With 15 different rafting outfitters operating in the Grand Canyon, we understand how confusing it can be to organize a trip, select a route, and pick a raft type. Fortunately, simplifying this process is our main priority here at Advantage Grand Canyon.
If you have a rough idea of plans, dates, and rates, you can jump on and get started with our 2-step guided rafting trip planner. On the other hand, if you’re confused by all the tour and raft options or you simply don’t know where to start researching, you can answer the following questions to build your very own personalized Grand Canyon river trip plan.
The type of raft you choose can have a pretty big impact on the type of rafting adventure you have in the Grand Canyon. To give you a better idea of how your raft type can impact your trip, we’ve briefly broken down the two main raft options offered by our Grand Canyon outfitters.
Motorized rafts are the most common raft type you’ll encounter in the Grand Canyon. At approximately 37-foot long, motorized rafts have enough room to comfortably fit both passengers and camping gear. Depending on itinerary requirements, motorized rafts usually travel at a comfortable speed of 8 miles per hour. ->SEARCH MOTORIZED RAFT TRIPS
Motorized rafts typically seat up to 15 adventures plus tour guides, with each passenger seat including feet and handholds for when you encounter whitewater rapids. All motorized rafts traveling on the Colorado River also use ultra-quiet, low-emission 4-stroke engines.
There are four different types of non-motorized craft you can choose from when selecting a Grand Canyon river rafting trip:
Paddle raft: Passengers in a paddle raft propel and steer their craft using handheld wooden paddles. As the smallest non-motorized raft available, paddle rafts are a great option for families or friends looking to experience Grand Canyon rafting together. If you intend to traverse whitewater rapids in a paddle raft, make sure you’re paying close attention to your tour guide’s instructions.
Oar raft: Unlike paddle rafts, oar rafts are steered and propelled by a tour guide at the rear of the craft. Oar powered trips cover up to 8 passengers and the raft usually travels at the same speed as the river’s flow rate (about 4 miles per hour).
Hybrid raft: Contrary to popular belief, hybrid rafts are not actually a distinct class of raft. When outfitters use the term “hybrid raft,” they’re actually referring to a tour group with a mixed selection of paddle rafts and oar rafts.
Dory raft: Unlike the other rafts on this list, dory rafts use a slim, rigid design and are built from either hardwood or fiberglass. Dory rafts can generally carry up to 4 adventurers and a single tour guide. ->SEARCH NON-MOTORIZED TRIPS
For a more detailed break down of each of these rafts, check out our RAFT TYPES PAGE.
There are a lot of factors that go into selecting a Grand Canyon raft trip, from seasonal constraints to route popularity. Other common selection factors include your traveling budget and time availability. For instance, if you’re a price-conscious adventurer, you might find that exploring a single section of the Grand Canyon is the most cost-effective option. Alternatively, if you have enough time and cash, you can go for the whole adventure vacation package and book a full canyon whitewater rafting trip with a helicopter ride to boot.
The full canyon experience takes you from Lee’s Ferry in Marble Canyon to either Diamond Creek or all the way to Pearce Ferry, Lake Mead. Between these points, you’ll pass through some of the best whitewater rafting rapids in the country. According to most estimates, adventurers on a full canyon trip will encounter 42 major rapid systems (5+ rated). While floating the entire length of the Grand Canyon, you’ll pass dozens of spectacular sites, including Pipe Creek, Whitmore Wash, Phantom Ranch, Horseshoe Bend, and Cataract Canyon.
Each afternoon, your raft will pull in at a pre-selected camping site. Once you’ve got your shore gear off the raft, your tour guide will begin preparing a delicious cooked meal. In the morning, you’ll prepare for the day’s rafting with a hot cup of coffee and a steaming plate of bacon and eggs.
When you’re not having the time of your life in Cataract Canyon rafting, you can sit back and relax as your raft floats down the idyllic Colorado River. At various points in the journey, your tour guide will sit down and talk you through the natural and manmade wonders of the Grand Canyon, from describing geological features to checking out ancient petroglyph sites.
