork of The Flathead River is a favorite summer activity in Northwest Montana. In the summer months, Glacier Guides & Montana Raft spend as much time on the water as we can. Not only because it’s what we do but also because it’s one of the best ways to spend a hot summer day, and we think everyone should get to experience the magic. Whether it be splashing through the bouncy class II and III rapids or enjoying the views on a relaxing scenic float – if it involves the river, we’re there! One big question we get every year from interested guests is, “What is the best time for rafting around Glacier National Park?” Let’s get into it!

The Middle and North Fork of The Flathead Rivers are classified as “Wild & Scenic” rivers. This means a lot of things for our beautiful, protected waters, but the main aspect is that it is not a dammed river, and therefore, there is no control over water flow. In this case, there are times throughout the summer when the river will be at different levels, speeds, and conditions. We know it can be hard to determine what time is best to visit Northwest Montana if your goal involves rafting, and we are here to help you decide when to plan your trip.

May – We start our season in mid-May for rafting, typically around May 12th. Water during this month will be a bit higher and cooler in temperature. We get some great sunny days in May, but if you’re planning a trip in this time frame, be prepared for the occasional rain shower or sporadic weather – spring in Montana will always keep you guessing! No fear for those worried about getting chilled because we offer wet suits, fleeces, splash jackets, and neoprene booties and mittens at no extra charge. This is also the start of our snow melt for the season, and since our river is free-flowing, this tends to be when the water is higher, the rapids more pronounced, and trips feature splashes of plenty.

Whitewater photo at Bone Crusher Rapid by Mountain Photography
Scenic float near West Glacier, photo by Mountain Photography

June – By the middle of June, our rivers typically even out, and the weather is consistently around 80 degrees every day the perfect combination for a fantastic rafting trip. Water can still be a bit cooler this time of year, but after a nice refreshing splash, the warm summer sun will dry you off in no time. We start offering our full-day rafting trips and our overnight rafting adventures in June, giving way to more opportunities on the water.
* Pro Tip * Sign up for our event, “Rafting for Refuse.” Each year, on a Saturday in June, we take rafts down the Middle Fork to help clean and pick up trash at the river put-ins and take-outs. This event costs $10, and 100% of the proceeds are donated to Leave No Trace.

Overnight rafting campsite. Photo by guide Adam Sodano
Rafting for Refuse group in 2019

July – The time Montana’s perfect sunshine warms our bodies and makes us whole! July is a great time for whitewater, especially earlier in the month, while the rapids are still rocking and rolling. The season is in full swing by this point, we’re offering all of our trips that hit the water and our guides are bright eyed, bushy tailed and ready to take you on the adventure of a life time. There are ample opportunities to cool off during these hot July days. You could jump into the river on a scenic float for a quick swim, get multiple refreshing splashes on the whitewater, spend all day on the water with our full-day trips, get more technical and hop in an inflatable kayak, or spend multiple days floating through the canyon on our overnight adventures.
* Pro tip * If you’re Active Duty Military or a Veteran, join us on July 4th and 5th for free rafting and 10% off for family members!

Whitewater on the 4th of July with guide Michael Rider, photo by Mountain Photography
Scenic float near West Glacier, photo by Mountain Photography

August – Our Wild & Scenic River levels begin getting slightly lower and slower as we approach August. But fear not! This does not mean that the rafting is any less fun. We encourage hopping on an inflatable kayak to get more of a splash during these times. On these trips, you’re still with a crew and following a guide in a boat with other customers, but you’re in your own vessel, navigating the rapids and getting a bouncy, splashy, exciting experience. Our scenic floats are also great for this time of year, as it’s always a beautiful time to float through the John F. Stevens Canyon.
* Pro Tip * Love rafting, overnight trips, and stargazing? Join our annual Glacier National Park Star Party Float, where we take duckies (also known as inflatable kayaks) down the North Fork of The Flathead River and watch the Perseid meteor shower. Where could be a better place to watch a major meteor shower than on the border of an International Dark Sky Park? Oh, on the banks of a Wild and Scenic River? Finally, in world-famous, beloved Polebridge, Montana. You don’t want to miss this Star Party!

Glacier National Park’s beautiful night sky, photo by Keaton Mais
Whitewater photo at Bone Crusher Rapid by Mountain Photography

September – In mid-September, we usually wrap up our whitewater tours as the levels are too low to continue through that section of the river. Don’t let that deter you from visiting us and hitting the water! September is among the best times to head out on a scenic float. The beginning of the month typically has hot summer weather, just like August, but with half as many people. The fall colors begin to bloom in mid-September, and by the end of the month, bright oranges, yellows, and reds cover the valley.

Mid-September scenic float. Drone photo by Andrew Bassett
North Fork in September, photo by Ross Klein

October – Though fewer trips are heading out during the week, this is prime time to float the scenic section for all you leaf peepers. The weather will be cooler, but with that comes jaw-dropping views across the hillsides against the bright blue waters – it’s the perfect combination. By October 15th, we’ve wrapped up the season and are ready to do it again in 6 months’ time.

The perfect fall day on The Middle Fork, photo by Caiti Woods
The perfect fall day on The North Fork, photo by Caiti Woods


What’s Provided?
We provide professional guides, high-quality Hyside rafts, Coast Guard-approved lifejackets, waterproof bags, splash gear, and wetsuits (we are the only local rafting company that does not charge extra for wetsuits), as well as transportation to and from the river.

What should we wear?
Please refer to our packing list for overnight and day trips to prepare properly.

How long is the whitewater trip? And the scenic float? How about the full-day?
Our whitewater and scenic floats are typically about 2-2 1/2 hours long, depending on the time of year. Our full-day whitewater trips are around 6 hours.

How many people fit in a raft?
Thrillseeker trip: 4-6 people
Classic trip: up to 9 people

Can I bring my children on the whitewater trip?
This depends on the time of year and the actual river level that day. Our rivers are free-flowing and not dam-controlled, so it varies throughout the season. The following is a general rule of thumb, but you’ll always want to call the office and double-check river levels.

Early season/high water (until mid-June) – Children 10 and older.
Mid-season/moderate flows (late June to early July) – Children 8 and older.
Remaining season/moderate to low flows (Mid-July through Aug) – Children 5 and older.

We generally require a minimum weight of 50 pounds for our whitewater trips. There is no maximum weight, but each guest must be able to buckle a 58″ chest life jacket.

Children 3 and older are generally welcome on the Scenic Float, but again, call the office to double-check river levels. Safety always comes first!

406-387-5555 or info@glacierguides.com

What about cameras? Are pictures available?
We don’t recommend taking cameras unless they are waterproof. A company takes photos of all rafts that go through the whitewater section from mid-June to Labor Day. They are available for purchase at our office or online under the “Buy Photos” button. These photos are not offered for our scenic float trip, but our front office has Aquacases for sale!

How safe are these trips?
Safety is always the #1 priority. Guides undergo yearly training in river rescue techniques, first aid, and more. Many guides return year after year. If conditions call for wetsuits and river shoes, or if you prefer to wear splash gear, it is always available at no extra cost. Helmets are mandatory on whitewater trips. Certain risks are inherent in running the river, and you must read and sign our acknowledgment of risk before any trip.

Can we bring alcohol?
We do not allow alcohol in any of our boats. You are allowed to bring your own beverages to our campus after your trip or during dinner.

Do you offer group rates?
We offer group discounts for groups of 10 or more. Please call us for more information. 406-387-5555

Any other questions? Feel free to reach out!

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And don’t forget to download our Insider’s Guide to Glacier National Park for more ideas about what to do, where to stay, where to eat, and so much more.

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