For thrill seekers who are looking for a chance to get wet this summer, Vail whitewater river rafting offers the chance to do just that. Whether you are with your family, on a solo trip, or arriving with a large group, there are plenty of ways for you to experience the thrill of the current on one of Colorado's many beautiful sections of river.

Why Vail?

Located at the base of Vail Mountain, this charming alpine village is mostly known for its world class skiing. However, as the summer months approach and the snowpack melts, it fills the local rivers and streams with fresh, clear water, making for some of the best white water rafting in all of Colorado.

When To Go

The best time for river rafting in Vail is generally between the months of May through September, with the highest water being from May through June. Summer and late summer months deliver ideal temperatures, and perfect river rafting conditions.

The Mighty Colorado River

The Upper Colorado River is absolutely one of the best spots for whitewater rafting near Vail, and it provides rapids that are suitable for all levels of experience. This beautiful stretch of river flows through scenic meadows, canyons, and valleys and offers class II and class III rapids that are perfect for all skill and excitement levels, even for children and older adults.

Glenwood Springs is home base for the Colorado River rafting scene, and delivers incredible stretch's of the Colorado River. This section offers slightly more challenging rapids, including the class III-class IV Shoshone section, flowing deep into Glenwood Canyon.

Family Fun

Colorado Whitewater Rafting offers several rafting trips to explore this stretch of the river including its most popular trip, the half day trip, which is a three-hour trip that starts nine miles up the Shoshone, flowing through The Wall, Tombstone, Maneater, and Superstition sections of the river. As the river mellows out, rafters are treated to natural hot springs which flow directly into the river and given a chance to stop, relax, and soak in the warm natural water.

Another popular option is the full day rafting trip on the Shoshone, which covers twice as much mileage as the half day trip and offers a hot catered lunch. This tour gives rafters plenty of chances to hop into the water for a swim, as well as plenty of time to relax in the sun.

All trips meet at the tour company’s location in Glenwood Springs, which is just about a one-hour drive from Vail.

Local Vail Rivers

From May to June Vail’s local rivers (Gore Creek and Eagle River) offer rafters some options for thrilling runs. During May, these rivers are packed with local boaters enjoying the Spring runoff. As summer approaches, the snow pack melts away and these two rivers are temporarily converted into a rafter’s dream. After June the water level is typically too low to support group river rafting trips.

The class III Gore Creek and Eagle River rapids are thrilling and high paced, and offer rafters incredible views of the Gore Range Peaks, and a chance to spot moose, bear, foxes, and more.

Explore More

For those who are happy venturing further away from Vail, the Arkansas River is another great option for families, novices, and experts alike. The round-trip from Vail to the Arkansas River takes from five to six hours.

Offering some of North America’s most popular rapids, the Arkansas River provides more than 100 miles of whitewater, flowing past some of Colorado’s biggest and most beautiful mountains.

For more challenging rapids, rafters can head over to the Pine Creek section of the river near Granite, CO. For families looking for a more relaxing experience, Browns Canyon near Buena Vista offers a much calmer stretch of river to raft on.

Join us on the Colorado River this season. Colorado Whitewater Rafting is based out of Glenwood Springs and is just a one hour dive from Vail. We offer trips from May through September, with multiple departure times and trip duration's available. Explore our trip schedule to find your perfect day on the river.

FAQ Whitewater River Rafting Vail Colorado

Q: What river flows through Vail, Colorado?

A: Gore Creek originates high in the central Rocky Mountains about 10 miles west of the town of Silverthorne. It flows through Vail and joins the Eagle River from the east, approximately 3 miles west of Vail. The Eagle River continues to the west, through Avon, Eagle and Gypsum before joining with the Colorado River at the town of Dotsero, about 38 miles from Vail Ski Resort.

Q. Is whitewater rafting in Vail fun for families?

A: Vail is conveniently located to several family friendly sections of whitewater. Some of the more popular runs are along Gore Creek and the nearby Eagle River. Both rivers flow into the Colorado River about a half-hour from Vail Ski Resort. Beautiful Glenwood Canyon on the Colorado River is about an hour away to the west. To the east, there’s excellent rafting on Clear Creek at Idaho Springs, about 60 miles away on I-70. The Arkansas River has legendary rapids at Browns Canyon in Buena Vista, about 90 miles from Vail.

Q. Are there whitewater rafting companies in Vail?

A: There are several outfitters that are licensed to operate on the many rivers around Vail like the Eagle River and Colorado River. A few highly rated rafting companies include AVA Rafting, Colorado River Runs, Lakota Guides, Nova Guides, Sage Outdoor Adventures and Timberline Tours.

Q. What do river class ratings mean?

A: Rivers are rated by Class I through Class IV. Class I is smooth, easy waters. Class II rapids are good for a scenic float with a little splashing. Class III steps it up with some intermediate intensity from time to time, but not consistent. Class IV are advanced rapids that have some intense sections. Class V is expert, highly advanced with consistent, high-intensity rapids.

