Utah Whitewater Raft Trips Ranked From Mild to Wild

Utah Whitewater Raft Trips Ranked From Mild to Wild

March 01, 2022

Stay bone dry, experience some splash or get completely soaked on one of Utah’s scenic rivers.

Wondering which Utah whitewater rafting trip is right for you? Not every river canyon in the Beehive State is created equal (one of them literally blasted right through a mountain— we’re looking at you Gates of Lodore!). Luckily, Mild to Wild Rafting and Jeep Tours has the scoop on Utah’s top river trips, ranked from, you guessed it, mild to wild.

(All age restrictions are for "High Water." "Low Water" age restrictions may differ.)

Castle Valley | 1-3 days | Ages 4+ | Very Mild

Castle Valley is the most mild whitewater rafting trip in Utah, and its close proximity to Moab makes it a perfect option for families with younger kids, or folks who just want to enjoy a nice float down the Colorado River.

Castle Valley is a relaxing meander through astounding scenery with a few friendly rapids sprinkled along the way. This trip will give you plenty of time to swim, sunbathe and ogle a rare landscape that has been the go-to backdrop of countless Westerns.

And since this ribbon of water is so calm, ages 4 and up can run the whole trip in a group raft. Meanwhile, adventurous kids 12 and up can hop in their own inflatable kayak to turn up the dial on their adventure.

Desolation Canyon | 4-6 days | Ages 5+ | Mostly Mild

Desolation Canyon is the mildest multi-day whitewater rafting in Utah, and is one of most beloved river trips by the rafting community. This is because “Deso” runs through the largest wilderness research area in the lower 48, and with that level of solitude comes gobs of wildlife, pristine archeological sites and views that stretch into oblivion.

This gargantuan crevice is cut by the Green River, and is so secluded, folks have to fly into the canyon to access the put-in. During this trip's 96-mile journey, those aboard can look forward to over 60 rapid sections, most of which are small enough to be conquered in inflatable kayaks.

But there’s so much more to Desolation Canyon than just the whitewater. This particular stretch of the Green River is loaded with history, hikes and epic beaches. In a rift this ancient and isolated (and at times taller than the Grand Canyon), you’ll see layers of the earth that were laid down before the continents ever split. And at night you'll get the cosmos in their completely unobstructed form.

Gates of Lodore | 3–5 days | Ages 12+ | Both Mild and Wild

Lodore Canyon offers an intermediate multi-day whitewater rafting trip in both Colorado and Utah through Dinosaur National Monument. This is a section of the Green River that cuts through dense, billion-year-old quartzite, which makes the canyon quite narrow and gorgeously diverse.

As for the rapids, get ready for big splashes! Lodore churns out big, beautiful Class III waves that will rock the boat and soak it completely. Early on in the trip, you’ll bust through a frothy section known as Disaster Falls that supplies some of the biggest rapids on the Green River. Then, after meeting the Yampa River in the glory of Echo Park, you’ll ride through Split Mountain, a constant splash-fest of Class II and III whitewater.

Lodore is home to beautiful hikes through side canyons where the ecosystems change drastically, along with pristine petroglyphs and plenty of wildlife.  These emerald waters cut through an area saturated with geologic significance, including dinosaur fossils and rare wonders like the Mitten Park Fault.

Yampa River | 4–5 days | Ages 12+ | Wild-ish

The Yampa River is a wild-ish, multi-day whitewater rafting trip, and is one of the last rivers of its kind in North America. Since it hasn't been dammed and has instead been allowed to flow naturally for millions of years, the Yampa is remarkably different from any other desert river canyon. As the last free-flowing tributary in the Colorado River system, it is arguably the most sought-after rafting trip in the United States.

Rapids and flows on the Yampa can change day to day, which is another reason why it’s oh-so special. There are multiple Class III whitewater sections in this canyon, and Warm Springs rapid is the Class IV beast that river guides tend to look forward to most! Once the Yampa meets the Green River in the heart of Dinosaur National Monument, the rapids through Split and Whirlpool Canyon offer up constant Class II and III splashes.

As for the scenery, this canyon changes dramatically bend after bend from smooth blonde slick rock to crumbling crimson chasms. Hikes off the river will take you to huge alcoves, wildflower meadows and some of the most significant archeological sites in the Southwest.

Cataract Canyon | 2–6 days | Ages 14+ | Certified Wild 

Cataract Canyon is hands down the wildest whitewater rafting trip in Utah. This frothy section of the Colorado River runs through the most remote districts of Canyonlands National Park and is all-around one of the most acclaimed rafting adventures in the country.

During high flows in spring, Cataract Canyon can whip up the biggest rapids in the West. Rafters can look forward to ferocious Class III, IV and V whitewater that highly skilled guides run in motored rigs and oar boats. You won’t have to hold on tight for the entirety of this natural roller coaster however, as the first and final days of any “Cat” trip come with glossy flat water.

This redrocked river canyon is a true time machine glistening in the desert. As you drift deeper into the Paradox Formation, you’ll have opportunities to explore huge fields of petrified wood, pristine ancient ruins and looming hikes to the canyon rim. Your catered camps will be spread over huge sandy beaches, and the night sky will be one of the most impressive you’ve ever laid eyes on.

Bonus: Moab Rafting and Jeep Packages | 1–2 days | Ages 4+

Because not all of the hidden gems in Moab and the southeast Utah can be accessed by a rushing river. Enjoy the river and travel to incredible backcountry sites with a combo rafting and Jeep tour. Do it all in one day, or split it up between two to get deeper into desert canyons and spend more time on the water. With the easygoing waters of Castle Valley carrying you downstream and your taking on driving duties, it's an easy but spectacular trip for the whole family. If you want to experience Moab to its fullest, there's hardly any better way to do so.

Book a tranquil — or spicy — trip with Mild to Wild Rafting and Jeep Tours for the upcoming rafting season.

Still can't decide? Maybe Mild to Wild's YouTube Channel will help make the decision a little easier.