5-6 Day Upper Grand Canyon River Rafting

About This Trip

The Upper Grand Canyon is an amazing place with legendary landmarks such as Vasey’s Paradise, The Little Colorado, and Redwall Cavern to name a few.  While the most infamous whitewater is found in the lower canyon, the Upper still holds some major rapids such as Nevill’s and Hance.  Starting at Lees Ferry the Canyon opens to us as we begin the float into its vast interior. It starts as a narrow, sheer-sided chasm, winding through the uplifted Kaibab Plateau. The first 61 miles of Marble Canyon is the most photographed, perhaps the most scenic portion of the Grand Canyon. The rim moves away from view as the Canyon broadens to its full expanse of 13 miles. Then we enter the foreboding inner gorge with its exquisite polished granite. This gem of the Colorado is indeed one of the most scenic places on earth.

The Upper Canyon trips involve a 9-mile hike out of the canyon from the Colorado River to the South Rim and are only recommended for those in good physical condition. You can choose between being a passenger or a participant on these whitewater river trips with both Oar Raft and Paddle Boat trips offered. Reservations should be made well in advance as demand for this world-class adventure is high. Grand Canyon trips are run by Holiday River Expedition’s affiliates who are authorized Grand Canyon concessionaires.

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This upper section of Grand Canyon will cover the 88 miles by river from Lees Ferry to Phantom Ranch and then ascend 9 miles to the South Rim. The night before the trip begins we meet you for an orientation meeting at Marble Canyon Lodge. Overnight accommodations are recommended and can be arranged. The trip leaves Lees Ferry and floats into Marble Canyon named in 1869 by its first explorer, Major John Wesley Powell. Its polished limestone’s layered with bands of sand and silt-stones rise dramatically above the river with each mile passed, soaring thousands of feet to the rim. This same seemingly impervious limestone has allowed the river to scoop out the huge expanse of Red Wall Cavern at the river’s edge, one of the many attractions in this stretch.

Underground springs gush from the fern-covered rock at Vasey’s Paradise and side streams carve bowl-like pools at Silver Grotto, Saddle, and North Canyons. Nautilus fossils are readily viewed in the stream bed of Nautiloid Canyon and ancient Anasazi granaries await the hiker high above the river at Nankoweap. Prehistoric Native American sites are spread throughout the Canyon and this section features many of the larger sites found along the river.

The sequence of rapids through this 88-mile float couldn’t be better orchestrated. Beginning with the medium sized (Canyon Scale!) Badger, House Rock and Unkar rapids, the crescendo begins with Nevill’s rapid then builds quickly with Hance (the longest) and Sockdolager. Amplified by the imposing walls of the Upper Granite Gorge the grand finale hits its high notes at Grapevine and Zoroaster rapids, and the last few miles finish with a quiet serenade.

The final destination point for the river portion of this trip is the Phantom Ranch boat beach, near where Bright Angel Creek joins the Colorado. This is where you part company with the rafts and where we provide a hiker’s lunch as you prepare for the 9 mile hike out on the Bright Angel Trail to the South Rim.

We meet for your trip: The night before your trip at the Marble Canyon Lodge where Outdoors Unlimited, (Holiday’s affiliate in the Grand Canyon) will give you an orientation. Overnight accommodations are recommended at Marble Canyon Lodge and can be arranged by Outdoors Unlimited. It is a quiet place just five miles from Lees Ferry and only a short walk to the canyon rim and the awesome overlook at Navajo Bridges. The next day, the adventure begins bright and early at the historic Lees Ferry.

After the trip:  The trip will culminate in a 9 mile hike out of the canyon from Pipe Creek Beach to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  You can spend the night at the South Rim and either Fly or Bus back to Las Vegas.

Medical emergencies:  Outdoor Unlimited guides are trained in first aid and carry first aid supplies only. REMEMBER to bring your own prescription medicines. ALERT your guides to any medical problem you might have such as diabetes or allergic reactions. Wilderness expeditions are a long way from hospitals, doctors, and pain-relieving medicines. Evacuations to modern medical care are uncertain, and protracted. In case of evacuation and/or medical treatment beyond first aid, expenses incurred are the responsibility of the participant.

