- Sample Itinerary
- Trip Details
- About the Area
- Getting Here
Pound for pound, the San Juan is one of the fastest moving rivers in the United States, dropping an average of eight feet per mile. Sandstone and limestone walls frame the narrow canyon as the river snakes through the countless goosenecks for which it is famous. The left bank of the river borders the present day Navajo Nation, while filled with sacred sites from the ancient pueblo civilizations of the past. Scores of ancestral sites and petroglyphs line the canyon walls. This river also boasts the birthplace of commercial river running in 1938 when Norman Nevils began operating trips from Mexican Hat through the Grand Canyon.
The San Juan, with a lot of small rapids, perfect for children, is especially known for sand waves which appear to rise from nowhere due to shifting sand on the bottom of this fast moving stream. These make for a particularly thrilling ride in an inflatable kayak.
The first time I went down the San Juan was with a group of boatmen. It was hard to read the map because the scenery was so amazing . . . the water was moving so fast. It made us dizzy because our heads were busy snapping from one side of the river to the other to see the next scenic attraction.
Dee Holladay, Holiday River’s 1975 Reconnaissance Trip
SAN JUAN RIVER HIGHLIGHTS
- Explore slickrock and prehistoric Indian ruins
- Classic Southern Utah desert environment, warm water
- Perfect rafting for children and inflatable kayaks
Submit your review
I just got back from a 5-day San Juan river trip with the Sierra Club. What a delightful experience! The Holiday guides (Dave, Jim, Jessica, Sandy, Coulter and Callie) were affable, able and ALWAYS there to enhance our enjoyment of this magical place. The food was delicious and plentiful. I'd be back on the river with Holiday tomorrow if I didn't have to work...
I really enjoyed my trip. It was rainy for one day but the guides were good-humored and we just went with the flow. It really worked out.
Sarah and Jessica were fun, knowledgeable and had extensive knowledge of rafting and water safety as well as crisis management. I had never been rafting before this trip and I felt completely safe under their supervision. The food was phenomenal! Healthy and delicious! Overall, it was a fun adventure with entertaining, patient, and professional guides, high-quality gear, delicious food, and breathtaking scenery. I won't hesitate to recommend Holiday in the future!
This was an unforgettable experience! The guides were amazing, they provided wonderful food, exceptional service, and fantastic expertise. They took extra care with food preparation just for me, because I have gluten intolerance. They went out of their way to make sure I felt safe when eating and they kept the atmosphere fun, light, and inviting. The hikes they took us on were wonderful, and all guides were a wealth of knowledge. It was an amazing trip.
Our guides were terrific, (Jessica and Sara), I would love to go again if I knew I could go with either of them. The food was outstanding: little touches like fresh limes and cilantro and milk for coffee were appreciated.
The gear you provide is great! The food was amazing for the river! The Holiday guides were amazing. We had such a great time. They provided knowledge about the areas we hiked! The kayaks were super fun to float on. And the food was second to none!!
This was my second trip with Holiday. The second trip met the high expectations set by the first!
The whole thing was fantastic! Wonderful guides, delicious food, awesome hikes to petroglyphs and ruins, everything! I am so glad I got to do this! The whole experience was life-changing!
We had an amazing time. The guides were over the top fantastic. I learned so much from Jessica and had the best laughs with Emily. I was awed by Sandy and totally impressed with Sarah Potts and her leadership qualities and her mindfulness.
The guides were amazing. I particularly appreciated Sarah. This was an amazing trip. I can't image going with any other organization. The guides, food and river were amazing.
GLEN CANYON NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
SAN JUAN RIVER, 3, 4 OR 5 DAYS
One of the advantages of a river trip is the flexibility of the daily itinerary. It can vary widely from one trip to the next based on group desires, Mother Nature, and courtesy for other groups on the river. This typical itinerary illustrates a four-day trip on the San Juan River. The three and four day itineraries vary based on the seasonal water flows in May and June. For specifics on your trip’s date and itinerary please ask your reservationist.
SAMPLE ITINERARY: 3-DAYS (UPPER)
Day 1: Meet your group in Bluff, Utah where you will take a short ride to Sand Island put-in. This upper stretch of the trip is simply covered with over 5 distinct indigenous cultures providing signs of their existence in pictographs, petroglyphs, & hand-carved steps along the canyon walls. Spend the night near “River House”, an incredible Ancestral Puebloan site showcasing the elegant design of their ancient civilizations.