Depending on your outfitter and itinerary, your raft will pull up on the banks of the Grand Canyon at one of three convenient exit points: river mile 188 (Lee’s Ferry to Whitmore Wash), river mile 225, or river mile 280. ->SEARCH FULL CANYON TRIPS
Like the full canyon experience, your journey into the Upper Canyon begins at the put-in point at Lee’s Ferry. After 88 miles of rafting, you’ll exit the Colorado River at Phantom Ranch. Remember, the Lee’s Ferry to Phantom Ranch put-in point is not accessible by car. To reach the South Rim, all rafters will need to embark on a mandatory hike up the Bright Angel Trail.
With 19 major rapid systems, the Upper Canyon can boast some of the region’s most formidable whitewater rapids, including the thrilling Zoroaster rapids and House Rock rapids. Other commonly cited highlights of Upper Canyon raft tours are the fascinating Kaibab and Toroweap rock formations, the enormous Redwall Cavern, and the bright blue waters of the Little Colorado River confluence. In addition to wildlife spotting and ancient geological site inspections, Upper Canyon tour guides will also lead up to 2 side hikes per day. ->SEARCH UPPER CANYON TRIPS
Lower Canyon rafting experiences begin where Upper Canyon trips end. This means you’ll start your Grand Canyon rafting tour with a tough hike down the Bright Angel Trail. The descent is quite steep so make sure you bring some snacks and wear appropriate footwear. If you’re not used to hiking while carrying gear, it might be a good idea to do a few trial hikes at home before embarking on your Lower Canyon raft tour. If you’re really worried about trekking your gear down the Bright Angel Trail, give us a call and we can put you in touch with an outfitter that offers Lower Canyon baggage transport services.
Once you depart from your starting point near Phantom Ranch, a typical day begins with several miles of stunning canyon scenery and one or more of this section’s 39 rated whitewater rafting rapids. During the day, you’ll have the chance to explore some of the Grand Canyon’s most pristine natural attractions, including Deer Creek Falls, Elves Chasm, Matkatamiba Canyon, and Granite Narrows.
There are several different ways to exit the Grand Canyon once your Lower Canyon trip ends. Depending on your budget and travel preferences, you can either book a helicopter ride from Whitmore Wash, take a jetboat from Separation Canyon, or pull in near Diamond Creek Road. ->SEARCH LOWER CANYON TRIPS
The Grand Canyon’s Western Rivers adventure takes place between Whitmore Wash and Lake Mead. The journey begins with a jaw-dropping helicopter ride to Whitmore Wash. After getting settled in your raft, you’ll float 100 river miles to Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the country. Once you reach Lake Mead, a jetboat will transport you and your fellow adventurers to a vehicle-accessible take-out point.
If you have the budget for charter trips, the Western Canyon experience also includes a scenic flight from Las Vegas to Bar 10 Ranch. At Bar 10 Ranch, you’ll have the opportunity to check out a 10,000 cattle ranch before sitting down to a delicious gourmet lunch and dinner. Depending on your preferred level of activity, you can also join your fellow rafters in games of volleyball, horseback riding, skeet shooting, ATV driving, or Grand Canyon multisport. ->SEARCH WESTERN CANYON TRIPS
Grand Canyon rafting expeditions are a great holiday option for people that like to plan their special trips based around how much free time they’ll have available. For the upcoming rafting season, you can plan your vacation around three different trip lengths: 3-5 days, 6-9 days, and 12-18 days.
If you’re only staying in Arizona for a short time, 3-5 day river trips are one of the most time-effective ways to raft the Grand Canyon and experience the majesty of the Grand Canyon National Park. Not only will you be able to spend several nights camping under the stars, but you’ll also be able to experience the adrenaline rush of whitewater rafting and share in the camaraderie of hiking between towering canyon walls with your rafting group.
Unfortunately, 3-5 days is not enough time to raft the entire Grand Canyon. However, it’s more than enough time to explore the Upper Canyon, Lower Canyon, or Western Routes. If you wish to explore the Upper or Lower Canyon, please be aware that 3-5 day Grand Canyon rafting tours along these routes are only offered via motorized trips. ->SEARCH 3-5 DAY TRIPS
A 6-9 day rafting trip in the Grand Canyon gives you a lot of flexibility in regard to your route and raft type selection. With 6-9 day trips, you can explore either the Upper or Lower Grand Canyon via a non-motorized raft or you can check out the full breadth of the Grand Canyon on a 6-9 day motor raft trip. At this point in time, rafting outfitters do not support 6-9 day trips along the western routes of the Grand Canyon. ->SEARCH 6-9 DAY TRIPS
This is the trip to take if you’re looking for the ultimate Grand Canyon raft trip. Unsurprisingly, the only route you can take for a 12-18 day trip is the full canyon experience. Because of their speed, Grand Canyon motor rafts are not available for 12-18 day trips. Before you recoil in horror, bear in mind that non-motor rafts are generally acknowledged as the most memorable way to navigate the Grand Canyon’s river systems.
