What does Colorado whitewater status depend on most? Snowpack! The white stuff isn’t too shabby this year, which means when it melts come spring rivers will be raging—right alongside boaters’ adrenaline.
Whether you’re a beginner rafter looking for a gentle, yet energetic float, or an advanced paddler looking for spine-tingling adventure, no doubt, these rivers will deliver a ride. Here’s what’s on tap for anyone in pursuit of a memorable whitewater rafting adventure in Colorado.
It’s true, the Arkansas gets a whole lotta lovin’ from paddlers near and far. Your Colorado whitewater rafting experience will depend on the many put-in locations. A few options: Located in the town of Salida, expect class II-III rapids—from Stone Bridge to Salida, also home to FIBArk whitewater festival. Want breathtaking canyons? Check out Browns Canyon (class III). Want a thrill-seeking class III to V adventure? Royal Gorge knows how to bring it; same is true for Justin Gilbert at Number 5—aka Numbers (class IV).
Upper Colorado River
Just past the town of Kremmling, you’ll drop into Gore Canyon—through Precambrian gneiss and schist—on the way to Glenwood Canyon. Beware: This one isn’t for the faint of heart. In the stretch of just 3 short miles, boaters must navigate an average of 68-foot plunges each mile. The Bureau of Land Management refers to this section as, “the most challenging commercially rafted stretch of river in Colorado—and possibly the United States!”
Head west on I-70 from Denver, and you could book all your white water thrills within a 20-minute drive of the city. Clear Creek offers a whole range of rapids—from class I to V, depending on conditions and time of year. With many outfitters along the river, take your pick from Colorado whitewater specialists in towns like Idaho Springs to Dumont. Double the fun and choose from plenty of zip line adventures in the area, too.
Cache La Poudre River
Located near Rocky Mountain National Park, (by Estes Park), Northern Colorado delivers serious liquid adventure and jaw-dropping scenery along the Poudre River. Here paddlers can wind through canyons as they navigate the rush of unexpected rapids, from class II to IV, and a spray to the face. The Upper Rustic section draws water lovers anxious for a glimpse of the notable “White Mile.” Another bonus: This stretch of wilderness attracts paddlers itching to leave the crowds behind.