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Our Favorite Rafting Tours & Trips in Telluride

When it comes to riding the exhilarating waves amidst the breathtaking backdrop of Telluride, you’re in for a treat! Let’s paddle through the top rafting tours that seamlessly blend adrenaline-pumping adventure with the stunning natural beauty that this Colorado gem has to offer.

Why You Should Consider a Rafting Tour in Telluride: A Splash of Adventure in the Mountains

People are enjoying rafting Embarking on a rafting tour in Telluride isn’t just about conquering rapids; it’s an immersive experience that adds an extra layer of excitement to your mountain getaway. Here’s why you should seriously consider getting out for a paddle:

1. Nature’s Amphitheater: Raft with a View

Telluride boasts some of the most breathtaking scenery in the Rockies, and what better way to soak it all in than from the middle of a river? Rafting provides a unique vantage point, allowing you to witness towering peaks, dense forests, and rugged canyons from a perspective only accessible on the water.

2. Adrenaline Meets Serenity: Perfect Balance

Rafting in Telluride caters to both thrill-seekers and those looking for a more laid-back adventure. With a variety of rivers and difficulty levels, you can choose the experience that matches your comfort and excitement levels. It’s the perfect blend of heart-pounding moments and serene floats, ensuring there’s something for everyone.

3. Local Expertise: Guides Who Know the Flow

Guides in Telluride aren’t just navigators; they’re storytellers and nature enthusiasts. Their wealth of knowledge about the local history, ecology, and geology enhances your journey. Gain insights into the area’s secrets as you navigate the rapids under the guidance of these passionate experts.

4. Unplug and Reconnect: Digital Detox on the River

In a world dominated by screens, a rafting tour in Telluride offers a refreshing digital detox. Disconnect from the hustle and bustle, immerse yourself in the sounds of rushing water and chirping birds, and reconnect with nature and your fellow adventurers. It’s a therapeutic break that rejuvenates both mind and soul.

5. Unforgettable Memories: Stories for a Lifetime

A rafting tour in Telluride isn’t just an activity; it’s a memory in the making. Whether it’s conquering a challenging rapid, sharing laughter with friends on calmer stretches, or simply marveling at the beauty around you, these moments become stories you’ll recount for years to come.

So, if you’re seeking an adventure that combines the thrill of rafting with the majestic landscapes of Telluride, grab a paddle and dive into an experience that promises not just excitement, but a symphony of nature that will resonate in your memories forever.

What to Expect on a Rafting Tour in Telluride

Some people are rafting

Planning a rafting adventure in Telluride comes with a spectrum of experiences, each catering to different skill levels, durations of time on the water, and costs.
From half day to multi-day excursions, prices vary on the length and intensity of the adventure. Whether you're on the Animas River for 1 hour or embarking on a 6 day trip down the Dolores, there’s an option for every type of budget. For one hour rafting through the town of Durango, you could spend as little as $69 per person for a guided experience. Whereas a 6 day trip down the Dolores could be $1499. Typically for the standard half day excursion, the all-inclusive price is about $165 per person.

What to Wear

Wetsuits and wetsuit boots are recommended. This is due to the water being melted from snow only a few hours prior, so it’s chilly. It's also a good idea to bring wool, fleece, synthetic jackets, and non cotton socks. We also recommend you arrive at the river with a swimsuit under your clothes so you can easily slide the wetsuit over your swimsuit.

  • Hat (that will fit under your helmet)
  • Sunglasses with a strap
  • Swimsuit/Quick drying clothing
  • Shoes that can get wet or secure sandals with heel straps
  • Wetsuits for spring trips (available for rent)
  • Wetsuit boots all season (available for rent)
  • Fleece jacket and fleece socks (not always necessary, but provides added warmth if you tend to get cold)

What To Bring

  • Sunscreen
  • Water bottle
  • Camera with waterproof case
  • Warm, dry change of clothes in your vehicle (for after rafting)

