Experience Our Favorite Whitewater Rafting in Vail

Vacations are all about making memories and trying new things. If you’re searching for the best way to catch a thrill on your next trip to Colorado, try whitewater rafting in Vail! Timberline Tours is our favorite rafting outfitter in the valley. Offering options for guests of all skill levels, you’re sure to find a whitewater rafting excursion that suits your group’s needs. Come prepared for your adventure with the help of our blog. Learn about the different classes of rapids, tour options, and more! 

When you’re ready to start planning your trip, request your free copy of our Vail Vacation Guide. This visitor’s guide is filled with local insight on the best adventures in the valley! 

3 of the Best Tours for Whitewater Rafting in Vail, Colorado

What to Know Before You Go

Whitewater rafting is one of the most exciting things to do in Vail in the summer season. However, there are a couple of things you need to know first for the most successful rafting trip: 


The most important thing to consider is the level of intensity you’d like on your whitewater rafting trip. Colorado rapids range from Class I – Class V, with I as the most mellow and V as the most extreme. If you’re looking for a family-friendly float trip, you’d want to book a Class I or II with low activity and minimal paddling involved. If you’re seeking an adrenaline rush with high activity and intense paddling, you’re looking for a Class IV or V.  

As the intensity of the trip ramps up, so do the age requirements and safety recommendations. Some of the more intense trips aren’t available until mid-summer due to unsafe water levels early in the season.  

If you’re worried about certain age requirements for a trip or are curious to see if it is currently running due to water levels, just give us a call! 

Useful Tips

Before selecting the trip, here are some helpful tips for any whitewater rafting experience:

  • Transportation is included for most guided trips. 
  • Proper gear such as helmets, splash jackets, wetsuits (if necessary), booties, life jackets (PFDs), and paddles will be provided. 
  • Wear a bathing suit or other fast-drying clothing (no cotton!) and sturdy river shoes like sports sandals that strap on or tennis shoes. Bring a hair tie for longer hair, sunglasses with a securable strap, a towel, sunscreen, and extra clothing layers. 
  • Trips are dependent on the water level at the time of booking. 

Rafting on the Upper Colorado River (Class I-II)

The Upper Colorado River rafting trip is a family-friendly float adventure. If this is your family’s first rafting experience or you have young children, this is the perfect trip to book. On this stretch of water, you may see wildlife, as well as gorgeous scenery, including the red rock canyons, sagebrush, and juniper trees. Trips are offered morning or afternoon and last about four hours round trip with transportation.  

We recommend Timberline Tours’ Upper Colorado River Trip.

Rafting the Shoshone Through Glenwood Canyon (Class III)

One of the most popular trips is Shoshone rapids on the Colorado River. This is a Class III adventure that’s best suited for those who have rafted at least once before. This trip takes you through the stunning Glenwood Canyon and finishes in Glenwood Springs. It is unique because it can be tailored to different ability and thrill levels depending on the group.  

Riders have the option to experience one mile of Class III rapids at the beginning of the trip or join the group after the rapids when it becomes a Class II float – a good choice for young children who are unable to ride the rapids. Thrill-seekers can book the “Double Thriller” trip where the Class III section is run twice – taking different routes through each time or maybe even running the rapids backwards!  

Depending on which option you choose, you can expect to be gone about 5.5-6.5 hours round-trip.  

We recommend Timberline Tours’ Shoshone Whitewater Trip. 

Rafting the Numbers on the Arkansas River (Class IV)

Numbers is a Class IV trip through the Arkansas River that usually runs a little later in the summer season. This whitewater rafting tour is best suited for rafters who are fit, competent swimmers, as they may end up outside of the boat through some of the intense rapids. When you’re not navigating the intense sections, you can catch a glimpse of some beautiful scenery as you drift down the Arkansas River valley. Numbers only includes a morning tour option, and you can expect it to be around 7.5 hours round trip.  

We recommend Timberline Tours’ The Numbers Trip. 

Kayaking the Upper Colorado River

Kayaking is another great way to get out on the water and stay cool in the summer! It’s an excellent option for families traveling with children, as the excursions are less intense. A “Duckie Float Trip” on the Upper C uses an inflatable kayak to accommodate singles or doubles. This is a Class II trip that takes about four hours to complete.  

Timberline Tours offers a fully guided option, or you can embark on your own trip by renting duckies through the Colorado River Center.

Relax Your Muscles at the Lodge at Lionshead

Now that you know where to find the best whitewater rafting in Vail, it’s time to select the perfect place to stay. Lodge at Lionshead’s location makes it the perfect basecamp for adventure. Upon your return, rest in your condo or studio or enjoy our complimentary amenities. Even better, you can book activities through our concierge services! 

What are you waiting for?