Yes! Boulder, Colorado offers many nearby opportunities for whitewater rafting. While there are no major rivers running directly through Boulder, the city is conveniently located near several popular destinations offering easy river access. Some notable locations near Boulder include: Clear Creek River, Cache la Poudre River, and the Arkansas River. All offer unique and rewarding experiences ranging from class 1 to class 5 rapids, depending on the river, season, snowmelt and weather conditions. Rafting season ranges from May to September/August, detailed below.

What’s the Best Whitewater Rafting Near Boulder Colorado?

Boulder, Colorado, is an excellent base for whitewater rafting enthusiasts due to its strategic location near several major rivers and its proximity to the Rocky Mountains. Rafting companies and outfitters like Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides can help arrange trips to these rivers, providing guided tours, equipment, and transportation. Notable rafting locations include Clear Creek River, Cache la Poudre River, Arkansas River and Upper Colorado River:

  • Clear Creek River
    • Located about 30-40 minutes from Boulder & Denver, Clear Creek offers a range of rafting experiences from beginner to advanced levels. 
    • Features notable sections including: Outer Limits, Guide Ejector & Hell’s Corner rapids (class 4-5); Screaming 1/4 Mile & Fall River Rapids (class 3-4); Castle Falls & Argo Holes rapids (Class 2-3).
    • Class 2, 3, 4 & 5 rapids (novice to expert).
  • Cache la Poudre River
    • Located around 1.5hrs or less from Boulder & Denver, Cache la Poudre River is Colorado’s only designated “Wild & Scenic” river. 
    • Features terrain suitable for different skill levels including: Lower Mishawaka: Mishawaka Falls & Pine View Falls rapids (class 3-4); Upper Mishawaka: Triple Drop & Pine View rapids (class 3-4); Filter Plant: Mad Dog & Cardiac Corner rapids (class 2-3).
    • Class 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 rapids (easy to expert).
  • Arkansas River:
    • Located around 2-3 hours from Boulder & Denver, the Arkansas River is one of the most popular whitewater rafting destinations in Colorado. 
    • It features famous sections like Browns Canyon (class 3-4), The Numbers (class 4-5), and Royal Gorge (class 4-5), and Bighorn Sheep Canyon, each offering unique and exhilarating rafting experiences.
    • Class 2, 3, 4 & 5 rapids (novice to expert).
  • Upper Colorado River:
    • Located around 2hrs from Boulder & Denver, the Upper Colorado River is easily accessible from Boulder, Denver and other major cities in Colorado, making it a convenient option for day trips and weekend getaways.
    • Features the Pumphouse to State Bridge section, a popular family-friendly stretch offering a variety of rapids and calm stretches manageable for most skill levels, including notable rapid sections like Needle’s Eye & Yarmony Rapid (class 2-3).
    • Class 2 & 3 rapids (novice & intermediate).

When is Rafting Season in Colorado?

The rafting season in Colorado varies by river and is largely dependent on snowmelt and weather conditions. Typical seasons range from mid to late May through early August to mid September. Snowmelt, weather, and even dam releases impact water levels and rapid class. It’s always a good idea to check with local rafting outfitters or guides for the most current information and conditions before planning your trip, as these can vary year to year and even week to week.

  • Clear Creek:
    • Rafting Season: Late May to early August
    • Peak Season: June to July
    • Details: Clear Creek’s rafting season is relatively short due to its reliance on snowmelt from the nearby mountains. The best time to raft here is usually in June and early July when water levels are at their highest and most thrilling.
  • Cache la Poudre River:
    • Rafting Season: Late May to early September
    • Peak Season: June to early July
    • Details: The Cache la Poudre River typically has a longer rafting season due to its more consistent flow. Early summer offers the best conditions, but rafting can continue into late summer depending on water levels.
  • Arkansas River:
    • Rafting Season: Mid-May to mid-September
    • Peak Season: June to early August
    • Details: The Arkansas River boasts one of the longest rafting seasons in Colorado. The peak flow typically occurs in June and July, providing ideal conditions for whitewater rafting. The season can extend into September, especially in sections with controlled water releases.
  • Upper Colorado River:
    • Rafting Season: late May to September
    • Peak Season: June to August
    • Details: The Upper Colorado River rafting season near Boulder & Denver is heavily influenced by snowmelt. As temperatures rise in late spring and early summer, snow from the Rocky Mountains melts and flows into the river, increasing water levels.

We offer a wide variety of whitewater rafting experiences suitable for everyone. Whether you seek a leisurely and scenic float on the Upper Colorado River or crave an adrenaline-packed journey on the Clear Creek River near Boulder and Denver, we have the perfect trip for you. We cover the logistics to ensure you have a safe and satisfying experience. Give us a call or contact us to learn more about our programs.

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