The Most Common FAQs about Rafting the Kicking Horse River
Planning a rafting trip with family and friends can be a big deal. There are lots of factors to consider including what to bring, is whitewater rafting a safe thing to do, and what the day will be like – do you have questions about our raft trips? Most people do!
Check out the answers to some of our most common frequently asked questions and make sure you are ready for an awesome day of rafting on the Kicking Horse River in Golden BC!
Q. Do I need experience to come rafting?
No, a lot of our guests are first time rafters and all of our trips are suitable for guests with no rafting experience. Because the Kicking Horse River has everything from calm water to big class 4 whitewater, there’s a trip for everyone, whether you are young or old, in shape or not!
At the beginning of the day, prior to the trip, our guides will take you through procedures and a thorough safety demonstration so everyone has a solid understanding of what to expect.
There is a highly trained raft guide in every boat and they’ll let you know exactly what you need to do throughout the day.
Our trips start off with the calmest section of the river so you can gradually get used to paddling and being on the river before hitting the bigger rapids with confidence.
Getting the morning safety briefing before putting on the water
Q. is rafting a safe thing to do – how often do rafts flip/people fall out?
Yes, rafting is a safe activity and while we can’t guarantee a flip or swimmer won’t happen, it is a very rare occurrence. Our guides do everything they can to look out for your safety and it’s important to listen to everything they say.
There will be various points throughout the trip when they tell you to hold on or get down, and it’s necessary to follow their instructions.
Safety is always our number one priority, and to read more about our commitment to safety have a look at our Safety page.
Having a great time on our Family Adventure trip
Q. Do i need to know how to swim?
Knowing how to swim is recommended, but it’s not mandatory.
Our guides provide thorough training on how to hold on and stay in the raft, but if you’re not a strong swimmer it is important to let your guide know so they can position you in the raft accordingly.
Everyone also wears a high float life jacket so if someone was to fall in they would stay well above the surface until pulled back into the raft.
Q. What equipment do you provide?
We provide all the equipment and clothing you will need for your trip. This includes wetsuits, neoprene jackets, splash tops, fleece sweaters, neoprene boots, socks, mitts/gloves, helmets, life jackets, and paddles.
On a cooler day you can take all of the layers to really bundle up, but on a hot summer day most guests will be fine in just the wetsuit.
Glacier guests bundled up in wetsuits, neoprene tops, fleece sweaters and splash tops
Q. What should I bring?
All you need to bring is a swimsuit and towel, and we also recommend bringing sunglasses and sunscreen for hot sunny days. We sell sunglasses if you forget yours or prefer not to use them, as well as straps to attach your sunglasses to decrease the chance of losing them in the river.
If you have any medications you’ll need throughout the day (e.g. EpiPen, asthma inhaler, insulin etc.) please bring them along, as well. Your guide will have a dry bag on your raft to keep them safe.
We have large separate men’s and women’s change rooms on site which include bathrooms and hot showers. There’s lots of time to change before your trip starts and upon your return so there’s no need to rush.
Rocking the snazzy blue and yellow shades we have available to purchase
Q. I’m really nervous. Should I still try whitewater rafting?
Yes, definitely! There are many guests who join us each day who are very nervous about their trip. It’s a completely natural feeling to have. Our guides are very experienced and understand that many people are scared about being on a river. They take great care to put you at ease and make you feel comfortable so you can enjoy the day.
Our day starts with the calmest section of the river first. This allows you time to get used to being on the water and paddling with no rapids. If you’re feeling comfortable and having fun you can continue on to the middle section of the river with the bigger whitewater.
This is a great thing about the Kicking Horse River and it provides a lot of flexibility to see how you’re feeling on the day with the option to upgrade while you’re out on the water if you want to.
The Glacier team can attest to the fact that the guests who are the most nervous at the beginning of the day end up having the most fun, and often return to our base with the biggest smiles.
Rafting the calmer, upper canyon of the Kicking Horse to get a taste of whitewater rafting
Q. What if it rains?
Rafting is a great activity to do on a rainy day – you’re going to be getting wet anyways!
