Whether you’re looking for jaw-dropping rapids to get your adrenaline pumping or calm stretches of water for a scenic float, there’s a whitewater rafting adventure for every skill level in Colorado. Typically, May to September are the best times to plunge down the rapids. Grab your paddle and get ready to ride this summer!
Note that conditions can vary at any of the rafting spots listed below. If you’re new or inexperienced with rafting, we recommend using a guide. Participation in whitewater rafting always brings with it the chance of death or serious injury.
1. Buena Vista
Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center offers beginner, intermediate, and advanced guided rafting trips. Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center. https://rmoc.com/
Whitewater rafting down the Arkansas River in Buena Vista can be as adventurous as it gets. Sandwiched between 14,000-foot snow-capped peaks and the Arkansas River, this charming mountain town offers a prime destination for exploring the rapids in Colorado. Browns Canyon National Monument can be a great place for families and first-timers. If you’re looking for more speed and thrills, a run through Class IV and V rapids via the Numbers section will certainly get your heart racing. Whitewater rafting and camping trips are also available. Two local tour groups are River Runners and American Adventure Expeditions.
2. Canon City
Splash your way down class III to V rapids beneath 1,000-foot canyon walls and the Royal Gorge Bridge in Cañon City. Half-day and full-day excursions are available for intermediate to advanced-level rafters. Craft the perfect rafting adventure with featured add-ons including zip-lining, train rides, and a trip to Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. Two local rafting guide companies include Whitewater Adventure Outfitters and American Adventure Expeditions.
3. Idaho Springs
Photo Credit: Kari (Flickr)
Enjoy miles of scenic beauty with beginner to advanced level rapids on Clear Creek in Idaho Springs – located just 30 minutes outside of Denver. The Gold Rush section tends to be suitable for beginners and families with children ages 6 and older (conditions vary, we recommend using a guide). Kick it up a level with class II to IV rapids at Clear Creek Upper Canyon. For advanced class IV and V rafting, take to the splashy waters at Lower Canyon. Two additional local rafting guide companies include AVA Rafting and Echo Rafting.
Animas River, Photo Credit: Different_Brian (iStock).
From whitewater rapids to wildlife sightings to breathtaking scenery, Durango has it all for it for river adventure lovers. Experience the thrill of the mountain rafting through “Smelter,” “Santa Rita,” “Sawmill,” and “Pinball” rapids along the Animas River, ranging from beginner to expert. Located between Silverton and the bottom of Upper Rockwood Box, the Upper Animas River offers a 20+mile section that includes class IV to V rapids.
Soak in the scenery as you float through the San Juan Mountains in Creede, Colorado. With rapids ranging from classes II and III, this bucket list destination is great for families. One rafting guide company in the area is Mountain Man Rafting, with service on the Upper Rio Grande.
After exploring the many hiking trails Aspen has to offer, treat yourself to a whitewater rafting adventure at the Roaring Fork. The upper section, the “Slaughterhouse” is by far the most challenging. Stick to the rapids on the lower section for easier floating. Either way, you’re guaranteed a memorable trip in a mountain setting this spectacular. A couple guide companies in the area include Colorado Whitewater River Rafting and Roaring Fork River Rafting.
7. Fort Collins
Cool off this summer with a rafting trip in Fort Collins. The Cache la Poudre River is Colorado’s first and only designated National Wild and Scenic River. It passes through beautiful scenery and unique rock formations, offering fun for all ages and skill levels. Whitewater rafting trips range from a half-day to three full-days of rafting, camping, and hiking.
Whitewater rafting is fun and exhilarating, but is also very dangerous and can result in life-threatening situations. Hiring a guide is strongly recommend. Check out available tours through River Runners, Echo Canyon River Expeditions, Rocky Mountain Adventures, and Raft Masters. For more information and tips on rafting in Colorado, click here.
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Sandstone cliff and lake at dusk – Horsetooth Reservoir near Fort Collins, Colorado, at springtime. Photo Credit: Marekuliasz (iStock).