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How Long Does it Take to Raft the Entire Grand Canyon?

Are you planning to book a trip to the Grand Canyon and want to explore everything that it has to offer? Can’t decide which rafting trip to take? You would want to make the most out of your Grand Canyon tour as it can take a year to get an available date.

But how many days should you set aside to get a full Grand Canyon rafting experience? There are several things to consider before you book a tour at the Grand Canyon National Park to make sure you get the best vacation ever.

What to Expect From a Full Grand Canyon Rafting Trip

The best way to enjoy Grand Canyon National Park is to avail the full canyon experience. This tour covers the upper and lower areas of the Grand Canyon. This tour can take around a 13 to 15-day trip from Lees Ferry to Lake Mead.

The trip will start at Lees Ferry and will enter one of the most formidable rapids in Colorado River, the Roaring 20s. Once you’ve departed from Lees Ferry, it will either take you to Diamond Creek or Pearce Ferry, Lake Mead. During your boat ride, you will witness at least 42 major rapid systems that are rated 5+. You’ll get to see numerous spectacular sites while you float along the entire stretch of the Grand Canyon. Expect to get a glimpse of the Whitmore Wash, Cataract Canyon, Phantom Ranch, Pipe Creek, and Horseshoe Bend.

There will be a designated camping site every afternoon where you can either relax and recharge for the following day or find other activities to do while waiting for your dinner to be served. Food will be provided if you hire a commercial rafting company. If not, you and your group would have to prepare your food on your own.

You also don’t need to worry about your breakfast for the next morning. There will be a steaming plate and hot coffee waiting for you as you wake up to prepare for the day’s adventure. At different spots during your tour, your guide will talk to your group about the wonders of the Grand Canyon, both natural and man-made. You’ll be viewing some ancient petroglyph sites and the canyon’s geological features.

Other highlights of the tour are the clear blue waters of the Little Colorado River to the Redwall Cavern and Elves Chasm. You can always ask your river guides about the Grand Canyon river stories, history, geology, and ecology.

As your trip ends, depending on your itinerary and chosen outfitter, there are 3 available exit points, river mile 188, river mile 225, and river mile 280. Whichever exit point you take, your shuttle will take you to your starting location or to Page or Las Vegas.

If you choose to return to your starting point, you can continue to explore other attractions at the Grand Canyon National Park. You can check out some famous attractions from the North and South Rim are Canyon Vistas Mule Ride, Grand Canyon Skywalk, and the hiking trail from North Rim to South Rim.

Transportation Options for Full Grand Canyon River Rafting

There are several transportation options if you’ll avail of the full Grand Canyon whitewater rafting trip. Depending on your rafting outfitter and itineraries meeting locations may also vary. Transportation returning to the starting point will also depend on some trips at the end of the South Rim.

  • A trip may start at Las Vegas, NV, which some people use as a hub to book a charter flight going to Marble Canyon.
  • If the starting point is at Marble Canyon, AZ you can drive from Las Vegas to Marble Canyon or you can drive from Phoenix to Marble Canyon.
  • If the trip will start at Page, AZ you can fly or drive from Phoenix. The drive may take at least 4.5 hours.
  • There are several transportation options for trips starting at Flagstaff, AZ. You can fly going there or ride a shuttle or drive to Phoenix which usually takes 2 to 4 hours. There’s also a shuttle service from Las Vegas going to Flagstaff, the drive may take 4 to 6 hours.

Other Grand Canyon Rafting Trip Options

If you have a limited budget or are time-constrained, there are other rafting trips you can choose from aside from the full Grand Canyon experience. You have the option to only visit the western, upper, or lower part of the Grand Canyon. Don’t worry as you will still catch sight of numerous attractions at the Grand Canyon and still enjoy the Colorado River’s waters.

