Tuolumne River Rafting Near Yosemite National Park

2 or 3 Days See dates & prices 4.9 87 reviews
Location California Adventure Level Moderately Challenging Minimum age 14 (16 during high water) River Rating Class IV (Class V possible during peak flows) From 2 or 3 Days from $599 | Wine trips from $1099
Book Now Call toll-free 1 (800) 346-6277

Tuolumne River rafting, available just outside Yosemite National Park, is a standard-setter among all the California whitewater experiences OARS offers.

Pronounced “too-all-uh-me,” and affectionately referred to as “the T,” it’s one of our “Seven Whitewater Wonders” of the World. But it’s not just the 18 miles of nearly continuous Class IV whitewater that attracts paddlers from all over the world to this Wild & Scenic River. A Tuolumne River rafting trip is a true wilderness adventure in the Yosemite region complete with stunning, scenic beauty, brilliant star-filled nights, and big thrills. And you’ve got options. Choose from an adventurous 48-hour getaway with cool hikes up side canyons carved by cascading waterfalls, or a carefree three-day Tuolumne rafting vacation, with lots of time to explore and relax while reconnecting with nature in a secluded river canyon. 

An easy drive from San Francisco, Sacramento, and Lake Tahoe, a Tuolumne rafting trip works perfectly into a California vacation itinerary and pairs perfectly with a trip to Yosemite National Park. Short on time? Make your Tuolumne adventure an epic 1-day Tuolumne whitewater rafting adventure!

Trip Highlights
  • 18 miles of continuous Class IV Tuolumne River whitewater rafting
  • Raft 15 unforgettable rapids like Ram’s Head, Clavey Falls, Gray’s Grindstone & more
  • Camp near Yosemite in a Wild & Scenic river canyon
  • Hike, play bocce ball or horseshoes, swim, explore creeks & waterfalls
  • Wine on the River & Craft Beer Tasting trips available
  • Easy drive from San Francisco, Sacramento & Lake Tahoe

What to Expect

Itinerary & Map

Itinerary at a Glance

We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every Tuolumne River rafting 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:

Day 1

The morning of your trip, you’ll meet up with your trip leader and fellow travelers before embarking on a 3-mile hike to the river. At the put-in, your guides will deliver an orientation and safety talk and fit you with your helmet and PFD (wetsuits and splash tops are also included on all early-season and cold-weather trips). Then, we hit the water!

The Tuolumne is nearly consistent whitewater, with four exciting rapids in the first two miles: Rock Garden, Nemesis, Sunderlands Chute, and Ram’s Head. Come lunchtime, we’ll pull over to a sandy beach for a delicious picnic. 

Downstream, we encounter the ultimate thrill: Clavey Falls; this Class IV+ rapid features a series of staircase drops that delivers unabashed excitement. Between rapids, you’re welcome to enjoy a refreshing swim in the calm stretches of cool water.

We reach camp by mid- to late afternoon. Your guides will set up the kitchen, restroom, and common areas while you set up your tent. The guides will serve hors d’oeuvres while they prepare dinner.

This is the perfect opportunity to lounge on the beach with a book, play a game, or chat with your traveling companions. After dinner, the evening is yours to spend as you wish. You might enjoy music, stories, and jokes which are often shared around the campfire, or if you’re in a reflective mood, you might lean back to enjoy the clarity of the big, star-filled sky.

Day 2

After we eat a hearty breakfast and our gear has been loaded back onto the boats, we get back on the “T”. The adventure continues with exciting Class III-IV rapids such as Gray’s Grindstone, Thread the Needle, and Hell’s Kitchen.

The two-day trip provides us with more time to explore the hidden wonders of this canyon. Exciting explorations along the Tuolumne’s side streams bring us to waterfalls, swimming holes, natural waterslides, and clear creeks that offer excellent trout fishing. 

As we reach Ward’s Ferry and flat water, our river trip draws to a close. At the take-out, an OARS shuttle will be waiting to give you a ride back to your car.

Meeting Time & Place

Location

Lucky Buck Cafe
7647 CA-120, Groveland, CA 95321
11 miles east of Groveland on Highway 120 (13 miles west of the Hwy 120, Big Oak Flat entrance to Yosemite National Park). View the meeting place on Google Maps

Meeting time

8:00 AM

Return

Approximately 6:30 PM, depending on water levels

Trip Map

Itinerary at a Glance

We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every Tuolumne River rafting 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:

Day 1

The morning of your trip, you’ll meet up with your trip leader and fellow travelers before embarking on a 3-mile hike to the river. At the put-in, the guides will fit you with your safety gear and deliver a thorough orientation and safety talk. Then, we hit the water!

The Tuolumne is nearly consistent whitewater, with four exciting rapids in the first two miles: Rock Garden, Nemesis, Sunderlands Chute, and Ram’s Head. Come lunchtime, we’ll pull over to a sandy beach for a delicious picnic, or we may even opt to set up camp early and enjoy a relaxing afternoon on the beach taking in some tanning rays, swimming, or joining a game of frisbee, volleyball, or horseshoes.

