Your Complete Guide to Planning a Rafting Trip

Written by Ben Sack, 01.28.2019

The benefits of whitewater rafting in the off-peak season.

When it comes to enjoying the scenic beauty of the Colorado mountains, it is hard to beat an adventurous day of riding through rugged canyons and below breathtaking mountain peaks. If you and your family and friends are looking for the adventure of a lifetime, look no further than a rafting trip down the pristine Arkansas River.

If you are the trip planner for your group, you are bound to have plenty of questions. Fortunately, planning a rafting trip doesn’t have to be a monumental task. In this guide, we are going to answer the most common questions, and give you all of the information you need to plan your perfect mountain adventure.

Choose the Right Trip

Probably the most common question that people ask us is this:

What trip is right for my group?

Rafting is one of the few adventure sports that is suited for all experience and skill levels. Trips can range from a lazy float down a gorgeous river to rapids thrilling enough to please the biggest adrenaline junkies, and everything in between.

We have many options when it comes to family rafting trips in Colorado. Family Float is a trip that the young and old in any group can enjoy, so if you have young children and grandparents, this is the trip for you!

Bighorn Sheep Canyon is an ideal option if you have beginners in your group, but you are still wanting to enjoy some exciting whitewater. This is one of the top picks for diverse groups, such as youth groups and sports teams.

When it comes to adventure rafting trips, one of the most popular trips is the Royal Gorge. Even beginners can participate in this one, but only if they are physically fit and ready for a challenge.

Rafting Packages: More than Just Rafting

When in the mountains, why not add some more nature and excitement to your trip? There are numerous packages offering more rustic beauty and fun in the Colorado wilderness.

  1. Camp all summer while being a raft guide with Echo CanyonCamping and Rafting
    Multi-day rafting trips along the Arkansas River offer you the chance to ride rapids, float among breathtaking scenery, and sleep beneath the stars as the river lulls you to sleep. Our raft guides will do all of the heavy lifting for you – no need to bring food or camping equipment, we have you covered!
  2. Colorado rafting and zipline packageRaft & Zipline
    If you want to pack a little more action into your day, consider adding ziplining to your rafting trip. This combination is offered on a number of our rafting trips, so just let us know if you would like to add on some extra adventure.
  3. Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience Wild WalkOther Royal Gorge Experiences
    The Royal gorge is full of fun activities, and you can combine the Royal Gorge Bridge, the Royal Gorge Train, or the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience to your rafting trip.

The Best Time of the Year to Go Rafting

With the glorious four seasons in Colorado, river rafting is not a year-round event. While trips are offered from April through September, some times of the year are better suited for intense, invigorating rapids, while other times are better for those with small kids or nervous first-time rafters. Weather and water temperatures will also change dramatically, so you may prefer to come when the water is warmer.

Calm but Cold: April to Mid-May

Rafting in the Rain with Echo CanyonIf you are looking for a scenic and mellow whitewater experience, the earlier part of the rafting season may work out well for you. There will be fewer people out, which can make it feel like you have the whole river and canyon to yourself.

However, keep in mind that this water is fresh snow melt – that means that it will be cold! We do offer wetsuits, but you will want to be sure to bring warm clothing for after. Additionally, keep in mind that if it does snow, we may have to postpone the trip.

Adventure Rafting: June

Adventure Rafting in the Royal GorgeAs the weather gets warmer, the snow starts to melt rapidly, leading to the most exciting time on the river. This time if year is great for experienced rafters and those looking for a physical and mental challenge. If you are coming to Colorado for an adventure, this is the best time to come!

Family Rafting: July and August

family-friendly rafting trips availableThe beginners and young kids in your group are likely to enjoy rafting the most in July and August. Temperatures are warm, with sunny days and good whitewater – enough to send you splashing and laughing down the river, but not so much that you worry about tipping over!

If you decide to go rafting over the Fourth of July weekend, be sure to book in advance as this is the busiest time for rafting outfitters. 

What Should I Bring?

After you pick the best trip for your group, you will want to know what to bring and what we provide. To see a more detailed list, take a look at our FAQ page.

At Raft Echo, we have everything you will need for rent or purchase at our headquarters in Cañon City, however if you do have the following items, it is a good idea to bring them with you:

  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses – be sure to wear ones that fit tight!
  • Wetsuit – available for rent at Echo, even when it’s warm outside, the water can be quite cool
  • Water shoes or tennis shoes – we have water shoes to rent if you need them
  • Appropriate clothing – wear clothing that you don’t mind getting wet
  • Water bottle
  • Dry bags – more important for longer multi-day trips

Ready to Book Your Whitewater Rafting Adventure?

If you are ready to book your next trip to the beautiful Colorado mountains, or if you have more questions about our rafting tours, give us a call today. Our passionate team of experts can help you plan every detail of your trip, allowing you to step back and enjoy.

We know the most unique places to stay, the best restaurants to eat at, and the sites that you do not want to miss out on during your trip to the pristine Colorado wilderness. Make this summer one you and your family will never forget!

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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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