Day 2: Depart this morning flanking Comb Ridge, one of the longest running uplifts in the region, and then follow the river as its cuts into the ridgelines heart. Prince’s plume and tufted Yucca wave at you from talus slopes as you careen through winding canyons and sand-wave rapids before resting for the evening near Limestone draw.
Day 3: Break camp and float by the iconic “Mexican Hat” rock formation, a precarious Hoodoo with a likening to a sombrero. Enjoy your last few hours with the wildlife before arriving at Mexican Hat take-out where we will meet our vans for a 45 minute drive back to Bluff, Utah.
SAMPLE ITINERARY: 4-DAYS (LOWER)
Day 1: Meet group in Blanding, Utah then we’re off on a 1 hour scenic ride to the put-in point – Mexican Hat. Pass through the village of Mexican Hat before traversing the famed Goosenecks of the San Juan. Take an optional hike to the 1894 prospector cabin of Walter Mendenhall; one of many whose dreams were dashed by the San Juan. Enjoy frequent sightings of Great Blue Heron that seem to lead the way into the labyrinth of canyon to follow.
Day 2: This morning we can hike the Honaker Trail, a relic of the “1892 gold rush”. The reward for those who put forth this 1200-foot vertical effort is an unforgettable view of Monument Valley. We will meander through layered canyons, play in good clean mud and experience the depths of the Goosnecks.
Day 3: Today we encounter Government Rapid and wander to a hidden grotto and swimming hole up Slickhorn Gulch. We will make camp at the mouth of any number of iconic side canyons in this lower drainage.
Day 4: This final stretch could lead us to peer inside Oljeto Wash and its magical side canyon and continue across what remnants of “Lake” Powell to the take out at Clay Hills Crossing. You will transfer to a two-hour scenic van ride back to Blanding, Utah.
SAMPLE ITINERARY: 5-DAYS (FULL)
Day 1: Begin your adventure in Blanding, Utah and spend a 45 minute breathtaking ride to Sand Island put-in. Spend the day encountering sign after sign of 5 distinct cultures of indigenous ancestor’s presence in the form of pictographs, petroglyphs and hand-carved steps in the canyon walls. Investigate elegantly designed Ancestral Puebloan ruins before descending through Comb Ridge.
Day 2: Pass through the settlement of Mexican Hat before traversing the famed Goosenecks of the San Juan. Take an optional hike to the 1894 prospector cabin of infamous gold prospector Walter Mendenhall. Rest easy this evening after hiking the Honaker Trail, a relic of the “1892 gold rush”. The reward for those who put forth this 1200-foot vertical effort is an unforgettable view of Monument Valley.
Day 3: This morning you will float through layered canyons, play in good clean mud and take in the depths of the serpentine canyon walls. Take a ride through Ross rapid and find camp in the paradox walls bellow.
Day 4: The morning will bring Government Rapid. The afternoon will give you a chance to meander up Slickhorn Gulch, one of the most celebrated side canyons along the Colorado river drainage. The trail will take you to a hidden grotto and swimming hole. We will make camp at one of the iconic side canyons nestled in this lower drainage.
Day 5: This final stretch could lead us to peer inside Oljeto Wash and its magical side canyon and continue across what remnants of “Lake” Powell to the take out at Clay Hills Crossing. You will transfer to a two-hour scenic van ride back to Blanding, Utah.
As mentioned earlier, this is a sample itinerary and should not be thought of as the trip you will experience. It is intended to give an idea of what the trip will be like. It could also be exactly what you do. Keep an open mind, be flexible, go with the flow, and enjoy!
We meet for your trip in Blanding (4&5-day) or Bluff (3-day), Utah. If you are driving, your car can be left at the Stone Lizard Lodging in Blanding or Desert Rose Inn & Cabins in Bluff. Departure time is 7:00 a.m. (Mountain Time), and so it is important that you attend our pre-trip orientation the night before your trip.
When you arrive in Blanding or Bluff the day before your trip, there will be a pre-trip orientation meeting at 8:00 p.m. (Mountain Time). We will meet you in the parking lot just outside the Stone Lizard Lodging or Desert Rose Inn & Cabins. Your trip leader and other members of the crew will give you a short orientation on all aspects of river travel. At this time we will issue your waterproof bags and answer any questions you may have.
