Hike 7.7 miles down the legendary Bright Angel Trail, then run the lower section of Grand Canyon by dory through the deepest part of the canyon and biggest whitewater. Tackle notorious rapids like Lava and Crystal, explore Elves Chasm, Deer Creek Falls, and Havasu Canyon, and float through the spectacular Lower Granite Gorge.
This Grand Canyon trip begins after completing a scenic, yet strenuous, hike down the Bright Angel Trail from the South Rim. A mile deep into the canyon, our dories launch and immediately head straight into some of the most celebrated rapids of the Colorado River: Horn Creek, Granite, Hermit, and Crystal are all packed into the first two exciting days.
Continuing downstream, the mesmerizing rock layers that make up the Canyon’s steep walls rise and fall, twist and turn, and change from vibrant shades to dark lava hues. Side canyons suddenly appear, begging to be explored. Our Grand Canyon hikes take us to oases of tempting pools lined with maidenhair ferns, spectacular plunging waterfalls, Ancestral Puebloan petroglyphs, and more. Incredible scenery and plenty of other rapids, including Lava Falls – America’s most famous big drop – fill the 191 miles of the lower half of Grand Canyon with thrills. Below Lava Falls, the canyon narrows one last time as we enter the Lower Granite Gorge. A jet boat meets us on our last day to take us the final distance to our take-out at Pearce Ferry. From there, we transfer by van back to Flagstaff and “civilization.”
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.
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
Arrive at the South Rim in Grand Canyon National Park. Purchase your breakfast and snacks, including at least two quarts of water for your hike the next day. In the evening, we’ll gather for a pre-trip meeting in the lobby of the Bright Angel Lodge. You will have the opportunity to meet your hike escort, others on your trip, and ask any last-minute questions.
You’ll get an early start hiking down the Bright Angel Trail (before first light) to meet your guides at the river by early afternoon. Once everyone arrives, we’ll load the rafts, fit you with a personal flotation device (PFD), and give a safety talk before launching our dories. Immediately, we’ll hit a stretch of big, drenching whitewater en route to our camp for the night.
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 2 – 10
More big rides await us in Granite, Hermit, and the rapids of the “Jewels” – Crystal, Sapphire, Turquoise, Ruby, and Serpentine. Further downstream, the pools and waterfalls at Shinumo Creek and the emerald paradise of Elves Chasm invite us to explore and swim.
In the cool, narrow slot of Blacktail Canyon, we get an up-close look at the Great Unconformity, where ancient erosion removed millions of years of rock to create a gap in the Canyon’s geologic record. Fluted walls of jet-black schist then enclose us for a few miles before Bedrock and Dubendorf rapids.
After lazily drifting through the spectacular Granite Narrows (a mere 75’ wide!!), Deer Creek Falls tumbles almost directly into the river. A hike above the 125-foot cascade brings us to an oasis with a huge open patio. En route, handprints on the side canyon walls reveal evidence of those who visited this canyon centuries ago.
At the mouth of Matkatamiba Canyon, we venture up the narrow limestone slot canyon into an overhanging amphitheater and relax in the coolness of its grotto. Later, Upset Rapid brings more whitewater excitement, and if timing allows, we may spend a full day at the blue-green pools and numerous waterfalls of Havasu Canyon. Some linger all day at the pools near the river, while others may hike to see the falls several miles away.
Soon, the guides begin to tell tales (some real, some perhaps only “tall”) of the Colorado’s most legendary stretch of whitewater, Lava Falls. When our turn to run this fabled rapid comes, each raft is swept into its churning, spitting power and battered by huge waves before being flushed into calmer waters. Knuckles still white from tackling the largest rapid in Grand Canyon, we gather afterward to laugh at our fears and relive each shudder.
Passing Whitmore Wash, the canyon opens up, and 205, 209, and 217 Mile rapids discount the myth that “all the good whitewater” occurs above Whitmore Wash.
Nearing the end of our journey, our boats slip past Diamond Creek and enter the Lower Granite Gorge, where we’ll spend our final night together.
After an early breakfast on the last day, a jet boat will arrive to transfer us to the take-out point at Pearce Ferry on Lake Mead (an ~1 hour, 40-mile ride) by mid-morning. After the equipment is loaded, we’ll board vehicles for the drive back to Flagstaff.
Meeting Time & Place
Bright Angel Lodge – South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park
7 PM, the evening before your trip
Approximately 3 to 4 PM back in Flagstaff
Dates & Prices
|April 10, 21, 27||$6,599|
|May 11, 15||$6,599|
|September 11, 18||$6,599|
• 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)
• $20 GCNP Entrance Fee
• Sleep kit and tent rental included
*Prices subject to National Park Service review
The Need-to-Know Info
Included in Your Trip Cost
Not Included in Your Trip Cost
- Transportation to the South Rim and back from Flagstaff
- Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
- Grand Canyon National Park Entrance Fee*
- Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
- Alcoholic beverages
*You will need to pay the Grand Canyon National Park Entrance Fee when you enter the park on your own. If you have a park pass, please remember to bring it with you.
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 bag line of crew and passengers to expedite the process. Individuals then collect their waterproof bags and locate an area on the beach to camp for the night.
On the first night in camp, a crew member will give a demonstration on setting up a tent, which you’ll see is quick and easy. 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 dinner is being prepared by the guides, 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 packing will be completed. The guides will then load the gear onto the boats, and 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: April is less crowded in the canyon and is an excellent time to view cacti in bloom. The days are shorter with a chance of possible storms, but at night you can sit around the campfire (April & October only).
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. Need to be prepared for changes in weather conditions. Nice temperatures for side hikes and opportunities to sit around the campfires at night (April & October only).
Average Air Temperatures & Rainfall
|Day (°F)||Night (°F)||Rainfall|
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.
There are 28 rapids rated 5 or higher on the Pipe Creek to Pearce Ferry 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 the most notable Colorado River rapids, Crystal and Lava Falls, are both rated a 10. 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 occasionally 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, however, 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.
Reservations and Deposits
- A $1000/person deposit is required at the time of reservation for all Grand Canyon trips over five (5) days in length. 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.
Deposits may be made by check, money order, or Visa/MasterCard (American Express and Discover incur a 3% processing fee). 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.
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. Final payment is due 90 days prior to departure. Accounts on which final payment has not been received 80 days prior to the departure date will be canceled without exception.
Cancellations and Refunds
Your deposit is fully refundable, less a 3% processing fee, for 7 days after you book when you submit a deposit 7 days or more prior to the final payment due date.
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 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. There is no refund for arriving late or leaving a trip early. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan.
|Date of Cancellation||Cancellation 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 trip||Full Fare|
Please note that different deposit/cancellation policies may apply for charter groups. Refer to the group organizer’s confirmation email for details.
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 prior to departure. Do not make nonrefundable travel arrangements unless you have spoken to your Adventure Consultant regarding 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.
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.
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 Pipe Creek and Pearce Ferry, we acknowledge the territories of the Navajo Nation, the Pueblo of Zuni, Ute, Southern Paiute, Hopi, Hualapai, and Havasupai.
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