Royal Gorge Rafting: Routes and Safety Tips


Spanning 1,250 feet wide and plunging 1,050 feet deep, Royal Gorge rafting in Colorado offers some of the most thrilling whitewater rafting experiences in the United States. With the Arkansas River rushing through this dramatic canyon, rafting enthusiasts of all skill levels can enjoy an unforgettable adventure in the heart of the Centennial State.


  • Royal Gorge's unique geographical features create ideal conditions for whitewater rafting.
  • Rafting experiences range from beginner-friendly to expert-level challenges.
  • Proper planning and preparation are essential for a safe and enjoyable rafting trip.

Understanding the Royal Gorge Rafting Experience

The Geographical Marvel of Royal Gorge

The Royal Gorge was formed over millions of years as the Arkansas River carved its way through the granite bedrock of the Colorado Plateau. This process created a deep, narrow canyon with steep walls and fast-moving water, making it the perfect setting for whitewater rafting.

Rafting Difficulty Levels and Options

Royal Gorge offers a variety of rafting routes suitable for different skill levels:

  • Beginner: Bighorn Sheep Canyon features Class II-III rapids, ideal for families and first-timers.
  • Intermediate: The Royal Gorge section offers Class III-V rapids, providing a more challenging experience.
  • Advanced: The Numbers section is known for its continuous Class IV-V rapids, perfect for thrill-seekers.

Special rafting trips, such as full moon and sunrise tours, are also available for a unique experience.

Seasonal Considerations and Best Times to Raft

The rafting season in Royal Gorge typically runs from May to September. June and July are the most popular months, with high water levels and exciting rapids. For a less crowded experience, consider rafting in May or September when the weather is milder, and the water levels are more manageable.

Planning Your Royal Gorge Rafting Trip

Choosing the Right Rafting Company

When selecting a rafting company, consider the following factors:

  • Reputation and safety record.
  • Experienced and certified guides.
  • Quality of equipment and facilities.
  • Range of trips and difficulty levels offered.

Some of the top-rated rafting companies in the area include River Runners Royal Gorge, Echo Canyon River Expeditions, Royal Gorge Rafting (Royal Gorge Epic Adventures brand), and Raft Masters.

Essential Gear and Preparation

Rafting companies typically provide necessary equipment such as wetsuits, helmets, and life jackets. However, it’s important to bring the following items:

  • Quick-drying shorts or pants.
  • Long-sleeved shirt for sun protection.
  • Water shoes or sandals with straps.
  • Sunscreen, water, and snacks.

To prepare for your rafting trip, engage in regular physical activity and consider taking a swimming or water safety course.

Stay & Plan: Accommodations and Logistics

There are various accommodation options near Royal Gorge, including:

  • Camping: Echo Canyon Campground and Royal Gorge KOA.
  • Cabins: Royal Gorge Cabins and Raft Masters' lodging.
  • Hotels: Quality Inn & Suites and Best Western Canon City.

When planning your transportation, consider the distance from your accommodation to the rafting launch site and arrange for shuttle services if necessary.

Enhancing Your Rafting Adventure

Additional Activities in Royal Gorge

Complement your rafting trip with other exciting activities in the area:

  • Ziplining at Royal Gorge Bridge & Park
  • Hiking in Red Canyon Park
  • Visiting the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience

Royal Gorge Epic Adventures in particular is an adventure hub that offers zip line tour options and vacation rentals along with their Royal Gorge rafting adventures.

Safety and Environmental Considerations

Always follow your guide’s instructions and wear provided safety gear. Be aware of potential hazards such as rocks, trees, and strong currents. Respect the natural environment by disposing of waste properly and avoiding disturbing wildlife.


What is the best time of year to go rafting in Royal Gorge?

The best time for rafting in Royal Gorge is from May to September, with June and July being the most popular months.

Do I need any previous rafting experience to raft in Royal Gorge?

No, there are beginner-friendly routes suitable for first-timers, such as Bighorn Sheep Canyon.

What should I bring with me for a day of rafting?

Bring quick-drying clothing, water shoes, sunscreen, water, and snacks. The rafting company will provide essential gear like wetsuits, helmets, and life jackets.

Are there age or health restrictions for rafting in Royal Gorge?

Age restrictions vary depending on the difficulty level of the route. Some trips may require a minimum age of 13-16 years old. Inform your rafting company of any health concerns before booking.

How can I choose the best rafting company based on my experience level and expectations?

Research rafting companies based on their reputation, safety record, guide experience, and trip offerings. Read reviews and compare prices to find the best fit for your needs and budget. Some options are River Runners Royal Gorge, Echo Canyon River Expeditions, Royal Gorge Rafting (Royal Gorge Epic Adventures brand), and Raft Masters.


About the author

Ransom Patterson

My expertise in Colorado life extends beyond just residing here; it’s also about living actively within the community. I spend my time cycling through Denver’s trails, experimenting with local cuisines, and immersing myself in the local music scene. These activities give me a unique perspective on the cultural and outdoor offerings of Colorado. This hands-on approach allows me to provide insider tips and personal recommendations that resonate with both locals and visitors alike.