You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Read on!
For more info, call GCW at 1-800-343-3121, check out the Grand Canyon Whitewater blog, and make sure to head over to our YouTube page for a ton of great videos. When you book your trip, we’ll send you a trip info packet that will cover all these questions, and more, in much greater detail.
What kind of rafting trips does Grand Canyon Whitewater offer?
Grand Canyon Whitewater offers a wide variety of rafting adventures. We offer both motorized trips and oar-powered trips. We offer rafting trips with the option of hiking into or out of the Grand Canyon, trips that include a helicopter flight out of the Grand Canyon, and trips that let you get the full Grand Canyon experience. Grand Canyon Whitewater offers trips that allow you to bask in the magnificence of Grand Canyon for as little as 4 days or as long as 15 days; take GCW’s trip quiz to find the best fit for you!
How far in advance are reservations made for Grand Canyon Whitewater rafting trips?
The belief that reservations must be made years in advance simply is not true. It does pay to plan ahead for large groups or if your travel time is restricted. Generally, we will be taking reservations throughout the season. Check availability online or by calling Grand Canyon Whitewater.
What do I need to do to reserve a spot?
To check availability on a Grand Canyon rafting trip or to make a reservation, call us at 800-343-3121 or book online. To reserve a space, we require a deposit of $400 per person. The balance is due 120 days before your trip departure date.
What do I need to bring on my river trip?
Grand Canyon Whitewater provides all the camping gear: tent, sleeping bag, camp chairs, a sleeping cot or pad, dry bags, all the meals, kitchen necessities, water and soft drinks. You will need to bring your personal items, like clothing, toiletries, a flashlight or headlamp, camera and sunscreen. You’ll also need to bring your own alcohol, if you choose to have adult beverages on your trip. You probably already have most of the things you’ll need at home. One important item you may not have is a 2-piece waterproof rain suit, meaning a rain jacket (with hood) and rain pants. Rain gear is recommended for each guest, regardless of time of year; it is your splash guard from the river which is always cold.
Before your trip, we will send you a complete information packet that includes a detailed packing list.
What about travel insurance?
Grand Canyon Whitewater recommends that you purchase a travel protection plan to protect you and your trip investment. A number of guests do use their trip insurance each year. Consider travel protection for Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption, Emergency Medical and Emergency Evacuation/Repatriation, Trip Delay, Baggage Delay and more. Remember to insure your flights to and from the area, as well.
GCW’s cancellation policy is as follows:
Your $400 deposit is refundable, less a $100 service charge per person, if notification is received by Grand Canyon Whitewater 120 days or more before departure. Cancellations within 120 days up to 31 days prior to departure will forfeit the $400 deposit. Cancellations within 30 days of departure will forfeit full fare.
What are the age and physical requirements for GCW’s white water river trips?
The youngest passengers we can take are 8 years old, on our motorized rafting trips, and 12 years old, on our oar-powered trips. Beyond the minimum age requirements, the only limitation is your own desire for fun! There is no upper age limit for our rafting trips.
The minimum physical requirements are outlined below but, the thing to remember is, this is an adventure! The more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. We think you’ll enjoy your trip most if you’re in good physical condition. We highly recommend participating in all daily activities, if possible. This includes side hikes, loading and unloading the boats, setting up your own campsite, and getting yourself on and off the boats multiple times each day. The guides will give an assessment of the difficulty level before beginning a side hike so you can choose whether to participate. They’ll also demonstrate how to set up your campsite and explain how to wash your dishes when you’re at the bottom of the Grand Canyon!
Each participant must:
1. Be 8 years or older for a motorized trip or 12 years or older for an oar-powered trip, and be accompanied by an adult if under the age of 18.
2. Be able to properly wear provided Coast Guard approved personal flotation device.
3. Remain seated and balanced on raft, with the assistance of hand-held straps, through rapids.
4. Board and exit the raft independently or with the assistance of a companion.
5. If on a Partial Canyon trip, be able to hike or otherwise ascend/descend 10 miles on the Bright Angel Trail with a personal backpack containing all personal gear and all food and water for the hike, and be able to properly maintain personal health and hydration levels.
6. Be able to assist in self rescue in the event of a capsized raft or being thrown from the raft.
7. Be able to comprehend and follow instructions.
Please review the Acknowledgement of Risk form that we require all of our guests to sign before participating.
What are the Colorado River rapids rated?
Most rivers are rated on the International Scale of 1 to 6 with a 6 meaning the river is impassable. However, the rapids in Grand Canyon use a different scale. The Colorado River is one of just a few rivers in the world rated by individual rapid on a 1 to 10 scale. This system of rating arose due to the variety of rapids and volume of water in the Canyon. Grand Canyon rapids are formed in a pool-drop system, which means after every rapid, there is a flat, calm section of water. On the 1 to 10 scale, flat water is rated a 1 while more technical rapids in Grand Canyon, like Lava Falls and Crystal, can be rated a 10 depending on water level.
