For those who are itching for a fun, action-packed summer vacation, a whitewater rafting trip on the Colorado River just up the road from Aspen may be just what’s on the docket. While this mountain town is perhaps best known for its incredible skiing, from the months of May to September its rivers are transformed into a rafter’s dream with class II - class V rapids that are suitable for families and all levels of experience.

While the rafting season technically stretches from May to September, the “high water” season when many of the rivers are at their peak from mountain runoff starts in May, and goes into June.

VIEW: Colorado Whitewater River Rafting Map

Rafting The Great Colorado River

While there are plenty of streams and rivers around Aspen to explore, The Colorado River is the most consistent choice for those who want a thrilling and unforgettable whitewater river rafting experience.

The class III “Shoshone” section of the Colorado River takes riders on a nine-mile journey through the gorgeous Glenwood Canyon. Starting out fast-paced and mellowing out towards the end, this trip offers spectacular views of the canyon walls, as well as scenic wildlife and mountain vistas.

Half-Day Trips and Full-Day Trips for Family Fun

Take an exhilarating journey on the Shoshone with Colorado Whitewater Rafting’s Half-Day and Full-Day trips, which all begin at the company’s location in Glenwood Springs.

During the early and late season, half-day trips begin at 10am and 1:30pm and are 3 hours long.

Full-day trips give riders even more of a chance to enjoy the Shoshone, as they cover twice as much mileage as the half-day trips. Trips begin at 9am, are 6-7 hours long, and cover 14-25 miles depending on the conditions.

Be aware that during the spring this section of the river is considered class IV, and is class III in the summer and fall.

Explore all Colorado River Rafting Trips

Local Aspen Rivers

In addition to the mighty Colorado River, there are other local rivers in Aspen including the Roaring Fork, a tributary of the Colorado River that offers both scenic and challenging rides for rafters with varying experience levels.

The lower section of the Roaring Fork offers class II and class III rapids that provide stunning views of Mt. Sopris, as well as the chance to see plenty of wildlife and geology. Here, rafters will pass through the moderately paced Cemetery rapids which are comprised of a handful of small rapids and a larger one that flows through Glenwood Springs.

The upper section of the Roaring Fork includes the Woody Creek & Toothache rapids that provide a great combination of mild floating as well as continuous semi-technical rapids. Lastly rafters can pass through the challenging class IV “Slaughterhouse” section of the Roaring Fork, which offers some of the most technical rafting in all of Colorado. In other words – not for beginners!

Arkansas River & Browns Canyon

If you are willing to venture just a stretch away from Aspen, the Arkansas River offers some of North America’s most popular rapids with more than 100 miles of whitewater total.

The river flows past some of Colorado’s biggest and most beautiful mountains and offers class III and class IV rapids with spectacular views.

While there, bee sure to check out Browns Canyon, which is considered one of Colorado’s most popular rafting trips as is provides the perfect mix of rapids for beginners and experienced rafters alike.

FAQ Aspen River Rafting

Q: What river flows through Aspen, Colorado?
A: The Roaring Fork River originates high in the Rocky Mountains near Independence Pass and the Continental Divide. It flows to the northwest, down to Aspen and continues along Colorado Highway 82 past El Jebel, Basalt and Carbondale before meeting up with the Colorado River at Glenwood Springs. The Rio Grande Trail is a popular trail that follows the river from downtown Aspen all the way to Glenwood Springs. The trail and river are hotspots for amazing hiking, biking, fly-fishing, kayaking and whitewater rafting.

Q. Is whitewater rafting in Aspen fun for families?
A: Whitewater rafting is one of the funnest and most affordable family activities in Aspen. Aspen is a luxury town, and there are world-class rafting experiences here that are second to none - and they won’t break your bank. Rafting companies in Aspen have a variety of packages available for beginners, groups with children and seniors, and even a few for those looking for some heart-pumping thrills. The local rivers provide easy float trips and some of the most treacherous rapids in North America, so take your pick!

Q. Are there whitewater rafting companies in Aspen?
A: There are several rafting companies in Aspen that offer exciting whitewater runs at an affordable rate. A few of the more highly-rated rafting companies in Aspen are Blazing Adventures and Aspen Whitewater Rafting. Both outfitters are conveniently located in Aspen and know the local rivers well. Choose from memorable adventures on three nearby waterways: the Colorado River, Arkansas River and the Roaring Fork River.

Q. Is whitewater rafting in Aspen fun?
A: Yes! No matter your skill level, there’s something for everyone. If you’re on vacation and looking for a scenic float with lots of natural beauty and photo ops, consider the stunning Glenwood Canyon section of the Lower Colorado River near GLenwood Springs, or soak in the beauty of the Lower Roaring Fork River just outside of Aspen. If you’re an adrenaline junkie with a few runs under your belt, the advanced-rated Slaughterhouse section of the Upper Roaring Fork will send chills down your spine!

