Overnight Rafting Trip: One Family’s Yellowstone Adventure

Planning Our Overnight Raft Trip

Our family of four arrived in Yellowstone in late June. This road trip was the first outing for us in a long time, and it was an easy consensus to visit the oldest and arguably grandest national park.

After driving through the park, staying in hotels, and eating out of the cooler for three days, we were excited to land in Gardiner, Montana. Initial impressions? It is a quaint and lively town on the river with a grocery store and several dining options.

After extensive research into fun family activities for our Yellowstone vacation, I decided to book an overnight rafting trip with Flying Pig Adventure Co. My husband and 12-year-old son were very excited about this part of the trip. In contrast, my 8-year-old daughter and I were feeling nervous about whitewater rafting and camping.

I called Flying Pig and immediately connected with the owner, Pat. He gave me all the information I needed to decide if this trip was suitable for our family.

Apart from the excitement of the whitewater, Pat explained that this trip included:

  • three solid meals,
  • a comfortable space to spend the night, and
  • expert guides who take care of everything in between.

I confessed all my worries, and he assured me this trip was safe and offered a great experience for people of all backgrounds and skill levels.

From start to finish, everyone at the Flying Pig was so kind, engaging, and helpful. The customer service with this company was top-notch, and their mission was clearly to help us have the best family vacation possible!


Day 1: Hitting the Rapids & Riverside Camping

Once we arrived at the shop in Gardiner, we were immediately greeted by our guides, Jaxon and CJ. The check-in process was smooth and straightforward. We met the other family joining us on the trip and proceeded to gear up for the river.

The weather was warm, but CJ noted that the water was chilly and offered the younger kids (and cold-blooded adults) neoprene jackets and water shoes. I was impressed by all the gear they had available.

The Flying Pig has the convenience of being located right on the water. Once everyone had their life jackets secured and checked by a guide, Jaxon covered all the safety procedures, and we walked down to the river to get on our rafts.

The whitewater started with a few big waves, but Jaxon’s confidence and skill allowed me to pull back and trust him. Even my daughter, who was very nervous, smiled ear to ear after the first wave splashed us!

We floated four miles before pulling over to the riverside campsite. CJ & Jaxon gave us a tour of the grounds, where we had access to a bathhouse with running water (yes, hot water, too!) and outdoor showers, along with beautiful canvas tents equipped with platform beds and sleeping bags.

Canvas tents with pink clouds in the sky along the Yellowstone River.

The site had all the seclusion and serenity of being in nature, with all the amenities of modern living and enough activities to keep the kids entertained! The other family had children around the same age, and everyone quickly moved past the initial shyness and became friends.

The parents enjoyed a beverage by the river while listening to an intense game of tetherball in the distance.

CJ cut up watermelon and prepared cheese and crackers to snack on before dinner while juggling our many questions about the landscape and the park. You’d never know she wasn’t a local with how much she knew about the area! We then overheard Jaxon join in on a game of tetherball. I heard the kids laughing and cheering as he took over as the reigning champ.

Both Jaxon and CJ cooked up a fabulous dinner! They grilled chicken, steak, and a variety of veggies to make fajitas. They didn’t skimp on toppings, either! We all enjoyed a family-style meal on the picnic tables near the river.

The sun began to set, and everyone got cozy near the fire. S’mores made their way around as we chatted and looked at the glimmering Milky Way. What a beautiful way to end the night!


Day 2: Whitewater Fun & Picnic Lunch

The following day, CJ and Jaxon prepared our breakfast while we sipped coffee by the river. The generous meal portions never left us hungry, that’s for sure!

As we pushed off the shore to continue our journey mid-morning, we met up with two other Flying Pig rafts who joined us for the rest of the day.

My son immediately claimed his spot on the nose of the boat—‘Riding the bull’ is what Jaxon called it. Jax expertly navigated us straight into all the waves, which knocked my son right back into the boat. My daughter laughed so hard that she volunteered to get up in the front, surprising us all!

We stopped at an island in the river for a picnic lunch of deli sandwiches and fresh fruit, then continued our journey.

With only a couple of hours remaining, we navigated through the exciting rapids of Yankee Jim Canyon—easily the highlight of the river section—and floated into Paradise Valley, where a bus was waiting to take us back to town.


Overnight Rafting Trip: A Family Vacation Highlight

The whole trip was a complete success! The Flying Pig ensured a smooth and enjoyable process from that first phone call. Every employee was engaging and genuinely cared about the outdoor experience they created for families.

This trip will go down as an all-time family favorite, and I cannot recommend booking with the Flying Pig enough!

Ready for an unforgettable Montana experience? Reserve your overnight rafting trip with Flying Pig today!