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Rafting Trip Planning Guide

Grand Canyon Whitewater rafting trips give you the opportunity to be in one of the most spectacular places on earth. Whitewater rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon is beyond your imagination, it’s mind-boggling!

GCW Trip Overview Map

Map showing where our river rafting trips start and end.

Our full length Grand Canyon river raft trips allow you to see the “Heart of the Canyon.” Our full length trips range from 7 to 13 days. You can go whitewater rafting the Colorado River for 7 or 8 days on a motorized raft, or choose an oar-powered trip for 13-day expedition!  Our Upper Grand Canyon raft trips all start at Lees Ferry, include a hike out of the Canyon, and range from 4 to 6 days.  The two Lower Grand Canyon raft trips we have include a hike into the Canyon, and are either a 5-day motorized trip, or an 8-day oar-powered trip.

We suggest, before you book one of our Grand Canyon river tours, ask yourself a few questions.

  1. What kind of raft am I interested in? Motor or Oar-Powered?
  2. When do I want to go?
  3. If interested in an Upper or Lower Canyon trip, am I able to hike in or out of the Grand Canyon?
  4. How much time do I have?

Call us now at 800-343-3121 for more details on our Grand Canyon rafting trips or book online now.

What kind of raft am I interested in? Motor or Oar-Powered?

The first thing most people choose is the type of raft they want to ride in. GCW offers both motorized raft and oar-powered Grand Canyon river tours. Our most popular trips are aboard motorized rafts. For those of you who have more time, oar-powered rafts are a great choice. Both motorized rafts and oar-powered rafts are rubber rafts created specifically for whitewater rafting.

Grand Canyon Whitewater motorized raft rendition.

Motorized rafts are 35 feet long and hold around 14 passengers and 1-2 guides. The guides drive the boat from the back (or stern). Motorized rafts allow people to see more of the Canyon because they can go about double the speed of the current. We aren’t talking major speed here; the current averages about 4 miles per hour, so we cruise along at 8 miles per hour. The motor boats give passengers a fun and exciting ride. You can choose to sit up at the front and be right in the action or move toward the back to dry off and have a less wild ride. 8 years old is the minimum age for a motorized rafting trip.


Grand Canyon Whitewater oar-powered raft rendition.

Oar-powered rafts are different. Many people confuse oar-powered rafts with paddle rafts, which are a small rubber raft on which everyone has their own paddle and is expected to help propel and steer the raft. Oar-powered rafts, the kind we use, are 18 feet long and carry up to 4-5 passengers and one guide to row the raft. The guide sits in the middle and has two long wooden oars to steer the raft through the river and rapids. The raft will float along at the speed of the current, about 4 miles per hour. For this reason, oar-powered trips are typically longer, unless you choose to do only half of the trip, and either hike into or out of the Grand Canyon. 12 years old is the minimum age for an oar-powered rafting trip.

When do I want to go?

Our rafting season runs from April to October and anytime is a good time to go rafting! If you are looking to have cooler weather, book a trip in April, May, early June or September. Because the Colorado River flowing through Grand Canyon is controlled by Glen Canyon Dam, water levels are fairly consistent providing great whitewater throughout our entire season. Keep in mind that Arizona has very low humidity and a very dry heat, so higher temperatures are actually welcomed to balance the cold splashes of river water!


Weather In Grand Canyon


If interested in an Upper or Lower Canyon trip, am I able to hike in or out of the Grand Canyon?

Hiking into or out of the Grand Canyon is a serious feat. Arizona heat increases the intensity of this hike. Please train and be prepared if you choose a raft tour with a required hike.Devil's Corkscrew portion of Bright Angel Trail in Grand Canyon

Bright Angel Trail

Strenuous hike, intensified by Arizona heat/sun in June – August
10 miles (16 km)
Gain/Loss of 4,400 feet (1340 m)
Well maintained trail, graded for stock
Very little shade cover on trail
From Rim: Water stations at mile 1.5, mile 3, Indian Garden mile 4.8, Boat Beach mile 9
Average ascent time from river is 6-8 hours; Average descent time from rim is 4-6 hours

Devil’s Corkscrew along Bright Angel Trail in Grand Canyon

How much time do I have?

