Are you and your family looking for a somewhat outside-the box vacation idea? Does sitting by the pool watching your kids splash around while you’re on babysitting duty sound a bit dull? If so, whitewater rafting may be the vacation activity you never knew you needed.

Whitewater rafting is excellent for families who want an action-packed, once-in-a-lifetime type of vacation, and as with all vacation ideas, it requires a bit of planning.

Because conditions for the sport are heavily dependent on the weather, it’s super important to do your research and plan ahead to make sure conditions are suitable for the type of rafting experience you’d like to have.

When Is It Best to Go Rafting?

Rafting season typically runs roughly from April until October in Colorado, but within that time-frame conditions may vary drastically depending on the snow pack for that year, as well as other variables.

Answering a few key questions can help you better decide when to plan your vacation. For starters, what “class” of whitewater do you want to raft? Rivers are rated on a scale of class I to class VI – class I being the least challenging, and class VI being the most (and is considered commercially un-raftable).

Also, rivers may change class depending on the time of year, so knowing what type of whitewater you want to raft will be key upon deciding when to go. The general weather and tourist conditions may also affect your decision, so read ahead to get a better idea of what to expect!

  • Early Season: Lasting from May to June, early season on the Colorado River offers cooler weather, high water, and faster rapids. For many, high water is considered the best time to go rafting as it offers big waves, large hydraulics, and a swift current. Because of the fast nature of the rapids there may be a few age restrictions during this time. Check with the tour company first before booking your vacation, just to be sure.

    One great option for early season rafting is Colorado Whitewater Rafting’s Double Shoshone Rafting Trip, which offers class III and class IV rapids. This trip includes a pass through the Baptism, Tuttle's Tumble, Tombstone, Wall, and Maneater rapids, not once – but twice! This trip has a minimum age limit of five, and embarks at 1 pm or 1:30 pm in the early season.
  • Mid-Season: Mid-season is between July and August and offers rafters warmer summer temperatures and medium water levels. These are great flows for groups, beginners, and families with children, and also offers rafters and opportunity to ride more advanced sections of rivers that may be closed off during high season. Keep in mind that this is peak tourist season, so if you’re trying to beat the crowds it may be best to come earlier or later.

    A great tour to take during this time may be Colorado Whitewater Rafting’s half-day tour on the Shoshone, which is their most popular option. This three-hour trip is considered class III to class IV, and takes rafters on a three hour long journey down the Shoshone, even stopping at some natural hot springs along the way.
  • Late Season: Late season rafting is in September and offers warm weather, lower crowds, and lower water conditions. There are very low technical conditions during this time of year, and it is also a great time to see wildlife!

    A great trip for late season is the short and mild rafting trip, which is ideal for families with young children under the age of five or under 50 pounds. This trip offers a fun, scenic float and lasts 1 ½ to two hours on the Colorado River.

Getting to Glenwood Springs

If you are coming from Interstate 70, take Exit #114 – West Glenwood then take the round-a-bout to Midland Ave southbound. You will cross the river and make an immediate left on Devereux Rd at the Harley Davidson dealership. The facilities will be 0.4 miles down on the right. It is best to avoid exit 116 as traffic can sometimes cause extended slowdowns along this route.

FAQ Whitewater River Rafting Glenwood Springs Colorado

Q: What river flows through Glenwood Springs, Colorado?

A: The mighty Colorado River, one of the most iconic rivers in North America, flows directly through Glenwood Springs. In Glenwood Springs, the river meets up with the Roaring Fork River. This section of the Colorado River is known as the “Lower Colorado.” It’s an excellent section for adventure seekers looking for thrills and fun on the Western Slope.

Q. Is whitewater rafting in Glenwood Springs fun for families?

A: Rafting around Glenwood Springs has lots of high points for families, but none may be better than the visually stunning Glenwood Canyon section of the river. It’s an easy section of river with a few exciting spots along the way. The main draw is the sheer beauty of the deep canyon’s magnificent red rock walls that provide a beautiful backdrop against sunny, bluebird skies and lush green trees and dense, healthy vegetation. Natural wildlife is prevalent everywhere: amid the pristine skies, along the spotless mountainside and in the crystal clear waters.

Q. Are there whitewater rafting companies in Glenwood Springs?

A: Glenwood Springs is a haven for whitewater rafting, and there are several qualified outfitters in town that have been operating on the local rivers for many years. There are various half-day, full-day and multi-day overnight trips available. Most outfitters offer trips on the Colorado River and Roaring Fork River, and some have additional choices on other nearby rivers. Glenwood Springs is conveniently located less than an hour from Aspen, Avon, Beaver Creek, Eagle, Grand Junction, and Vail - so there are lots of options!

Q. Is whitewater rafting in Glenwood Springs fun?

A: The Glenwood Canyon section presents Class II through Class V sections of rapids, so there’s lots of variety along the way. It’s not too slow and it’s not overwhelming for newbies. A guided tour is the way to go so you have an expert in the raft with you. It helps give you confidence knowing they’ve made the run several times and know all the ins and out of the river. The guides know the rivers well and their excitement for the journey is contagious, no matter which package you choose.