What if I can’t swim?
It is not necessary to know how to swim; in fact, we prefer you stay in the boat while rafting! Everyone must wear Coast Guard approved life jackets AT ALL TIMES while on the river. These PFDs are provided by Grand Canyon Whitewater. It’s up to you to make a decision you are comfortable with. You will always be wearing your life jacket but, if you end up in the water, you do need to be able to at least move yourself around, maybe toward the boats or maybe toward shore. We think the risk of ending up in the water on a motorized trip is low. It is higher on an oar trip so, if you don’t know how to swim, you might consider choosing a motorized trip rather than an oar trip.
Are there rafting opportunities for people with disabilities?
Partaking in a trip through the Grand Canyon should not be a dream for the few. Grand Canyon Whitewater is committed to making the Grand Canyon accessible to everyone, including those with mobility or sensory impairments. Ultimately, your safety and well-being are the key ingredients to making your journey a successful one. We have experience helping people with disabilities on both our regularly scheduled trips and on trips that are custom-designed for people with disabilities. Call our office at 800-343-3121 and let us help make your rafting dream a reality.
Do I need any river rafting experience?
If this is your first experience on a river rafting trip, and for many of our customers it is, there is no need to worry! Grand Canyon Whitewater provides all the know-how and equipment, you just come along for the ride.
When is the best time to go rafting in the Grand Canyon?
That depends on you. Throughout most of our season, the water is cold and the weather is warm. Most people book their Colorado River rafting trip during the peak periods of the summer (June-August), when the kids are out of school. If you have flexibility in scheduling your rafting trip and want to take advantage of milder Arizona weather, we suggest booking your rafting trip from April to early June or in September or October. Just be aware that weather can be a little unpredictable in the shoulder season; things can get chilly fast. Early July into September is our rainy season, but those are also the hottest months in the Canyon, so cloud cover is often welcome. People usually pick their trip dates based on their own availability, and then check with us for tips on how to stay warm/cool!
What’s the difference between oar and motor rafts?
There are two different types of Grand Canyon Whitewater rafts and each has its unique advantages. Our motorized rafting trips are the most popular. Our guests have told us they like the comfort of the motor boat’s size and strength and the opportunity it provides to socialize with many other passengers. Oar-powered trips are for those who want their Colorado River rafting experience to be more personal, more “one with the river.”
Motorized rafts are 35 feet long and hold about 14 passengers and 1 or 2 guides. Typically a trip consists of 2 motor rafts, so 28 guests. 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 twice 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. Guests must be at least 8 years old to participate in a motorized rafting trip.
Oar-powered rafts are different. Many people confuse oar-powered rafts with paddle rafts. GCW’s oar-powered rafts are 18 feet long and carry up to 4 or 5 passengers and one guide. Typically, about 6 oar rafts make up each trip. The guide sits in the middle and has two long wooden oars to steer the raft through the river and rapids. Passengers will not handle an individual paddle or oar. 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. Guests must be at least 12 years old to participate in an oar-powered rafting trip.
What is the Hike In or Hike Out of the Canyon like?
(To clarify, not all rafting trips require a Hike In or Hike Out. Disregard this info if you are on a Full Canyon trip.) The hike in or out of the Grand Canyon is considered strenuous. You need to be well prepared physically for the hike. Even for an experienced hiker, the Arizona heat can make this hike feel harder. It is important to pack lightly so you have less to carry in your backpack.
Make sure you have the proper footwear, which means shoes you are comfortable hiking in and that are broken in. We highly recommend carrying a backpack with a hip belt, as that will help disperse the weight. You should start with at least 2 liters of water and fill up at EVERY water station you pass. Food is also very important; you want to eat plenty on the trail, before you are hungry. For more Grand Canyon hiking info, visit the National Park Service’s Hiking Tips page.
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
- For Prepared Hikers: Average ascent time to rim is 6-8 hours; Average descent time from rim is 4-6 hours
This hike is achievable by most people who are in good physical condition. However, in our estimation, this hike is ALWAYS a challenge, even for those who are very fit. It will be much more enjoyable and less painful if you prepare and get in shape for this part of your Grand Canyon adventure. You will definitely enjoy the challenge of the hike more if you get in shape for it!
Will we have hiking opportunities on our raft trip?
Absolutely! During the day, we’ll take time to get off the raft and explore the plentiful side canyons. The difficulty and length varies with each side hike. You always have the option whether to hike or grab a book and a spot to sit while the others are off hiking. Before each hike, guides will give an explanation of what you can expect. Many of the hikes are around water, so your river sandals would be a great footwear option. However if a lengthy hike requires more substantial footwear, you can dig your hiking shoes out of the community shoe bag that will always be available to you.
What if I’ve never been camping?
Some of our guests are not only first-time rafters but also first-time campers. Camping with GCW is actually the easiest way to take the plunge — our guides cook all the meals, set up toilet facilities for you and demonstrate how to work all the camping gear. You will have to live without some conveniences — there are no hot showers or blow dryers on the river — but we’re confident you’ll agree, after your adventure, it is invigorating to take a short break from the trappings of the modern world!
