How to Plan the Best Grand Canyon Rafting Trip

How to Plan the Best Grand Canyon Rafting Trip

Exploring the Grand Canyon can be done in a variety of ways. For the more adventurous individual, you can take your camping gear and explore on a hiking journey through its' many trails. For those wanting a less active experience but wish for a shorter trip with a bird's eye view of the Grand Canyon, a helicopter ride is optimal. And for those who would like to relive the history of how this canyon was carved by the mighty Colorado from the view point of the river, there is only one ideal option - Raft the Grand Canyon.

Rafting on the Grand Canyon is the trip of a lifetime, combining adventure, excitement, relaxation and beauty to create an unforgettable experience. With 16 Grand Canyon rafting outfitters and over a thousand trips offered every year, asking the right questions while is important for the best Grand Canyon rafting trip planning.

Motorized or Oar-Powered Trips?

One place to start when Grand Canyon rafting trip planning is to determine whether you prefer a motorized or non-motorized adventure. There are some differences between the two trip types, including group size, boat size and how the boats are propelled down river. Motorized trips consist of 12-14 passengers per raft and have a 2 raft maximum.

The motorized rafts used on each trip can vary depending on the outfitter. The most common motorized rafts in the Canyon are known as S-rigs or J-rigs. These boats range from 32-37 feet in length and are propelled down river by a quiet 4-stroke outboard motor on the tail end, or stern of the boat. Non-motorized trips consist of 4 passengers per oar boat, and 6-8 passengers per paddle raft. Non-motorized trips typically have 4-7 boats per trip. These boats vary in type (dory, oar, paddle) as well as size (14-18 feet).

Non Motorized trip types are offered as All Paddle, Oar, Hybrid (combining both Oar and Paddle rafts), Dory or a mixture of these boats depending on the outfitter. Once you have narrowed down the boat type, you next step is to determine the length of trip while Grand Canyon rafting tip planning.

Take On The Rafting Trip

To raft the Grand Canyon you will need a minimum of 3 days to a maximum of 18 days. The length of trip varies depending on the time of year, type of trip and company you choose to travel with. Motorized trips range from 3-10 days in length. Non-motorized trips range from 5-18 days in length. When Grand Canyon rafting trip planning, those with a shorter travel time frame will need to keep in mind that some trips require a hike into or out of the Grand Canyon on the Bright Angel Trail. This hike requires travelers to be in excellent physical health.

Once you have determined the length of trip you would like to do, your next step for planning the best Grand Canyon rafting trip is to look at the route you would like to travel on. There are three main routes in Grand Canyon: Upper, Lower and Full Canyon. Each route varies offering unique highlights specific to that stretch of river. All routes offer exciting whitewater, hiking and beautiful scenic views.

Upper Canyon trips range in duration from 3-4 days for motor trips or 5-8 days for non-motor trips and require a hike out of Grand Canyon on Bright Angel Trail. Lower Canyon trips range from 4-6 days for motor trips and 7-12 days for non-motor trips and require travelers to hike into Grand Canyon on the Bright Angel Trail. Full Canyon trips combine the upper and lower segments and are offered from 6-10 days for motor trips and 12-18 days for non-motor trips. Full Canyon trips do not require a hike into or out of Grand Canyon.

Another option which does not require a hike into or out of the Canyon is the Western Canyon route which covers the western most portion of the Colorado river in the Grand Canyon. This 90-mile stretch of river offers a few mild rapids, stunning scenery and some great attractions. West Rim rafting tours are perfect for families with young children, 1st time rafters, or travelers looking for a shorter trip option. Understanding the length of trip available, and whether a hike into or out of the Canyon is involved with the trip can easily eliminate or direct you to the perfect trip for your group when Grand Canyon rafting trip planning.

There are a variety of rafting trips in the Grand Canyon, ranging from as short as a day to a maximum of 18 days. Here are three of the most common rafting trips that you may want to consider if you only have about 1 week for this adventure. The first three are full canyon trips while the last two are partial trips, which feature a combination of whitewater rafting and hiking.