Q. Are there rafting trips in Aspen for kids?
A: There are several inflatable raft trips and duckie floats that are ideal for children as young as 5 years old. There are a few easy floats that can accommodate children as young as 2 years old. It’s always best to check with your rafting outfitter during the planning process. Most rafting companies have packages specifically for young kids that are fun, easy and super safe.

Q: Are there float trips on the Colorado River near Aspen?
A: The Colorado River meets up with the Roaring Fork River in Glenwood Springs. There are some nice float trips on the COlorado River, but if you don’t want to drive (or bus) all the way downvalley, consider a float trip on the beautiful Roaring Fork RIver. The Roaring Fork River flows through Aspen and continues downvalley to Glenwood SPrings. Along the way are some wonderful Class II and Class III sections that are perfect for a float with friends, family or business colleagues.

Q. What is the most exciting stretch of rapids near Aspen?
A: The famous Slaughterhouse section of the Roaring Fork River is an extreme, advanced-rated stretch of white-knuckle rapids that will have you gripping your paddle extra tight! Just when you think it can’t get any more hairy, the bottom drops out for a 6-foot plummet over Slaughterhouse Falls. It’s the ultimate thrill ride for rafters over the age of 16 with the willpower (and guts!) to take it on.

Q: Is whitewater rafting safe?
A: Guided rafting is exceptionally safe. Rafting companies devot many hours to train guides for specific sections of the river. In many instances, guides will raft the river for several seasons before helming a raft with paying passengers. When you take to the water with a rafting guide, it’s a sure bet they have run that river hundreds - or thousands - of times and know all of the ins, outs and intricacies of the water. Before you head out for your rafting adventure, your guide will show you the finer points of paddling and staying safe on the river.

Q: What should I wear whitewater rafting?
A: Wear your swimming suit. Bring an extra pair of clothes for the ride home. Don’t forget a towel to dry off. For shoes, try to bring along an old pair of tennis shoes that won’t matter if they get ruined or soggy, at the least. Stay away from flip-flops and Crocs because they’re tacky. Not really - it’s because they don’t protect your feet well enough. Always bring sunscreen, sunglasses and possibly a hat. Protect yourself from the sun!

Q: When is the best time to go whitewater rafting in Aspen?
A: Higher elevation locations, like Aspen, experience the best rafting in late May and June. The Roaring Fork River has fun and challenging sections with magnificent scenery. Since the Colorado River provides water to a great portion of the Southwest U.S., flows are highly regulated so there is never low river water. For rafters, that means no cancellations and sure-fire rapids all summer!

Q: Is there late-season rafting in Aspen?
A: The best late-season rafting is further downvalley, on the Lower Roaring Fork River, the Colorado River and the Arkansas River. Glenwood Canyon near Glenwood Springs is a wonderful spot for a family float because the deep canyon has 1,200-foot walls that raise up to the bluebird sky. On the other side of the Continental Divide, the Browns Canyon National Monument section of the Arkansas River takes you through a spotless national park with plentiful wildlife and a completely different vibe.

Q. How long do rafting trips take?
A: The most popular rafting trips are half-day and full-day outings, but that can be misleading. A half-day trip is usually about three hours, give or take. A full-day outing is more like five to six hours from start to finish. It depends on how long it takes to get to your destination, how long it takes to put in, and how much time you need to devote to instruction and safety measures prior to your departure on the river.

Q. How many people fit in an inflatable raft?
A: Most inflatable rafts can accommodate 8-10 people, including a rafting guide. Manby rafting companies like to have at least 8 “paddlers” in a raft, so small children may be spread across a couple rafts if you are in a group with several small children. This would be so each raft has roughly the same amount of paddle power! In addition to inflatable rafting trips, there are kayaks, duckies and other ways to float down the river. Duckies are usually single or partnered, and most outfitters have a minimum age requirement.

Q. Are the Shoshone Rapids dangerous?
A: The Shoshone section of the Colorado River is a fantastic trip for families. There’s enjoyable whitewater and awe-inspiring views along this popular trip that goes through the heart of Glenwood Canyon on the mighty Colorado River. People love the Shoshone section so much that outfitters often have packages that run the rapids not once, not twice, but three times in a row. Guides will take a deeper line each time, so it gets hairier each time through!

Q. What is there to do in Aspen?
A: Aspen isn’t like most ski towns. In fact, it’s not really a ski town per se - it’s actually a real town. Long before Aspen greeted skiers to its slopes, it was a booming mountain town best known for mining silver. Since the town has a rich history other than skiing, there’s a world-class opera house, a chic art museum, various spotless parks and an immaculate sanctuary, a hip microbrewery, a top-flight nightclub with headlining musicians and comedians, and some of the best dining in the Rockies.

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