Western Grand Canyon Experience

Your tour will begin with an impressive view of the Grand Canyon from a helicopter ride that will bring you to Whitmore Wash. Once you’re all set, your raft will float down to Lake Mead and will be transported via a jetboat to a take-out point that is accessible to vehicles.

If you still have some time and money to spare, you can book a charter trip for a spectacular Las Vegas flight to Bar 10 Ranch. While waiting for your sumptuous food, you can check out the cattle ranch or have fun horseback riding, ATV driving, and skeet shooting. You can also have a game of volleyball with the other rafters.

5 to 6 Days Rafting Trip for the Upper Grand Canyon Experience

Just like the full canyon tour, your trip will begin at Lee’s Ferry. During your Grand Canyon river trip, you will traverse 88 river miles filled and surrounded by beautiful canyon walls soaring at over 4,500 feet.

In just a few miles, you will get a glimpse of some of the famous geological formations such as the Toroweap and Kaibab formations. For the Upper canyon tour, you’ll get to experience at least 19 major rapids. All of these rapids are rated 5 or up. Some of the rapids you’ll come across are Hance, Zoroaster, Unkar, House Rock, and Sockdolager.

During your upper canyon tour, you also get to hike the side canyons and witness the breathtaking cascading waterfalls and the Native American ruins. There’s also a chance to meet some wildlife like the mighty bighorn sheep and canyon wrens.

Other scenic sites to see:

  • Redwall Cavern
  • Vasey’s Paradise
  • Upper Granite Gorge
  • Nankoweap Anasazi Granaries
  • The confluence of the Little Colorado River

When you reach the end of the tour, you’ll be at Mile 88 which is close to Phantom Ranch. But your journey does not end there as you still need to hike the Bright Angel Trail to reach the South Rim. Do not attempt to take this hike if you are not physically fit as it can be very strenuous. It can get worse during the summer months because of the heat.

But don’t worry, the trail is well-maintained by the Grand Canyon National Park Service and there are several water stations at the bottom of the Grand Canyon up to mile 1.5 which is near the top. If you think you cannot carry all your gear while hiking, there are some outfitters that can provide a service to bring your gear to the South Rim. However, expect to pay additional fees as this is not a free service.

Once you’ve arrived, you’ll be transported back to Lee’s Ferry, your starting point. However, getting back to your starting point may not be part of your chosen outfitter itinerary, although accommodation can always be arranged.

8 to 9 Days Rafting Trip for the Lower Grand Canyon Experience

The starting point of the Lower Grand Canyon tour will begin at Bright Angel Trail. This means you’ll start your tour with a formidable hike. It’s wise to wear comfortable and appropriate footwear to get through the hike with ease.

You’ll be carrying your gear with you while you trek. If you think you cannot hike with all your heavy gear, you can make arrangements with local outfitters that offer baggage transport services in the Lower Canyon.

The Lower Canyon experience is the most popular, even though it starts with a tough hike. Once the trek is over, you’ll be meeting your guides along with the rafts at Boat Beach or Pike Creek. Both points are near the Phantom Ranch which is also the only available lodging at the bottom of the South Rim.

There are several raft options for this trip. You can choose between motorized or oar rafts. Dory, paddle, and hybrid boats are also other options. In this section of the Colorado River, you will encounter 19 major rapids that have a rating of 5 and above. Crystal Falls and Lava Falls are just some of them.

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The journey is a combination of smooth water and white water, plus a trek to hidden canyons and interesting archaeological sites. Aside from rafting the whitewater, you get to enjoy some natural attractions like the Elves Chasm, Granite Narrows, Matkatamiba Canyon, and Deer Creek Falls.

As evening comes, you will set up camp on a beach with the moon and stars shining down at you. Once your Lower Grand Canyon tour is over, you will be brought to your chosen endpoint. There are several exits at the Lower Canyon, you can choose to be dropped off close to Diamond Creek Road or if you have extra money to spare, you can exit at Separation Canyon and take a jetboat or ride a helicopter at Whitmore Wash.

