The forecast for Colorado’s 2019 whitewater rafting season: Rad, thanks to epic snowfall this winter that will likely spell swift-moving rivers.
Colorado’s rivers go from wildto mild as the season progresses. Generally speaking, spring snowmelt translates to fast-moving water in May and June and the rivers, along with their rapids, become more tame by July or so, making for more leisurely floats later in the summer.
Ready to ride the rapids? Here are five rivers weaving throughout Colorado that are great for whitewater rafting.
The Arkansas River is one of Colorado’s most popular, and the stretch that carves through the Royal Gorge in Cañon City is an adventurer’s paradise. Echo Canyon River Expeditions, a rafting outfitter, runs a few different trips. For intrepid types, the Royal Gorge trip moves through class III to V rapids. Trips through Bighorn Sheep Canyon and the Family Float are calmer alternatives led by the outfitter. Echo Canyon raft guides wear Go-Pros attached to their helmets, capturing a personalized highlight reel of your river adventure. Turn the trip into a weekend getaway by staying at the Royal Gorge Cabins — luxe digs across from the river outfitter’s outpost.
Insider tip: Not only can you paddle through rapids in the Arkansas River, you can also soar above them via a zipline or superhero-style strapped into a harness on a skycoaster ride inside the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.
Pricing: Half-day prices with Echo Canyon start at $74 per person
Departure city: Cañon City
More info: raftecho.com
In the southwest section of the state, the Dolores River earns extra credit with rafters because of its surrounding scenery and rich history. Class II, III and IV rapids roll past crimson-colored cliffs that are dotted with pinyon-juniper trees and ponderosa pines and rafters pass by Anasazi ruins and petroglyphs. The Dolores River Canyon is the second-longest western canyon with a river running through it, outside of the Grand Canyon.
Whether the river can run raft trips is reliant on snowpack and dam releases from McPhee Reservoir. While last year was a no-go, Mild to Wild Rafting and Jeep Tours confirmed it is planning limited multi-day Dolores River trips, including a three-day Slickrock trip leaving May 21 and May 24; the two-day Ponderosa trip leaving May 22; a five-day Slickrock and Ponderosa trip leaving May 22; and a six-day Slickrock and Ponderosa trip leaving May 21. Along the Ponderosa trips, rafters are in for a special thrill: The Snaggletooth cascade is a steep, quarter-mile drop.
Insider tip: Plan your trip, stat! Due to limited dam releases, trips are limited to mid-to-late May.
Pricing: Trips start at $295 for youth (minimum ages may vary based on rafting conditions) and $415 for adults
Departure city: Cortez
More info: Mild2WildRafting.com
Looking for a quick day trip? It’s a little more than 30 miles from Denver to Idaho Springs to enjoy a float down the Clear Creek river. Clear Creek Rafting Co. offers several trips for varying ability levels, starting with a beginner trip that includes 10 rapids all the way up to an advanced full-day trip that’s packed with 20 big rapids along a 16-mile journey.
This outfitter also offers evening runs that depart at 4:30 and 5 p.m. to give you a new perspective of this nearby river. Trips vary in difficulty level, with rapids ranging from class II to class V.
Insider tip: Wetsuits and splash jackets are complimentary with Clear Creek Rafting Co.
Pricing: Half-day trips start at $52 for adults and $42 for kids ages 7-12
Departure city: Idaho Springs
More info: clearcreekrafting.com
Rafters along Northern Colorado’s Cache la Poudre River can spot rock cliff formations such as the “kissing gorillas” and navigate rapids such as the “rollercoaster” and “pinball” (yes, they are as fun as they sound!). During these fun trips, A Wanderlist Adventure will also make a stop so rafters can enjoy a dip in a favorite swimming hole.
You’ll roll along class II and III rapids on the “Taste of Whitewater” trip. The “Blast of Whitewater” trip features class III and IV rapids.
Insider tip: Rafters can receive $10 off per person with the code save10 until June 14 or after Aug. 4
Pricing: Half-day trips start at $60
More info: awanderlustadventure.com
Rafting along the Yampa River is about as close as you’ll get to time traveling. The Yampa River cuts through the canyon walls of Dinosaur National Monument, where tourists can find walls of dinosaur fossils. (OARS leads multi-day trips through the national monument, taking rafters into Utah.) But, for a shorter excursion, take a quick trip with Bucking Rainbow Outfitters and wind through the heart of historic downtown. The trip departs across from the ski mountain.
The OARS trip comes across class III and IV rapids, while The Bucking Rainbow Outfitters trips traverse over class II to III rapids.
Insider tip: The best time to take this trip is late May and early June.
Pricing: Half-day trips start at $50 for adults and $45 for children (minimum ages may vary based on rafting conditions)
Departure: Steamboat Springs
More info: buckingrainbow.com/yampa-river.html