Whitewater river rafting adventures make for a great day trip or river expedition during any outdoor or eco summer vacation. River raft trips enable the traveler to see a larger expanse of the outdoors in relative ease: even families with kids too small to hike long distances can float down a river, viewing miles of wilderness.
For older kids and adults, river rafting combines a thrill and an opportunity to experience the area, view wildlife, and learn about the local environment.
River rafting adventures
The following eco-friendly river rafting adventures offer guided rafting excursions for all levels and abilities, from family float trips to Class V runs. All of them are less than $100 per person and vary depending on excursion and season. Whether you’re looking to river raft with kids or with experienced adults, you’ll have a great time out on the water.
Zoar Outdoor, Charlemont, Massachusetts
An outdoor company in the heart of the Berkshires, Zoar offers a wide range of river rafting adventures down the scenic Deerfield River. If you want to turn your rafting day into a full weekend or week-long vacation, Zoar also hosts visitors at their lodge and campground.
In addition to rafting trips, guests can zip line, kayak, canoe, or rock climb at and near their facility. The rafting guides at Zoar are talented at knowing just which of their many rafting options to recommend. Also great: you put in right at the rafting facility, so there’s no commute to the river.
We experienced Zoar’s Family Float trip last summer, and our guide was a pro at not only navigating the (pretty calm) river, but also entertaining the kids with fun games, stories, and wildlife viewing. (Plus, we got lost finding Zoar, and they waited very patiently for us!)
We loved that our float included a picnic lunch on an island in the middle of the river, and that the food was all local and organic. We dined on homemade salsa, chips, pasta salad, and freshly made sandwiches. The kids loved the huge chocolate chip cookies!
Sun Country Tours, Bend, Oregon
Rafting on the Deschutes and McKenzie rivers of Central Oregon, Sun Country packs big thrills even for the youngest rafters. We experienced their Big Eddy run down the Deschutes, which is a fast and furious ride through Class I-III rapids.
I’ve rafted casually with and without tour operations many times, and the Big Eddy was the first time I felt a little bit afraid — in a good way. Kids as young as five can experience the Big Eddy, though fearful children may not be up for it. (Even my adventurous six-year-old was hesitant, though he loved it once he’d experienced it.)
Sun Country also offers stand-up paddling and float trips, as well as inner tube rentals for the do-it-yourselfers. Guests take a short bus ride from the rafting center to the river.
Colorado Rafting, Vail, Colorado
A large operation with rafting centers adjacent to all the main mountain resort areas of Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail, and more, Colorado Rafting is convenient for groups wanting a scenic tour or whitewater experience on any number of rivers, from the Arkansas, to the Colorado, to Clear Creek.
What’s nice about Colorado Rafting is the informative booking staff. Just tell them whether you’re looking for a few hours on the water, a half day, or a full day, then give them your group’s ability level, and they’ll handpick the perfect tour for you. They can book other activities for you as well, such as zip line canopy tours, fishing trips, and hiking tours.
Geyser Whitewater Expeditions, Big Sky, Montana
Only 45 minutes from the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park, and right next to the quieter and more scenic accommodations in Big Sky, Geyser Whitewater offers half-day and full-day whitewater trips as well as calmer float trips.
What we love is how affordable they are and Class IV rapids are included in some trips. If you want to make a very fun day of it, Geyser will combine a half day trip with a horseback ride.
We’ve ridden horseback through the nearby Grand Tetons and can attest to what great riding country this is. Mountain biking is also offered during the high summer season.
Moab Adventure Center, Moab, Utah
It’s not easy to stand out in one of the outdoor adventure meccas of the world, but the Adventure Center does just that. For the serious rafter, they offer river rafting adventures that include multi-day whitewater excursions on this desert section of the Colorado.
We love that their full-day trips pack almost as much punch for a much lower price tag. Families can also book half-day trips, or, if you’re ready to try a very big experience for a short time commitment (and reasonable rate), book the Westwater Canyon 1 Day, considered the west’s “best short whitewater trip” (minimum age is 12 years).
The Adventure Center keeps their prices low on their half-day trips by providing only snacks and water, so be sure to ask what else you need to bring. Dry sacks are provided.
We love that all the above operations pack out all their trash, provide food and snacks from the local economy, and help travelers experience the wilderness of their area in a low-impact manner. It’s a great way to travel green and travel in an eco-friendly way and enjoy the outdoors. River rafting adventures create lifelong memories.