Rafting Down the Grand Canyon in One or Two-days
One and two-day Grand Canyon river trips float the lower part of the canyon. Rafters meet in Peach Springs, Arizona before launching from Diamond Creek on the Hualapai Indian Reservation. Trips take-out (finish) at Pearce Ferry. However, there is an option to helicopter out of the canyon providing the advantage of bypassing the last couple of hours of flatwater on the river. The one-day expedition is guided by Hualapai Native American guides on snout motor rigs. The two-day trips paddle raft and then motor raft after a night camping at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. For an additional cost, both the one and two-day trips provide an optional helicopter ride out of the canyon. Also a stop at the Grand Canyon West Skywalk is possible for those using the helicopter. In addition, there is no required hiking in or out of the canyon on these two trips. The longer 3 to 16-day expeditions are broken up by river section below.
Time of Year to Raft Grand Canyon
Every season in the Grand Canyon comes with unique beauties and challenges. In April and May the canyon has cooler temperatures. This means bringing extra layers for warmth, but allows for longer hikes while the wildflowers are in bloom. Spring can bring strong up-canyon winds. June through August are the hottest and busiest months to raft down the Grand Canyon, with temperatures ranging from 95-115°F. See current Grand Canyon temperatures.
Monsoon season starts in July and goes through August, bringing afternoon clouds and rain showers to cool the canyon. These two months also have the biggest whitewater, with the river running at its highest level for the season. As the rafting season winds down in September and October, you can expect cooler weather, longer hikes, and shorter days.We have more information on our blog about monthly weather variations during the rafting season.
Colorado River Temperature in Grand Canyon, Arizona
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The Colorado River water temperature at Lees Ferry (mile 0) varies between 48° and 56°F depending upon the season and depth of the water behind Glen Canyon Dam in Lake Powell. Near Diamond Creek (mile 225) towards the end of the Grand Canyon, the water ranges from 45°F during the winter to 65°F during the heat of the summer. Flash flooding side-canyons can temporarily increase the water temperature. Side streams are typically much warmer and ideal for swimming and soaking. See current river temperature at Lees Ferry.
Luxury Grand Canyon Vacations
Grand Canyon companies do not offer luxury rafting trips. However, all outfitters provide chairs in camp, and the food is nicer than what most expect when camping. Some companies offer cots to sleep on instead of pads on the ground. Lunches are picnic style riverside stops. Most trips are all-inclusive except for alcohol, but you can bring your own or order through the outfitter. Check out our packing list for Grand Canyon to see the gear and clothing you will want to bring.
For those that want a luxury trip, there are a few options. Sign-up for an expedition on another river in the western United States such as the Rogue River Canyon in Oregon, which has lodges, or Salmon River in Idaho, which offers luxury options. Otherwise, charter a Grand Canyon trip that can be customized to meet your group’s needs.
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It’s quite common for groups to inquire about chartering a private tour (called a Custom Charter or Private Trip), preferring to vacation with their friends and companions. A chartered expedition to raft Grand Canyon, or on another river, is an amazing opportunity that allows for a tailored experience. These trips are our specialty. If you’d like to learn more about planning a charter trip, check out Rivers & Oceans Custom Adventures (ROCA).
Rafting by Motor versus Human-Power (non-motor)
Motorized expeditions (see picture below of J-rig, S-rig and C-craft motor options) typically cover more of the Grand Canyon in less time than the human-powered oar, paddle, dory, and hybrid trips. Motor rigs also usually run their engine for most of the expedition, which cause some to choose the non-motorized alternatives. Senior groups typically select motor rafts since they are more comfortable for the full days traveling down canyon. A small subset of human-powered expeditions have a motor support boat that usually travels behind the group. Please give us a call if you want to insure your Colorado River rafting trip has or does not have a motor support raft.
Types of Human Powered Rafting Trips
Non-motorized expeditions, also called human-powered, are broken into four categories: all paddle, oar, dory, and hybrid. All-paddle trips are where everyone participates by paddling in a raft with a guide in the back steering and calling commands through rapids and the flatwater. There are extra oar rafts to carry all the gear. Guests on oar and dory boat trips hold-on while a guide positioned on oars in the center of the boat rows downriver. Grand Canyon hybrid trip options typically have one paddle and five oar rafts. Guests take turns riding in the paddle boat. Some hybrid trips also bring a dory along, and guests rotate through that craft as well. Of the non-motorized Grand Canyon options hybrid trips are the most popular.
Variations in the Number of Guests and Days
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A non-motor rafting trip has far fewer guests in each boat during the day, 5 to 7 versus 15 to 20 on a motor raft. Both types can have ample time for hiking along the canyon depending upon the number of days used to cover a section of the Colorado River. For example, 6-day Motorized Full Canyon guests have minimal time for hiking, while 9-day Motorized Full Canyon motor participants find ample time for hiking and exploring. Check out our blog post on the types of whitewater crafts in Grand Canyon to learn more.
Grand Canyon National Park: Rafting Costs
A vacation whitewater rafting in Grand Canyon ranges from $346 for a motorized one-day to $6899 for an 18-day oar trip. Colorado River rafting trips are all inclusive with no additional costs once on the water. Below is a table breaking down the trip options and cost ranges. If the trip costs seem prohibitive check out some more moderately priced rafting tours on other whitewater rivers in the western United States.
Choosing a Grand Canyon Outfitter
All the Grand Canyon companies are professionals, and we started working with them over 30 years ago. Since demand to raft down the Colorado River is high, we recommend selecting commercial river trip based on your time frame, budget, and trip type, rather than by outfitter. If there are itineraries with different outfitters that meet your needs, we can steer you towards the trip that will mesh best with your preferences. As licensed concessionaires by the National Park Service, Grand Canyon whitewater rafting companies are required to hire guides with extensive wilderness first aid, swiftwater rescue and food safety certifications. In addition, guides from all the companies are knowledgeable of the flora, fauna, geology and human history of the canyon.
Drought and the Colorado River
Since Lake Powell sits just upstream of Grand Canyon and it has to release water to Lake Mead for use by Las Vegas, Phoenix and California, there will be raftable flows for the entire season (April-October) going forward even in drought years. Trips can and have been run lower than the scheduled flows for the coming seasons. Learn more about how drought is affecting rafting in the west.