  • 8-Day Full Canyon Motorized Rafting Trip - this is the motorized equivalent of the 12-18-day full Canyon non-motor rafting trip. Because it runs faster, the entire length of the canyon can be explored in just 6-8 days.

  • 6-7 Day Upper Canyon Oar-Powered Rafting Trip with Hike-out at trip's end - This 6-7-day raft trip takes you from Marble Canyon, river mile 0 to river mile 88 from Lees Ferry on a whitewater raft. On the final morning, you will be on the trailhead bright and early, around 7am, to begin the 7.5 mile (if starting from pipe creek beach) or 9.5 (if starting from Phantom Ranch or Boat Beach) hike ascending the Bright Angel Trail towards the top of the South Rim. An incredible experience to go from a desolate, wilderness environment for days, to civilization atop of the south rim.

  • 7-9-Day Lower Canyon Oar-Powered Rafting Trip with Hike-in at trip's start - an excellent trip for individuals who are looking for an adventure both in whitewater rafting and in hiking. Bright and early on day 1, your guided hike will start around 5am and should last between 4-8 ours in length depending on your hiking speed. This hike will take you from the top of the south rim, to the ground floor of the canyon, 1 vertical mile stretched over a 7.5 to 9.5 mile trail, to meet your guides and rafts. From River Mile 88, you will then travel either 100, 136 or 192 river miles depending on the take out location of your specific itinerary.

In addition to trip type, length and route, it is recommended to consider your travel time frame when Grand Canyon rafting trip planning. The commercial rafting season through Grand Canyon National Park is offered April - October. Due to the high volume of interested travelers and regulated trip dates, it is recommended to narrow down your travel dates within a travel time frame or travel window. This helps to optimize the success in finding a Grand Canyon rafting trip. When reviewing travel dates, it is important to consider the average weather conditions and patterns in Grand Canyon.

It is also suggested that travelers plan their vacation around their Grand Canyon rafting adventure, as opposed to planning a vacation and trying to then fit in a Grand Canyon rafting trip. Some additional questions that travelers may want to consider are age limits, costs and payment policies, time spent on hiking, time spent on rafts, time spent in camp, archaeological sites, geological sites, rapids, the start and finish point of the trip, guide experience and physical fitness requirements.

Here's How You Can Ensure the Best Grand Canyon Rafting Adventure

When it comes to whitewater rafting adventures, nothing can come close to the fame and world-renowned reputation of the Grand Canyon. Sure, there are other whitewater river systems in the world, some offering vertical drops higher and obstacles much more dangerous than those in the Grand Canyon, but with its beautiful landscape crafted by Mother Nature herself, shooting the rapids of the Grand Canyon while immersing yourself in the beauty of the environment, eating deliciously prepare meals is simply the best adventure rafting you will ever have.

Consider Your Time and Financial Resources

Although this is a bucket list type of trip and ideally one should never bound their dreams based on a price tag, the reality is that these trips are not inexpensive and planning in advance, setting up a budget is recommended. You can choose shorter trips like a 3 to 4-day raft adventures on either the Upper Canyon for the most inexpensive options but do note that these trips require a strenuous 9.5 mile hike ascending the bright angel trail at trip's end.

This should also address your concern for time especially if you can only squeeze a week or two off your busy schedule to have the best adventure in your life. Of course, on the longer end there are 12-18 day trips available as well.

Choose Your Rafting Trip

You can choose the much shorter yet equally exciting adventure rafting trips for 3 to 5 days and more commonly booked trip of 6 to 9 days exploring the Upper Canyon or the Lower Canyon sections. For the ultimate adventure rafting in the Grand Canyon you have the option to choose a 12 to 18-day trip that covers between 188 to 280-miles. Ensuring the best Grand Canyon rafting adventure starts with planning your trip in relation to your resources. Simply ask us here at Advantage Grand Canyon to plan for you the best adventure rafting trip of your lifetime!

Grand Canyon rafting trip planning can be a difficult process. Once you are able to narrow down the boat type, trip length, route and time of year you would like to travel, you will be one step closer to finding the perfect Grand Canyon rafting trip! For more questions to consider when Grand Canyon rafting trip planning, visit our frequently asked questions page.