Utah is the place for whitewater rafting.
It’s also the place for skiing and mountain biking and fishing and hiking and camping and stargazing and rock climbing and…well, you get the idea. But whitewater rafting in Utah is something that Holiday River Expeditions knows better than anyone. That’s why we’ve compiled this guide to the best of whitewater rafting trips in Utah.
Read about the magic of a trip through the Gates of Lodore, or why Desolation Canyon is the best place for family rafting trips. Use our Trip Table (below) to select a trip based on its length or the level of its rapids. Our Insider’s Guides also include vivid descriptions and fun facts about the history, animals, and geology of each rafting trip. Susan Munroe, Holiday guide, writer, and interpretive director, draws on her years of running and researching rivers to create a resource with just the right amount of information. And each trip is lovingly introduced by some of the best writers and adventurers in the West—so you don’t just have to take our word for it!
Start your journey today. Explore our complete guide of Utah’s premier rafting trips. Which one will you choose?
1. The Colorado River through Cataract Canyon
“Cataract Canyon is filled to the brim with time—geological time, the seasonal time of water levels and wildlife and wildflowers, the ceaseless flow of the river, and human time, including the time of folly when Glen Canyon Dam began to back up water all through Glen Canyon and into this canyon upstream. One of the remarkable things to be seen at the end of a river trip with Holiday is the river reasserting itself by cutting through the sediment that the still waters of the now-shrinking lake deposited, a drowned river place coming alive again. Holiday river trips are the way to see these layers and wonders, because of Holiday’s deep roots in the place, their deep commitment to wild Utah, and their gracious care for passengers on their trips.”
2. The Colorado River through Westwater Canyon
“For me it’s very simple. River rafting in Westwater Canyon is one of the deepest and purest ways to stay connected to nature, and in today’s day and age, staying connected to our natural world is more important than ever. There is nothing more important than to be immersed in Mother Earth’s embrace, especially with the magic, power and beauty of a river trip: the surrounding landscape of mountains and canyon walls, the pure water, diverse wildlife, warm sunshine, and clean air just to name a few. But even more important is sharing this experience with my family and friends and sharing the joy, laughter, sunrises, and sunsets that create memories that last forever. All worries flow away on these special trips, and it’s a unique experience that brings you into the moment of now the entire time, thoughts of the past and future are gone and you are in the present moment. There is no other experience like it actually, it’s literally and figuratively the flowing sweetness of life in so many ways.”
3. The Green River through Desolation Canyon
“The Moody Blues say it best: “desolation”, “creation”, “communication”. I have discovered something new and wondrous in Desolation Canyon on every trip. Layer upon layer of discoveries await you, too. From the desolation of place and dark night skies exposing the Universe, breaking away from the masses to experience overwhelming silence and through that silence something throbs and gleams. It is the interacting of layers of our history—from the earliest dwellers to more recent inhabitants. In the beauty of Desolation Canyon you can communicate from your heart as to where we are going as a civilization and why we need to become involved to protect this Diamond in the Rough. ”
4. The San Juan River in Utah
“The river descends through spectacular meandering canyons and you leave the chattering world behind. You see multi-storied ruins and the calligraphy of an ancient cosmology carved into stone. This is sacred ground. Then the human realm is cast off altogether and bighorns, mule deer, and herons reign. The immense walls and the signature of time in stone is humbling. These are your public lands and, yes, they are sacred. When you go home, carry that feeling with you and defend them.” ~ Chip Ward, Author
Read more at Chip Ward Essays
5. The Green River through Lodore Canyon
“The Lodore Canyon stretch of the Green River through Dinosaur National Monument is unquestionably one of the West’s greatest multi-day river trips, filled with class III and IV rapids; side hikes to prehistoric pictographs and icy waterfalls; sightings of more bighorn sheep than most people have ever seen; and camping on beaches under an ink-black sky riddled with stars. Throw in the deep and rich history of these canyons, and you have a wonderful and endlessly fascinating adventure. My family and friends loved every minute of it.”
Read more of Michael’s story about his trip on the Green River through Lodore Canyon.
6. The Yampa River
“Float the Yampa and you’ll find sandy beaches, benches with junipers, and comforting forests perfect for pitching camp. There are side canyons that harbor refreshing waterfalls, steeply ascending trails that take you to the rim of the river corridor high overhead, and puzzling pictographs. And, if you’re an angler, cold streams laden with fat trout. Come nightfall the sky becomes flocked with stars, while the murmuring river serenades you to sleep.”
Read more about Kurt’s experience on the Yampa River in Dinosaur National Monument.
7. Labyrinth Canyon
“Labyrinth Canyon offers, with magnificent style, the two great gifts of wilderness: it gives us space to think our own thoughts without the pressure to conform to social trends, and it reminds us that we are small, a tiny piece of an unimaginably large web. While it’s true that we could receive these gifts in any half decent backyard, the stark boldness and scale of Labyrinth helps to break through the stultifying distortions of our culture to bring us back to reality.”
Utah’s Premier Rafting Trips
|Utah Rafting Trips||Length||Mileage||When||Class||Min Age||Commercially Operated|
|Colorado River – Cataract Canyon||5–6 days||95||May–Sept||IV–V||8–16||YES|
|Colorado River – 3-Day Cataract Canyon||3 days||95||May–Sept||IV–V||8–16||YES|
|Colorado River – Westwater Canyon||2–3 days||18–42||May–Sept||IV||8||YES|
|Colorado River – Fisher Towers||2–3 days||20–45||May–Aug||III||5||YES|
|Colorado River – Daily||1 day||15||May–Aug||III||5||YES|
|Green River – Desolation Canyon||5–6 days||84||May–Aug||III||5||YES|
|Green River – Lodore Canyon||4 days||45||May–Sept||III–IV||8||YES|
|Green River – Labyrinth Canyon||5 days||44-68||May–Sept||I||5||YES|
|Green River – Daily||1 day||8||May–Aug||III||5||YES|
|Green River – Flaming Gorge||1/2–1 day||7||May–Sept||III||5||YES|
|Yampa River||4–5 days||71||May–June||IV||8||YES|
|San Juan River – Upper||3 days||27||May–June||III||5||YES|
|San Juan River – Lower||4 days||57||May–June||III||5||YES|
|San Juan River – Full||5 days||84||May–June||III||5||YES|
|Dolores River (when flows allow)||2–3 days||33||May–June||III–IV||8||YES|
|Provo River||1/2 day||4 1/2||June–Aug||III||5||YES|
|Weber River||1/2 day||8||June–Sept||II||4||YES|
River trips have a class rating according to the difficulty of their toughest rapid. Click here to see a description of class ratings.