Our Favorite Rafting Tours & Trips in Telluride

People are taking tips about rafting

San Miguel River Run Embark on a journey down the spirited San Miguel River, where every twist and turn unveils the mesmerizing landscapes of the San Juan Mountains. Whether you’re a seasoned rafter or a first-timer, this tour caters to all skill levels, promising a splash of excitement for everyone on board. You will find a diverse ecosystem where the alpine melds with the desert meandering through red sandstone canyons covered with pine trees. You will see remnants of historical mining structures and pass by the infamous outlaw Butch Cassidy’s hideout spot. You may encounter wildlife sightings such as otters, deer, black bear, osprey, or bald eagle. This Class II and III river is swift moving as the narrow waterway cuts and twists through the canyon- a perfect trip for those who want action packed fun. The San Miguel can be enjoyed as a Half Day, Full Day, or Overnight excursion.

Upper San Miguel The Upper San Miguel Half Day is an action-packed ride with class III-IV rapids. Be prepared to pitch in and paddle to maneuver your way through this fast moving high alpine river. Participants must be in good physical condition and strong swimmers. Ages 10 years old and up.

Lower San Miguel The Lower San Miguel Half Day is active and fun for the whole family with class II-III rapids. This stretch still requires constant maneuvering as the river cuts and twists through the canyon. Ages 6 years old and up weighing at least 50 lbs.

Norwood Canyon This 1 or 2 Day trip is a spectacular journey into the wilderness of the Norwood Canyon. With lively and splashy Class II-III rapids, it keeps you grinning all day. If you are embarking on an overnight journey, there are some great campsites amongst the Ponderosa pine trees offering a perfect overnight getaway. As you descend further downstream, the rapids become more defined with bigger pool and drop features.

Dolores River Expedition One of America’s best rafting runs, the Dolores River Expedition is a special treat that few ever get to experience. Framed by red sandstone walls, lined with towering ponderosa pines and lush greenery, this canyon is a captivating journey through time and nature. What sets this expedition apart is the rich tapestry of the area’s history. As you float by Anasazi ruins and petroglyphs, you witness a full spectrum of Colorado’s history in one of the Southwest’s best-kept secrets. The rapids along the Dolores are playful and exciting, known for the legendary Class IV Snaggletooth Rapid.

The Dolores River is aptly named the “River of Sorrow'' due to the challenges and complexities associated with its management and water use. Its waters have been extensively dammed and diverted for agricultural and municipal purposes, therefore the Dolores isn’t always runnable. When there’s enough water to spill from the dam, this remote rafting destination will create an unforgettable odyssey through the wonders of the region’s cultural and natural heritage. There are multiple options to raft this river from single day to 6 day trips. If you have the adventurous spirit to immerse yourself in the full experience, I would highly recommend spending 6 days on this majestical river.

Ponderosa Gorge 1-3 Day(s) For a Full Day option, the upper stretch, known as Ponderosa Gorge has numerous swift moving rapids as you float through high alpine landscapes of towering ponderosa pine trees. This one day stretch offers a sense of wilderness exploration, with wildlife sightings and a short hike to Anasazi ruins.
If you choose to continue downstream on an overnight 2 or 3 day trip, you will have some great camp opportunities. On day 2, you will encounter the multiple Class III-IV rapids, including the legendary Snaggletooth rapid.

Slick Rock 3.5 Days As you float lower down in elevation, the landscape changes. Once you arrive at Slickrock, you will see glimpses of the Dolores River’s uranium mining history as the river meanders into the Great Gypsum Valley. Once you enter the Gypsum Valley, the river mellows out and is mostly flat water. A perfect day to sit back, relax, and take in the sounds of the water flowing and birds chirping. Once you enter the Slickrock Canyon, this deeply entrenched canyon towers a thousand feet above the river. There are several class II-III rapids with technical maneuvers around large boulders. This section offers excellent rock art, dinosaur tracks, historical sites, and great hikes. In this lower stretch of the Dolores, the vegetation changes as the ponderosas transform into willows, reeds, oaks, pinion, and juniper with large firs and cottonwoods. This stretch is perfect for the whole family.

Animas River Thrill Ride The Animas River, often dubbed the “River of Lost Souls,” offers a thrilling ride through Class II to Class V rapids. Feel the rush as you conquer challenging sections, all while basking in the glory of the iconic Animas Valley. Your guides, true river aficionados, make sure the experience is both safe and unforgettable.