1 Day Grand Canyon Rafting Trip

If you have very limited time to spare but still want to get a glimpse of the Grand Canyon and experience the Grand Canton whitewater, you can book a 1-day rafting trip. Yes, a 1-day rafting tour is possible; just don’t expect to see much of the rapids systems and other historic sites at the Grand Canyon.

But don’t be disheartened as you will still get a taste of an amazing whitewater experience. You’ll be running rapids on the Colorado River, get to trek to the Travertine Falls, and even have a helicopter ride going to the rim. You see, there’s still a lot of things you can experience from a 1 day Grand Canyon whitewater rafting trip.

How to Plan a Grand Canyon Rafting Trip Adventure

Grand Canyon whitewater rafting is a journey of adventure opportunities that sells out fast. There’s a ton of options that sell out quickly. How to raft the Grand Canyon comes down to the type of experience you’d like to have, your budget, and the amount of time you can spend on this bucket list trip. To truly enjoy its natural splendor, head straight down into its beating heart— the thrilling and chilling whitewater rapids of the Colorado River.

How to Plan a Grand Canyon Rafting Trip Adventure

If you have no idea how to plan your Grand Canyon rafting trip, here’s a step-by-step guide to make sure you’ll have the best time of your life.

Plan your ideal dates ahead of time

Since slots in Grand Canyon sell out very fast, best to plan your preferred date in advance. A lot of tourists choose to visit Grand Canyon during summer when it’s very hot and cool down in the river. However, when hiking in the side canyons, it may be limited only to shady areas.

It is also nice to visit during spring when flowers are in bloom and the temperature is cooler while hiking. Just be prepared in the evening as it can get colder. Those who want to avoid the crowd prefer to visit during autumn when Grand Canyon is quieter. Days can be shorter and get ready to cover up when nighttime comes.For more details read the below Article:

Determine the number of days for your Grand Canyon rafting trip

It is important to determine the time frame of your trip ahead of time. You can choose from 1 day to 18-day trips in the river. Be sure to read the guidelines on the park service website. You can also find a list of all the accredited rafting tour operators. Your chosen rafting outfitter will handle everything from permits to equipment and route information. Because of regulations concerning the impact of tourism on the environment, trips are reserved in advance. You can book at least a year or two to secure a spot.

Set a budget

A trip to the Grand Canyon can be expensive so be prepared to spend a lot of money. It is easier to manage a budget when traveling with a rafting outfitter because all fees are included in the total cost of the trip. If you choose to travel with a private group, you need to pay for permits, backcountry passes, and other fees for traveling along the Hualapai Reservation.

Decide if you want to hire a rafting outfitter

You can choose whether to go on your own and join a private group or hire an approved rafting outfitter. Commercial rafting companies usually use oar-driven rubber rafts or motor-driven rafts. They will also take care of almost everything you’ll need throughout the tour.

Get a non-commercial river trip permit

If you are going to the Grand Canyon on your own, you need to acquire a non-commercial river trip permit. You can get one from the Grand Canyon National Park service. There’s no fee for permits but they have a limit per day for different parts of the river. Permits can be reserved a year or more before your planned vacation. But if you are hiring a rafting tour operator, they will be the one to obtain a permit for you. Remember the permit is free which is also why it may be hard to get a slot.

You can download the application form at the National Park’s website to get a permit for 2 to 5-day non-commercial rafting trips. They are already available a year before your chosen date for your Grand Canyon rafting. It is a first come first serve basis, so you need to be fast to ensure you get one.

If your trip will take more than 5 days, you would need to enter the lottery system. You can enter by filling out a form at the Grand Canyon Weighted Lottery website. There’s a fee of $25 and you will be asked to choose the primary and secondary dates that you wish to win, so choose wisely. In case you win for a particular date, there is no way you can change it.

