Grand Canyon Rafting Trips
Colorado River Whitewater & Camping
2021 and 2022 Seasons
Grand Canyon Whitewater Rafting
With over 100 different Colorado River whitewater options, planning the best Grand Canyon rafting trip can be challenging. For many people, it is easiest to talk with one of our Adventure Travel Specialists at (928) 526-4575. We can help you narrow down the rafting trip options for the 2021 and 2022 seasons to those trips that are available and fit into your schedule. Since 1987 our service has been free and we work with all 16 Grand Canyon outfitters. The cost is guaranteed to be the same rate you would get booking your trip directly with an outfitter.
Our Best Grand Canyon Advice
Select a trip that allows you to spend as much time as possible rafting in Grand Canyon. The majority of guests wish they would have spent additional time on the river. If you aren’t sure where to start, an 8-day motor full canyon is one of our most popular vacations. However, if you want a human-powered oar, paddle, dory, or hybrid trip (combo of oar, paddle, and sometimes dories), try rafting the Upper Canyon (approximately 6 days) and hike out to the South Rim. If you had fun, go on the Lower Canyon next time. While you may hear rumors about having to plan a Grand Canyon trip years in advance, many spaces go unused on trips every year. If the trip costs seems prohibitive check out some more moderately priced rafting trips on other whitewater rivers in the western United States.
Colorado River Rafting Basics
The Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park provides a white water rafting and camping vacation like no other. Towering cliffs, cool lush grottoes, thrilling rapids, and giant sand beaches can be experienced throughout the canyon corridor while guides share their knowledge of the natural and human history of the area. Whitewater rapids of the Colorado River are rated from one to 10, with 10 being the hardest runnable rapid and equivalent to rafting class IV+ whitewater on the international scale.
Each day is different and full; a mix of rapids and smooth water, hikes to hidden side canyons, water falls, and remnants of ancient indigenous dwellings with pottery. Camp out under the canyon walls next to the Colorado River. Rafting permits you to experience the canyon from a unique and impressive perspective. Learn more in our Grand Canyon Rafting FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions).
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Map of Grand Canyon and Arizona
River Trip Length
Within Grand Canyon National Park, the Colorado River flows 277 miles from Lees Ferry, Arizona (below Lake Powell) to Pearce Ferry, Arizona (at Lake Mead). Between April and October it is possible to spend one day (35 miles) to 18 days (225+ miles) in the canyon. For those that want to run the full Grand Canyon, the typical itinerary is 8 days by motor rig or 14 to 16 days in dories, oar boats, or paddle rafts. At Rivers & Oceans, we break down the Grand Canyon into three categories: one-day motor trip, two-day tour (overnight), and 3 to 16-day expeditions (multi-day).
One and Two-day Rafting Trips
One and two-day Grand Canyon river trips are in the lower part of the canyon. They meet in Peach Springs, Arizona before launching from Diamond Creek on the Hualapai Indian Reservation. Trips take-out (finish) at Pearce Ferry. However, there is an option to helicopter out of the canyon providing the advantage of bypassing the last couple of hours of flatwater on the river. The one-day expedition is guided by Hualapai Native American guides on snout motor rigs (see photo below).
The two-day trips paddle raft and then motor raft after a night camping at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. For an additional cost, both the one and two-day trips provide time for an optional stop at the Grand Canyon West Skywalk. In addition, there is no required hiking in or out of the canyon on these two trips. The longer 3 to 16-day expeditions are broken up by river section below.
Time of Year to Raft Grand Canyon
Every season in the Grand Canyon comes with unique beauties and challenges. In April and May the canyon has cooler temperatures. This means bringing extra layers for warmth, but allows for longer hikes while the wildflowers are in bloom. Spring can bring strong up-canyon winds. June through August are the hottest and busiest months to raft Grand Canyon, with temperatures ranging from 95-115°F. See current Grand Canyon temperatures.