Upper Animas The headwaters of the Animas start just above the town of Silverton. As the river starts to wind past Silverton toward Durango, it becomes a thrilling Class V whitewater run. It is considered to be one of the most difficult commercially run rivers in the U.S. with continuous Class II and III with intermittent IV’s and V’s and no pools in between each rapid. The average gradient is 85 feet per mile with 14,000-foot peaks rising from the banks of the river. The river roars through Colorado’s largest wilderness area – the famous Weminuche Wilderness. From June to late July, this is a fantastic, high adventure rafting trip to check off your bucket list. You can choose a Full Day or a catered overnight trip, camping at the Needleton Camp. To add to the special nature of this wilderness trip, you’ll board the historic Durango & Silverton Train to access the put-in and take-out, a 2-day excursion that feels like a true expedition. The Needleton Section of the Upper Animas churns up constant Class II and III rapids, with a handful of Class IV and V drops throughout the run. An orientation is required to run this wild section of the Upper Animas with us. All participants must be physically fit and strong swimmers who are ready to paddle hard while the boat bounces, spins, and submerges in this world-class whitewater run.

Lower Animas Rafting the Lower Animas is one of the most popular things to do in the Southwest region for locals and visitors alike. Through the summer months, you can spot plenty of crafts, from rafts to inflatable unicorns, floating by anytime of day.

Your rafting experience often kicks off above the charming town of Durango. Once you launch on the river, you are able to see a different and more beautiful view of Durango. As you wind through the town, you are immersed with Durango’s historic architecture and a captivating buzz of a town deeply connected to its river. As you enter the Smelter whitewater park, an engineered section of the river offering an urban playground, you are met with class III rapids, a perfect amount of excitement and thrill. This is a perfect trip for the whole family, big groups, or team building experiences.

Naturally, the guides are a big part of the experience! Durango raft guides have the down low on the area’s rich history, stories of local traditions, and topnotch dinner recommendations. They’ll take care of the paddle commands and navigation, so no experience is necessary! We provide all you need including safety orientation and instruction.

The 1/2 Day trip offers the best bang for your buck, with the 3/4 day trip giving you more time to enjoy a solid Durango rafting excursion. If you just want a quick taste of what rafting is like, opt for the 1/4 day trip!

Since the Lower Animas is a free flowing river, water levels vary throughout the season. Spring is the best time to catch high flows and big rapids, while the flows gradually lower throughout summer and rapid ratings drop a ½ to a full notch. Don’t be discouraged when the flow gets low— The river can become a very technical float trip with lots of rocks to maneuver around! We love it at all levels!

Each of these rafting tours is a gateway to the heart-pounding beauty of Telluride. So, gear up, grab a paddle, and let the river unveil its secrets as you embark on an unforgettable adventure in this mountain paradise.

How to Decide Which Tour or Experience is Best for You

To decide which rafting tour or experience is best for you, consider the location, your skill level, preferences, and the type of adventure you seek. Assess the river’s difficulty levels and choose a section that matches your comfort and experience. Are you looking for family-friendly trips, scenic floats, or more challenging rapids? Maybe you are looking to unplug and spend a full day or two disconnected from the hustle and bustle. Consider an overnight river trip, where all of the logistics are set up including camp, meals, entertainment, and side excursions. Or keep the thrill to a half day splashy and active float.

Kelli G
Kelli is no stranger to outdoor adventure travel. Born into a family with strong ski heritage, she committed her earlier years to ski racing and big mountain freeskiing competitions. After she graduated with a Finance degree at the University of Denver she moved to Telluride, Colorado and worked up the ranks in the family-owned ski business. During her tenure, she wore all hats of the retail business and became one of the few female ski hardgoods buyers in the industry. For over 10 years she was a ski tester for Ski Magazine and was involved in multiple product development projects for various ski manufacturers. During the pandemic, she traded her skis for sails and spent a few years traveling the world on a 35' sailboat. She enjoys connecting to nature through whitewater rafting, mountain biking, hiking, skiing, sailing or globe trotting. She loves to share her passion for adventure and travel with others.

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