Contact a commercial rafting company

If you choose to hire a commercial rafting company, contact them and ask them to book a date for your trip. Most commercial rafting companies require a deposit, usually 1/3 of the total fee. They can also offer rafting dates for 1 year to 2 years in advance.

Plan and coordinate with your group

To make sure everything is set for your trip. Contact and coordinate with your group on what you all need to pack. If you intend to hire a commercial guide, you don’t need to bring with you a lot of things and equipment as they will be the ones to provide them for you. All you need to pack would be your clothes, hiking gear, and toiletries.

However, if you prefer to travel with a noncommercial group, you may need to pack your life jackets, boat, oars, drysuits or wet suits, and your food. You can get an outfitter for your supplies during the trip, but they won’t be able to guide you.

Prepare necessary equipment

Unless you prefer to hire a rafting tour operator, you would need to rent or bring your own boat. Small rafts can hold at least 5 to 6 people including a seasoned rower to lead the raft along the rapids. If you prefer paddle rafts, expect them to be smaller and it is important that passengers work together while paddling in the white water. If you need additional equipment for your boat or you need to rent one, you can find a list of local suppliers from the Grand Canyon National Park Service website. Also for best preparations, read the below articles:

Make arrangements for when your trip has ended

Once your trip is over you need to plan on how you will get out of the Grand Canyon National Park. The outfitter that you’ve hired can arrange a shuttle to bring you back to your car. Alternatively, you can get independent shuttle service. You can find a list of shuttle service vendors at the Grand Canyon National Park Service website.

Preparing for your Grand Canyon Whitewater Colorado River Rafting Trip

Once you have secured a date for your trip and you have decided on an itinerary, you have to be physically ready as well since touring the Grand Canyon can be exhausting. If your tour includes hiking, you might want to check how difficult or strenuous the hiking will be.

Most rafting outfitters will gladly talk to you about what to expect during the trip. You can contact them and they will able to help you prepare. Most of the time, they will ask about your hiking experience and medical history to find out if you are physically fit.

One of the most challenging hikes on the Grand Canyon is the Bright Angel Trail. If you’re not an experienced hiker, you may want to prepare for it. If you are traveling between June to August, you need to be ready to beat the Arizona heat as it can be extremely hot during those months. Just to give you an idea, here’s what you can expect on Bright Angel Trail.

  • 16 km trek
  • Elevation gain/loss of 1340 m
  • The trail is well-maintained and graded for stock
  • Very little shade across the trail
  • Water stations are situated at 1.5 miles, mile 3, and Indian Garden mile 4.8 from the rim
  • Ascent time from rive may take 6 to 8 hours on average and the average descent time is 4 to 6 hours. Take note that this is for experienced and prepared hikers.
  • People who are out of shape, are not regular hikers, have heart problems, overweight, exercise-induced asthma, or heat-related sickness may find the trail very challenging.

If you have any of the above-mentioned conditions, here’s what you can do to prepare for your Grand Canyon trip.

  • Visit your physician and get a medical certificate to confirm that you are physically fit
  • If you are overweight, try to shed some weight before your trip. You still have at least a year to prepare for your Grand Canyon rafting trip
  • If you are not an experienced hiker, best to plan some hiking trips before your tour at the Grand Canyon
  • Have an exercise routine every day. This will help increase stamina and endurance and will prevent sore muscles after your full Grand Canyon tour.
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Other Grand Canyon Hiking Trails

Bright Angel Trail is the most challenging trail in Grand Canyon but there are also other trails that are not as tough.

Lava Falls Trail

The trail will begin at the west of an extinct volcano and ends at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Hikers will then be taken to enjoy the Lava Falls rapids. Going down Lava Falls Trail can also be strenuous but not as tiring and difficult as the Bright Angel trail. But the trail can be steep and guests who wish to take the Lava Falls trail may want to have prior hiking experience first.