Monsoon season starts in July and goes through August, bringing afternoon clouds and rain showers to cool the canyon. These two months also have the biggest whitewater, with the river running at its highest level for the season. As the rafting season winds down in September and October, you can expect cooler weather, longer hikes, and shorter days.
We have more information on our blog about monthly weather variations during the rafting season.
Colorado River Temperature in Grand Canyon, Arizona
The Colorado River water temperature at Lees Ferry (mile 0) varies between 48° and 56°F depending upon the season and depth of the water behind Glen Canyon Dam in Lake Powell. Near Diamond Creek (mile 225) towards the end of the Grand Canyon, the water ranges from 45°F during the winter to 65°F during the heat of the summer. Flash flooding side-canyons can temporarily increase the water temperature. Side streams are typically much warmer and ideal for swimming and soaking. See current river temperature at Lees Ferry.
Luxury Grand Canyon Vacations
Grand Canyon companies do not offer luxury rafting trips. However, all outfitters provide chairs in camp, and the food is nicer than what most expect when camping. Some companies offer cots to sleep on instead of pads on the ground. Lunches are picnic style riverside stops. Most trips are all-inclusive except for alcohol, but you can bring your own or order through the outfitter. For those that want a luxury trip, there are a few options. Sign-up for an expedition on another river in the western United States such as the Rogue River Canyon in Oregon, which has lodges, or Salmon River in Idaho, which offers luxury options. Otherwise, charter a Grand Canyon trip that can be customized to meet your group’s needs.
It’s quite common for groups to inquire about chartering a private tour (called a Custom Charter or Private Trip), preferring to vacation with their friends and companions. A chartered expedition through Grand Canyon, or on another river, is an amazing opportunity that allows for a tailored experience. These trips are our specialty. If you’d like to learn more about planning a charter trip, check out Rivers & Oceans Custom Adventures (ROCA).
Rafting by Motor versus Human-Power (non-motor)
Motorized expeditions (see picture below of J-rig, S-rig and C-craft motor options) typically cover more of the Grand Canyon in less time than the human-powered oar, paddle, dory, and hybrid trips. Motor rigs also usually run their engine for most of the expedition, which cause some to choose the non-motorized alternatives. Senior groups typically select motor rafts since they are more comfortable for the full days traveling down canyon. A small subset of human-powered expeditions have a motor support boat that usually travels behind the group. Please give us a call if you want to insure your Grand Canyon trip has or does not have a motor support raft.
Types of Human Powered Rafting Trips
Non-motorized expeditions, also called human-powered, are broken into four categories: all paddle, oar, dory, and hybrid. All-paddle trips are where everyone participates by paddling in a raft with a guide in the back steering and calling commands through rapids and the flatwater. There are extra oar rafts to carry all the gear. Guests on oar and dory boat trips hold-on while a guide positioned on oars in the center of the boat rows downriver. Grand Canyon hybrid trip options typically have one paddle and five oar rafts. Guests take turns riding in the paddle boat. Some hybrid trips also bring a dory along, and guests rotate through that craft as well. Of the non-motorized Grand Canyon options hybrid trips are the most popular.
Variations in the Number of Guests and Days
A non-motor rafting trip has far fewer guests in each boat during the day, 5 to 7 versus 15 to 20 on a motor raft. Both types can have ample time for hiking in the canyon depending upon the number of days used to cover a section of the river. For example, 6-day Motorized Full Canyon guests have minimal time for hiking, while 9-day Motorized Full Canyon motor participants find ample time for hiking and exploring. Check out our blog post on the types of whitewater crafts in Grand Canyon to learn more.
Grand Canyon National Park: Rafting Costs
A vacation whitewater rafting in Grand Canyon ranges from $320 for a motorized one-day to $6899 an 18-day oar trip. Once on the water, trips are all inclusive with no additional costs. Below is a table breaking down the trip options and cost ranges.
