The Colorado River is one of the most majestic waterways in North America, and the Upper section of river from Kremmling to Glenwood Springs is one of the most requested whitewater trips for adventure seekers. The section presents an enjoyable ride down the river, through some gorgeous canyons and valleys with spectacular views and easy waters. There are even parts of the river for swimming and cliff jumping.
The river originates high in the central Rocky Mountains near Lake Granby and meanders to the west through Grand County, past the towns of Granby, Hot Sulphur Springs and Parshall. At Kremmling, the Colorado River turns slightly to the southwest and continues through a remote section of the Rockies. The river continues southwest before taking a sharp curve to the northwest just east of the unincorporated community of Bond.
By the unincorporated town of McCoy, the river moves west-southwest before meeting up with Interstate 70 at Dotsero. From there, the interstate follows the river west through the canyons to Glenwood Springs.
The river is exceptionally accommodating to rafters and kayakers. The Colorado River can be rafted most of the year, but April through September is the best time to go. There are commercial rafting companies that operate on the river once the water warms in early May and continue until it is too cold – typically late September or early October if the weather is favorable.
Peak season is June and July. This is the most popular time for a trip because the weather is warm, and the river waters are at an ideal temperature. It’s not uncommon for rafters to enjoy 70-degree waters and 80- or 90-degree temperatures outdoors during these months.
Since the river maintains its water levels longer than most rivers, there are still excellent runs through the month of October. There are still stretches of rapids that are exciting during this time, and crowds are usually at a minimum. (Less crowds can mean a better chance to see wildlife as you move down the river).
Witnessing the amazing fall colors of Colorado from the river is a one-of-a-kind experience. Early and late-season outings can be a little brisk, but fun! Never fear: Outfitters provide comfy wet suits that help keep you dry and warm during the cooler stretches.
A popular choice for a rafting experience on the Colorado River in Kremmling is the half-day adventure. The Upper Colorado run starts near the headwaters of the river on the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park. The trip offers beautiful canyon scenery, bluebird skies and easy rapids that are rated Class I and Class II. Along the way, paddlers can take in the many gems of nature: spectacular wildflowers, wildlife, sheer granite canyon walls and stately Blue Spruce and Douglas fir trees.
Half-day trips are usually about 2-3 hours in length. Rafting companies will typically offer a morning or afternoon run, so you can pick a departure time of around 9 a.m. or around 1:30 in the afternoon. The trip can accommodate small children as young as 3 years old.
When the river is low, there is access to an other-worldly natural hot spring that’s perfect for a stop-off and soak! Appreciate a true natural phenomenon of nature and warm your bones at the same time. It’s educational, therapeutic and downright awesome!
Half-day rafting trips in Glenwood Springs are a hit because there’s so much to do in town. With beautiful Glenwood Canyon just outside of town, it’s easy to hit mild (or wild) rapids in the morning and still have time for golf, sightseeing or a visit to the Glenwood Canyons Adventure Park in the afternoon.
Just up the river about 9 miles from Glenwood Springs is the Class III- and Class IV-rated Shoshone Rapids, one of the most exciting stretches of rapids in the state. The 3-hour trip takes you through the many highpoints of the section, including The Wall, Tombstone, Maneater and Superstition. There is also a natural hot spring that’s terrific for a tranquil soak. Trips originate in downtown Glenwood Springs.
Need more than just a couple hours to get your whitewater fix? Then a full-day raft trip is the way to go. Depart early in the morning and head to the river for an entire day of whitewater rafting with new thrills around every bend. Full-day trips are like half-day adventures, except more ground is covered as you delve deeper into the Colorado wilderness.
A full day jaunt is ideal for families with younger kids who are looking to relax and catch some rays. The journey takes paddlers past dinosaur tracks that have existed for millions of years. Steep and rugged Gore Canyon just southwest of Kremmling presents 1,000-foot canyon walls and is one of the most scenic spots in the Centennial State. Along with awe-inspiring views, riders can enjoy a dip in the hot springs and scarf down tasty riverside lunch.
If you have the time, a full-day whitewater rafting trip is the most affordable and most diverse journey you can pick. With a full day, nothing is rushed. You can genuinely enjoy the all-encompassing experience, and there’s ample time set aside for photos and to appreciate the splendor of it all.
The 6-hour, full-day adventure from Glenwood Springs starts with a fun trek to the Shoshone Rapids in Glenwood Canyon. The thrilling rapids offer consistent Class III and Class IV rapids with aptly named sections called The Wall, Tombstone and Maneater. Beyond the rapids, the river mellows, presenting the guides with an opportunity to talk about the history of the canyon and its unique composition. The day concludes with a relaxed second section before a splashy finish at South Canyon.
Inflatable rafts can accommodate 8-10 people in each vessel, along with an experienced river guide. While this is the most popular way to navigate the river, it isn’t the only method. A “duckie” is a one- or two-person inflatable kayak that is great for learning how to paddle and maneuver in the water. It’s like having your own, personal boat in the river.
Duckie float trips are entertaining for the entire family, and the calm waters of the Upper Colorado make for an ideal ride. Half-day and full-day outings are available and run the same stretches of river just like the larger rafts. There are a few fun duckies runs near both Kremmling and Glenwood Springs.
Ready for something truly memorable? An overnight excursion into the Rocky Mountain wilderness in Upper Colorado is something you’ll never forget. Trained guides prepare everything for your journey, including tents, sleeping bags, food and other essentials. It’s the ultimate outdoor, overnight experience that is a wonderful option for families, romantic couples or a group of friends who want to disconnect from society for a bit.
Your two-day adventure begins with a riverside lunch and float through stunning Little Gore Canyon. From there, you make your way to base camp for the evening, where you’ll set up camps, hunt for fossils, try your hand at fishing, and explore the many trails around camp prior to dinner. Day Two includes more time on the river before a stop to explore prehistoric dinosaur tracks. Afterward, you’ll hit 5 miles of flawless Class II rapids at State Bridge.
When you’re packing your garb for the Upper Colorado River, there are a few essentials to remember. First, bring water shoes or an old pair of tennis shoes to wear in the raft. Aim for closed-toe shoes that will stay on securely. Don’t go with Crocs or flip-flops because they’re too flimsy and can fly off in the water and be lost forever. Stay away from anything made of cotton because it gets heavy and unmanageable when it’s wet.
It’s best to wear your swimsuit and pack extra dry clothes for the ride home afterward. Protect yourself from the sun with a high SPF sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. (Shoes will protect your feet from the sun. Yes! Your feet can get burned by the sun on the river if you’re not careful!) You probably won’t need wetsuits, booties or splash tops unless you’re hitting the river incredibly early or late in the season because the Colorado River typically stays at a comfortable temperature.
One of the main attractions to rafting the Upper Colorado is the wide variety of outings you can do off the river. The Kremmling community embraces the outdoor lifestyle, so there’s ample hunting, fishing, target and clay shooting, hiking, biking, ATVs and longboarding – just to name a few. Enjoy Championship golf during the warmer months, and make plans to fish the state’s many Gold Medal rivers – like the mighty Colorado!
Glenwood Springs is another town with a wonderful array of things to do. First, the entertaining Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park has rides and activities for kids of all ages. You can explore the unique caves or ride the scenic gondola, giant canyon swing or thrilling alpine coaster. Glenwood Springs is home to an amazing hot spring, the iconic Hotel Colorado and is the burial site of legendary Old West icon Doc Holliday. There’s also tons of great restaurants and extensive shopping around town.