Q. Are there rafting trips in Glenwood Springs for kids?

A: The minimum age for most whitewater trips is 5 years old. One of the more exciting trips for kids is the Shoshone rapids section of the Colorado RIver. Some of the more “short and mild” sections of the rapids can accommodate children as young as 2 years old. It’s always best to contact your rafting outfitter prior to your trip and let them know you are visiting with small children. You can also contact your guide during the planning stage and ask them a recommendation on what’s best for your group.

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

A: There are many great float trips in the area, so it’s hard to pick just one. Perhaps the most scenic and relaxing of these easy floaters is the section of river from just below Glenwood Springs down to New Castle. It’s a mild Class II scenic ride with wildlife all around. It is not uncommon to see eagles soaring above their nests, and deer, sheep and bears roaming the ground below.

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

A: Everyone has their personal favorite, but one consensus pick that never misses is Maneater Rapid on the famed Shoshone section of the Colorado River. First, the Colorado River does not disappoint, no matter where you are. The Shoshone rapids are a thrill-a-minute section that’s one of the most action-packed runs in North America. And, while the whole run is primo, the Maneater is the biggest of them all - and a huge hit at all flows. Take a Double Shoshone run and hit it twice. (See if you can blast it even bigger the second time around!)

Q: Is whitewater rafting safe?

A: Professionally trained river guides approach every single rapid with caution and always respect the river. Even the most mild sections of the river have the potential for danger if it is not taken seriously. Before you hit the rapids, your instructor will take you through the finer points of paddling, steering and maneuvering your vessel in the water. It seems like a daunting task, but with eight to 10 paddlers working in unison under the watchful eye of a trained guide, you’ll be whisking down the river in no time!

Q: What should I wear whitewater rafting?

A: Stay away from cotton clothes because they can get soggy and heavy when they get wet. Plan on wearing your swimming suit for whitewater rafting, but remember to pack a pair of shoes as well. You need to wear shoes in the raft for safety. Stay away from Crocs or flip-flops because they don’t provide enough protection. Instead, opt for an old pair of tennis shoes that can get wet, or ruined, if need be. Nothing special, any old pair of tennies will do. In most cases, you’ll be able to rinse off your shoes and dry them after your trip, and they’ll be just fine.

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

A: Because Glenwood Springs is lower in elevation, spring comes early compared to upstream destinations. Rafting season can begin as early as April. From July onward, the Colorado River at Glenwood Springs is rated a solid Class III - perfect for families who want a little excitement. The best part is that water temperatures in July and August are a perfect 70-plus degrees while the outdoor temps can reach over 90 degrees with bluebird skies, making for an ideal summer day! Since the Colorado River supplies drinking water to so much of the Southwest U.S. it is actually always raftable, but commercial rafting typically ends in late September.

Q: Is there late-season rafting in Glenwood Springs?

A: Rafting in late September and early October is a unique experience. First, the “colors season,” when the leaves change from green to a beautiful prism of red, brown and orange, is simply mesmerizing - especially from the seat of an inflatable raft coasting down stream. Next, the water becomes a beautiful crystal blue as it cools in the fall. The rapids remain Class III during this time, but the journey is certainly more tranquil.

Q. How long do rafting trips take?

A: Most rafting adventures come in either a half-day or full-day package. Half-day packages last a few hours (3-4 hours, on average) while full-day packages are usually more than 6 hours. Keep in mind that some trips require more of a drive to get to the put-in than others. More remote sections of the river can take an hour or more to get to, and there are also put-ins right in downtown Glenwood that require no extra driving.

Q. How many people fit in an inflatable raft?

A: Most whitewater companies use inflatable rafts that accommodate 8-10 people per raft. Several companies have multiple rafts and can accommodate more than 100 guests in a single launch, or groups of more than 400 people per day. In addition to inflatable rafts, many providers offer kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and individual or partnered “duckies” for fun on the river.

Q. Is whitewater rafting expensive?

A: Rafting is one of the more affordable family-friendly activities you can do in the mountains. In destinations like Glenwood Springs where rafting is prominent, there are several outfitters, so the marketplace is rather competitive. This means you can often find deals and discounts on rafting trips that can save you money. Many rafting companies have deals for groups that help keep per-person costs low.

Q. What is there to do in Glenwood Spring?

A: Glenwood Springs is one of the most interesting, and affordable, cities on Colorado’s Western Slope. Conveniently located on Interstate 70, it’s less than an hour from top destinations like Aspen, Vail, Beaver Creek and Grand Junction. Glenwood Springs is steeped in history, from its renowned hot springs and vapor caves to attractions like the iconic Hotel Colorado and the gravesite of legendary Old West gunman Doc Holliday. Glenwood Canyons Adventure Park is an exciting, modern-day theme park with a scenic gondola, coasters, zip lines, a giant swing and other amusements.

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