Grand Canyon Dories: Lees Ferry to Pipe Creek

Location Grand Canyon, Arizona Adventure Level Challenging Minimum age 12 River Rating Class IV From $4399
Call toll-free 1 (800) 346-6277

An epic introduction to the Colorado River through Grand Canyon, with big to even bigger whitewater, unparalleled views, and a challenging 7.7-mile hike up and out of the canyon on the last day.

The first 88-mile section of the Colorado River is an excellent introduction to the majesty of Grand Canyon by dory. Floating downriver, the canyon walls rise higher and higher, and the whitewater progresses from moderate to extra large, culminating in a series of drenching rapids. 

Our trip includes visits to Redwall Cavern, an ancient fossil site in Nautiloid Canyon, and Ancestral Puebloan granaries at Nankoweap. If we’re lucky, we may also have the chance to swim in the turquoise-blue Little Colorado. 

After a week of floating, hiking, and camping, this Grand Canyon adventure concludes with a dramatic hike, ascending almost 4,500 feet in elevation, up to the South Rim.

If you are not already a backpacker or frequent hiker this trip may not be right for you. To adequately prepare for this demanding experience, please carefully review our guide to hiking the Bright Angel Trail.

Trip Highlights
  • Ride a dory through the first 88 miles of Grand Canyon
  • Explore Redwall Cavern & Nautiloid Canyon
  • Hike to Nankoweap & explore Native American cultural sites
  • Splash through 19 major rapids like Unkar, Hance, Sockdolager & Grapevine
  • Enjoy impressive guide-prepared meals and camp in spectacularly scenic locations
  • Finish with a bucket-list hike up the Bright Angel Trail

What to Expect

Itinerary & Map

Itinerary at a Glance

We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every Grand Canyon Dories trip is different depending upon the group, other trips on the water, camp locations, and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:

The Day Before Your Trip

The evening before your trip, we’ll meet for a pre-trip meeting in Flagstaff, AZ. This is an opportunity to meet your fellow travelers and trip leader, and ask any last-minute questions.

Day 1

The first morning of the trip starts with a 2 1/2-hour drive to our put-in at Lees Ferry. Once at the river, we’ll load boats, give a river safety talk, and fit you with a personal flotation device (PFD) before launching.

Within the first few miles of the trip, the first signs of Grand Canyon’s fascinating geology make their appearance in Marble Canyon with some of the most striking and vibrantly-colored limestone cliffs. Any apprehensions are soon converted to exhilaration in Badger and Soap Creek Rapids. The desert’s warmth quickly dries us again before we reach camp. 

Ideally, we reach camp each day with plenty of time to relax, play beach games, or chat with new friends as the guides prepare a delicious meal. After a fulfilling day in the canyon, we stretch out in our sleeping bags to drift off to sleep under a starry sky.

Days 5, 6 or 7 (Depending on Trip Length)

The river twists between rising cliffs, offering new vistas at every bend. At North Canyon, we walk across folded layers of sedimentary rock which leads to a pool trickling down from the polished funneled canyon. Later, the rapids of the “Roaring Twenties” liven up our afternoon of lazy drifting.

The Canyon’s walls tower overhead as we continue our float past the fern-fringed springs of Vasey’s Paradise for a stop at Redwall Cavern. This vast, half-circular chamber carved out by the river offers a cool recess to rest. A few miles downriver, we scramble over short, steep rock formations into Nautiloid Canyon. Here, there’s a unique display of fossils exposed in the smooth rock canyon floor.

Relaxed drifting occupies much of the day, interspersed by a few good rapids. A stop at Nankoweap Canyon gives us an opportunity to climb to the Ancestral Puebloan granaries that rest high on the cliff overlooking the Colorado River. If we are lucky, the Little Colorado will be flowing with opaque turquoise (instead of muddy brown) water, which will invite us to stop for a swim.

For a few miles, the canyon opens up before we head into the Granite Gorge, where we’re drenched by the big waves of challenging rapids like Unkar, Nevills, Hance, Sockdolager, and Grapevine.

Day 6, 7 or 8

On the final day, we’ll rise early to get an early start on the trail. We’ll then head downstream to Pipe Creek, about a mile past Phantom Ranch, where you will start the strenuous hike to the rim with all your gear (expect to haul 20-30 pounds on your back). 

The hike to the rim generally takes six to nine hours and may be one of the most physically demanding endeavors you will undertake in your life.

Meeting Time & Place

Location

Flagstaff, AZ

Meeting time

6:30 PM, the evening before your trip

Return

South Rim of Grand Canyon – After hiking out of the canyon

Trip Map

Close up of two oars

Dates & Prices

2025 DeparturesPrice
June 1$4,599
July 24$4,599
2024 DeparturesPrice
July 4, 25$4,399
August 4, 23, 27$4,399
September 5, 12, 23$4,399
2025 DeparturesPrice
May 2, 8, 24$4,699
June 12$4,699
July 3$4,699
August 3, 22$4,699
September 4, 11, 18, 23$4,699
2024 DeparturesPrice
October 20$4,499

Deposit

• First deposit: $1000 per person (due at the time of booking)
• Second deposit: $500 per person (due by November 1 of the year before your trip)

Additional Costs

• $20 GCNP Entrance Fee
• Sleep kit and tent rental included


*Prices subject to National Park Service review

Ways to Save

To book with one of our special offers, call 1-800-346-6277 or contact us today.