If you’re planning to go hiking or sightseeing while you’re in Golden it’s nice to have sunny days for the alpine views, but a drizzly day on the river isn’t so much of a downer. Once you’re on the river you can’t even tell which direction the water is coming from!
Because we run our trips rain or shine, we do not allow guests to change their trip date due to weather.
Q. Will it be cold?
The Kicking Horse river is glacial fed so it’s roughly 3-4 °C year round. If it’s a cooler day or you get cold easily, we have lots of layers to keep you warm.
We provide layers other companies don’t so you can really bundle up. You can take a wetsuit, neoprene jacket, fleece sweater, splash jacket, neoprene socks, mitts and boots. If you’re someone who gets really cold you could also put a merino wool layer underneath your wetsuit, but most people will be fine without this.
If you do want to wear a layer underneath your wetsuit make sure it’s not cotton. Cotton strips your body of its heat when it gets wet.
On hot, summer days you will be fine with less layers and many of our guests will go for a refreshing dip at the designated swimming spots along the river.
Going for a swim in the Kicking Horse. On hot, sunny days most guests are fine in just the wetsuit.
Q. What’s for lunch?
We serve a delicious BBQ lunch at the riverside midday. You have the choice of steak, chicken breast, fish, a hamburger, veggie burger, or smokie (big hot dog).
In addition to this there’s a buffet of salads (caesar, green, potato and bean), soup, chips, veggies and dip, fruit, and cookies. Hot and cold beverages are also served. There’s a reason that lunch is a highlight of the day for many of our guests!
We are also happy to prepare a gluten free or vegan lunch – just let us know when you book!
Enjoying the riverside BBQ lunch – lots of options for everyone!
Q. Do you have a photographer to take photos/video?
We have a professional photographer who will take photos throughout the day. They capture you at different spots along the river and will also be at our lunch spot to grab some shots of you and your group.
Our guides are also outfitted with GoPro cameras to capture video throughout your trip, and they’ll put the camera on the front and back of the raft to capture different vantage points.
We are the only company on the Kicking Horse with a professional photographer and who offers HD video of our rafting trips everyday!
You can view the photos and video from your raft at the end of your trip back at our base. USB sticks or an online link of all the media from your day will be available for purchase.
Q. Can we bring cameras and other personal belongings in the raft?
We don’t recommend people bring anything with them on the river. There is always a chance things could get lost, damaged or wet, and there’s very little time to take pictures as you’ll be required to paddle throughout the day.
If you really want to bring a camera make sure it’s waterproof and that it has a little strap to attach to your life jacket. You cannot wear one of the waterproof camera dry bags that hangs around your neck, as it poses a safety risk.
We often get asked by guests if they can bring their own GoPro on the trip. You sure can and we do have helmets with GoPro mounts available, however, it is at your own risk. There is always a chance the camera could get broken or knocked off and many cameras have been lost in the river. We think it’s safer to leave the filming and photos to us.
The only personal belongings that should be brought on the raft is any medication you may need such as an asthma inhaler or epi pen. Please let your guide know as they have small dry bags to keep these items safe for you.
Q. How are the rapids rated?
Rapids are rated on a scale of 1-6.
Class 1: Moving water
Class 2: Splashy waves
Class 3: Easy maneuvering through the rapids, bigger waves
Class 4: Intense rapids, technical maneuvering, big waves
Class 5: Long, powerful rapids with serious consequences (not commercially raftable in B.C.)
Class 6: No go (think Niagara Falls)
The Kicking Horse River has 3 Sections: The Upper, Middle & Lower Canyons.
Upper Canyon – Mostly class 1 and 2 with a couple class 3 rapids, as well
Middle Canyon – Continuous class 2-3 and a 1 km section of class 4 (more class 4 at high water)
Lower Canyon – 4 km of continuous class 4 followed by class 2-3 rapids and a class 1-2 float into Golden
We offer five different trips on the Kicking Horse that are made up of the different sections described above. To see an overview of the trip options head to our Overview Page or use our Trip Selector to help narrow down the best option for you.