South Rim Trail

The South Rim trail is roughly around 2.8 miles long. The trailhead is at the Grand Canyon Visitor’s Center and ends at the start of the South Kaibab Trail Hike. Many guests find the South Rim trail as one of the greatest ways to appreciate the full Grand Canyon scenic views.

The trek through this trail is flat and wide, this is much easier than other trails. During your trek, you’ll be able to check out the breathtaking views of the South Rim through the Mather Point platform. You also get to honor and pay respect to the Native American nations and medallion listing. The Native American people had considered Grand Canyon their home over the years.

Havasu Falls Hike

If you have your camera with you, be ready to capture some of the best views in the Grand Canyon. This is considered a camera-friendly location, so expect the trek to be less daunting. It is approximately 10 miles from the Havasu Creek campground. As you reach the Havasu Creek campsite, you can continue walking for a few miles more to witness the magnificent waterfalls with their clear turquoise water.

Some of the starting points for the Havasu falls are the Hualapai Hilltop parking lot area and the canyon floor. Make sure to get a hiking permit from the Havasupai Reservations if you plan to trek the Havasu Falls. On a full Grand Canyon raft trip you’ll get a chance to go see the Havasu Creek as the water from the falls connects the Colorado River.

Must-see Attractions with the Full Grand Canyon Whitewater River Rafting Trip

Diamond Creek

Most Grand Canyon whitewater river trips end at Diamond Creek. This is partly because the road along Diamond Creek is the easiest way to enter and leave the Grand Canyon. Aside from that, tourists get to enjoy its vast sandy beaches. It got its name from the diamond-shaped peak near the creek. It is the best area to observe the stratified layers of the Grand Canyon while standing at the mouth of the Diamond creek. Tours starting from Lee’s Ferry to Diamond Creek will surely have the best vacation they’ll ever imagine.

Elves Chasm

Be enchanted by the grotto and stunning waterfall of Elves Chasm. It is a less-traveled part of the Grand Canyon. If you chose a full Grand Canyon whitewater river trip, you’ll get a chance to admire this beautiful wonder of nature.

Lake Mead

There are numerous activities to do at Lake Mead as part of full Grand Canyon rafting trips. Some activities you can enjoy at Lake Mead are horseback riding, scenic dives, hiking, biking, and hunting. However, you may not be able to do all of that during the canyon river trip. There may be also times when Lake Mead may not be accessible to visitors.

Little Colorado

The Little Colorado River is considered a sacred place for American Native people. This is where they share their prayers. It has beautiful turquoise blue waters and a consistent source of water all year round. Its beautiful waters run through the emerald green waters at the confluence of the Colorado River.

Marble Canyon

You can find Marble Canyon in the middle of Page, AZ, and Vermilion Cliffs. This also where the Little Colorado River meets the Colorado River. The riverfront is access is through Lee’s Ferry, where you can rest and enjoy the sandy beach or throw a fishing line. Be aware that the water at the Marble Canyon can be very cold even on hot summer days. But your mind will be taken off of the freezing water with the spectacular view that surrounds you.

Redwall Cavern

The Redwall Cavern is a huge cave inside the Grand Canyon Walls. It is so big that John Wesley Powell believes it can accommodate at least 50,000 people. It is one of the best places to check out in the full Grand Canyon tour. This is a favorite spot for many rafters to explore and take a rest. You get to see stunning rock formations and fossils at the Redwall limestone.

Grand Canyon River Rafting Boats Options

There are different rafting boats to choose from and the raft that you will pick will depend on what you wish to see and experience from your Grand Canyon whitewater rafting adventure and on your available time. Grand Canyon National Park Service has a list of rafting outfitters that offer different rafting trips using a motorized raft and non-motorized raft. To give you an idea of what your options may be, let’s describe each boat that you can use for your raft trip.

Motorized Raft

The motorized raft is the most commonly used variant of a raft on a trip. Grand Canyon outfitters offer motorized rafts to most guests because passengers don’t need to steer or paddle the raft. The motorized raft is powered by an extremely quiet engine.