The Need-to-Know Info

Trip Details

Included in Your Trip Cost

  • Skilled professional guide service
  • All meals from lunch on day 1 to lunch on your last day
  • Expedition equipment, including highest-quality dories, 2-person shared tent, sleep kit, personal flotation device (PFD), helmet, waterproof bags, camp chair, as well as eating utensils and plates
  • Transportation by van from Flagstaff to put-in at Lees Ferry

Not Included in Your Trip Cost

  • Pre- and post-trip transportation, accommodations, and meals
  • Grand Canyon National Park Entrance Fee
  • Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Gratuities
OARS dory Lava Cliff in whitewater in Grand Canyon

On our Grand Canyon dory trips we use 17-foot hard-hulled dories. These boats are elegant, handcrafted vessels, which are not only enjoyable to look at, but also provide an exciting and responsive ride. They hold up to four passengers. We travel in a flotilla with a maximum group size of 16-20 passengers.

After each active day on the river, we pull ashore to camp for the night. Our first task is to unload the boats using a fire-line of crew and guests to expedite the process. Individuals then collect their waterproof bags and locate an area on the beach to camp for the night. 

While you put up your tent, the guides will set up the kitchen and central dining/seating area with camp chairs. They will also locate a secluded area away from camp to set up the portable toilet, where privacy is assured.

As guides prepare dinner, hors d’oeuvres are served. This is an opportunity to relax, enjoy a drink if you wish, and reflect on the day with your fellow traveling companions.

In the morning, the first wake-up call lets you know that coffee, hot water for tea or cocoa, juice, fresh fruit, and cold cereal are ready. You can fill your mug and grab a bite, then begin to pack up your personal belongings and sleep gear as the guides prepare breakfast.

After breakfast, the entire camp is broken down and packed up. Once the guides have all of the gear loaded back onto the boats, we’ll head downstream to see what new adventures await us.

More info about Meals & Dietary Restrictions can be found on our Trip Resources page.

There are no absolutes when talking about the weather in Grand Canyon. Temperatures and weather can fluctuate greatly throughout the day. It can be clear, dry, and hot, and in the next moment, it can be cool and rainy. These conditions can manifest in any month. The descriptions and chart below list average weather conditions, maximum and minimum temperatures, and average rainfall. This chart should be used only as a general guide.

April: Cooler temperatures. Can expect a variety of weather. Usually peak wildflower bloom. Campfires at night. 

May: Weather is moderate and consistent but can be windy at times. The water is very often clear from mid to late May.

June: Early June has hot days and mild nights with temperatures increasing with each day into the month. A very busy time to be in the canyon.

July: Very hot with the chance of some early monsoons. Any and all weather can be experienced at this time

August: Hot and typically monsoon season with thunderstorms. The clouds and showers help lower the temperatures for a period of time.

September: Moderate temperatures, cooling as the month progresses. There is less traffic in the canyon since September 15 is the last launch date for motorized trips.

October: Can be very nice but always presents a possibility of storms and cooler temperatures. Be prepared for changes in weather conditions. Nice temperatures for side hikes. Campfires at night.

Average Air Temperatures & Rainfall

Day (°F)Night (°F)Rainfall
April8256.47″
May9263.36″
June10172.30″
July10678.84″
August103751.40″
September9769.97″
October8458.65″

Summer temperatures (June, July & August): Please note that the average summer temperatures listed can be misleading. These temperatures are recorded in very specific locations and circumstances. In the summer it is not uncommon for the temperature to rise above 110° F. At the same time, temperatures can suddenly plummet with increased cloud cover. The advice is to always be prepared with rain gear and clothing that can be layered.

Temperature at the Rim: The temperature at the rim is generally 20-30 degrees cooler than along the river since the South Rim is around 7,000’ in elevation. Keep this in mind, especially if you are on an early spring or late fall trip.

WATER LEVELS & TEMPERATURE

The water levels of the Colorado River through Grand Canyon are regulated by the release of water from the Glen Canyon Dam. The Colorado generally fluctuates up and down several feet within the day, based on the time of year and demand for electricity. Because the flow is dam regulated, even in a drought year, the water levels are fairly consistent. The temperature of the river has historically been 48°- 55° F, though it can trend warmer when upstream reservoir levels are lower.

Whitewater

OARS dory plows into large rapid as guests hang on in Colorado River through Grand Canyon

There are 19 rapids rated 5 or higher on the Lees Ferry to Pipe Creek section. Whitewater in the Canyon is rated on a scale of 1–10 (unlike most western rivers which use the I–VI scale). A “1” is a small riffle, and a “10” is the most difficult rapid still considered runnable. Two of these, Unkar and Nevills produce consistent 6 (sometimes 7) whitewater. Hance, Sockdolager, and Grapevine rapids are always an 8 or 9. The intensity of all rapids naturally depends on the water level, so readings for low and high water levels may vary slightly.

