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:


  • Location:

    Desolation Canyon - Green River Wilderness

  • Length:

    5 and 6 Days

  • Dates:


  • Meet at:

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

  • Difficulty:


  • Min. Age:


  • Deposit:



  • 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


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.


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Holiday River Expeditions
Average rating:  
 59 reviews
 by Kristin Look

I had so much fun! Syd, Justin, and Matt were amazing guides.

This trip was my favorite vacation I have ever done. The scenery was beautiful, the food was delicious and the organization of the trip was top-notch. Syd was an amazing trip leader. Definitely booking another trip next year!

 by Sue Wagener

The guides were amazing (Nick, Hannah, Bernie, Eli, Sienna, Sam). They cooked wonderful meals and always quietly accommodated my dietary needs.

They were all fun, knowledgeable, hardworking, and great paddlers. We had a medical issue during the trip and the crew expertly dealt with the matter and continued the trip with accommodations.

 by Marvin Jensen

As you know I fell and broke some bones on the hike at Range Creek on the next to the last day. The guides were prepared with adequate medication, first aid, etc. And they were very professional in all respects. Especially Ben, Sienna, and my Grandsons, Sam & Eli. Course I have no bias about my grandsons! Then Nick by Sat Phone arranged for me and my daughter to be picked up and taken to Green River. I hope Holiday will allow me to sometime again join one of their trips.

I've known Holiday Expeditions - was personally acquainted with Dee and Sue - since the early 1970's. I was very impressed with them back then. Dee took me on a trip on Westwater and taught me how to read water/rapids and row/position the raft. I was the BLM Area Manager back then and established the first permit system for Westwater. I saw Holiday as one of the best outfitters at that time. From my experience on this trip, the quality of all aspects of the trip was excellent - like my experiences with them from the early 1970's. Especially with respect to all of the guides - Nick, Ben, Hannah, Sienna, and of course Sam and Eli!!!!

 by Megan King Popp

Liz, Hannah, Amanda, and Talli were wonderful. Kind but stern and direct when they needed to be. A perfect example of strong women with kind hearts. Loved their passion for the river, the history, and the land we borrowed for the trip.

OVERALL: Holiday did a wonderful job. Everyone was attentive, kind, and it was clear that the overall experience from comfort, to food, to customer relations were all important to the guides and the company. I would definitely use Holiday again in the future and have been singing the praises of the guides since we arrived home.

 by Jennifer Francis

Being flown to our put-in spot was a very nice way to start the trip, not only from saving time driving but also the ability to see our water route overhead. Enjoyed each of the hikes to see a turtle fossil, petroglyphs, and lovely views - could have used a few more? The food created by our guides was truly amazing, delicious from breakfast to dinner daily. And the guides were phenomenal. You attract the very best. Hannah, Liz, Amanda, and Tally made our river experience an adventurous delight. I can't think of better women to lead our trip than these 4. From beginning to end they had the perfect balance of humor, calm, zen, wonder, environmental knowledge, and culinary skill. Fabulous!

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