Consider the amount of time that you have for your adventure-of-a-lifetime. This can determine or be determined by whether you want to see the Full Canyon or either the Upper Canyon or the Lower Canyon. The Full Canyon experience can be had in minimum of 7 days in motorized raft or can last up to 15 days in an oar-powered raft.

The shortest trips we offer are the Upper Canyon trips with the required hike out of the Canyon. These trips can be done in 4 days in a motorized raft or 6 days in an oar-powered raft. The Lower Canyon trips with required hike into the Canyon can be done in 5 days in a motorized raft or 8 days in an oar-powered raft. If you choose to participate in just the Upper Canyon or the Lower Canyon rafting trips, you need to really give some thought to the mandatory 9 mile hike in or out of the Grand Canyon.


Still have questions about whitewater rafting the Colorado River and which trip to select?

Check out our FAQs or give our office a call at 800-343-3121. We would love helping you discover which rafting adventure is right for you. Our office staff members, pictured below, are all very knowledgeable regarding rafting trips in Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon Whitewater Reservationists Head Shots

Once you have spoken with us, your next step is to start communicating with your group and looking into the transportation necessary to get you to and from your Grand Canyon adventure. Many of our whitewater vacations offer round-trip options from Flagstaff, AZ or Las Vegas, NV which makes travel planning easy.

We require a $400 deposit upon booking. The full balance is due 120 days before your adventure begins. We accept Visa, Mastercard, Discover and checks.
Please give GCW a call 800-343-3121 or send an email to Info@grandcanyonww.com.

Why Raft With Grand Canyon Whitewater

6 Reasons to Raft with Grand Canyon Whitewater

1.  Rejuvenate, Play like a kid!

You deserve a vacation. Rafting with GCW will combine excitement with serenity in one of the most peaceful and gorgeous places on Earth.

2.  Experience? We got it!

GCW brings one of the most experienced groups of owners and guides in the Grand Canyon.

3.  We are the Host with the Most!

GCW river guides are a wealth of information not limited to river history, geology, archaeology, wildlife and savory Dutch-oven cooking!

4.  You are in Good Hands.

Our staff knows the fine line between keeping you safe and showing you the Canyon up close and personal.

5.  Re-Connect.

In an increasingly electronic and nature-deficient society, it is a great way to take a few days to reconnect with nature and have some good ol’ fashioned fun with great folks.

6.  Oh, So Many Trips to Choose from!

GCW offers both motorized and oar-powered rafting trips ranging from 4 to 13 days.


Experience The Thrill With GCW

Read Guest Reviews

Westward ho boy!

One of GCW’s guests memoirs of a river trip was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, it’s a great read! Westward ho boy! A couple of Eastern city slickers get their raft and tent on at the Grand Canyon, rapidly crafting camaraderie. By Phil Goldsmith, For The Inquirer POSTED: July 07, 2014 When our friends Iris […]

Read On
Beyond Wonderful

Part of our daily commitment is to protect and conserve the resources; was that concern evident and did you feel we educated others to do the same?: Absolutely!  The guides did a great job of impressing upon us the importance of conservation on both large and small scale.  They were inspiring, not judgmental. Were the […]

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‘A complete experience you will never forget!’

Why did you pick our company?:  Our group of six checked various websites, and talked to friends who had done similar trips.  None of our friends had traveled with GCW, but the companies they used were either no longer in business or provided little information on their website.  The GCW website provided us with a […]

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Whitewater Trip is Most Exhilarating Adventure for this Fancy Gal!

“As a girl who enjoys the finer things in life, like showers, toilets, blow dryers, makeup and heels I didn’t know how it was all going to go. It was the most exciting and exhilarating adventure. I always felt safe in the capable hands of our guides. If you are considering this trip, go with […]

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This Trip was Perfection

Feedback from Anne Eychaner Passenger on a 13-day Full Canyon Oar Trip in September 2014 Why did you pick our company? I browsed thru all the companies listed by the park service at http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/river-concessioners.htm. I knew I wanted to travel in late September. I knew I wanted to take an oar trip – not a […]

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This service is operated by Grand Canyon Whitewater, LLC., a Concessioner under contract with the U.S. Government and administered by the National Park Service.

The Concessioner is responsible for conducting these operations in a satisfactory manner. Prices are approved by the National Park Service.

© Grand Canyon Whitewater – PO Box 2848 – Flagstaff, Arizona 86003