Passing through Pagosa Springs Whitewater Park in southern Colorado, the San Juan River flows for 400 miles of scenic whitewater westward into New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona. The river forms near Pagosa Springs, at the confluence of two main forks.
Rafting Trips on the San Juan River
In Colorado, there are opportunities for rafters of all abilities on the San Juan River. Guided whitewater trips are available for one third, half, and full day trips. If you are looking for a long, multi-day adventure, camping and rafting trips are also very popular downstream in neighboring states.
Whitewater Rafting Difficulty – Whitewater rafting the San Juan River in Colorado offers a chance to experience fun rapids without being overly difficult. For most of its journey, the San Juan River follows Class II – III rapids. However, putting-in at either the East or West Fork high above Pagosa Springs offers more exciting and technical Class III – V rapids for adventurous riders.
Here are the most popular sections of the San Juan River in Colorado:
East Fork of the San Juan
Northeast of Pagosa Springs, the East Fork of the San Juan is filled with tight and technical Class III – IV rapids. The run is 12 miles long and should be scouted for logs if rafting the East Fork independently. Rafters can begin at the East Fork Campground or the East Fork Road bridge access and take-out at Riverside Campground.
West Fork of the San Juan
Alternatively, guided trips on the West Fork of the San Juan offer a chance to raft some of the areas toughest whitewater. The route contains Class IV – V rapids along an excited 3 mile journey. To access the West Fork, a 3 mile hike is required. For this reason, it is not the most popular section of the San Juan. However for experienced die-hards, the West Fork can be an extremely fun, challenging, and isolated whitewater run.
Pagosa Springs Town Run
The Pagosa Springs Town Run is the most popular section of the San Juan River in Colorado. From the Riverside Campground or the Highway 160 access, rafters can spend an afternoon, or morning, splashing through to the Pagosa Springs Whitewater Park. Although the route only totals 4 miles, ending in Yamaguchi Park, rafters can enjoy the Class II – III rapids as a half day trip. For a little more action and a longer tour, rafters can descend via the East or West Fork.
After a few man-made dams below Pagosa Springs, the San Juan River continues for 15 miles of easy-going rafting. Floaters will enjoy mild Class II – III rapids that keep things interesting along an otherwise relaxed journey. Rafting through Mesa canyon is a great option for those looking to spend half of a day in isolated wilderness with bouts of fun whitewater action.
San Juan River Rafting Guides
Activities near the San Juan River
The San Juan River is just one of the highlights of the surrounding San Juan National Forest. The unique southern Colorado wilderness offers spectacular views among opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and other outdoor activities. Visitors can find both resort-style and natural, primitive hot springs in and around the town of Pagosa Springs.
Nearby Town: Pagosa Springs, CO
Season: May to August
Class: II – V