The Best Whitewater Rafting in Colorado

Posted on April 9, 2019

Colorado whitewater rafting in the Royal Gorge.

Raft the Upper Arkansas River now through Labor Day

Colorado is known for having some of the best whitewater in the world, but what river in Colorado has the best whitewater rafting? If you consider things like miles of whitewater, accessibility, natural beauty, and range of difficulty – Colorado’s Arkansas River is a clear front-runner.


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River trips for nearly all ages and abilities

The Upper Arkansas River welcomes all skill levels to Colorado’s whitewater rafting scene. You can get your feet wet on the Family Float – a splashy river trip for beginners, or you can get your adrenaline fix rafting the Royal Gorge or the Numbers – two of the best whitewater rafting runs in the state. Browns Canyon National Monument – offers legendary, yet family-friendly rapids like Pinball, Zoom Flume, and the Toilet Bowl to name a few. Plus, Bighorn Sheep Canyon serves up splashy class III rapids and stunning scenery, just one hour from Colorado Springs.

150 Miles of world-class whitewater

The Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) manages 150 miles of world-class whitewater starting near Leadville, Colorado. The river flows southeast through the river towns of Buena Vista, Salida, and Cañon City, all the way to Pueblo Reservoir.

Choosing the Best Whitewater Rafting Trip in Colorado

Age Limits and Difficulty

Intermediate class III-IV rapids are popular with families and first-time rafters, but some people will have more fun challenging class IV and class V rapids. Either way, choosing the appropriate difficulty will help ensure a positive experience on the river.

General guidelines for age and weight restrictions on the Arkansas River:

Class II Rafting Trips (Family Float)
Minimum Requirements: 3 years old and 35 pounds.

Class III-IV Rafting Trips (Browns Canyon or Bighorn Sheep Canyon)
Minimum Requirements: 6 years old and 50 pounds.

Class IV-V Rafting Trips (Royal Gorge or The Numbers)
Minimum Requirements: 14 years old (varies with water conditions)

When is the best time to go whitewater rafting in Colorado?

Are you looking for high water, medium water or low water? What does your schedule look like? Learn how to choose the best time to go whitewater rafting in Colorado.

Where are you going to be staying in Colorado?

Are you staying in Colorado Springs or Denver? Rafting in the Royal Gorge Region may work best for your logistics. Are you staying in Summit County or don’t mind the extra hour drive? Check out rafting near Buena Vista Colorado.