Choosing the Rafting Trip That’s Right for You

Written by Ben Sack, 08.29.2019

Colorado is home to thousands of miles of rivers snaking their way through red rock canyons, underneath pine trees, and through vast grasslands. In this beautiful region of the country there are rafting trips great for rafters of all experience and thrill levels. 

Once you’ve decided that you and your family or friends want to go on a whitewater rafting adventure, the next question that tends to come to mind is this one—what rafting trip should I go on?

Simply searching “rafting trip in Colorado” can yield an astonishing number of results. We’re here to help you narrow it down a bit so that you can have fun planning a memorable rafting trip for you and those you love.

How Do You Determine the Right Trip for You?

adventure rafting in the Royal GorgeWhitewater rafting in Colorado is a sought-after experience for couples, families, youth groups, sports teams, birthday parties, and more. To ensure that you pick the best trip for your group, there is one rule:

Pick a trip best suited for the youngest or most timid person in your group.

Do you have someone who isn’t a strong swimmer? Or a kiddo who is rambunctious, but a little on the small side for anything too intense? These are the people that you want to cater to. Every float trip is fun, with gorgeous scenery and time spent paddling through some bumpy excitement. But someone who is a bit water shy is not going to love a more adventurous trip. In fact, it can be dangerous for someone to try something outside of their comfort zone.

So, before you even begin to consider trips, look at your group. Take account of the different ages, sizes, swimming experiences, and thrill seeking levels. Find your smaller, more relaxed friends or family members and plan a trip around their needs!

Three Types of Rafting Trips

When we get right down to it, you can break group rafting trips into three categories:

1. Gentle Float - Introductory

Not everyone who hits the water is looking for adventure. If you have young kids ages 4-6, grandparents or others who aren’t too active, or people who get a bit nervous near water, gentle float rafting options are ideal. You will still get to experience what it’s like to paddle through a rapid and have some fun, it just won’t be too intense!

2. Family Rafting - Moderate Adventure Level

Family rafting is the best fit for families or groups with kids 6 and up that love splashing around and enjoying a bit of excitement! You will paddle through multiple rapids that require everyone to work together while getting a little jostled around. But don’t worry, it won’t be too strenuous for those who aren’t in the best shape of their lives.

3. Adrenaline Rafting - High Adventure

You don’t need previous rafting experience to go on a trip that is jam-packed with adrenaline. As long as everyone in your group is around 14 or up with a good ability to swim and a thirst for adventure, you can go on one of Colorado’s many well-known high adventure rafting trips.

The Best Gentle Float in Colorado

For our explorers who would like a more relaxed float down the river, we take them on our Gentle Family Float trip along the Arkansas river. You and your family will enjoy a relaxed float as you keep a lookout for trout swimming beneath you and wildlife frolicking along the shores. This trip is relaxed enough for most kids 4 and up, although there are times when high water will raise that age minimum to 6. Call us ahead of time and we’ll help line up a good time for your visit.

The Best Family Rafting Trips for Moderate Adventurers in Colorado

Our top pick for family rafting trips in Colorado goes to our Bighorn Sheep Canyon rafting trip. Located near Colorado Springs, this stretch of whitewater has rapids thrilling enough to get the adults’ hearts beating yet not so intense as to scare the little ones. This is also one of the favorites for anyone who enjoys wildlife as lucky rafters can catch a glimpse of the bighorn sheep for which this trip was named. 

A close second is Clear Creek Rafting in Idaho Springs. Located just 45 minutes from Denver, you and your family can enjoy a trip as short as ⅓ day to a full day within a short drive from the city. This is a great option for families wanting to stay close to town who are planning a trip in June when the snowpack is melting rapidly, giving the river one exciting rapid after another.

The Best Adrenaline Rafting in Colorado

Adventure rafting trips are where the action is. You can spend one afternoon paddling hard from rapid to rapid or choose a trip that spans multiple days and nights to really allow you and your friends and family to get to know the Colorado wilderness. 

One of the best adventure rafting trips in the whole country resides in Colorado: the Royal Gorge rafting trip. Here you will find more than one dozen thrilling rapids as you paddle your way underneath the highest suspension bridge in North America! Two other unforgettable day-long rafting trips for the biggest adventurers are Browns Canyon and The Numbers.

And if you’re looking for a multi-day adventure that combines rafting and camping, Colorado has some idyllic stretches where you can experience seemingly untouched wilderness as you jostle through exciting rapids. Try the San Miguel rafting trip or the Dolores River rafting trip, two of our favorites for thrill-seeking nature lovers.

Remember, these trips are not for the faint of heart. They’re meant for true outdoor warriors who are ready for a challenge, both mentally and physically.

The Royal Gorge

Choosing the Best Trip for Your Group

No stretch of river is ever the same. Water levels and weather are always changing, allowing for unique trips every day of the year. This does mean that one stretch of river can be more or less challenging from one moment to the next. Give us a call so we can help you plan the rafting trip best suited for you and your family.

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About the Author

Ben Sack is the General Manager of Echo Canyon River Expeditions, Colorado's largest white water rafting outfitter. He's also a raft guide, a photographer, and he loves exploring Colorado and beyond with his wife and two boys.
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