Guests traveling with kids, first-time rafters, and those who cannot paddle for a long period of time may find motorized raft ideal. The motorized version is also bigger than an oar-powered raft with a length of about 35 feet, which makes them more stable as it floats through the Grand Canyon river. This will give passengers peace of mind while traversing the Colorado River.

For those who do not have enough time to explore the full Grand Canyon river, a motorized raft is a great option as it can cover more river miles a day. The motorized raft can also bring you to major sites much faster than an oar-powered or other kinds of the raft.

You can have more time sightseeing in the hidden caves, waterfalls, and some of the ancient Native American ruins. Although motorized rafts are safe and child-friendly, a lot of raft outfitters have a minimum age requirement. Normally the youngest they can allow is 8 years old.

Oar Powered Raft

Just like with a motorized raft, passengers are not required to paddle or steer the boat. It is powered and steered by 2 long oars that are placed in the middle of the raft. Oar-powered rafts are smaller and can only carry at least 6 passengers with the inclusion of the river guide.

Since you are not required to paddle, you may still ask your Colorado River guide if you can try to paddle. Some guides allow tourists to paddle but usually when the river is calm. Keep in mind that not all river guides allow this, so there is no guarantee that you’ll have a chance to paddle the raft.

If you prefer a leisurely ride on your full Grand Canyon river raft trip, oar-powered rafts are a great choice. It only travels at 3 to 4 miles per hour which is basically similar to the river current. It doubles the travel time of a motorized trip but it gives you more time to enjoy the whole stretch of the Colorado River. Since it is also smaller, you get a more exhilarating experience as your raft traverse the whitewater rapids of the Colorado River.

This is the next popular rafting option at the Grand Canyon river trip. In fact, 12 rafting outfitters offer this option. Same with motorized rafts, it also has an age requirement of 10-12 years old.

Paddle Raft

Paddle rafting makes rafting the Colorado River more thrilling. A paddle raft can accommodate 6 to 8 passengers and everyone controls a paddle to help in propelling and steering the raft. Since this can be physically taxing, it is advisable to participate in multi-day paddling activities before rafting the Grand Canyon with a paddle raft.

Similar to an oar-powered raft, paddle rafts have almost the same speed as the current in the Colorado River. This will allow you to appreciate the soaring crimson Canyon walls as your Colorado River rafting unfolds. Because of its smaller size, rafters who are thrill-seekers will have the time of their lives as the ride will be rough and fierce while rafting the Grand Canyon whitewater. Compared to motorized rafts, since they are larger and fast, they can barely feel the roughness of the rapids.

Paddle rafts are not as popular as oar-powered rafts and motorized rafts. Actually, out of 15 outfitters, there are only 4 that offer paddling rafting in the Grand Canyon river. Children below the age of 12 and those who are not capable of multi-day paddling trips should not try paddle rafting the Grand Canyon.

Hybrid Raft

It is not a special kind of raft but rather a combination of paddle and oar rafts. Passengers will get to ride 4 oar-powered rafts and 1 paddle raft every day. This is perfect for those who want to experience paddling but are not ready for a multi-day paddle rafting.

Since you won’t be paddling every day, it is not as physically exhausting as paddle rafting trips. You don’t also need to have previous paddling and rafting experience to avail the Hybrid Grand Canyon Whitewater rafting trip. Your outfitter may allow skipping their turn in paddling if they think they won’t be able to handle and do it properly.

Similar to paddle rafts, only 4 outfitters offer hybrid rafting, and kids under the age of 12 are not allowed to participate in hybrid rafting trips

Dory Raft

A dory raft is made of hardwood, not like the other rafting options. They are faster than oar rafts but are still slower than motorized rafts. Again, you’ll have more time to appreciate the beautiful Canyon walls and other sceneries during your full Grand Canyon rafting adventure.

