The Best White Water Rafting in Colorado for Families

Looking for the best white water rafting in Colorado for families? Arkansas River Tours has connected over 300,000 happy guests to the river since 1973 and offers some of the most popular trips for families looking for the best whitewater experience. As a family-owned and operated business, we understand how valuable it is to spend time together and share fond memories in Colorado’s great outdoors. It’s our mission to make your Colorado whitewater rafting experience the most memorable adventure yet. After 48 years of experience, here is our list of Colorado's best white water rafting for families.

  1. Bighorn Sheep Canyon Rafting ½ Day
  2. Cottonwood Family Float
  3. Rafting & Royal Gorge Railroad Package
  4. Browns Canyon Rafting Full Day Trip
  5. Colorado Overnight Rafting Trip For Beginners

Take to the river and enjoy an unforgettable Colorado family rafting trip!

1) Bighorn Sheep Canyon Rafting ½ Day - “The Classic Family Whitewater Experience”

Bighorn Sheep Canyon Rafting 1/2 Day

Bighorn Sheep Canyon rafting on the Arkansas River provides everything a family would want from a rafting trip packed into 2 to 3 hours. This is a 10 mile section filled with class II and III whitewater that keeps the kids and parents excited from start to finish. This trip is geared toward families that have never been rafting before but are looking for that classic whitewater experience. If you have children 8 years or above this is a great trip for your family. Be ready to get wet, see beautiful rock formations, various types of waterfowl, frequent sightings of Bighorn Sheep and smiles from you and your family on this great outdoor adventure.

See Courtney Lawrence’s response to her experience, “100% fun 100% thrilling 100% highlight of the trip. We would recommend ART to any family. Everything was great from the moment we got there. Jerry, Milly & the rest of the staff get kudos too. Thank you again for making this a great family adventure!”

2) Cottonwood Family Float - “Get your Feet Wet”

Cottonwood Family Float

Are you or is your family a first timer? Or do you have children as young as 4 that might not be able to swim yet? Or maybe you want some time to get some great photos while on the river? The Cottonwood family float is the adventure we recommend for you. A trip for Colorado family whitewater rafting, you meet in Cotopaxi and travel upstream 5 miles for your launch. Five miles filled with wildlife, view of the Sangre De Cristo’s mountain range and mostly class II Colorado white water rafting gives the perfect amount of time to get your feet wet. This trip has some great gental whitewater with a few good splashes that will leave your kids begging for more!

Brenda Standiford Hemmelman says, “My 12 yo son is not very adventurous and we'd never been rafting before, so we started with the basic level. My son had a blast and is ready to go back for more. Mike even paused the craft at one point so all aboard could get a close up view of a group of bighorn sheep that was by the water. Thanks Mike and ART!”

3) Rafting & Royal Gorge Railroad Package - “All in one day of adventure”

Rafting & Royal Gorge Railroad

Does having a day planned out for family whitewater in Colorado sound like the way to go? Love trains...and Whitewater? Start the morning with 10 miles of class III whitewater down the Arkansas River’s Bighorn Sheep Canyon. This is a classic Colorado family rafting trip that provides splashes and excitement for families. Haven’t rafted before and can’t swim, no problem on this tour. After the rafting tour, change into some dry clothes and have a BBQ riverside lunch prepared fresh by your river guide. After lunch you will ride the historic Royal Gorge Railroad along the river through the amazing Royal Gorge. On this relaxing portion of your tour you will see wildlife, massive geological formations and canyon walls boasting more than a thousand feet tall! A day filled with adventure that your family will never forget!.

What’s it like? Find out from CLKoutsky 75, “We chose to do the Bighorn Sheep Canyon half day rafting trip w/ the Railway Adventure. The class II-III rapids were absolutely perfect for our family with 2 young boys ages 9 and 11. Our guide was great! He was obviously an expert at what he does. He walked us through the safety presentation and alleviated any concerns or worries. My little guy was pretty nervous so he sat in the back by the guide and was smiling and laughing all the way through. Our guide knew the river like the back of his hand and gave us a great overview of the area and the river along the way. At the end of our rafting trip we bussed back to the office where the guide grilled a great picnic lunch for us before we drove to the Railway Depot in downtown Canon City.”

*Don’t want 10 miles or have small children? No Problem! You can choose to do a Cottonwood River and Rail instead

4) Browns Canyon Rafting Full Day Trip - “Wilderness Adventure”

Browns Canyon Rafting Full Day Trip

Sometimes it just feels good to get away from the city, towns, highway and really be immersed in the wilderness. Browns Canyon National Monument might just be the wilderness adventure in Colorado that your family needs. This section of river on the Arkansas was declared a National Monument in 2015. The designation protects the land that provides clean water for the Arkansas River’s Gold Medal trout fishery, important wildlife habitat, biological diversity, outdoor recreation opportunities, scenic beauty, cattle grazing and other use. Browns Canyon & Arkansas River is 15 miles of scenic solitude with great family friendly whitewater. This tour is America’s most popular rafting section and it is because of the combination of natural beauty, views of the 14,000 foot peaks of the Sawatch mountain range and great whitewater. This trip is appropriate for families with children as young as 8 years old and and looking for a fun Colorado outdoor adventure.

What do others think of Browns Canyon?
“My family and I just had an amazing day rafting through Browns Canyon. Our guide was top notch with lots of experience giving us peace of mind through a big rapid that we watched two boats from another company flip. I would not choose any other company when we come back to do another trip soon!” - Jennifer Stewart Crosby

5) Colorado Overnight Rafting Trip For Beginners - “Camping 101”

Colorado Overnight Rafting Trip for Beginners

Needing and wanting a longer getaway for your family to recharge and enjoy some downtime playing outdoors? Maybe this is your family’s first camping adventure and you’re hoping for more of a “camping 101” experience? This Colorado overnight rafting trip takes you through both Bighorn Sheep Canyon and Browns Canyon of the Arkansas River in Colorado. You will experience the two best family friendly sections of the Arkansas River with camping on a private beautiful beach in Cotopaxi. You will have 2 full days on the river, opportunities to swim, fish, play games at camp and reminisce of the day’s adventure around the campfire under the bright stars. This trip is the perfect trip for families looking for some quality time together, packed with adventure and connecting with the outdoors.

@ChelsJam90 said, “I loved doing the overnight, the campsite is in Cotopaxi right along the river and its truly beautiful and peaceful. Arkansas River Tours has a shower onsite and you can rent tents, sleeping bags, etc. Kyle cooked us some delish steaks, potatoes, corn, brownies, etc. and then we had a nice campfire. In the morning we had breakfast tacos -- the food was much better than I was expecting. “

For more information on family whitewater rafting in Colorado, visit the Arkansas River Tours website

by By Julie Sutton, Outdoor Vacation Specialist

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