Q. When does your season start and end?
We start rafting May long weekend and run trips through until mid-September.
We only raft on weekends in May and then start running everyday June 1st, provided we have met minimum numbers for the trip to safely go ahead, and that the water level of the river is safe for rafting.
Q. How far in advance should I book?
If you are planning to come midweek, it’s usually fine to book a few days prior to your selected trip date. It is however best to book as soon as you know your preferred date so we can guarantee we still have spots available – this is especially true in July and August.
Weekends are the busiest time and tend to book up quickly. If you are planning to book a trip on the weekend, or have a large group, we recommend booking as soon as you have your plans confirmed.
Rafting is a great activity for weddings, family reunions or big gatherings
If you don’t see what you’re looking for here, we do have more answers on the FAQ page on our website.
If you have other questions or need help planning your trip, the Glacier team is here to help. Feel free to call the office at 1 877 344 7283 or send us an email to email@example.com. We are always happy to answer your questions and help plan your rafting adventure.
You can check out our contact page to get in touch and we look forward to greeting new and old friends this upcoming season!
14 Apr HISTORY OF THE KICKING HORSE RIVER
River rafting in British Columbia has a long and well-established history. Companies offering both multi-day wilderness expeditions and action-packed day trips have run guests down a multitude of BC rivers for close to 50 years. The first commercial rafting outfit in British Columbia, in fact, Canada, was Canadian River Expeditions , founded in 1972 by Big John Mikes. CRE specialized (and continues to specialize) in multi-day wilderness rafting expeditions in remote pockets of the province and territories.
The first-ever day -tripping company was none other than Kumsheen in 1973, setting up shop on the banks of the Thompson River. This rafting destination remains a popular whitewater escape for those near Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.
Kicking Horse River History
Closer to the Rockies, near Golden and Lake Louise , the Kicking Horse River and valley has its own cultural and rafting history. Because of the steepness and dramatic elevation changes of the Kicking Horse River, Indigenous Stoney (Nakoda), Piegan and Kootenay (Ktunaxa) tribes chose to seasonally cross the mountains at gentler and more accessible locations. McArthur Pass , near Lake O’Hara, and Lake Minnewanka , near Banff, offered much less challenging routes from one side of the mountains to another.
In 1858, the Canadian government announced the building of a railway to conn ect together eastern and western Canada. T he Palliser Expedition was commissioned to locate the best possible route. The obvious choice was Yellowhead Pass, near Jasper. It had the least amount of elevation change through the mountains. The Kicking Horse Pass , historically known by First Nations as Wapta Pass, was not recommended at all. The government, however, decided for two reasons that the treacherously steep Wapta Pass was the best optio n. It was the shortest route through the mountains (so likely would be the least costly); a nd , it was the most southern option, closest to the American border.
How Did The Kicking Horse Get Its Name?
During the Palliser expedition, Dr. James Hector was kicked by his horse and knocked unconscious (see where this is going?). Given the national significance of the expedition’s mission and the doctor’s astounding recovery , both the river and pass were re- named from Wapta to Kicking Horse to commemorate this near-death event .
Rafting The Kicking Horse River
100 years or so later, in 1983, the Kicking Horse was rafted for the first time (modern rafting that is, compared to Huckleberry Finn style of rafting). Local whitewater rafters, Linda and Daryl, made the actual first descent proving that certain sections were commercially runnable.
About 10 years later, in 1992, Wild Water Adventures popped onto the scen e. The river quickly became known for its big whitewater action with Class 2 through Class 4+ waves and rapids. Besides the whitewater, guests also had the chance to see the river just as the early explorers did. With a wild and free-running river and largely untouched wilderness, guests experienced history first hand. Nothing much had changed in the past 150 years. The only new feature was the railway!
Over the past 30 seasons, our rafts have run thousands upon thousands of guests down the Kicking Horse River. Many guests, known as Frequent Paddlers, return year after year to experience the true ‘kick’ of this river.