Beginning of the trip: On the morning of your trip, plan to meet promptly at 7:00 a.m. (Mountain Time) at the Stone Lizard Lodging or Desert Rose Inn & Cabins. We will then take a 5-minute van ride to Sand Island (3 or 5 Day trips) or a one-hour van ride to Mexican Hat (4 Day trips), where we will transfer to the boats and start the trip.
After the trip: Our 4 or 5 day trips will disembark at Clay Hills Crossing where you will travel by van back to Blanding, Utah. Our expected time of arrival back at the Stone Lizard Lodging is 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. Our 3-Day trips will disembark at Mexican Hat where you will travel by van back to Bluff, Utah. Our expected time of arrival back at the Desert Rose Inn & Cabins is 3:00 p.m.
Medical emergencies: Our guides are trained in first aid and carry first aid supplies only. REMEMBER to bring your own prescription medicines. ALERT our 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.
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.
Insurance: Medical Evacuation and cancellation insurance on a vacation plan can be obtained from numerous insurance companies. 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. Information should be enclosed with this package. It is available to American and Canadian citizens, as well as citizens of another country as long as you have a U.S. address. If you would like a quote or you have questions give us a call. 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.
Tipping the guides: If you feel the guides have been instrumental in your enjoyment of the trip, you may choose to direct a gratuity to the trip leader in the form of cash or check. He/She will then distribute it evenly to the other crewmembers. The average contribution amount ranges between $15.00 and $25.00 per guest, per day.
Beverages: We provide ice water, lemonade, one soda per day per person and ample cooler space. If you choose to bring any specialty sodas and/or alcoholic beverages, we have no problem taking whatever you want to bring – within reason. Don’t bring beer, wine coolers or sodas in glass containers. Wine packaged in a box is ideal. Mark beverages that you bring so they are packed on your boat. Alcoholic beverages will need to be purchased prior to your arrival in Blanding. Please Note: There is no liquor, wine, beer, or wine coolers sold or served in Blanding, Utah.
If you have any questions prior to leaving for your trip, we welcome you to call our Salt Lake City office, Monday through Friday at 800-624-6323 (outside Utah) or 801-266-2087 (inside Utah). We’re happy to take the time to answer your questions. You may also contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS THE NIGHT BEFORE THE TRIP, OUR GREEN RIVER HEADQUARTERS NUMBER IS 435-564-3273
San Juan Weather: In May, June and July the daytime temperatures are 80 to 100 degrees, with nighttime temperatures 50 to 75 degrees. This is the time of year that swimming in the river becomes a popular activity. This seems hot, but remember the humidity is very low. There will be an abundance of sun, so bring a hat and plenty of suntan lotion and/or sunscreens. *Please avoid spray on sun-screen for the health and safety of your guide and fellow-guests
Bugs, snakes, etc. are generally no problem. In fact, the lack of pesky insects is one of the reasons wilderness camping on the river is so pleasant. Any river trip, however, is subject to an occasional localized insect hatch. During these hatches (most common in June) mosquitoes can be bothersome. Be sure to bring long sleeve clothing and repellent. Insect repellents that contain “deet” are by far the most effective during heavy hatches. Citronella-based products work only in light hatches. We rarely see any snakes, but if the thought of them bothers you, try sleeping on the beaches or in a tent instead of rocky or bushy areas.
Hiking is a highlight of the trip, however, it is strictly an optional activity. There are many interesting short hikes available. Hiking can be done in durable sneakers or lightweight hiking boots. Remember that hiking and other activities vary widely pending time, and what other plans are ahead for the day on the river.
Things to see in the area: The Edge of the Cedars Anasazi Museum & State Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, La Sal and Henry Mountains, Newspaper Rock, Hovenweep National Monument, Monument Valley, Navajo National Monument, San Juan Goosenecks State Park, Comb Ridge/Abajo Mountains (BlueMountain), Grand Gulch Wilderness Area, Mesa Verde National Park
Reading material, you may enjoy:
San Juan River Guide Lisa Kearsley………………………………………………… $17.95
Life in Stone Christa Sadler……………………………………………………………. $11.95
The Educated Outlaw Harvey Lay Murdock (Grandson)…………………….. $10.95
These books can be ordered on line at www.bikeraft.com, or by sending the appropriate amount listed above plus $5.60 priority shipping to Holiday River Expeditions, 544 East 3900 South, SLC UT 84107. This is available within the U.S. only. If outside the U.S. additional shipping and handling charges will be added. You can call 801-266-2087 for rates.
