Estes Park is a great place to plan your Colorado river rafting trip. Adrenaline junkies love the thrill of white water rafting down the Cache la Poudre River while families with children may prefer rafting the more leisurely upper Colorado River with its beautiful canyon scenery and easy-to-navigate white water. Whether exhilarating or calm, paddle away and create memories for a lifetime.

Rafting trips accommodate everyone, even children and non-swimmers. Go with a licensed professional outfitter who puts safety first and knows the river and the rapids.

Respect the River 

Even when the water looks calm, there can be an undertow. Beware. Never dive into any river. It’s just not safe. Don’t jump into one without checking what is below the surface. Rocks and other debris can pull you under. Always wear a personal flotation device, shoes, and stay alert, even when swimming! 

What to Take 

Playing on the river means you will get wet. Wear lightweight synthetic fibers that have a wide temperature range and dry quickly. We suggest fabrics with UPF protection. They come in short-sleeve and long-sleeve shirts, pants, and hats that incorporate up to UPF 50 factor protection. Wear footwear that will stay on and are designed for the river, such as Chacos or Tevas. Tennis shoes will do, but avoid flip flops. A towel and extra dry clothes is a good idea. Wear a snug-fitting hat with a wide brim, sunglasses with a strap, waterproof SPF 30 sunscreen, and SPF lip balm. Leave rings and other jewelry behind to avoid blisters or loss. Keep car keys, wallet, and other valuables in a zippered pocket (or better yet, don’t take them on the river at all). Don’t forget a bandana, swimsuit, and waterproof camera. Always have a reusable water bottle, and start with it full. Outfitters often bring coolers for refills. Avoid bringing bottled water; your empty plastic bottle is added trash in the boat. Outfitters are required to provide safety equipment such as flotation devices, helmets, and first-aid kits. Some also supply waterproof bags for storing equipment, and watertight boxes for cameras, food, and non-alcoholic beverages. Check with the outfitter for specific information since requirements vary by trip and season.

Where to go River Rafting Near Estes Park

The Cache la Poudre and Colorado Rivers are the two main rafting trips near Estes Park. It takes an hour or so bus ride to reach each destination.

  • The Cache la Poudre is designated “wild and scenic,” a protected and free-flowing river that has undeveloped shorelines and watersheds. In 2012 the High Park fire left debris in the river and along its banks but the September 2013 flood scoured the riverbed, washed debris away, and cleared the bank.
  • To raft the Upper Colorado River, a bus travels over Trail Ridge Road to Kremmling, located near the headwaters of the Colorado River. Rafting trips on the Upper Colorado River are ideal for those who want beautiful canyon scenery with less challenging white water rapids.

Each river rapid is graded by difficulty, so plan accordingly. Class I rapids are fairly flat, Class II are easy rapids, Class III are more challenging, Class IV are difficult and Class V are only for expert rafters.

River Rafting Trip Tips

Because paddle rafting gets everyone involved, it can be an ideal team-building adventure for corporate and scout groups as well as wedding parties and family reunions. Even if you’re a non-swimmer, you can still have a great time on rafting trips. River rafters also vary in age, ranging from 7 years old to 86 years young. As long as you dress properly and follow all of the rules and guidelines, you’re sure to have a great trip.

Along with the safety gear provided by rafting companies, including helmets and a Coast Guard-approved life vest or personal flotation device (PFD), you should also take some precautions of your own. Knowing that you will get wet, make sure you wear the proper clothes for the best rafting experience:

  • Splashing comes with the territory so wear something light and quick drying, such as tennis shoes or sandals. Chacos or Tevas will work.
  • Bring a lightweight fleece pullover, windbreaker, hat, sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses with retention strap.
  • You don’t want to ride back to Estes Park in wet clothes, so bring a towel and change of clothes.

Go with the Flow

To book your rafting experience, contact either

  • Mountain Whitewater, 970-419-0917,, or 
  • Rocky Mountain Adventures, 800-858-6808,