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What Are the Different Grand Canyon Rafting Options?

There are a variety of types of rafting trips offered at the Grand Canyon.
The Colorado River runs through the Grand Canyon.
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  • Written By: Mandi Rogier
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2014
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Rafting trips in the Grand Canyon can vary greatly from strenuous trips lasting several weeks, to leisurely excursions spanning a single weekend. For those willing to take on the rugged nature of a Grand Canyon rafting trip, there are a vast array of options to suit nearly any set of preferences. Trips vary greatly in the amenities, length, and difficulty as well as the type of water craft used.

The shortest Grand Canyon rafting trips typically last about three days. These trips traverse only half of the canyon and participants will need to either hike down the canyon to the starting point, or hike up the canyon upon completion of their rafting trip. These are known as partial trips.

Partial trips span either the upper canyon or lower canyon. Upper canyon trips begin at Lee’s Ferry and end at Phantom Ranch. The upper half of the canyon features Redwall Cavern, Marble Canyon, the Upper Granite Gorge, and several rapids including Zoroaster, House Rock, and Hance. Lower canyon trips begin at Phantom Ranch and end at Separation Canyon. In this half of the canyon, visitors will see Deer Creek Falls, Havasu Canyon, and rapids such as Lava, Granite, Crystal, and Hermit.

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Trips that span the full canyon can last anywhere from six to 21 days depending on the itinerary and type of craft used. Motorized trips are significantly shorter, typically taking no more than ten days. Non-motorized trips are longer. The typical length of this type of trip falls between two and three weeks.

The type of craft used on various Grand Canyon rafting trips greatly affects the overall experience. Motorized trips on inflatable rafts are the most popular choice. Those interested in a more strenuous trip can traverse the canyon in an oar-powered dory or inflatable raft. For a bit of both worlds, hybrid trips are also available, which utilize a variety of watercrafts.

The majority of Grand Canyon rafting trips are commercial. These are hosted by reputable rafting companies and include an experienced guide who will lead guests through the canyon. Most of these trips include food and beverages and some will even provide the necessary camping equipment. Trips vary in price and itinerary, so tourists should thoroughly research the available options. Rafting, hiking, and camping in the Grand Canyon can be very strenuous so inexperienced campers should take note of the difficulty and duration of various trips and select one which is not too difficult.

Private river trips in the Grand Canyon are also available. These must be booked well in advance, often years ahead of time. Tourists interested in this type of trip will need to contact the River Permits Office for detailed information.

Due to the popularity of Grand Canyon rafting vacations and their limited availability, visitors are not permitted to raft the Grand Canyon more than once per year. Even if the scheduled trips are different in length or booked through different companies, one must wait at least one year in between trips.

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