Desolation Canyon Rafting Trips

Desolation Canyon Rafting trips on the Green River offer an unforgettable trip. Whether you’re looking for a family vacation, a solo getaway, or time with friends, Desolation Canyon has something for everyone! Experience a thrilling adventure through one of the most remote parts of the continental United States: The Tavaputs Plateau. This region was home to the indigenous Fremont Culture more than a thousand years ago. Today, it is still home to the Ute Indian Tribe. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, homesteaders and ranchers made a life along the river, and some of America’s most notorious outlaws used its rugged depths as a hideout. You’ll find a remarkable array of history as well as wildlife among the tall, rainbow-colored cliffs sculpted by millennia of wind and water. 

This trip begins with a scenic flight over the Tavaputs Plateau and the river canyon, giving you a bird’s eye view of the region that explorer John Wesley Powell called “a region of wildest desolation.” As the Green River flows through Desolation Canyon, it is peppered with groves of cottonwood trees and white, sandy beaches. Countless side canyons create endless hiking opportunities, and there are over 60 rapids to test your inflatable kayaking skills and cool you off. Fun, fascinating, and wild, Desolation Canyon is truly one of Utah’s best-kept secrets.

Read more: Insider’s Guide to Rafting the Green River through Desolation Canyon

Green River, Utah: Things to Do and Places to Explore

Featured Review:

The guides were all excellent. They worked from sun up till sundown. The food was much better than I expected! The hikes were educational and a good change of pace as well as a form of exercise. The flight to the starting point was breathtaking. We are fortunate as a family to have traveled to Europe, Mexico, and Hawaii and this was certainly one of our best and most fun family vacations! Enjoying nature in the company of family and friends is hard to beat! Thank you for an experience we will never forget! (Marty Allison)

 

The Green River through Desolation Canyon flows through the traditional homeland of the Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute) people. Today, the Uintah and Ouray Reservation borders the east side of Desolation and Gray Canyons, and the Ute people continue to protect the river. Holiday acknowledges and respects the long history of these traditional inhabitants. We appreciate our own long-standing relationship with the modern-day tribe. Learn more about our land acknowledgments here.
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Trip Overview

  • Type:

    Rafting

  • Location:

    Desolation Canyon - Green River Wilderness

  • Length:

    5 and 6 Days

  • Dates:

    May–August

  • Meet at:

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

  • Difficulty:

    Beginner

  • Min. Age:

    5

  • Prices:

    5-Day
    Adult - $1,558
    Youth - $1,463 (18 & under)
    Senior - $1,463 (65 & older)
    Group - $1,463 (10 or more)
    + $40 BLM fee

    6-Day
    Adult - $1,673
    Youth - $1,577 (18 & under)
    Senior - $1,577 (65 & older)
    Group - $1,577 (10 or more)
    + $40 BLM fee

  • Deposit:

    400

Highlights

  • Scenic flight over the river corridor to remote wilderness put-in
  • Pristine beaches with shady cottonwood trees
  • Consistent and lively Class I–III rapids
  • The best trip for inflatable kayak enthusiasts
  • Rich folklore about notorious outlaws
Getting Here Before You Go Packing List FAQs

Rates & Dates

Itinerary

The Green River flows through eastern Utah at the bottom of the Tavaputs Plateau, one of the largest wilderness areas in the Lower 48. Beginning at the Sand Wash boat ramp, a 25-mile bone-rattling ride from the closest pavement, Desolation Canyon is a true wilderness destination. The river travels southwest for more than 80 miles through some of the youngest rocks on the Colorado Plateau, finally emerging from the canyon just upstream of the town of Green River, Utah.

 

Sample Itinerary

The day before your trip:

Desolation Canyon trips begin with a scenic flight to the remote put in. Because of the flight logistics, we ask that (if possible) you plan to stop by our Green River, Utah warehouse before 1:00 p.m. Mountain Time on the day before your trip to drop off any excessive or bulky gear as well as any personal beverages. These will travel to the put in by road, with the guides, boats, and river gear.

Otherwise, please plan to attend the pre-trip meeting at our Green River warehouse at 7:00 p.m. Mountain Time. A Holiday employee will give you your waterproof bags, a brief orientation on how to pack and prepare for the flight, and let you know what time to meet in the morning (typically 6:15 a.m.). This is the best time to purchase last minute items from our store (look over our packing checklist to see what we carry).