What kind of food is on a Grand Canyon Whitewater river trip?
In one word, delicious! Prior to every Colorado River rafting trip, a lot of time is spent planning and organizing menus. Scheduled deliveries to our operations warehouse ensure that only the freshest, high-quality food is packed. And, thanks to our ability to carry ice, we are able to keep fruits, vegetables, steaks, chicken and your favorite desserts fresh throughout even our longest trips. We also are able work with guests to satisfy certain dietary restrictions as long as restrictions are communicated in advance.
*GCW recognizes that some passengers are allergic to peanuts and other nuts. Although we often can make modifications for customers who have allergies, we want you to understand that we cannot guarantee 100% safeguard from exposure to peanuts or other nuts while on your trip. Because we typically serve nuts and nut products, there may be trace elements of unspecified nut ingredients on our cooking equipment, in meals, and in snacks. Some of our foods may be prepared in facilities that process nuts. We cannot provide nut “buffer zones.” Additionally, other customers may bring peanuts or other nuts on the trip and we may interact with other groups who are carrying nuts. We strongly encourage customers to take all necessary medical precautions to prepare for the possibility of exposure.
How do I bathe on a Colorado River trip?
There are a couple of things that may be helpful to know about bathing on your Colorado River trip. First, the river is always cold, about 50° Fahrenheit. Your motivation to bathe may be challenged by this fact, especially in the morning!
Second, not every camp has a beach with a good wading area. Some beaches are rocky by the river, some have a fast current flowing by and some drop off fairly quickly.
So how do you stay fresh and clean on your Grand Canyon vacation? Baby wipes. If a bath isn’t an option, baby wipes and face wipes work great for a quick clean up at night or in the morning. Also, we highly recommend that you jump into every side stream and rinse off in every waterfall, because they are typically clearer and not as cold as the Colorado River. However, there is no soap allowed in or near side streams in Grand Canyon; side streams are great for just a refreshing rinse.
When a good beach lends itself to bath time and you are ready to brave the cold, go for it. You need to have biodegradable soap and shampoo. Many people find the in-and-out method most effective. Jump in quick, jump out, lather up, jump in quick, rinse off, jump out. For people with longer hair, you may want to wash it using your souvenir mug.
A key ingredient to feeling good after a bath is lotion. The air is extremely dry and you will want to moisturize every day.
What are the toilet facilities like on a Grand Canyon raft trip?
In camp each evening, we set up a hand wash station and bathroom. At the hand wash station, we have a system to theoretically “lock the door” so you aren’t disturbed while using the toilet. The toilet looks similar to what you have at home: a little white toilet seat. It just doesn’t flush and it has a MUCH better view! It’s beneficial each evening, when camp is made and before the sun sets, to make sure you know where the toilet is set up. We recommend trying to get on a “schedule,” if at all possible.
During the day, the main toilet will be stowed away and you will urinate directly in the river as discussed in the next paragraph. We have a toilet system we can use during the day for solid waste, if the need arises. Please never hesitate to ask a guide if you need the facility during the day. The absolute worst thing we can do is to leave solid waste around places we hike, have lunch or camp. There are many people who venture through the Canyon, and who likely will stop at the same places you do. Don’t leave them a gift.
On to urination. “The solution to our pollution is dilution” is the motto. All pee must make it into the river or into the wet sand right near the edge of the river. There are plenty of pit stop opportunities throughout the day. If you need one, give a holler to the guide. Another easy way is to use the back-of-the-boat method. Your guide can show you how to do this. It is a simple maneuver that allows you to pee in privacy while the boat is under way.
Do eat food, don’t be afraid to go #2, and do drink plenty of water. We can’t stress these things enough. Don’t let worries over having to use the bathroom hinder you from staying hydrated, nourished and happy.
Ladies, if “that time of the month” happens to fall on your river trip, don’t fear. We’ve got options. A handy device used among women river guides is the “Diva Cup.” It is fairly easy, reliable, comfortable and clean; check it out before your river trip and decide if it might work for you. If you will be using tampons, bring several little Ziploc bags and plenty of baby wipes. Make sure you keep these supplies handy during the day, in your provided day dry bag. That way, when you change during the day, you can wrap the trash in a baby wipe, put that in a Ziploc and dispose of it easily, discreetly, and sanitarily in the boat trash system. (Typically, each boat has a heavy-duty garbage bag/gunny sack on it — you’ll just tuck your trash deep down into the boat trash bag.) As you will be in the water often during your river trip, pads are not the best option.
Are there bugs or snakes in the Grand Canyon?
Being a desert environment, mosquitoes and flying insects are not a big problem. Snakes and scorpions are rarely seen. If you do happen to spot any crawly critters, remember they’re going to be doing their best to get away from you. Give them some space and notify a guide if they’re close to camp.