Choosing a Grand Canyon Outfitter
All the Grand Canyon companies are professionals, and we started working with them over 30 years ago. Since demand to raft the Grand Canyon is high, we recommend planning based on your time frame, budget, and trip type, rather than by outfitter. If there are itineraries with different outfitters that meet your needs, we can steer you towards the trip that will mesh best with your preferences. As licensed concessionaires by the National Park Service, Grand Canyon whitewater companies are required to hire guides with extensive wilderness first aid, swiftwater rescue and food safety certifications. In addition, guides from all the companies are knowledgeable of the flora, fauna, geology and human history of the canyon.
Choose the Best Trip for Your Group
One amazing day. Single-day rafting trips include whitewater, hiking, lunch & helicopter option.
Spend two days rafting through Grand Canyon and one night camping under the stars.
Grand Canyon Multi-Day Trips
Experience America’s great adventure. Spend 3 to 18 days rafting this amazing stretch of river.
Adventure connects people. We customize your adventure from start to finish. Call Us
Grand Canyon Whitewater: 3 to 16 Day Tours
The Grand Canyon has 4 sections, which are known as Full, Upper, Lower, and Western. These sections are defined by the river mile where you start (put-in) and the river mile where you end (take-out). While popular due to their length, Upper and Lower Grand Canyon Trips require a 7.5 to 9-mile hike at either the end (Upper) or start (Lower). Click the “Read More” button below to see a break down of what each river section has to offer.
Read More About 3 to 16 Day Grand Canyon Rafting Options
Upper Grand Canyon: Lees Ferry to Phantom Ranch by Raft, Hike to South Rim
Starting at Lees Ferry (mile 0), Upper Grand Canyon expeditions end at Phantom Ranch (mile 88). To finish your trip here in the deepest part of the canyon, it takes hiking 7 to 9-miles up the Bright Angel Trail to the South Rim while gaining 5000 feet of elevation. These trips float the Colorado in around 5 to 6 days on oar and paddle rafts. Motor rafting trips rarely end here.
Highlights of this section include the limestone-walled Marble Canyon, ancient sea fossils, Stanton’s Cave, Vasey’s Paradise, Redwall Cavern, the Puebloan Granaries and ruins at Nankoweap Canyon, the aqua-blue Little Colorado River, and the geologist pleasing Great Unconformity. Whitewater enthusiasts will enjoy House Rock Rapid, the Roaring 20’s, and Georgie’s Rapid in the upper canyon. The last full river day takes the expedition into the first Granite Gorge with 2-billion-year-old Vishnu Schist (oldest rock in the canyon) and the biggest rapids of the upper Grand Canyon: Hance, Sockdolager, and Grapevine.
Lower Grand Canyon: Hike to Phantom Ranch, Raft to Whitmore Wash, Diamond Creek or Pearce Ferry
Rafting adventures in the Lower Section of Grand Canyon start at the South Rim with a 7 to 9-mile hike to the Colorado at Pipe Creek (mile 89.5) or Phantom Ranch (mile 88). The hike descends 5000 feet of elevation along the Bright Angel Trail to the bottom of the river canyon. Journeys will end at one of three take out points depending on the trip selected: Whitmore Wash (mile 188), Diamond Creek (mile 225), or Pearce Ferry (mile 280). The Whitmore Wash take-out consists of a 5-minute helicopter ride to Bar 10 Ranch on the North Rim followed by a small plane flight to Las Vegas or your starting point (Page, Marble Canyon, or the South Rim).
A trip on this section of the canyon takes around 8-days for oar and paddle rafts. Motor tours rarely begin here. Common stops on this section include Blacktail Canyon, Elves Chasm, Shinumo Grotto, Stone Creek Falls, Tapeats Creek, Thunder River, Deer Creek Falls, Matkatamiba Canyon, and Havasu Creek. The pinnacle of Arizona river running is the whitewater in the lower section. Run the Colorado’s most famous rapids, Lava Falls and Crystal, along with many other exhilarating drops like Horn, Hermit, Granite Falls, the Gems, Deubendorff, and Upset Rapid.
