Grand Junction makes the perfect base for all sorts of outdoor adventures, including world-class whitewater rafting trips on the Colorado River, Green River or Yampa River.
With views of red rock monuments like Fisher Towers, and steep-walled sandstone cliffs that have been carved by the water’s flow, a rafting trip on the Colorado River through Western Colorado to Moab and Eastern Utah is an unforgettable travel experience for outdoor adventure lovers.
There are a variety of river trips available depending on experience level and time — ranging from a half-day to a week — within a 30 to 90-minute drive from Grand Junction. Here are a few suggestions for ways to experience the river during your visit.
Colorado River Day Trips
There are a variety of day trips available on the Colorado River near the Colorado-Utah border. A short drive from Grand Junction westbound on I-70, there are morning and afternoon options for half-day trips, depending on what works best for your itinerary, or full-day options. Several outfitters run trips along scenic stretches of the Colorado River between Grand Junction and Moab. Running parallel to Route 128, just east of Arches National Park, this part of the river is perfect for a casual float trip and offers a few minor rapids to spice things up along the way. It also offers plenty of beautiful scenery, including red rock formations, staggering plateaus and opportunities to spot wildlife. You can find more information on guided rafting trips here.
Two Days of Ruby/Horsethief
One of the most popular stretches of river is the Ruby/Horsethief Canyons area southwest of Fruita, Colorado. From placid floats through rust-hued canyons to the thrill of shooting through Class I and II rapids that inject excitement along the way, trips on this stretch of river offer something for everyone. In addition to the pleasure of riding on the river, there are also a number of side hikes available to those who plan longer trips. Adventure Bound USA offers a two-day trip through Ruby that covers 25 miles of the Colorado River, and which can be done in raft or kayak depending on your preference. The trip, which is generally available from March to October (conditions permitting) launches from Loma, CO and ends at Westwater, UT.
Rafting in Dinosaur National Monument
From fossil-packed walls of stone to petroglyphs left behind by early tribes, Dinosaur National Monument in Northwest Colorado is filled with wonderful views into the ancient and distant history of the Grand Junction area. Another draw to the park are the wonderful rafting opportunities on the Green and Yampa Rivers. Areas such as Warm Springs or Hells Half Mile are home to serious Class III and IV rapids that will challenge even expert rafters, but there are more moderate options as well. The park is approximately a two to two-and-a-half hour drive from Grand Junction. For visitors, there are full-day and multi-day options available. Guided trips using park-approved outfitters are recommended because of the unique features of the river that can cause boats to flip, but brave and daring rafters can also find more information on non-commercial trips via the National Park Service.
Trips of a Lifetime
For experienced rafters in search of unique adventures, a multi-day trip through the area is a worthy bucket-list item. Cataract Canyon, just outside of Moab, Utah is a legendary trip that passes incredible Canyonland scenery. Standard trips last four to five days and include camping and hiking along the way. Another popular option for epic scenery and a wild ride is Desolation Canyon on the Green River. Check for details with local outfitters. For experienced rafters who’d prefer to make the trip on their own, be sure to secure the necessary permits before you launch. More information about Desolation Canyon permits is available, as well as information about river permits for Cataract Canyon and Canyonlands here.
Availability of rafting trips depends on the season and location. Generally, there are trips available between March and late-October, but it depends on conditions. During drier years, the season may be shorter. During the spring, when runoff from melting snow brings rivers to their peak water levels, rafting trips are only recommended for experienced paddlers. However, later in the season, as runoff recedes, there are many stretches of the river that offer fun and excitement for families and novices. For planning purposes, you can check water levels on the US Geological Survey’s website.
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