Vail Whitewater Rafting—How to Experience It!

Whitewater rafting gives adventure-seekers and nature lovers an opportunity to make their way down rivers categorized by different classes. What’s so incredible about whitewater rafting is that it caters to people of all experience levels. It provides not only an adrenaline rush, but also instills in rafters an appreciation for the fun that can be had in nature.

In Vail, Colorado, the whitewater rafting experience is suitable for individuals, couples, and groups. The whitewater rivers in this area are clean, panoramic, and, best of all, they offer varying levels of intensity/difficulty. This means that you can elect to go on a calm, mild ride on a Class I or Class II river. Or you can choose a fast-paced ride complete with one rapid after another. This means you’re on a river classified between Class III-V. No matter your preference, you can bet that you’re in for a memorable time on the water.


How to Plan a Whitewater Rafting Trip in Vail, Colorado in Five Easy Steps

Step #1: Choose an Outfitter

It’s essential to book your trip with a reputable company that specializes in guided rafting tours. We’ve been providing guided tours in Vail for more than 30 years. When searching for an outfitter to take you down the river, be adamant about choosing one that will ensure that you not only have fun, but will also take all the precautions and safety steps necessary to keep you safe throughout the entire duration of your trip.


Step #2: Reserve Your Spot

Since guided whitewater rafting tours can accommodate only a certain number of people, it’s important to secure your spot in advance. Pick the day(s) and time(s) that suits you best and then proceed to book your overnight accommodations, whether that’s in a hotel in or near Vail or in a tent.

We mention tents because some people yearn to spend more than one day on the river. If this sounds like you, consider booking a multi-day rafting trip; these trips allow you to raft and camp. Adventure-seekers find enormous value in spending a day on the river and a night in the tent. Should you book a multi-day rafting trip with Lakota Guides, your rafting guide will even cook dinner! This is a great way to go if a private excursion sounds appealing and you have a strong desire to immerse yourself in the beauty of the Rocky Mountains for days at a time.

Last but not least, when it comes to booking your Vail whitewater rafting trip, it’s important to note that while whitewater rafting can be a fun activity for all ages, there may be age restrictions in place for younger members of your group based on the river you have chosen and the classification the river has been given. If your group includes younger people, senior citizens, or even people who are a little bit hesitant about rafting due to having little to no experience, we can help you accommodate them by recommending the river(s) that would be most suitable for your entire party.


Step #3: Pack Accordingly

Dress not only for the weather but also for the water. Expect to get wet. This said, it would behoove you to pack your swimsuit. Shorts are also fine, but we don’t recommend wearing cotton because it doesn’t dry quickly. In terms of shoes, we recommend either river shoes or old sneakers. Please do not wear flip-flops or expect to enter a raft barefoot; shoes are required.

Many people also make a point to bring sunglasses and/or a hat. On a hot summer day in Colorado, it’s convenient to have both. Water bottles are welcome so you can stay hydrated. Phones are welcome, too, but you are responsible for purchasing the proper accessories should your phone tag along on the trip. We also recommend packing sunscreen, plus a towel and some dry clothes to change into back at the base after your trip concludes. Colorado is known for its variable conditions, so please keep that in mind when you pack.


Step #4: Arrive Early

Arriving on-time for your scheduled trip is great, but arriving early is even better. We encourage our rafters to arrive early so everyone has time to sign the liability waiver, get suited up (we’ll provide your life jacket and helmet) and hear what your guide has to say about the river’s personality as well as what you can expect during your trip.


Step #5: Relax and Take It All In

We get it: life can get busy and stressful. But if you’ve traveled to Vail with the intention of relaxing and having some fun, by all means, relax and have some fun. When you’re on the river, be one with the river. Enjoy it. Keep your eyes peeled for the various species of wildlife you may encounter. Breathe in that fresh Colorado air. In our decades of experience spent traveling down the gorgeous rivers that our area so generously affords us, we can say with the utmost confidence that Vail whitewater rafting is an amazing adventure through and through—one that you won’t soon forget, and one that we certainly hope you’ll want to take again.


Get In Touch With Us

We operate three locations within the beautiful state of Colorado—these locations are in Glenwood Springs, Vail, and Salida/Buena Vista. If you’re looking to book a Colorado whitewater rafting trip, Lakota Guides would be happy to serve as your outfitter. If you’re interested, we also offer horseback riding trips, ATV tours, stand-up paddle boarding trips, and more. Call us at 970-845-7238 or email us at with any questions you have or any booking help you need. We sure hope to meet you on the river in Vail sometime soon.