Day 1:

On the morning of your trip, please arrive promptly at the predetermined time established at the pre-trip meeting. We’ll load up in our vans for the 15-minute drive to Green River’s small airstrip. You’ll travel in small, four- to nine-passenger planes, and fly directly up the Green River, over the Tavaputs Plateau and Desolation Canyon. It’s about a 35-minute flight, and it is spectacular! Your guides will be waiting to meet and greet you at the airstrip, and they’ll lead you on the first hike of the trip, a 45-minute descent to the rafts waiting at the river bottom. Guests who are apprehensive about the hike can be transported by vehicle to the river. Once at the put in, the guides will finish loading up the boats, you’ll get to talk to the river rangers about the significance of the wilderness you are about to enter, and then we start floating! Watch cliff swallows explode out of their nests as the walls rise around us. Take a short hike to see a turtle fossil, and make camp on a sandbar or in a grove of cottonwood trees.

Day 2:

Enjoy a few more miles of calm water as we row around Peter’s Point. Lighthouse Rock, named by John Wesley Powell, clues us in to the whitewater just around the corner. Hop in an inflatable kayak to splash through our first rapids. Hike to one or more ancient Fremont cultural site or explore a side canyon.

Day 3:

Wander around the historic Rock Creek Ranch, where Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch slept, and try to spot granaries (ancient food-storage structures) on the canyon walls. Hold on tight (or paddle hard!) through rapids such as Chandler Falls and the biggest of them all, Cow Swim. Born of a flash flood in 2008, it marks the former location of historic cattle ford.

Day 4:

Desolation’s walls soar, red and rugged, into the sky, a colorful finale as we transition into Gray Canyon. Today brings continued whitewater fun with Wire Fence, Three Fords, and Coal Creek rapids. Look for evidence of a planned dam site on the hike to scout Coal Creek Rapid, and poke around in the ruins of a surveyor’s cabin just downstream. Celebrate paddling through these rapids with a gorgeous sandy beach and a gourmet meal on your last night in the canyon.

Day 5:

With several more rapids to go, and a few more hours to listen to the song of the canyon wren as we approach the end of the canyon. We’ll have lunch and maybe squeeze in one more cultural site before arriving at the take out at Swasey’s Beach. We’ll all return to Green River, Utah (20-minute van ride) together. Our expected time of arrival back at our headquarters is 3:00 to 4:00 p.m.

As mentioned earlier, this is a sample itinerary and should not be thought of as the trip you will experience. It is intended to give an idea of what the trip will be like. It could also be exactly what you do. Keep an open mind, be flexible, go with the flow, and enjoy rafting Desolation Canyon!

Wildlife Desolation Canyon

Note: If you are on a 6-day Desolation Canyon rafting trip, you can expect a similar itinerary to this 5-day trip. However, with lower late-season river flows and an extra day to play, you will most likely see different campsites than you would on a 5-day trip.

Reviews

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Holiday River Expeditions
Average rating:  
 76 reviews
 by Nate B

Our guides, Talley and Benny, were top-notch. They were incredibly knowledgeable in many aspects about the region. Also, if I had a vote, they would both get James Beard awards.

 by Grace B

I truly loved this trip. From the moment we left the warehouse in the early hours of our boat launch day, the sense of adventure was palpable! The plane ride and hike down to Sand Wash were thrilling, and our guides (Benny and Talley) wasted no time getting to know us and educating us about the area. They were exceptional: funny, personable, at ease with our endless questions, knowledgable, capable, and flexible. Notably, they were a great team, with Talley making an awesome call getting some major miles in the first day so we could enjoy the rest of the trip basically in solitude. Coming from a bustling city environment in my daily life, this was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Every camp site was beautiful, and Benny accentuated each hike with his curiosity and sense of adventure. Talley also made sure our youngest group member (& only kid on the trip) felt included & taken care of, encouraging him to try certain rapids & showing him around camp. The meals were delicious and company even better; this kind of trip is good for the soul. I'm already looking forward to coming back for some bigger rapids! Thank you all so much!!

 by Claire B

Great (pre-trip experience)! Very easy to understand and complete, with thorough instructions.

So much fun - thank you to Benny and Talley for an awesome Desolation Canyon trip!

 by Toni K

Guides were amazing, food was superb, the flight into Sand Wash was epic!! Best family trip ever!

 by Liz C

My husband and I brought our kids, 6, 8, and 14, and we all had the BEST time of our lives. We did not want to get off the river trip! The river guides were amazing. We knew we were in great hands. They knew what to do in every decisive moment and were incredibly kind, fun, and funny. They soon became friends! It was so glorious being in such stark beauty, stepping outside of our little city lives to be small in nature. We loved every moment, from jumping in the river to cool off, swimming, using a ducky for the very first time, (SO fun!) watching the kids learn to row (with huge smiles all the while), being under the sky, toes wiggling on the softest beach sand, eating the BEST cooked food by the river guides. We got to go on some hikes and were explained some history which is something I always love to learn. Each of our 3 kids now want to be a river guide! Their parents are are racking brains on how we can make this happen again and as soon as possible. Sorry, Disneyland, we'll choose this adventure every time! It was simply wonderful.

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