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White-water rafting through the Grand Canyon

  • Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, United States of America (USA)

  • Bucket List Experience

Last updated: 21 March, 2024

As white-rafting trips go, few can match the drama and majesty of the soaring Grand Canyon scenery.

The 280-mile stretch of the Colorado River passing through the canyon is home to more than 160 sets of rapids, ranging from Class I to Class 5 (though they have their own rating systems). The Lava Falls, with a 37-feet drop, is the mightiest of all.

The good news is there are a lot of options, from simple, fun day trip adventures covering low-grade rapids to more challenging multi-day camping adventures along the full distance.

For most, a simple one-day trip is enough. These are run from the West Rim by the native Hualapai Indians. Motorised rafts take you a mere 40 miles, the first 12 of which are low-grade rapids. The remaining 28 miles is flatwater where you can sit back and admire the view. The rafting guides tell you stories about the Hualapai and their cultural history as you go.

They also offer a 2-day version, with a night spent campaign in Spencer Canyon and including a hike to a natural waterfall.

The Hualapai’s 1- or 2-day trips are the best if you want the experience, but have limited time or desire for serious rafting, and/or you are coming from Las Vegas.

There are multiple operators offering longer adventures. These trips often include optional daytime hikes – usually no more than 2 miles to take in the scenery and to have a break from the rafting.

While you're there

If you do the one-day trip with the Haulapai, you can raft in the morning, then take a helicopter to Grand Canyon West to walk the Skywalk. While you’re there, the Hualapi will put on cultural performances. You return to Peach Springs later by bus.

Logistics

Price from: £350
Minimum age: 8
Age suitable: 8+
When: All year around
Duration: 1-21 days

Getting there & doing it

One-day guided trips with the Hualapai (Hualapai River Runners) depart from Peach Springs (on Route 66) meeting at the Hualapai Lodge for an hour-long transfer by bus to the river.

There are around 15 operators who run longer rafting trips, using a variety of different rafts – from small handcrafted dories (shallow-draft wooden boats), oar-powered rafts, paddle-steered rafts and large motorized pontoon rafts. Use the Advantage Grand Canyon website to identify the trips and operators that best meet your requirements.

The type of raft also affects the time of trips – motorised rafts can complete the length in around 7 days. Oar-powered rafts up to 21 days.

And then there’s the cost. One day trips start around $400, longer trips can cost upwards of $7,000.

The minimum age is 8 on the motorised rafts, 10-12 for the smaller or oar-powered versions. There’s no upper age limit.

If you want to stay the night, the Hualapai Lodge in Peach Springs offers simple accommodation with some cowboy-themed entertainment.

When to do it

Rafting trips run between May and October, to avoid the cold winter months.

The best time to go is in spring or autumn, when the weather is pleasant and the crowds fewer.

June, July, and August and the busiest months, and also the hottest – be warned it can get ferociously hot, hitting temperatures of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the middle of summer.

Who to go with: organised tours

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

Self-Drive 1-Day Grand Canyon Whitewater Rafting Tour

  • Las Vegas

Self-Drive 1-Day Grand Canyon Whitewater Rafting Tour

Viator

Experience a thrilling adventure as you raft down the mighty Colorado River along the sheer cliffs of the Grand Canyon. This is the only one-day white water rafting trip in Nevada or Arizona. You'll go through seven sets of rapids challenging you to hold on at every wave encounter. It's a wild and thrilling ride that you'll remember your entire life. You'll enjoy Travertine Falls ending your day at Pearce Ferry in Arizona.

Price $635

Min age 8

Rating 4.54 / 5 [48 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Inspiration

There are countless rivers with rapids out there that you can ‘raft’, but there are some stand-outs – for the size of their rapids and/or for their exceptional setting. Here are our recommendations.