Intermediate and Advanced Whitewater Rafting: An Adrenaline Rush Like No Other

Written by Ben Sack, 12.20.2023

While Colorado has plenty of rivers for family-friendly rafting, there is also a score of adrenaline-pumping, advanced trips in the Rocky Mountain State. If you would like to try intermediate rafting or expert rapids, there are a few important things that you should note. 

In order to be safe on high-level rafting adventures, you should always book your trip with a reputable outfitter like Echo Canyon River Expeditions. Our experienced guides will get you on the best stretches of advanced white water rafting in Colorado during the perfect time of year.

The Jump from Intermediate to Advanced Whitewater Rafting

There is a big difference between the physical capabilities and skills needed to raft intermediate rapids versus advanced stretches of the river. 

Intermediate rafters should be at least 6 years of age and be in fair physical condition. Not only must rafters be able to paddle non-stop for short periods of time, but they must be competent swimmers. Rafters at this level must be able to take directions from guides and act quickly to paddle as needed. 

Advanced rafters should be a minimum of 13-18 years old depending on the route and in very good physical shape. Since there is so much white water on advanced trips, guests must have stamina and capable enough to paddle the boat for extended amounts of time. They must also be able to self-rescue in emergency situations such as capsized boats.

Preparing for Class III-V Rapids

Class III rapids are considered beginner to intermediate rafting. Guests should be in good enough physical shape to get on and off the boat while paddling for short amounts of time. Little preparation is required for Class III rapids aside from booking with the right outfitter. 

Class IV rapids are considered intermediate to advanced rafting. Beginners can tackle certain Class IV rapids if they are in good physical shape and go with an experienced guide. To consider taking on Class IV rapids, guests should be in pretty good physical condition and ready for a hearty adventure. 

Since Class V rapids are considered advanced, they should only be run by guests with ample experience in Class III-IV settings. Due to the size of Class V rapids, they require top physical fitness to navigate. Guests should prepare months in advance and be able to pass a white water swim test if they hope to float Class V rapids.

Popular Locations for High-Level Rafting in Colorado

With diverse geographies in the region, there are a number of great options for both advanced and intermediate white water rafting in Colorado. 

  • Arkansas River: The Royal Gorge section of the Arkansas River features Class IV-V rapids. With heart-pounding rapids, daunting drops, and steep canyon walls rising dramatically on both sides, the Royal Gorge is one of our most popular trip options at Echo Canyon. 
  • Colorado River: Gore Canyon on the Colorado River has Class IV-V rapids at certain times of the summer when the water is high. Surrounded by rugged terrain, Gore Canyon is an exhilarating journey for skilled rafters seeking an adventure in a remote wilderness setting.
  • Clear Creek: Clear Creek is located just west of Denver and has Class IV-V rapids in the spring and early summer when the water is high. The challenging whitewater, tight gorges, and boulder-strewn passages of Clear Creek test the skills of the most seasoned rafters.  

While these aren’t the only high-level routes in Colorado, they are some of the most popular for thrill-seekers. Just make sure that you choose an experienced outfitter that puts safety first regardless of which route you select.

Want to Brave Colorado’s Best Rapids? Book With Echo Canyon River Expeditions

Ready to experience the ultimate adrenaline rush of whitewater rafting? Join us for an unforgettable adventure today. Contact us to book your thrilling Colorado whitewater rafting tour. We offer trips ranging from class I-V rapids near the iconic Royal Gorge.

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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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