It is no secret that we here at Tumbleweed Travel Co. love whitewater rafting! There are so many great rivers to float, we decided we would dedicate a post to the best whitewater rafting day trips in the West. The great thing about day trips is that you don’t need to dedicate too much time to getting a slice of river life. We have chosen 5 of our favorite rivers that can easily be experienced for a half day or day on one of our many road trip itineraries.
South Fork of the American River (Coloma, CA)
The South Fork of the American river can be found in the gold rush town of Coloma, along Hwy 49 between Placerville and Auburn. Being located in the foothills between the Bay Area and Tahoe, makes for a great location to get on the river for a day. With 21 miles available to raft, we suggest boating on the “Chili Bar” section (Upper River) or the “Gorge” section (Lower River.) Both sections have Class III rapids with intimidating names like Satan’s Cesspool, Trouble Maker and Meat Grinder. Don’t be fooled by the names, however, as the rapids are splashy, fun and great for beginners and experts alike. Along with getting the thrill of whitewater, you will be able to take in the iconic California scenery of rolling golden hills spotted with ancient oak trees. For more information on the South Fork of the American River, visit All Outdoors, our favorite outfitter in the area.
If you think this sounds like fun, we can book a trip for you on the South Fork on our Yosemite and Lake Tahoe road trip itinerary.
Moab Daily on the Colorado River (Moab, UT)
The Moab Daily section of the Colorado is the most rafted section of river in Utah. It proves to be an oasis in the desert areas of Moab and Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. This section of river runs through one of the most beautiful canyons in the US which you can enjoy even more on the slower pace of a boat, rather than driving. The Moab Daily is a great stretch for everyone and tends to stay at Class II in the summer months. Along with some fun and splash rapids, you will have a chance to float past the Fisher Towers and experience the iconic painted canyon walls and red bluffs of the surrounding valley. Getting on the Colorado will also keep you cool during the peak temps of hot desert days. For more information on the Moab Daily, visit Wild West Voyages, our favorite outfitter in the area.
We can easily slot this activity in your trip if you are on either our Ultimate Utah or Arches and Canyonlands road trip itineraries.
The Snake River (Jackson, WY)
One of the most beautiful rivers in the West lies just outside Yellowstone and flows through Grand Teton National Park. The Snake River is worth seeking out if you are in the area. There are two great sections on this river that companies raft commercially. The first is the “Scenic” section that will have you floating in the National Park and past the Park’s namesake mountain range, the Tetons. This section is relaxing and mellow and will have you sitting while being rowed through the braided river bends. If you are interested in this section, we recommend booking an early morning or evening float, so you can have the best chances at seeing wildlife. Further down the Snake is the “Whitewater” section which is also self-explanatory. This section includes Class III sections such as “Lunch Counter” and “Big Kahuna.” Though no experience is necessary to paddle these rapids, you will get wet, so bring your river shoes and adventurous spirit. For more information on the Snake River, visit Barker Ewing, our favorite outfitter in the area.
Both the Scenic section and Whitewater section of the Snake River can each be completed in half a day on our Yellowstone road trip itinerary.
The Colorado River (Glenwood Springs, CO)
We love the section of the Colorado River that flows through Glenwood Canyon just outside of Glenwood Springs for a few different reasons. The Shoshone section of river offers great Class III rapids where you will have to work with your boat captain to successfully navigate the features. In addition to the fun and splashy whitewater, this section of river flows through one of the most beautiful and sunning canyons in the world. While on your boat, you will be floating along rock walls formed over 3,000 years ago and as high as 1,300 ft. Lastly, if you continue on to the Grizzly Creek section of river, you will have a chance to stop and soak in natural hot springs that can be accessed only by the river.
If you choose to book our Colorado road trip itinerary, we can slot a half day of rafting on the Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon for you.
The White Salmon (Hood River, OR)
The White Salmon is a great river for the most adventurous! Rafters will need to be over 10 years old to get out and paddle this gem. The White Salmon is located in Washington state, just across the Columbia from Hood River, Oregon. The river is fed from water off the glaciers of Mt. Adams and aquifers in the area, keeping the White Salmon water clear and flowing all year long. The section offers great paddling opportunities and iconic lush northwestern scenery. If you opt for it, you can also raft over the tallest commercially rafted waterfall in the US, Husum Falls. For more information on the White Salmon, visit Wet Planet, our favorite outfitter in the area.
We can arrange a half day paddle on the gin clear waters of the White Salmon as an add on to our Ultimate Oregon trip itinerary.
While these are our 5 favorite whitewater rafting trips in the West, there are so many more that we love and didn’t mention. For a true enthusiast, our dream would be to create a custom whitewater rafting RV vacation that can have you rafting every other day! With dozens of amazing river sections in the West, we think it’s possible!