No one should ever go to the Grand Canyon expecting anything less than an adventure. It seems that of the five million visitors that venture to the park each year, most are interested in snapping a selfie at Yavapai Point and calling it a day.
Most visitors never step below the rim, let alone get more than a glimpse at the Colorado River. While I understand the aversion to hiking, especially during the hot summer months, there’s no reason you shouldn’t explore the the river itself- it is, after all the artist behind the great exhibit you keep photographing.
The thing is, exploring the Colorado River is the perfect activity to take on during the summer- especially if you’re doing all the exploring from a comfortable seated position aboard a raft.
A Grand Canyon rafting expedition packs far more beauty into your trip than a sweaty, three-hour tour crammed between crowds of tourists. Plus, you’ll get a thorough feel for the canyon, not just a surface glance.
A rafting trip spans along a couple of days and includes gorgeous scenery, water activities, and exhilarating hikes- plus magical overnight camping.
Let’s take a look at your planning process.
How Much Time Do You Have?
Canyon rafting trips can be anywhere from 3 to 18 days. While you may feel that latter number is incredulous, just try to wrap your mind around everything there is to see along the river.
Shorter trips are still fun, but it’s the longer ones that pack the most adventure- and the most beauty. Also take into account that you’ll be hiking certain sections- this is not for those fond of a sedentary lifestyle.
River Section to Explore
Your rafting trip can explore the Upper Canyon, the Lower Canyon, or both canyons. For those with counted days, the Upper Canyon is said to be more scenic than its more tumultuous brother. If you’re looking for a more physical experience, the Lower Canyon will certainly prove to be more of a water park experience.
There are a few things to consider when choosing your boat. How many people are in your party, how fast do you want to raft down the river, and how much do you want to feel the river’s rage.
Motor boats hold the most people (up to 20), sail more smoothly through the rapids, and get from A to B much faster.
Oar boats of course, are the complete opposite. While the tour guide will do the rowing, the boats tend to be smaller (holding up to 5 passengers) and much wilder in terms of the ride. Also, you’ll have to put aside more time to complete your route.
Some rafting tours also include Hybrid deals. That is, both an oar boat and a motor boat are dragged along for the trip, allowing the rafting party to choose different boats for different stretches of river. This can be an exciting way to experience your trip- a two for one.
Booking Your Trip
As with any Grand Canyon trip, booking in advance is key- actually, it’s the only way to guarantee your adventure. The National Park Service only allows 16 rafting outfitters to manage 3 full canyon trips at a time- which means limited spots and stiff competition.
Lucky for you, there are a ton of outfitters to choose from and the seasons open early from May to September.
After booking your trip, the main requirement is communication. Your outfitter will provide you with a packing list and schedule.
And should you decide to get together a party of your own to go rafting down the Colorado river, it may take you several years to get a permit. See for yourself at the National Park Service here.
If you’re already into hiking, prepare to be completely blown away. While there are amazing trails all over the park, rafting provides visitors with the unique hiking opportunities. Many of the trails you’ll find while on a rafting trip aren’t accessible otherwise.
As if the trip wasn’t already brimming with outdoor fun, remember that camping is part of the adventure! The great thing about camping as part of a rafting tour is that you’ll have the solitude you crave after a long day of socializing without the complete isolation of camping out on your own.
In terms of getting a thorough tour of the Grand Canyon, there’s really no better way to do it than a rafting trip.