by Julie Trevelyan

Yampa River Rafting trip CabinWhere there’s a river and a raft, why should you put foot to trail?

Several excellent reasons, actually. Rafting a gorgeous western river is a fun thing to do in itself. It’s even more multi-faceted in ways many people don’t fully consider before embarking on such a journey. The canyons and bends and twists of the rivers beckon the rafts, while the side trails and hidden waterfalls and gorgeous vistas beckon the hiking boots. Head out on the trail with a Holiday guide and discover why a river rafting trip can be an even more inclusive experience than you thought.

1) See awesome ancient ruins.

Several whitewater rafting trips offer the opportunity to see ancient ruins, still fairly intact due to the aridity in which they exist. Pre-Columbian ruins can be found during trips on the Yampa River, Lodore Canyon, Cataract Canyon, and Desolation Canyon. Ancient rock art panels painted and chiseled by hand using “primitive” techniques still enchant and set your mind to ruminating on the presence of those long-gone people, who likely hiked the same trails you are.


2) Stop and smell the flowers.

Or at least get a close-up view of the delicate blooms that are remarkably hardy to live in their challenging desert environment. Cacti provide some of the most breathtaking flowers out there, with blossoms that burst into intense color during spring and summer. Getting a little away from the river and onto the trails offers chances to see these splashes of color livening up both the desert vistas and your photos.


3) Work off those great meals!

The food on a Holiday river trip is outstanding and darn filling. After you roll yourself off your camp chair, you might wonder how you’ll keep your figure just hanging out in a raft. The answer is to put foot to trail. A little exercise can be fun when it doesn’t seem like exercise. Besides walking off the delicious meals, you also get to see really cool stuff (refer to numbers 1 and 2 above, then see numbers 4 and 5 below).

Yampa River Rafting4) Possibly get an unexpected view of local wildlife.

Sometimes slipping down the river doesn’t allow for critter-watching. But on the trails, nearer the habitat of certain animals and able to stop at any moment to observe them, you run a greater chance of seeing bald eagles, snowy egrets, elk, deer, shy bighorn sheep, and more. Spotting swift little lizards, leaping jackrabbits, and nervously scolding chipmunks can add even more smiles and laughter to your vacation. On Idaho raft trips, the chances of seeing moose and bear increase if you head out on the trail. Get on out there!


5) Amazing photo ops not available on the river.

Some of the hikes very specifically go to spectacular views that stretch on for miles and give you an excellent idea of the scope of the terrain you’re traveling through, such as the Doll House on the Cataract Canyon river trip. Running a river in Utah, Colorado, or Idaho is so special because the water carved out its path through country so rugged it can’t help be jaw-droppingly stunning. Getting up to a high point on a hike allows you a different perspective than down on the river; you get to see the whole thing from up on high. That makes for even more gorgeous photos and cherished memories to take home.


Julie TrevelyanWritten by Julie Trevelyan.

Julie is a freelance writer and wilderness guide in southern Utah. She especially enjoys books, coffee, yoga, wild country, horses, and dark chocolate.

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