Float Past Mountains
The South Fork of the Shenandoah River winds blissfully between the scenic mountain range of Virginia’s Skyline Drive and the Massanutten range. Every bend seems to afford fantastic vistas of forested mountains. At Shenandoah River Outfitters in Luray, you can pick out your flotation device of choice (canoe, kayak, or inner tube), hop on a shuttle to one of the numerous put-ins, and paddle back to base. Mile markers along the banks indicate how far you’ve traveled. Choices include a three-mile, hourlong float through easy riffles; a daylong outing featuring Class II whitewater at Compton Rapid; and a two- or three-day trip with camping in George Washington National Forest. Daylong canoe rental $56; 800-622-6632. Downriver Canoe Company (540-635-5526) and Front Royal Outdoors (540-635-5440) offer similar trips. 102 miles.
E – M (Easy – Moderate Difficulty) / Great for Groups / Good for Romance / Kid-Friendly / $$ ($35 to $76 per person)
Tube Past History
Against the backdrop of historic Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, you can challenge the whitewater where the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers meet. The swift water flows through a mile-long course of rapids called the Shenandoah Staircase and continues through Class I and II rapids. Two companies, River Riders and River & Trail Outfitters, offer fun, regular tubing trips. The one-to-four-hour excursions will have you laughing and yelling with joy as the tubes bounce through the water and shoot up and down better than any roller coaster. $30 per adult on weekends through River Riders (800-326-7238), $29 on weekends through River & Trail Outfitters (301-695-5177). Whitewater rafting and flat-water tubing trips also available. 70 miles.
E – M (Easy – Moderate Difficulty) / Great for Groups / Kid-Friendly / $ ($35 or less per person)
Chill Out and Float
When the thermometer hits 95 in Washington, point your car toward Boonsboro, Maryland, where you’ll find air temps in the 80s along shaded, spring-fed Antietam Creek. Cool off further by dipping your backside into a rented inner tube ($25) and floating along for two to four hours past farms, through riffles and small rapids, and under arched stone bridges—including Burnside Bridge, a Civil War-era landmark. There are a few spots to beach the tubes, so bring an ice chest with beverages and snacks (there’s a tube for that, too). Antietam Creek Canoe owner Greg Mallet-Prevost or his wife, P.A. Lynch, will be waiting for you at the end of the trip and shuttle you back to your car. Canoe and kayak rentals also available. Groups of three or more recommended. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations. 68 miles.
E (Easy Difficulty) / Great for Groups / Kid-Friendly / $ ($35 or less per person)