Plan Your Own Russian River Lazy Float Trip

Living and working in San Francisco means being in the midst of a constant flurry of activity. As fun as it can all be, sometimes it’s nice to get away for a weekend and just relax.

This past weekend, I went on a trip with a group of good friends to Russian River, about a couple hours north of the city. We spent a day floating down the river among the greenery and trees, sunbathing and enjoying good food, good beer, and good conversations. It was not only relaxing and beautiful, but also a truly wonderful way to spend quality time with some amazing folks in my life.

There’s no need to write an essay on what we did on our Russian River floating trip – I think the above description captures the trip perfectly. So instead I’ll write a quick post on how you can plan your own Russian River lazy float trip. What better way to enjoy a weekend without extended travel or breaking the bank? Read on for the details.

Floating on the Russian River

Floating on the Russian River

How It Works

Floating on the Russian River is easy. There are no fees, no lines, and no guides. You really just need a flotation device (usually a $15 inner tube) and make the trip during the summer and fall months. There are a bunch of small beaches where you can start and end your trip, and if you do a quick 5 minute search online you’ll find some popular routes. Our group had originally planned the Steelhead Beach to Sunset Beach stretch. After talking to the ranger and figuring out when we’d need to be back at our house, we decided on the Steelhead Beach to Mom’s Beach stretch, a slightly shorter route that still took about 3.5 hours.

How to Get There

Max Baker has a helpful blog post that maps out beaches and landmarks along the Russian River. I’ll include his map in my post – be sure to check out his page for additional info and helpful comments on the water levels, current, and routes.


Most of the larger beaches have addresses and day parking, and some even have restrooms. Doing online research before the trip should ensure a hiccup-free day on the river. If you’re curious about water and current conditions before the trip, you can also give the ranger a call to get real-time info and even route suggestions based on the time of year.

Day Of Logistics

Once you figure out your route, drive to your starting point and unload your inner tubes and gear. If you have at least two cars in your group, you can create your own shuttle system, leaving a car at the end point that can take all the drivers back to the starting point once the trip is over. If you have fewer than two cars, you may need to hitch a ride – but typically it’s a few miles at most so catching a ride shouldn’t be too difficult.

Pro-tip: As you’re leaving your end point car, take a look at landmarks so you can recognize the beach during the float. You don’t want to miss it and have to walk back. Another trick is to keep track of the time. You’ll have at least a ball park idea of when you should be nearing the end of your route.

Starting early is advised – the headwind picks up later in the afternoon and can slow you down even more. Late morning (10-11am) is a solid time to begin the float.

What to Bring

Here’s a list of things that may be useful for the trip:

  • Inner tube ($15-20) – we picked up some nicer models on Amazon beforehand and ended up saving money versus buying them at a shop near the river
  • Electric pump – the ones used for inflatable mattresses work well, you can always use your lungs but might take more time and effort
  • Sunblock/sunglasses/hat – it’s really sunny, especially during the summer months
  • Food – we packed sandwiches and brought chips and other snacks
  • Beer – canned beer, no glass
  • Water – stay hydrated, it can get quite hot
  • Cooler – if you bring them make sure you have space to stow them
  • Sturdy bags you don’t mind getting wet – to store food & drinks (tie food away from water and submerge beer bag in water)
  • Water shoes or Vibrams – helps with walking on rocky beaches
  • Thin rope – to tie tubes together and form tube islands
Tube island on Russian River

Tube island on Russian River

What to Do

For any lazy float trip, the key word is lazy. There are no rapids. You’re not rushing to get to the end. The currents move about a mile an hour, so there’s plenty of time to chat with friends, eat good food, and drink beer (and water). The point is to enjoy the moment and relax. You work hard during the week – this is a real break that you deserve! Take in the surrounding nature and wildlife. After a while, you start to lose track of time, and by the end of the trip you’ll be smiling ear to ear.

Life is good, and floating on the river might just be one of my new favorite nature-themed trips. And the best part about buying a tube is that I can use it again and again. Russian River, I’ll be back!

Note: If you’re also looking to camp in the area, I highly recommend booking through a website called Hipcamp, which is like the Airbnb of campsites. I’ve successfully booked campsites on Hipcamp even a couple days before major holidays and the experience has been great so far. On my last trip, the campground owner greeted me in person when I arrived and the campsites were beautifully maintained.

Feel free to use my referral link for $20 in credit for a Hipcamp booking!


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River floats on you at www.RandomTidbitsofThought.com.

One Response
  1. May 26, 2017

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