If you are flying, you can fly to Salt Lake City located 310 miles northwest of Blanding or 398 miles of Bluff, Utah. From there you can rent a car or take a shuttle with Moab Luxury Coach (call 435-940-4212 or www.moabluxurycoach.com) to Blanding or Bluff, Utah. If you need assistance with your travel arrangements, please ask your Holiday River Expedition reservation agent.
Lodging before and after your trip can be booked at:
Stone Lizard Lodging 435-678-3323 (locally owned, suites available)
Gateway Inn Motel 435-678-2278 (locally owned, outdoor pool, continental breakfast)
Four Corners Inn 435-678-3257 (continental breakfast)
Super 8 435‑678‑3880 (indoor hot tub)
Desert Rose Inn & Cabins 435-672-2303 (locally owned)
Recapture Lodge 435-672-2281 (locally owned, outdoor pool, breakfast)
BE SURE TO MAKE ADVANCE RESERVATIONS!
If you are camping out, there is one campground in Blanding: the Kampark Campground (RV with full hookups & tent sites – 435-678-2770). There are also four Forest Service campgrounds in the Abajo Mountains 15 to 30 miles north of Blanding.
Holiday River Expedition's Travel Agents - Mateja Harrington & Cindy Swenson with Cruise and Travel Masters are happy to assist you with your travel plans. Contact Mateja or Cindy to take the work out of "Getting Here".
Toll Free - 800-264-0557 (You must ask for Mateja Harrington or Cindy Swenson)
Email Attention Mateja or Cindy: email@example.com
Or, do it yourself, we can help…
Colorado and Utah Rivers
Gateway - Salt Lake City, Utah OR Denver, Colorado
Air Service to Salt Lake City (SLC) or Denver (DEN)
- America West Airlines 800-235-9292
- American Airlines 800-433-7300
- Continental Airlines 800-525-0280
- Delta Air Lines 800-221-1212
- Frontier Airlines 800-432-1359
- JetBlue Airways 800-538-2583
- Northwest Airlines 800-225-2525
- SkyWest Airlines 800-453-9417
- Southwest Airlines 800-435-9792
- United Airlines 800-241-6522
- United Express 800-241-6522
- US Airways 800-435-9792
TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS FROM SALT LAKE CITY to Green River, Vernal or Blanding, Utah
Once in Salt Lake City most of our guests rent-a-car and drive to our meeting points.
All rental cars are located in both terminals of the Salt Lake City Airport.
- Alamo Rental Car 801-575-2211
- Budget Rental Car 801-575-2821
- Dollar Rent a Car 801-575-2580
- Thrifty Rental Car 801-265-6677
- Salt Lake City to Green River 180 miles
- Salt Lake City to Blanding 300 miles
- Salt Lake City to Vernal 180 miles
Shuttle Service to Green River or Blanding, Utah from Salt Lake City or Moab (Vernal is on a Charter basis only)
Rafting Gear & Clothing Checklist
PROVIDED BY HOLIDAY RIVER EXPEDITIONS
- LIFE JACKET
- LARGE WATERPROOF BAG
- DAY BAG
- CAMP CHAIR
- EATING UTENSILS AND PLATES
- FULL COURSE MEALS lunch the first day through lunch the last day
- DRINKS ice water, lemonade, juices, 1 pop/person/day-mix of reg. & diet
The day bag 8" diameter x 20" high is for items you will need access to during the day. For your sleeping gear and clothing, we will furnish you with one bag 16" diameter x 2 feet high. When properly sealed, bags are usually waterproof. Once in a while, one could develop a problem; so if you have concerns, test your bags. Separate storage is provided for tents and beverages. Please remember to keep your gear light and compact. The less you bring, the happier you will be. Please limit gear to no more than 15-20 lbs.
GEAR YOU MUST BRING OR RENT FROM HOLIDAY
- CUP plastic mugs work well
- WATER BOTTLE (not included in the rental kit)
- SLEEPING BAG compact and warm
- PONCHO/RAIN SUIT high quality important for Dinosaur & Desolation trips.
- SLEEPING PAD/AIR MATTRESS Compact, must fit in the bag described above.
- LIGHT TENT Back packer style, not the bulky, heavy types.