Q. Are there rafting trips in Vail for kids?

A: Vail has wonderful easy floats for kids. You can get 8-10 paddlers on an inflatable raft for a fun trip down a Class II section of river with some Class III parts that are just right for older kids. You can also rent Duckies that accommodate one or two riders so each person has their own vessel in the water. This provides a little more freedom but the water remains calm and manageable.

Q: Are there float trips on the Colorado River near Vail?

A: There are a few nice float trips on the rivers around Vail like Gore Creek, the Eagle River and the Colorado River. For an easy ride down the river, look for sections that are rated Class II or Class III. Class II waters have a little splashing, and Class III parts are a little more exciting - but still ideal for families with adventurous kids and seniors. For a real thrill ride, seek out a solid Class III with some rugged Class IV stretches.

Q. What is the most exciting stretch of rapids near Vail?

A: There are so many options near Vail, it’s hard to pick just one. There are intense stretches of Clear Creek near Idaho Springs, about 30 minutes from Vail. The mighty Colorado River runs through beautiful Glenwood Canyon about an hour away, and provides stretches of Class III and Class IV waters. From Glenwood Springs, it’s only another 45 minutes to Aspen and the famed Slaughterhouse section of the Roaring Fork River. The experts-only Slaughterhouse is a strong Class V, and one of the most treacherous rapids in the West.

Q: Is whitewater rafting safe?

A: Yes! Whitewater rafting is exceptionally diverse, offering parts of the river for all ages and abilities. Sections of the river are rated from Class I to Class V, with Class I being the calmest. Families and newbies to trips in an inflatable raft with 8-10 people are typically fine with waters up to Class III when accompanied by a trained guide who can help steer and provide instruction along the way. Some of the most popular trips are Class II sections with some Class III waters to provide a little excitement.

Q: What should I wear whitewater rafting?

A: Don’t wear anything cotton because it gets soggy and heavy. Wear a swimsuit and an older pair of shoes that can get wet and muddy. Don’t wear flip-flops or Crocs. Use a healthy amount of sunscreen throughout the day because the sun gets intense when reflecting off the canyon walls. Sunglasses with a strap to keep them secure and a hat are also recommended. Don’t forget your water bottle and use it. Rafting can be strenuous and it’s important to stay hydrated.

Q: When is the best time to go whitewater rafting in Vail?

A: You can find excellent stretches of rapids all summer long within an hour of Vail. More remote sections higher up in the mountains will peak early in the season as the snowpack begins to melt in March and April. Most rafting reaches its prime in May, June, July and August, when rivers are full and flowing strong. Lower elevation destinations see their best rafting in mid- to late-summer, sometimes as late as mid-October.

Q: Is there late-season rafting in Vail?

A: The Colorado River is a massive waterway that is responsible for a large amount of the water that is supplied to the Southwest. Because of these demands, flows are watched closely to maintain certain levels. For rafters, this means the Colorado River near Glenwood Springs is never a dull ride. You can expect to raft around Vail all summer. The commercial rafting season typically wraps up in late September or early October - but it’s mostly because of weather and water temperatures, not the water level.

Q. How long do rafting trips take?

A: Most rafting companies offer half-day, full-day and multi-day (overnight) trips. Half-day trips take around 3-5 hours in most cases, while full-day outings are more like 5-7. Those looking for an authentic and memorable excursion should consider an overnight rafting trip that includes stops along the river to set up camp and live off the land. Some trips take three or more days and go deep into the Rocky Mountain wilderness.

Q. How many people fit in an inflatable raft?

A: Group inflatable rafts fit 8-10 people, with room for a guide to help steer the craft. Some rafts have spots in the middle for extra riders or non-paddlers. There are also kayaks and duckies that accommodate either single riders or doubles. Doubles are great for kids with an adult driver.

Q. Is whitewater rafting expensive?

A: It’s surprisingly affordable. You’d expect that any vacation-related experience - especially with a trained guide at your side the entire time - would be pricey. But, there are a few outfitters that operate on the rivers around Vail, so the competitive marketplace keeps prices low for consumers. Plus, there’s typically lots of added value, perks and bonuses to entice you to choose them. Look into a group rate if you’re taking a few people and you can save a bundle.

Q. What is there to do in Vail?

A: Vail is one of the most iconic resorts in the West. Vail Village is an Austrian-inspired village with neat shops lining the heated cobblestone streets. There is unmatched dining, high-end and eclectic boutique shopping. Arrowhead Village is just west of the original village. It’s newer, and has many cool restaurants and desirable hotels. Each of the nearby towns are unique in their own right, but Edwards may be the most family-friendly, with its charming riverside walk along the Eagle River and classic mountain-town vibe.

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