Upper Grand Canyon Rafting Trips

Rafting trips through the upper Grand Canyon take you into an incredible landscape. You’ll start at Lees Ferry in a narrow, sheer-sided chasm, winding through the uplifted Kaibab Plateau. Iconic Redwall Limestone soars above you and the rim quickly disappears from view. And then the rapids start. Although the most infamous whitewater is in the lower canyon, you’ll get plenty of splashing up here, too. Hold on through the Roaring Twenties, Hance, and Sockdolager, just to name a few.

The first 61 miles of Marble Canyon are the most photographed, perhaps the most scenic miles of the Grand Canyon. Float beneath the hanging garden of Vasey’s Paradise and feel the impossibly soft sand of Redwall Cavern. Experience the incomparable confluence with the milky blue water of The Little Colorado River. Side canyon hikes are one of the great wonders of Grand Canyon. Wander the polished floors of Shinumu Wash. Hike to the iconic granaries of Nankoweap Canyon. Check out the test tunnels where the Marble Canyon Dam was almost built, or explore the twists and turns of Carbon Creek.

Your upper Grand Canyon rafting trip ends at Phantom Ranch, deep within the polished schist-and-granite walls of the Inner Gorge. This gem of the Colorado is indeed one of the most scenic places on earth.

Holiday River Expeditions is proud to offer Grand Canyon trips in partnership with our authorized Grand Canyon concessionaire affiliate, Outdoors Unlimited. They feel just as passionately as we do about running trips without motors. Choose between being a passenger or a participant on these whitewater river trips: both oar raft and paddle boat trips are offered. Make your reservations well in advance because demand for this world-class adventure is high! You can check current Grand Canyon trip availability here.

Please Consider:

Upper Grand Canyon trips involve a strenuous, 9-mile, uphill hike out of the canyon from the Colorado River to the South Rim; therefore, we recommended this trip only for people who are in good physical condition.

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Trip Overview

  • Type:

    Rafting

  • Location:

    Colorado River - Grand Canyon National Park

  • Length:

    5–7 Days (upper)

  • Dates:

    May–September

  • Meet at:

    Marble Canyon Lodge @ 8:00 pm (night before the trip)

  • Difficulty:

    Advanced

  • Min. Age:

    16

  • Deposit:

    700

Highlights

  • Oar-powered trip: no motors!
  • Experience Marble Canyon and part of the Inner Gorge
  • Walk into Redwall Cavern
  • Float at the confluence with the Little Colorado River
  • Hike to the granaries at Nankoweap
  • Visit Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon
Getting Here Before You Go Packing List FAQs

Rates & Dates

5–7 Day

  • Adult:
  • $1,885 - $2,480
  • Youth:
    18 and under
  • $1,885 - $2,480
  • Senior:
    65 and older
  • $1,885 - $2,480
  • Group:
    10 or more
  • $1,885 - $2,480
Book This Trip
Check Availability
2021
  • May–September

Itinerary

The Colorado River escapes from the confines of the Lake Powell reservoir just south of the Utah-Arizona border, flowing out of Glen Canyon Dam and into one of the Grandest canyons on earth. It flows mostly southwest for more than 280 miles between impossibly steep walls and over some of the best whitewater anywhere before flowing into the still water of the Lake Mead reservoir. Upper Grand Canyon trips begin at Lees Ferry, Arizona, and end at Phantom Ranch, 88 miles downstream.

Sample Itinerary

Meet at 8:00 p.m. the night before your trip at the Marble Canyon Lodge where Outdoors Unlimited (Holiday’s affiliate in the Grand Canyon) will conduct a brief orientation.

Overnight accommodations are recommended at Marble Canyon Lodge and can be arranged by Outdoors Unlimited. It’s 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. Your Upper Grand Canyon whitewater rafting adventure begins bright and early the next day at the historic Lees Ferry.

The uppermost section of the canyon is known as Marble Canyon, named in 1869 by its first explorer, Major John Wesley Powell. It’s not actually marble, but you’d never know it. It’s actually highly polished limestone, layered with bands of sandstones and siltstones. This otherwise seemingly impervious limestone has allowed the river to scoop out the huge expanse of Redwall Cavern, one of the many attractions in this stretch.

Springs gush from the fern-covered rocks at Vasey’s Paradise and side streams carve bowl-like pools at Shinumu, Saddle, and North canyons. Nautilus fossils are easily viewed in the stream bed of Nautiloid Canyon and ancient Ancestral Puebloan granaries await the hiker high above the river at Nankoweap. Prehistoric Native American sites are spread throughout the canyon; 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 (medium for the Grand, that is) Badger, House Rock, and Unkar rapids, the crescendo begins with Nevills 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.

Our 5, 6, and 7-day upper Grand Canyon rafting trips covers 88 miles of river from Lees Ferry to Phantom Ranch (Pipe Creek Beach), where you’ll begin your ascent to the South Rim. You can spend the night at the South Rim and either fly or bus back to Las Vegas.

Please keep in mind that this is just a sample itinerary. Your trip may include different hikes; weather and campsite availability will dictate how each day evolves. Just like on any Holiday trip, the best thing to do is to just go with that flow!

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Holiday River Expeditions
Average rating:  
 4 reviews
by Debbie Craig Nicholson on Holiday River Expeditions

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 Holiday River Expeditions

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 Holiday River Expeditions

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!

by S. Smoot, UT on Holiday River Expeditions

The quality of these trips are something to be admired. You see beautiful sites, get helpful and informative facts, guides take extra precautions to keep you safe, and in the end, the only possible downside is if the weather will cooperate. Seriously, these trips are awesome and we tell our family and friends all about them!