Yampa River Rafting Trips

Yampa River rafting is special because the Yampa is WILD. This is the last river in the Colorado River system that is not regulated by a dam. Despite continued attempts by the Bureau of Reclamation and Congress, the only major dam ever constructed on the Yampa River was built by Mother Nature. And even that was temporary. On June 9th, 1965, a massive flash flood and debris flow carried thousands of tons of rock down Warm Springs Draw, completely blocking the river channel. The river slowed upstream of the obstruction, and the current snarled and boiled and pushed against the debris. It took only 24 hours for the river to breach the natural dam, leaving in its wake Warm Springs Rapid, rated as one of the 10 biggest drops in the country. Dee Holladay was one of the first to run the newly formed rapid.

Every May and June this whitewater river rises to the occasion. The Yampa CRANKS with consistent rapids, fast-moving current, and plenty of full-bodied waves from the first day to the last. Like many wild things, the Yampa River also has a serene side: sheer, tiger-striped walls that rise over 1,000 feet to the canyon rim, the liquid darkness of the night sky strewn with stars, sandy campsites among junipers and ponderosa pines, side-canyon waterfalls, and indigenous rock art dating back over a thousand years ago. If you feel the need for something rare, something wild and free, the Yampa is waiting.

Read more: Insider’s Guide to Whitewater Rafting on the Yampa River

Vernal, Utah: Things to Do and Places to Explore

Featured Review:

“I have never been on a whitewater trip before and I took the Yampa River trip in June with my son as a graduation gift for him. Words cannot describe how impressed we were with everything. From the greeting/introductions we received at Vernal headquarters to the instructions prior to getting in the river, the guides were friendly and professional. We went to see soaring canyon walls and whitewater and we got that. But what we also got was gourmet food preparation (WOW) and informed guides—they knew about everything, trees, rocks, history, wildlife, all of it! Most important, it was clear that the safety of their guests was always on their minds. This is an excellent outfitter and there is no rival. We’ll be back.” (Victor Rodriguez)

The Yampa River flows through the traditional homeland of the Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute) people. With great respect and appreciation, Holiday acknowledges the Indigenous people who lived in and cared for these lands long before the Yampa was set aside as a place only to be visited. You can read more about our land acknowledgements initiative here.
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Trip Overview

  • Type:

    Rafting

  • Location:

    Yampa River - Dinosaur National Monument

  • Length:

    4 and 5 Days

  • Dates:

    May–June

  • Meet at:

    Vernal, Utah @ 7:00 pm (night before the trip)

  • Difficulty:

    Intermediate

  • Min. Age:

    8

  • Deposit:

    400

Highlights

  • Truly wild rapids fed by seasonal snow melt
  • Endless winding bends of dramatic striped canyon walls
  • Abundant wildlife in a beautiful and healthy ecosystem
  • Many inflatable kayak-friendly rapids
  • Float through seldom-seen corners of Dinosaur National Monument
  • See the Milky Way in this International Dark Sky Park
Getting Here Before You Go Packing List FAQs

Rates & Dates

4 Day

  • Adult:
  • $1,190
  • Youth:
    18 and under
  • $1,070
  • Senior:
    65 and older
  • $1,070
  • Group:
    10 or more
  • $1,070
Book This Trip
Check Availability
2023
  • May
  • 10, 13, 17, 20, 22, 24, 29

2023 Prices are subject to NPS approval

5 Day

  • Adult:
  • $1,305
  • Youth:
    18 and under
  • $1,170
  • Senior:
    65 and older
  • $1,170
  • Group:
    10 or more
  • $1,170
Book This Trip
Check Availability
2023
  • May
  • 15
  • June
  • 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, 24

2023 Prices are subject to NPS approval

Itinerary

The Yampa River flows west out of the mountains near Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and into the wild recesses of Dinosaur National Monument in northwestern Colorado. It winds through spectacular canyons and countless rapids for 47 miles before flowing into the Green River at Steamboat Rock. From there, the rivers flow together, across the state line into Utah and through the unique landscapes of Whirlpool and Split Mountain canyons.

Sample Itinerary

The night before your trip: Please arrive at Holiday’s headquarters in Vernal, Utah, at 7:00 p.m., Mountain Time for a brief pre-trip orientation meeting. You’ll pick up your waterproof bags and learn how to pack them. The pre-trip meeting is also the time to buy any last minute items from our on-site store (see our packing checklist for items you can find at our store).

Day 1:

Meet back our Vernal operation center early in the morning, packed and ready to go! We’ll load your bags up, and then it’s off to the river. From Vernal, it’s a 90-minute van ride to the put-in at Deerlodge Park in Colorado. After preparing the rafts and getting you oriented, we’ll push off and begin to move on river time. We’ll enter Yampa Canyon almost immediately, and encounter several fun, splashy rapids. Lunch may be on a beach near a historic cabin. After some more fun river miles, we’ll pull over for camp. You’ll learn how to help fire line bags from the boats, before choosing your campsite for the night. Marvel at your first camp dinner before falling asleep to the sound of rushing water.