One of the main concerns people have with 12-18 day trips is that they’ll be spending a lot of time setting and packing up camp. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In addition to only packing quickly deployable camping gear, your tour guides will handle the bulk of the heavy lifting, giving you free time to have a drink, read a book, or grab a quick nap. For longer trips, rafting outfitters and tour guides will be especially diligent in ensuring that you’re comfortable throughout your entire trip. This means private bathroom systems, extra delicious meals, team-bonding group activities, and, most importantly, some very exciting whitewater rapids.
Depending on your view towards hiking, you’ll either be happy or disappointed to learn that 12-18 day trips do not require a hike at the start or end of your rafting trip. That being said, you’ll have plenty of incredible side hiking opportunities over the course of a 12-18 day expedition. ->SEARCH 12-18 DAY TRIPS
In the vast majority of cases, you don’t need extensive hiking experience to raft in the Grand Canyon. However, if you only plan on rafting the Upper Canyon or Lower Canyon, you will need to prepare yourself for a strenuous hike out or hike down the Bright Angel Trail.
On multi-day rafting expeditions, you will also have the opportunity to leave the banks of the Colorado River and explore some of the incredible canyon systems dotted across the Grand Canyon. These side hikes are elective (but highly encouraged) and vary considerably in difficulty; your tour guide will be able to give you more information about the conditions and recommended fitness level for specific side hikes. To give you an idea of what you can expect from off-river Grand Canyon expeditions, we’ve briefly described four of the area’s most popular hikes.
Depending on your starting point, the Bright Angel Trail is a 7.5 mile to 9.5-mile hike. Your Bright Angel Trail starting point, which will be listed on your rafting itinerary, could be one of three locations: off Phantom Ranch at Bright Angel Beach, Boat Beach, or Pipe Creek beach. For the average adventurer, the ascending journey from the river to the Upper Canyon rim typically takes between 6 hours and 8 hours. For the descent, the average time spent canyon hiking is shorter at 4 hours to 6 hours.
Because it leads to one of the most popular put-in points in the Grand Canyon, Bright Angel Trail experiences a very high volume of hiker traffic. As a result, the trail is exceptionally well maintained. In addition to extensive signage, adventurers will also find water stations at the following descent points: 1.5 miles, 3 miles, 4.8 miles, and 9 miles.
Although it’s not technically a side hike, the South Rim Trail is widely regarded as one of the best ways to enjoy the Grand Canyon’s world-renowned views. The Grand Canyon’s South Rim Trail is approximately 2.8 miles long, beginning at the Grand Canyon Visitor’s Center and terminating at the trailhead of the legendary South Kaibab Trail Hike.
As the name suggests, the South Rim Trail is a wide and relatively flat track around the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Over the course of your trek, you’ll be able to check out sweeping views of the South Rim from the Mather Point viewing platform and pay respects to a medallion listing and honoring the Native American nations that call the Grand Canyon home.
With a trailhead just west of an extinct volcano, the Lava Falls Trail descends from the Grand Canyon’s North Rim and takes hikers around the mighty Lava Falls whitewater rapids. The descent down Lava Falls Trail is steep and exhilarating, carrying hikers from the North Rim down 2,540 feet to the canyon floor in less than 2 miles. As one of the more strenuous hikes in the Grand Canyon, hiking experience is recommended for anyone planning to tackle Lava Falls Trail.
Havasu Falls is one of the most camera-friendly locations in the Grand Canyon, and that’s saying something. From the trailhead, it’s about 10 miles to the Havasu Creek campground. Once you reach the campground, keep walking for a few more miles and you’ll encounter a series of picturesque, turquoise blue waterfalls. You can hike into Havasu Falls from both the canyon floor and from Hualapai Hilltop Parking Lot Area on the canyon rim. Remember, if you want to get to Havasu Falls, you’ll need a hiking permit from Havasupai Reservations. On most Grand Canyon raft trips you will have the opportunity to visit Havasu Creek wher the falls' water meets the Colorado river.
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