Cancellation Policy: A cancellation fee will be charged in the event that you need to cancel your Grand Canyon Rafting trip for any reason. You may consider purchasing travel insurance which, in most cases, will recover costs or fees due to cancellation. Cancellation fees are as follows:

  1. Up to 120 days prior to your trip starting date there is a non-refundable $350/person cancellation fee.
  2. Within 120 days of your trip there is NO refund unless Outdoors Unlimited can resell the cancelled spaces. If space is refilled, then all monies will be returned less a 30% cancellation fee.

Outdoors Unlimited reserves the right to cancel any trip due to inclement weather or water conditions, insufficient reservations or other factors beyond our control. A full refund will be made immediately if they cannot provide an alternate trip that is satisfactory to you.

Insurance: Medical Evacuation and cancellation insurance on a vacation plan can be obtained from numerous insurance companies. You should be aware that medical evacuations in the backcountry can easily cost $10,000 and up.  You are responsible for these potential expenses and we strongly encourage all guests to have this coverage. We offer plans by TRAVEL GUARD that cover evacuation, baggage and cancellation claims. It is available to American and Canadian citizens, as well as citizens of another country as long as you have a U.S. address. For a quote or questions give us a call or include Your Names, Birth Dates in an Email and we will send a quote.  Also, if you are bringing expensive cameras, binoculars, or other items we suggest you have insurance coverage for them (commonly available through Homeowners Policies). In the event of a loss, our insurance will not cover those items.

Trip Size:  To ensure the quality of your experience and to protect Grand Canyon resources  the National Park Service regulates the total yearly usage in the canyon including group size. Paddle trips have a maximum of 24 passengers, high season trips a maximum of 21, and spring and fall trips a maximum of 18-19.

Tipping the guides: Tipping is optional and a personal decision on your part. If you feel that your guide’s contribution to your trip was outstanding a tip of not more than 10% of your river trip fare would be adequate to show your appreciation.

Beverages: Outdoors Unlimited cannot provide alcoholic beverages, however, they are allowed to bring your beer and wine for you. With your reservation packet you will receive an order form for a selection of beer and wine available through a local retailer. Once you place your order it is delivered, packed for your trip, and made available to you on the trip. Drinking alcoholic beverages prior to making camp in the evening is discouraged.  On the river there will always be fresh drinking water available, as well as powdered drink mixes (such as Gatorade) to flavor and otherwise enhance your drinking water. Water is the preferred choice when it comes to maintaining proper hydration and in such a dry environment your health and happiness depend on it. For those of you who do not wish to order beer or wine an equal amount of soda of different varieties will be on hand as well.

Grand Canyon weather: Temperatures in the Grand Canyon range from lows of around 60 degrees to highs around 100 degrees in May and September. It is warmer in June, July and August, with temperatures ranging between 75 degrees and 115 degrees. Humidity is very low and the sun is very intense. The rainy season usually begins around the middle of July and lasts 4-6 weeks. Afternoon temperatures are generally lower at this time and rain showers can materialize suddenly and disappear just as suddenly. It is best to prepare with good rain gear no matter what time of year you visit as the water temperature of the river is about 48-50 degrees at Lee’s Ferry and only slowly warms as it flows through the Canyon. Fleece or other insulating layers (not made of cotton!) are strongly recommended for trips in April, early May and September. In June, July, and August mid-weight polypropylene should be all you need.

Bugs, snakes, etc: The Grand Canyon is a very user friendly place to go camping. Snakes are rarely seen and generally stay away from campsites and other places frequented by people. Insects are seldom bothersome and those that are common are easy to avoid. Insect repellent is very rarely necessary, though it is listed as an optional item to bring. However, anyone who knows that they are very allergic to certain types of insect stings or bites should definitely bring any medications that they have for just such a situation.

Hiking:  Hikes are always optional and they vary in difficulty from a simple walk to occasional short vertical climbs to the more ambitious treks. Most guests are capable of handling all the hikes, but on the longer, more strenuous ones, pre-conditioning will pay off.

Fishing: Among trout fishing circles it is widely known that some very good fishing is to be had in the Colorado River! The river has been stocked by Arizona Game and Fish and the fishery is thriving. Fishing is best between Lee’s Ferry and the confluence with the Little Colorado River, 60 miles downstream. You will need an Arizona Fishing License which can be purchased at Marble Canyon Lodge or at Phantom Ranch. During the rainy season fishing is not as dependable. If fishing is a passion you should avoid late July and August.