Based on various circumstances such as water levels and current flow we on occasion find it necessary to have our passengers walk around certain rapids. The decision is made by the trip leader with the first concern being the safety of each passenger and the second being the ability to run a rapid without damaging the boats. This will give you a great opportunity to take some wonderful photos of the rafts as you watch your guides demonstrate their boating skills. When conditions warrant, you may also be asked by your trip leader to wear a helmet. For your own safety, you may feel more comfortable wearing the helmet even more than specifically requested by the trip leader.

Before booking your trip with OARS, there are a few important considerations we’d like you to know about.

  • Physical Requirements: Your outdoor adventure will be an active participatory trip. Please inform us of any physical limitations you may have as soon as possible. If you exceed 245 pounds, please give us a call. Make sure you are exercising frequently in the months leading up to your trip and can meet our Essential Eligibility Criteria.
  • Hiking Requirements: This trip requires a serious 7.7-mile hike out of the canyon to the South Rim carrying a weighted backpack of your gear (20-30 lbs. plus water and some food- additional 8-10 lbs.). Each participant must be in very good physical condition and train for the hike before departure. Ascending about 4,500 feet, the trail is steep and strenuous. This hike may be one of the most physically demanding endeavors anyone will undertake in their life. The combination of carrying a backpack, the potential for extreme heat, and the elevation gain of almost one vertical mile, makes for an incredibly challenging day. This hike is not recommended for anyone in poor general health, the elderly, those with heart or lung disease, or those who are overweight or not physically fit.

  • Whitewater Orientation: To increase your safety, we expect everyone to watch our Whitewater Orientation video before joining us.
  • Trip Forms: Each participant will need to complete the required trip forms within two weeks of making a booking. Refer to your confirmation e-mail for the link to the online forms. If you prefer to fill out paper forms, please let us know right away. If you are reserving within 90 days of departure, your forms must be completed immediately to ensure we can properly plan for your trip.

Reservations and Payments

  • A $1000/person deposit is required at the time of reservation. A second deposit of $500/person is due in our office by November 1 of the year before your trip.
  • If you make your reservation after November 1 of the year before your trip, the entire $1500/person deposit is due at the time of reservation.
  • Final payment is due 90 days before departure. Accounts on which final payment has not been received 80 days before the departure date will be canceled.

Payments can be made by check, money order, eCheck, wire transfer, Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover. Prices are in US Dollars, and all payments must be made in US Dollars. Payment of the deposit establishes your acceptance of our complete Terms and Conditions. Individual departures and trip capacity are strictly limited by the managing agency. Your payment is fully refundable for 7 days, less a 3% processing fee, after making a reservation when you reserve a trip 7 days or more prior the final payment due date.

Cancellations and Refunds

Canceling your trip after your deposit is processed will incur cancellation fees because OARS has absorbed costs on your behalf and will turn others away who would like to book the spaces we’re holding for you. If you must cancel your reservation after the rescission period described above, your cancellation fee will be determined according to the schedule below.

We regret that we cannot make exceptions to the cancellation policy for any reason, including foul weather, poor air quality, wildfire activity, acts of terrorism, civil unrest, or personal emergencies. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan.

Date of CancellationCancellation Fee
180 or more days before your trip$200/person
179 – 120 days before your trip$400/person
119 – 90 days before your trip$750/person
89 days or less before your tripFull fare

Please note that different deposit/cancellation policies may apply for charter groups. Refer to the group organizer’s confirmation email for details.

Canceled Trips

OARS reserves the right to cancel any trip due to insufficient registration or other factors that make the trip impractical to operate. In such instances, we will inform you at least 45 days before departure. Do not make nonrefundable travel arrangements unless you have spoken to your Adventure Consultant about the status of your trip.

If a trip must be canceled or postponed due to force majeure (factors outside the control of OARS), OARS will provide full credit for payments made toward future travel, or a refund less a 5% service fee plus any nonrefundable payments made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers. OARS will make good faith efforts to recover deposits made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers, however, we can’t guarantee recovery of any or all of the advance payments made. OARS is not responsible for expenses incurred by participants in preparation for a canceled trip.

Transfers

Because our trips in Grand Canyon are heavily booked or completely sold out 12-18 months in advance, there are limited opportunities to transfer to a new trip. Generally, transfer requests must be treated like a cancellation according to the schedule above. Contact our Grand Canyon reservations department for more information.

National Park Service Authorized Concessioner

O.A.R.S. Grand Canyon, Inc. is an authorized concessioner of Grand Canyon National Park

Ancestral Lands Acknowledgement

We respect and recognize that many of the river canyons on state and federal lands where we operate are the ancestral homes of indigenous communities. Where we operate on the Colorado River between Lees Ferry and Diamond Creek, we acknowledge the territories of the Navajo Nation, the Pueblo of Zuni, Ute, Southern Paiute, Hopi, Hualapai, and Havasupai.

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