Upper vs. Lower
There are some minor differences between the Upper and Lower canyon. The Upper begins in scenic Marble Canyon and travels down through each geologic layer of the canyon. The lower canyon trip runs through the biggest rapids of the Colorado and includes some of the biggest hikes in the canyon. However, the most significant difference is hiking in from the rim versus hiking out of the canyon. Many people assume hiking into the Grand Canyon will be easier, and they are right to a degree – it takes less time.
However, on the days following the hike, many people can barely walk because they are so sore from the pounding their bodies took. The hike out of the Grand Canyon may take longer, but feet and legs are less beat up from the ascent. Plus, when hiking out, you can be tired and sore for a couple of days when you are flying home or back at work. Being too sore to participate in hikes on the trip can be a bummer. While we love both sections, we typically encourage those interested in week-long oar and paddle trips to start with the upper canyon.
Grand Canyon Highlights Map
Full Grand Canyon: Raft from Lees Ferry to Whitmore Wash, Diamond Creek or Pearce Ferry
The grandest canyon expedition, the Full Canyon allows river runners to experience both the upper and lower canyon and sometimes the western canyon. Journeys launch at Lees Ferry (mile 0) and go through Grand Canyon to one of three take out points: Whitmore Wash (mile 188 – by Helicopter), Diamond Creek (mile 225), or Pearce Ferry (mile 280). The most common human-powered trip takes 14 days to run the full canyon, but they can range from 12 to 18 days. The 8-day full canyon motor trip is our most popular for families.
For the Full Canyon there may be an “exchange” during the trip where a portion of the guests hiking will hike out and a new group of guests will hike into the canyon which can allow time for a short hike up the Kaibab Trail along Bright Angel Creek to the Phantom Ranch historical landmark. However, there is no required hiking on the full canyon and there is an opportunity to stop at the attractions on both the upper and the lower canyon as well as run over 100 whitewater rapids.
Western Grand Canyon: Helicopter to Whitmore Wash, then Raft to Pearce Ferry
The Western Grand Canyon trip begins with a small plane ride from Las Vegas, Nevada to Bar 10 Ranch in Arizona perched above on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Many tours spend a night at Bar 10 Ranch before the 5-minute helicopter ride into the canyon to the launch point on the Colorado at Whitmore Wash (mile 188). The western canyon expedition rafts 92 miles downstream to Pearce Ferry (mile 280) over 3 to 5 days with one to 3 nights of camping by oar or motor raft.
Western Canyon Highlights
Attractions on this section of the canyon include the Whitmore Pictographs, Pumpkin Springs and the lower Granite Gorge. Fun whitewater includes Kolb Rapid, Mile 217 Rapid, Travertine Falls, and Killer Fang Falls (Mile 232 Rapid). One-day motor and two-day Grand Canyon rafting trips also run the lower part of this section, launching at Diamond Creek (mile 225) and ending at Pearce Ferry. In addition, Western Grand Canyon rafting trips have no required hiking.
Grand Canyon 3 to 16-Day Whitewater Rafting Sections
Full Canyon Rafting
The ultimate Grand Canyon rafting experience. Take the time to run the entire canyon in 6-18 days.
From $2691 per person
Upper Canyon Rafting
Launch at Lee’s Ferry and raft the Colorado for 90 miles in 4-8 days. Hike out at Phantom Ranch.
From at $1475 per person
Lower Canyon Rafting
Hike into Phantom Ranch & raft the Lower Grand Canyon in 5-12 Days. Experience Lava Falls.
From $2045 per person
Western Canyon Rafting
Helicopter into the canyon. Run rapids of the Colorado, hike, and sleep under the stars in 3-4 days.
From $1498 per person
Looking for a less expensive rafting alternative?
Due to their popularity, Grand Canyon rafting expeditions are more expensive than most other rivers in the western United States. We recommend checking out the Rogue River in Oregon, Idaho’s Salmon River and for those wanting a desert river trip experience Utah’s Yampa River or Green River.
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Grand Canyon Trip Reviews
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Unbelievable family experience and very affordable.
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