You can rent most of the items listed above in our sleeping rental kit. We offer two varieties, our basic sleeping kit which includes a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, rain gear and cup for $40.00, or the same basic sleeping kit with a two-man tent for $65.00. Rentals must be reserved in advance, especially on the San Juan trips where we meet away from our headquarters. Rentals requested the morning of the trip are subject to availability. Cups and water bottles available for purchase at our stores in Green River and Vernal Headquarters, or online.
RECOMMENDED CLOTHING & GEAR
- SWIMMING SUITS
- SHORTS quick drying
- LONG PANTS quick drying
- HAT for sun protection, with strap
- SUN GLASSES with safety strap
- SUN SCREEN SPF 15 or higher
- CHAPSTICK with sun screen
- HAND LOTION non-fragrant,small plastic bottle
- COMB or BRUSH
- TRAVEL TOWEL dries quick
- KLEENEX small travel pack
- CAMERA (at your own risk), extra memory cards (or film), batteries, and waterproof container
- BINOCULARS (optional, at your own risk)
- SARONG (optional)
- SHIRT (S) short-sleeved, cotton, i.e. T-shirts
- SHIRT (S) long-sleeved, quick dry for sun protection
- SHOES keep dry for camp/hiking, i.e. durable sneakers or lightweight hiking boots
- SHOES to get wet while rafting, i.e. water sport shoes or sneakers
- SOCKS several pair, 1 cotton, 2 polypropylene or wool
- JACKET fleece or pile with wind/rain resistant shell
- LONG UNDERWEAR (optional) med. weight polypropylene/synthetic type
- BIODEGRADABLE SOAP available at outdoor specialty stores, or ivory soap
- INSECT REPELLENT Deet concentrate in a small bottles works best
- TAMPONS/ZIPLOCK BAGS 1 bag per day
- MEDICATION Aspirin/IBU Profen/Tylenol and personal prescriptions
- FLASHLIGHT or HEADLAMP small with extra batteries
- STUFF SACK to keep wet/dry clothes separated, i.e. pillow case or plastic bag
- HYDRATION PACK /FANNY PACK for hiking
- FISHING GEAR (optional) compact and well protected, i.e. rods in a case
- EXTRA BEVERAGES (optional) NO GLASS PLEASE, liquor/boxed-wine/canned-beer/specialty pops/juice
- EXTRA SNACKS (optional) for small children and people with diabetes.
- GROUND CLOTH (optional, not included in Rental Kits) use it to sleep out under the stars
Things not to bring on your trip - glass-bottled beverages, radios, firearms, pets, and large amounts of cash beyond what you'll want for your guide's gratuity. Do not bring expensive jewelry, watches or electronics i.e. cell phones, laptops, tablets, etc. Warning: In the event of a loss our insurance will not cover these items. **If you do decide to bring any of these items along with you to the meeting point for your trip, the most secure location to leave them behind would be at your hotel in their safe or locked up in the trunk of your vehicle. As a last resort we have a non-secure location at our headquarters, (except San Juan trips), but we cannot assume responsibility for these items.
EARLY OR LATE SEASONS SUPPLEMENTS
(May, June and September on all trips.)
- STOCKING CAP wool/polypropylene
- GLOVES wool/polypropylene
- WETSUIT BOOTIES (optional) replaces water sport shoes above
- PILE OUTERWEAR in addition to a quality jacket, synthetic pile pants
- LONG UNDERWEAR med. weight polypropylene/synthetic type
There is a greater chance of inclement weather on these trips which otherwise offer many advantages to the well-prepared river traveler. Polypropylene, fleece, pile, capeline, etc. are a few examples of trade names for a class of synthetic materials that retain their ability to insulate when wet (please note, cotton does not.) Your comfort on the trip starts with finding the right type of synthetic under and outer-wear and quality rain gear. We recommend Backcountry.com for your additional river trip needs. They offer a wide variety of gear to help you dress for success while on your river trip, no matter what the weather decides to do. A prepared traveler is a happy traveler.
ITEMS YOU CAN BUY AT HOLIDAY'S ONLINE STORE:
www.BikeRaft.com or at our accessories stores in Green River and Vernal; the meeting points for our Cataract, Westwater, Desolation, Lodore and Yampa trips (not San Juan trips).
ITEMS YOU CAN BUY AT BACKCOUNTRY.COM Backcountry camping gear and clothing