Rafting Down the Grand Canyon: The Adventure of a Lifetime

Raging rapids, towering walls, frigid water, pure adventure.

By: Christin Healey + Save to a List

Every year Grand Canyon National Park receives over 6 million visitors, but just 27,000 each year raft the 280 mile length of the Colorado that runs through the park. It's truly a once in a lifetime experience, and a few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to set out on an epic journey exploring the park from a totally different vantage point. I can't recommend it enough, and if you ever have the opportunity - grab it with both hands. 

The journey begins at Lees Ferry, and meanders down the river, letting out at Lake Mead, where the walls abruptly end and give way to desert. The season typically starting in April and runs through October, though there are brave souls who attempt it in the winter. We opted for 9 days on the river, on motorized rafts, with a small hiking component added in. If you have the time and the fitness level, I can't recommend enough trying to get some hiking in from the river. You will get a completely different perspective on so many of the trails down there, and it's a great way to break up the long days of being on the boat. There are so many hikes to do, here are a few good ones to get you started.  

There are really no typical days on the river, but for our group, the days always began with hot coffee, plenty of bacon, and then packing up camp to set off. After a few hours on the water, navigating rapids, staring up in awe at the changing rock layers and clouds moving past, and tossing around cans of Pringles from time to time, we would tie up and set off to explore a side canyon, which, if we were lucky, would lead to the most magical of waterfalls to cool off the baking heat of the day. 

The days would wind down with a few beers that were strategically bobbing behind our boat in the cool waters all day, and a meal cooked in the dutch oven. We would gather in a circle and trade tales of the biggest rapids we ran that day, cacti that became lodged in our feet for some inexplicable reason, sand that seems to permeate every inch of our being, and the happiness that comes with the absolute solitude of the canyon walls. Then the glaring heat of the day would always slowly give way to the twinkling of stars overhead, a cool breeze off the river, and the constant sound of running water that just seems to make everything a little bit better. As glorious as the days on this adventure are, the nights will always hold the best spot in my heart. There is something about watching moonlight traverse across the canyon walls that goes beyond words. 

After 9 days of camping beneath the stars, eating every meal as a group with the day of adventure either stretched out in front of us, or relaxing behind us, we approached Lake Mead with equal parts heavy hearts and nostalgia for a simpler time. Our time with nothing to do except experience life, have long conversations with friends and family without distraction, embracing the simplicity of our short time in this space had come to an end, and Rim Life awaited. As hard as it is to leave that space, visions of hot showers, our daily lives, and other adventures awaited, and we looked back at the looming walls of the canyon, just trying to take it all in one last time. 

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Do you love the outdoors?

Yep, us too. That's why we send you the best local adventures, stories, and expert advice, right to your inbox.


Visiting the Quinault Valley and Olympic National Park

Doris Wang

Overnighter on the Sonoma Coast

Benjamin Canevari

10 Things you need to do in Baja

wyld honeys

Journey to Wyoming’s premier snowmobiling destination: Togwotee Mountain Lodge

Samuel Brockway