When the winter snow melts, the rivers in Colorado rise, creating some of the best whitewater in the country. The rafting season runs from later spring through summer, and varies on location.
Commercially Rafted Rivers in Colorado
There’s rafting for all ages and thrill-levels, including both lazy floats and raging whitewater. The Arkansas River is the most commercially rafted river in the state, with the Royal Gorge its most notorious section, followed up by Browns Canyon.
Guide to Whitewater Rafting in Colorado
Whitewater rafting in Colorado has never been more popular or more exciting. And you can do it nearly anywhere in the Rocky Mountains, from Idaho Springs to Aspen.
Most of the major rivers in Colorado are rafted, with the Arkansas River being the most popular. The Arkansas is known for the Royal Gorge and serious whitewater, as well as family-friendly float trips. Depending on snow melt and location, the rafting season generally runs May through September, depending on water levels and river.
Clear Creek is the closest river rafting to Denver, making it a great day trip. It’s also surprisingly intense, due to its narrow width, with plenty of class three and four rapids. You can often find discounted rafting trips here, making it a best bet for a quick, last-minute adventure from Denver.
For a more tranquil experience, try a multi-day trip on the Yampa River to Dinosaur. Overnight rafting trips are available from a variety of outfitters and on several rivers. For the exact opposite of tranquil, try Gore Canyon in August. This epic section of the Colorado River near Kremmling is the most gnarly in the state.
Whitewater Rafting Gear Checklist
If you’re going on a commercial rafting trip, wet suits, booties and a helmet are usually provided. Otherwise if it’s a private trip, plan to bring your own. Also bring:
- Sunglasses – with retainer loop or bring cheap ones
- Sunscreen – very important
- Water shoes or sneakers, booties may be provided
- Bathing suit – full wet suit may be provided
- Waterproof camera if you can manage it
- Water – there’s usually a small storage on commercial trips
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