Wild Water Adventures extends a heartfelt invitation for enthusiastic guests to step back in time and create their own Kicking Horse history.
The 2021 rafting season ‘kicks’ off on Saturday, June 12th
Unforgettable Alpine Rafting near Banff, Alberta.
Are you planning a getaway to Banff, Alberta? If not, you really should be. After all, this destination is one of the most stunning spots in Canada. There are thousands of reasons you should visit Banff – from the towering mountains to the tranquil lakes to the well-kept hiking trails to the vibrant culture of the village itself.
BEST RAFTING IN THE ROCKIES
The Kicking Horse River is the best river rafting experience in the Canadian Rockies. A wild, untamed, classic Canadian River that is free-flowing from start to finish. The Kicking Horse River is the Canadian Rockies premiere destination for the best whitewater near Banff
Not only will you experience an amazing river, you’ll also get to experience an extra National Park – Yoho National Park. Alpine Rafting is located in Golden, British Columbia in the beautiful Canadian Rockies – only a one hour drive from Banff. We offer the biggest whitewater thrills near Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper. During your visit to Banff, make the drive out to the Kicking Horse River and experience the biggest & best whitewater rafting the Canadian Rockies has to offer.
White Water Rafting near Banff, AB
Alpine Rafting offers the biggest whitewater thrills near Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper.
The Rocky Mountain town of Banff was named by George Stephen, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, after his birthplace in Scotland. Once the transcontinental railway was built through the Bow Valley, numerous hotels sprung up and it became a popular spot for tourists – drawn by its wild and rugged beauty.
Banff offers a balance between wilderness and culture. If you want to dine on expertly grilled steaks or Spanish tapas, peruse art galleries and museums and sip lattes in cosy coffee shops – you’ll find all that and more on thriving Banff Ave (a street bookended by mountains that fill the horizon.)
However, although the village is filled with fashionable boutiques and hip bars – you don’t have to go far to find yourself completely surrounded by wilderness. The backcountry around Banff is packed with natural wonders – including hot springs, glaciers and strange rock formations known as Hoodoos. A quick trip out of this small town and you’ll be at the peak of a mountain, in the midst of a forest or canoeing on the calm waters of a lake.
Banff Summer & Winter Activities
Banff National Park is an outdoor playground. No matter what the season, there are so many exciting activities to enjoy.
In the summer, camp in the Canadian Rockies, canoe or fish along the Bow River or Vermilion Lakes, bike along the many trails near the forests and rivers, golf or take a gondola ride over Sulphur Mountain. The long, hot summer days are perfect for hiking along the mountains, kayaking in the Johnson River, skateboarding, swimming in the Upper Hot Springs pool, playing tennis, or just relaxing in the park.
In the winter, skiing, snowboarding, ice-skating, sledding, tobogganing, snowshoeing, hockey and curling are the most popular activities that tourists can take part in.
The Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre is where the majority of these fast paced winter activities are held. However, anyone who wants to enjoy a quiet or relaxing day or evening can take part in ice fishing or a horse-drawn sleigh ride.
Book Your Trip! #1 for Fun!
From Thrilling Heli Rafting to Family-friendly Rafting, We Offer Something for Everyone!
Banff Tourist Attractions
- Banff Gondola: This scenic cableway ride whisks you up to the summit of Sulphur Mountain, where you can gaze out at the enormous ancient mountain landscape all around you.
- Moraine Lake: A tranquil, ice-cold glacially fed lake surrounded by dramatic snow-capped peaks.
- Icefields Parkway: One of the most spectacular drives in Canada – a route through towering mountains, enormous glaciers and other larger-than-life geological wonders.
- Lake Minnewanka: What lies beneath the surface? A teeming population of Mountain Whitefish and Lake Trout, as well as the remains of the village of Minnewanka Landing which was submerged in 1941.
- Sunshine Village: A powdery playground for skiing enthusiasts, plus plenty of apres-ski shopping and dining.
Why Should I Book a Whitewater Rafting Trip While Staying in Banff?