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As with a motorized trip, you don’t need to paddle while you traverse the Grand Canyon river. A Dory raft can hold at least 6 people and the river guide will be the one to steer from the center of the boat. Sometimes, oar rafts are accompanied by dory rafts on a full Grand Canyon whitewater river trip. This is to give passengers a chance to experience a different rafting boat.

However, this is not always guaranteed as your outfitter will be the one to decide on it. Also, there are only 5 outfitters that accommodate dory raft trips. The minimum age requirement for a dory raft trip is 10 years old.


Are you ready for your full Grand Canyon river trip adventure? A vacation to the Grand Canyon is truly one of the best trips you can experience in your whole life. Not everyone can get a chance to have an adventure in the Grand Canyon’s whitewater rapids and flat water. If you cannot explore the whole Grand Canyon due to time constraints, you can avail a 1-day tour or a 4-5 day trip. It doesn’t matter how many days you have to travel around Grand Canyon, what’s important is you take time to enjoy and appreciate the natural wonders around you. Also, be sure to always practice safety protocols during your trip as it can be dangerous for people who have no rafting and hiking experience.

Charley River Rafting Adventure

Rafting the Charley is a journey of contrasts. Starting high on the tundra where the river is little more than a creek, we descend, through the canyon and into the Boreal Forest. Below lies the broad silty Yukon rich with history and offering some of the best campsites anywhere.


A four-seater plane will land you, your trip mates and guide(s) on a gravel landing strip in the upper Charley River, a remote Wild and Scenic River in the pristine Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. The National Park Service created this park because of its rich human history and its stunning natural beauty. This trip is your chance to experience this little-known gem.

The Charley River flows first through an open valley where far away mountain peaks are over 6,000 feet high. The river valley then narrows and the river has cut its way through the bedrock, flowing swiftly past bluffs and cliffs. We will enjoy navigating through boulder strewn rapids as the river plummets towards the Yukon Valley. After leaving the mountains, the current slows and we will have more time to stare through the crystal clear water to the colorful pebbles below and to study the moss-filled woods in hopes of seeing wildlife. After enjoying this Wild and Scenic River for over 100 miles we will paddle out to the mighty Yukon River.

The adventure is far from over when we reach the Yukon River. Along the Yukon we will see tall bluffs with nesting raptors, car-sized chunks of ice left stranded on the sandbars, historic cabins, and wildlife such as grizzly bears, lynx, and moose. The Yukon is huge even here in its upper reaches, both its size and speed are impressive.

Spring is a magical time this far north. Birds arrive from around the globe and the landscape turns green before our eyes. Animals are everywhere in motion making the most of the brief summer and endless daylight. We expect some rain this time of year and in fact hope for water to make the paddling easier and more fun. But this tends to be the clearest and sunniest time of the year and we can expect some glorious weather, especially on the Yukon.

The Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve has one of North America’s highest densities of nesting Peregrine Falcons. You may also see caribou, moose, wolves, black and grizzly bears and a wide variety of waterfowl and songbirds (including Northern Shrikes and Rusty Blackbirds).

This is a moderately difficult river trip, with stretches of Class II and III rapids and steady paddling, in total 150 miles. The upper river can be very shallow and we often have to wade and pull the boats through rock gardens and over shallows. No experience is required for paddle rafting, as instruction is provided. Everyone joins in the fun of paddling the boats under the guidance of a raft captain, so general fitness and a good attitude are key.

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Last updated: January 28, 2022


What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.

Day 1 (Late May is best)

Meet with your guide at 4 pm for a pre-trip meeting in Fairbanks at Arctic Wild headquarters.

Day 2

Fly into a gravel landing strip in the headwaters of the Charley River. Spend the afternoon hiking through the alpine tundra and settling into the country.

Day 3

Spend the morning inflating our rafts and preparing for the river. After a river safety briefing we will set out on the clear and beautiful Charley River.