Things to see in the area:  Taking a few extra days on the front-end of your trip is well worth some of the great hiking opportunities around the Lee’s Ferry area. There’s all kinds of great hiking in the Cockscomb area of highway 89, the famous “Wave” hike, Buckskin Gulch, the Spencer trail directly above Lee’s ferry (if it’s not too hot).

Outside of the immediate vicinity you can also check out The town of Old Paria, or Antelope Canyon outside of Page, AZ. There  The is also a myriad of National Parks north towards Kanab. If you’re into Damns, you can check out both Glen Canyon Dam on the front end or Hoover dam on the back end of your trip.

Reading material, you may enjoy:

Exploration of the Colorado River – Powell ………………………………………… $12.95
Beyond the Hundredth Meridian – Stegner…………………………………………..NA
The Monkey Wrench Gang – Abbey …………………………………………………… NA
The Emerald Mile – Fedarko………………………………………………………………..NA

Children’s Books:

Downriver – Hobbs…………………………………………………….NA

If you are flying into the area:

  • Choose from any of the listed airline carriers and book round-trip tickets to and from the Las Vegas Airport (LAS).
  • Charter flight from Las Vegas to Marble Canyon via Grand Canyon Airlines
  • Overnight accommodations at Marble Canyon Lodge, (included in trip cost at $40), which includes van transportation to Lees Ferry on the morning of your trip
  • Room accommodations at the South Rim for the evening you hike out of the Canyon. For Booking contact Xanterra at (888) 297-2757 or Contact Grand Canyon Lodges. These reservations are becoming difficult to get so you should call immediately after reserving space on the river trip.
  • Scheduled flight from South Rim Village (shuttle bus gets you to the airport from your hotel) to Las Vegas via Grand Canyon Airlines or Scenic Airlines
  • Alternatively there is Bus transportation via Grand Canyon Tours from South Rim Village to Las Vegas.


If you are driving to the area:

  • Overnight accommodations at Marble Canyon Lodge
  • Book a car Shuttle with River Runner’s Shuttle Service who will deliver your vehicle from Marble Canyon to South Rim Village.
  • Room accommodations at the South Rim for the evening you hike out of the Canyon. For Booking contact Xanterra at (888) 297-2757 or Contact Grand Canyon Lodges . These reservations are becoming difficult to get so you should call immediately after reserving space on the river trip.

Major Air Service into Las Vegas Airport (LAS):

Charter / Scheduled Flights:

Vehicle Shuttle Services:

Alternative Transportation:

Trip Overview

Location: Colorado River – Grand Canyon National Park
Type: Rafting
Length: 5 – 7 Days Upper
Dates: May – September
Meet At: Marble Canyon Lodge
Rating: Advanced
Age Min: 16
Deposit: $700

Trip Prices

5-7-Day from $1,820 – $2,395

Departure Dates

May through September

Check Availability

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Average rating:  
 4 reviews
by Debbie Craig Nicholson on Blank Business Name

I really liked each of the guides. They were very different and each had his/her strengths and distinct personality. The blend truly added to the experience. Thank you again. What a great family trip that my 22 yr old son and my 14 yr old son loved. Rapids were fun, but not gnarly-scary. Loved the optional hikes to petroglyphs, ruins and how much our guides knew about the canyon. We all loved the Little Colorado day. Overall, there was spectacular scenery and we had a fabulous trip.

by Rob Wood on Blank Business Name

Our six day trip through the upper section of the Colorado River far exceeded my expectations. It was epic, and I don't use that word lightly. Truly an unforgettable experience, and the guides and support crew were a huge part of that. Places like the Little Colorado were such an unexpected oasis, what a dream that day was. The guides were so knowledgeable about the history of the area as well, and even read some poetry. I was impressed by the passion the guides all had for the place, even after so many years of guiding that river. It speaks to the experience and the company, certainly. I can't wait to come back and do the lower section in a few years. Phenomenal

by Katherine Browne on Blank Business Name

The last time I had been on a raft, I was a giggly 16 year old. Fast forward 23 years, and I was heading out on the Grand Canyon. I pretended not to be nervous, but I was! As the hours turned to days, and I learned what river time meant, I have never been so relaxed in my life. Your guides took complete care of me both physically with delicious food, and psychologically with calming words of encouragement and expert boat handling skills. Soon, I was wahooing my way through the big rapids of the Grand. Is my life changed? I'll say so. Thank you!

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