Day 2:

River mornings start early! But don’t worry, the guides will have coffee, tea, or hot chocolate to help you get moving. After a delicious breakfast, we’ll load up the boats and float downstream. We’ll stop to hike to a wide cave where ancient indigenous people left signs of their presence. Follow the river’s entrenched meanders past the 1,200-foot Grand Overhang. Listen for the screech of hunting peregrine falcons that nest on the canyon rim. Count bighorn sheep as they come to the waters edge to drink, or dance their way along cliff lines. Carefully kiss the Tiger Wall: it’s sure to bring good luck for your run through Warm Springs Rapid, the biggest of the trip.

Day 3:

This morning may include a silent float as we approach the confluence with the Green River at Echo Park. Silent floats are the perfect way to activate all your senses and become one with this magical canyon. Dip your toes into the place where the rivers meet and watch the different colored-waters flow side by side for a surprising distance. The geology changes dramatically as we float through the Mitten Park Fault and into Whirlpool Canyon. Spend the afternoon at Jones Hole Creek: fishing, hiking, petroglyphs, big horn sheep, and waterfalls are all possibilities!

Day 4:

Choose to paddle an inflatable kayak through the last several miles of calm water in Island Park. We’ll follow the river as it makes a sharp left turn and cuts its way into the aptly named Split Mountain. The river drops an average of almost 20 feet per mile for the last eight miles. Enjoy your last several rapids before we pause for lunch and finally arrive at the boat ramp. We’ll load the boats and then transport you the final 25 minutes back to our warehouse in Vernal. We typically plan to arrive back at our headquarters by approximately 4:00 p.m.

Please remember that this is a sample itinerary, not an exact description of your trip. Our goal is simply to give you an overview of what the trip may entail. We invite you to embrace the inherent changeability of a wilderness river trip and come prepared to have fun and go with the flow!

Yampa River Slideshow 4

We say the Yampa is WILD, and it is. Each trip will be different depending on weather, the interests of our passengers, assigned campsites, and the need to be considerate of other river users.

Our five-day Yampa River trips follow the same general itinerary with minor changes depending on assigned campsites and water flows. Your second day may not yet find you at an ancestral site but rather on a hike to a stunning overlook or historic cave. You’ll encounter the Tiger Wall and Warm Springs Rapid on the third day, and meet the Green River on the fourth. Day five will take you through Island Park and finish with Split Mountain.

Reviews

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Holiday River Expeditions
Average rating:  
 113 reviews
 by Meg & Gary Jones

The guides were terrific, and the food was amazing! Yampa is a great trip because the rapids are well spaced out, and generally easy for duckies to maneuver, we were able to get to camp with plenty of time to hike. Thanks for another great trip!

 by Stephanie & Peter Moskowitz Gelman

We had a fabulous time. Susan was phenomenal and a great mentor to the other guides. She has an amazing fund of knowledge and her passion for the environment and rivers was contagious. Kyle, Spencer and Abi made sure we were comfortable, safe, and had a fun time.

 by Anne Trevison

The gear was great - in good condition, easy to use, and worked very well. I especially welcomed the ability to rent it as we flew out from the East Coast.

All of the guides on our recent trip were amazing. Jacqueline, Ellie, Luke, TJ, and Brian were knowledgeable, fabulous cooks, cheerful, and handled a few small hiccups with my 10-year-old niece very gracefully (in addition to having endless amounts of time for her). The food was delicious and the guides were super flexible about preferences for my slightly picky niece.

The trip was fabulous from start to finish. I hadn’t done any camping for over 30 years and was a bit apprehensive but the gear, setup, food, and support from the guides made it easy. They also managed to arrange perfect weather for which I was grateful!

 by Susie & Craig Driver

The guides -- Cloud, Ellie, Syd, Kyle, Drake, Gavin) were terrific! They were personable, attentive, helpful, great company, and good cooks. Singing at night with Drake playing his guitar was a real treat and Syd has an amazing voice. Thanks for a wonderful experience.

 by Matthew Rees

I called Holiday direct to see if you could squeeze us in. Karen was awesome and was able to get us on the June 14th Yampa. The bags were perfect as were the two tents we rented.

Our entire experience with Holiday was wonderful! From the first phone call to see if they could get us on a trip "last minute" until the warm goodbyes at the boatyard. I'd guided these same rivers 25 years ago, and it was amazing to have a chance to share the Yampa's rapids and canyons with my wife and two teenagers by boat, ducky, and hiking. Holiday has really turned it up a notch since those days. the guides, the food, and the whole trip surpassed everything we'd hoped for. Can't wait for your next trip. Thank you Holiday!!!

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