Day 4 – 9

Paddle down the Charley, navigating rapids and enjoying the country. Though we have many miles to cover, we will make time for one non-travel day to explore on foot and enjoy the quiet and solitude of this spectacular area.

Day 10 – 11

Broad and strong, the Yukon flows between forested banks and rocky bluffs. As the river nears the village of Circle the valley broadens to the horizon and our world becomes one of just sky, water and gravel. Once we arrive by raft to the Yukon River village of Circle, pack our gear, and climb in a van for the four hour drive to Fairbanks. Time for a hot shower!

Michael listened to our descriptions of what we wanted in a trip and investigated the possibility of making that sort of trip happen. Unlike some other guide services, he was attuned to what we were saying and did not outright say he could not accommodate us because Arctic Wild only provided trips like X, Y, or Z. In my opinion, the major difference between Arctic Wild and the 4 other guide services I talked to was that Michael tried to design a trip meeting our trip objectives and wishes.

– Rochelle , Missouri, USA



Transportation beyond Fairbanks

Food while in the wilderness

Stoves, cooking & eating utensils

Boats, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear

Professional guide service

Select Camping Equipment is available through Arctic Wild


Personal clothing and gear. See full equipment list.

Fishing gear, and fishing license

Gratuity for guide(s).


Temperatures vary from the 80’s to below freezing. Snow is possible; rain is likely. Expect a few mosquitoes and biting flies in the woods but not on the river bars. Bugs shouldn’t be a problem this time of year but a bottle of DEET is prudent


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  4. We will send you a detailed packing list
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“I am just finishing my tenth trip with you guys. As always, the trip was more than I expected and I had a great time. See you next year!”

“Of all outfitters with whom we have worked (and that is quite a number), you were by far the most organized and responsive.”

“That feeling of wide open wonder, the possibilities for nearly limitless wandering, and the image of those proud caribou. that will stay with me a long time”

“Our guide was an encyclopedia on legs. He was always willing and ready to teach, to talk, to listen, to do another hike, or to lie low in camp if we were beat. He truly gave us the trip we wanted!”

How long to raft entire yukon river

With the mighty Yukon River at its heart, Yukon-Charley is a National Preserve like no other.

Yukon Canoe Trip

About Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve

The unspoiled wilderness of Alaska’s Yukon and Charley Rivers is the ideal place for a river trip. Turn of the century gold dredges, peregrine falcon nests, hand-hewn homestead cabins, challenging white water, great fishing, and Alaska’s biggest river are just some of the attractions to this wilderness park. Yukon-Charley is a 2.5 million acre wilderness in Alaska’s wild interior managed by the National Park Service in the eastern interior of Alaska.

The Charley River Watershed is completely protected within the National Park Wilderness. Starting in the high tundra mountains it descends into the verdant boreal forest before joining the enormous Yukon River. Even here in the Yukon’s upper reaches more than a 1000 miles from the Bering Sea, it is an impressive river. Brown with silt from the St. Elias Ranges the Yukon is nearly a half mile wide and flowing at almost 8 miles an hour.

Wildlife in Yukon-Charley

The high meadows in the headwaters flourish with tundra animals like Dall Sheep, wolves and arctic ground squirrels. In the broad Yukon Valley Brown Bears work the beaches in search of chum salmon or the unwary moose calf while falcons hunt the willow flats.

With an impressive variety of habitats from the alpine tundra to the waterfowl rich lakes to the gnarled black-spruce woods, Yukon-Charley National Park keeps the avid birder and the casual naturalist excited and intrigued by the wildlife surviving in the harsh climate.

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Rafting and Canoeing trips in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve

We offer rafting and canoeing trips on both the Yukon River and its rock studded tributary, the Charley River.

Whether you are interested in the fascinating history, want a relaxing family canoe trip, or are looking to experience real Alaska whitewater; Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve is a great destination.




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