- The Kicking Horse River is renowned as the Whitewater Gem of the Canadian Rockies. It offers the best rafting in the Canadian Rockies.
- You will not find any better whitewater experience on the Kicking Horse River while staying in Banff. This river offers fantastic stretches of exhilarating waves that are sure to thrill you.
- The Kicking Horse has sustained water levels all season long, and it will not disappoint!
- Travelling from Banff to the Kicking Horse River is easy, and allows you to experience an extra National Park on your vacation.
- Yoho National Park is filled with incredible attractions situated close to the highway.
- Attractions such as Takakkaw Falls, Emerald Lake and the Natural bridge are all located within a few minutes drive of the Kicking Horse River and can be easily added to your drive to and from Golden BC.
- You’ll meet adventure seekers like yourself from all over the world and make some great friends.
No matter where you are based during your trip to the Rockies, it’s easy to get to Alpine Rafting in Golden so that you can begin your adventure. You won’t have to drive down long, dusty, bumpy roads to get here. Just one turn off the Trans Canada Highway and you’ll find us! Below are directions to our location from Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper & Calgary.
Whitewater Rafting Near Banff
The best place to enjoy Whitewater Rafting near Banff is hands down on the Kicking Horse River. With affordable Gentle Family Rafting & Class 4+ Thrills, this river can really do it all! The Kicking Horse is considered the Premiere Whitewater Rafting River in the Canadian Rockies, and if you are planning to spend a day on the water, this is 100% the river you want to be on!
From Lake Louise, Alberta
The closest Whitewater Rafting to Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies is the Kicking Horse River. The Kicking Horse is considered the Premiere Whitewater Rafting River in the Canadian Rockies, and if you are planning to spend a day on the water, this is 100% the river you want to be on!
Plan on a one hour drive on the beautiful & scenic Trans Canada Highway. Plan an extra 1 hour each way if you would like to check out the following Canadian Rockies must do’s: experience intimate dining and great shopping in the small mountain hamlet of Field, BC as well as the top three attractions in Yoho National Park (The Natural Bridge, Takakkaw Falls and Emerald Lake )
From Canmore, Alberta
If you are looking for the best Whitewater Rafting near Canmore, Alberta, we highly recommend this two hour drive for an unforgettable day on the Kicking Horse River. Bonus! Plan an extra 1 hour each way if you would like to check out the following Canadian Rockies must do’s: experience intimate dining and great shopping in the small mountain hamlet of Field, BC as well as the top three attractions in Yoho National Park ( The Natural Bridge, Takakkaw Falls, and Emerald Lake).
From Jasper, Alberta
Travelling from Jasper, Alberta to raft the Kicking Horse River is well worth the drive. The drive takes 4 hours, however you do travel through three of Canada’s Most Famous National Parks. Plan to set out early in the morning as this is your best chance of viewing a wide variety of wildlife on the Icefields Parkway. The trip takes 4 hours, so we recommend planning a nights stay nearby (Golden, BC or Lake Louise, AB).
Plan an extra 1 hour each way if you would like to check out the following Canadian Rockies must do’s: Experience intimate dining and great shopping in the small mountain hamlet of Field, BC as well as the top three attractions in Yoho National Park (The Natural Bridge, Takakkaw Falls, and Emerald Lake).
From Calgary, Alberta
Travelling from Calgary, Alberta to raft the Kicking Horse River is how you will experience the best Whitewater Rafting in the Canadian Rockies. The drive takes 3 hours, & you do travel through three of Canada’s Most Famous National Parks. Plan to set out early in the morning as this is your best chance of viewing a wide variety of wildlife on the Icefields Parkway.
The trip takes 4 hours, so we recommend planning a nights stay nearby ( Golden, BC or Lake Louise, AB). Plan an extra 1 hour each way if you would like to check out the following Canadian Rockies must do’s: experience intimate dining and great shopping in the small mountain hamlet of Field, BC as well as the top three attractions in Yoho National Park (The Natural Bridge, Takakkaw Falls, and Emerald Lake).