Best Time to Go White Water Rafting

By: Heather May

This year has been an epic season for white water rafting in Utah, Colorado, Idaho and Arizona. That’s because the snowpack in these Southwestern states has been monumental. Melting snow means rivers full of water—and adventure.


When is the best time to go?

Holiday offers trips from May to September, from two-day to six-day trips—or even longer for bucket-list trips like the Grand Canyon. It runs rivers in Utah, Idaho, Colorado and into Arizona on Grand Canyon trips.


The best time to go may be when you can make it happen. But also think about what type of river you want to run: Low and slow? Or a high river full of rapids? The river will rise and fall depending on the amount of snow in the mountains, and how quickly it melts and fills the rivers.


Because of the incredible amount of snow this winter (which translates to more water when the snows melt during the spring run-off), the Salmon and Middle Fork rivers in Idaho have been running high. The same could be said for the Colorado, Green and Yampa rivers which converge and flow through Colorado, Utah and Arizona. That means this has been an all-around great year for whitewater rafting.


High water

White Water Rafting Triple RigHigh-water rivers are the most adventuresome: They promise a colder, faster trip with bigger drops, but also potentially more hazards due to debris and powerful corrent, and you should be prepared to be able to swim if you end up in the water.

This year, the high-water season will lasted all the way into Mid July! If you are rafting with young children or want less adrenaline with your vacation, you may want to consider going when the rivers will drop to their normal levels, from July to September.


What are the classes of white water rafting?

Rapids are rated on a scale of 1 to 6. Class I is minimal. The most intense rapids are class VI (6)—basically a waterfall drop, and outfitters don’t run them. Holiday runs rapids that range from class I & II rapids on The San Juan river to class IV & V rapids in Cataract Canyon.



Heather MayHeather May’s first white water rafting trip was the Gates of Lodore with Holiday River Expeditions and she can’t wait to return. She’s an award-winning journalist based in Salt Lake City. She covers travel, food and health for a variety of publications. You can connect with her at