At camp, your guides will set up the kitchen, restroom, and common areas while you set up your tent. Later, the guides will serve hors d’oeuvres while they prepare dinner.

The evening is yours to spend as you wish after dinner. You might enjoy music, stories, and jokes which are often shared around the campfire, or if you’re in a reflective mood, you might lean back to enjoy the clarity of the big, star-filled sky.

Day 2

After we eat a hearty breakfast and our gear has been loaded back onto the boats, we get back on the “T”.

Downstream, we encounter the ultimate thrill: Clavey Falls; this Class IV+ rapid features a series of staircase drops that delivers unabashed excitement. Between rapids, you’re welcome to enjoy a refreshing swim in the calm stretches of cool water.

Come lunchtime, we’ll pull ashore for a picnic lunch. The three-day trip provides us with more time to explore the hidden wonders of this canyon. Exciting explorations along the Tuolumne’s side streams bring us to waterfalls, swimming holes, natural waterslides, and clear creeks that offer excellent trout fishing. 

We’ll reach camp by mid- to late afternoon. This is the perfect opportunity to lounge on the beach with a book, play a game, or chat with your traveling companions as the guides once again prepare a delectable dinner before a jovial night together under the stars.

Day 3

After breakfast, we may spend a leisurely morning in camp savoring our last day in this serene wilderness setting.

Once the gear is loaded back on the boats, the adventure continues with exciting Class III-IV rapids such as Gray’s Grindstone, Thread the Needle, and Hell’s Kitchen.

As we reach Ward’s Ferry and flat water, our river trip draws to a close. At the take-out, an OARS shuttle will be waiting to give you a ride back to your car.

Meeting Time & Place

Location

Lucky Buck Cafe
7647 CA-120, Groveland, CA 95321
11 miles east of Groveland on Highway 120 (13 miles west of the Hwy 120, Big Oak Flat entrance to Yosemite National Park). View the meeting place on Google Maps

Meeting time

8:30 AM

Return

Approximately 4 – 6 PM, depending on water levels

Trip Map

Dates & Prices

2024 DeparturesPrice
May 30$599
June 2, 5$599
June 15, 18, 29$699
July 1, 4, 6, 8$699
July 18 Craft Beer Tasting$699
July 29, 31$699
August 5, 12, 14$699
August 26, 28, 30$599
September 1$599
2024 DeparturesPrice
June 25 All Adult$999
July 11$999
July 21 All Adult$999
August 8 Wine on the River$1,099
August 16 All Adult$899
August 20 Craft Beer Tasting$899

Deposit

$250

Additional Costs

• Sleep Kit $25 | Tent included

Ways to Save

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

Premier Pricing

Save up to 10% (or more) on most domestic trips when you’re one of the first 4 people to book by March 31st!

Specialty Trips

The Need-to-Know Info

Trip Details

Included in Your Trip Cost

  • Skilled, professional guide service
  • Catered camping: all meals from lunch on day one through lunch on the last day with limited beer & wine with dinner
  • Expedition equipment, including high-quality rafts, 2-person shared tent, personal flotation device (PFD), helmet, waterproof bags, camp chair, as well as eating utensils, plates, and cups 
  • Transfers from the Lucky Buck Cafe to the river and back
  • Wetsuits and splash jackets (after June 1, available by advance request only)

Not Included in Your Trip Cost

  • Transportation to our meeting location in the Groveland area
  • Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
  • River access fees
  • Sleeping bag & a deluxe 2.5-inch thick air-filled sleeping pad (available for rent)
  • Wetsuit booties
  • Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
  • Gratuities
Five guests and a guide on a yellow raft as they're about to enter a rapid while one guests holds his paddle up in the air in excitement.

The number and variety of boats on an OARS trip will vary based on water levels, the number of participants, and other factors we take into account when planning your adventure. Please be aware that in doing so we will ask you to share boat time with your fellow travelers. We don’t assign boats, nor can we guarantee exactly which crafts we bring, but trust us to provide you with the best possible mix for you and others on your trip. 

Learn more about the OARS Fleet and the boats that may be a part of your experience: paddle raft, paddle raft with oar assist, oar raft.

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.

Average Air & Water Temperatures

Air (Day) °FAir (Night) °FWater °FNotes
April60-7035-4044-46Extremely variable weather; more wildlife & wildflowers
May70-7540-4445-48Chance of spring showers—but usually beautiful, sunny days
June80-8546-5048-50High-water time; rare rain-clouds
July88-9252-5650-54Hot, sunny days; perfect for swimming
August88-9252-5654-58Driest month; ideal for sleeping out under the stars
September85-8945-4958-60Warm summer temperatures start to cool down

Whitewater & Water Levels

A group of guests and a guide paddle through boulder strewn whitewater on the Tuolumne River in California.

The water on the Tuolumne River is released from hydroelectric facilities located upstream. These water releases are solely controlled by the city of San Francisco and its Hetch Hetchy Reservoir; whitewater rafting companies have no influence in the schedule. It is important for our guests to understand that the water flow on the Tuolumne is directly related to the amount of snow in the Sierra Nevada, as well as the demand for water and hydropower. On Tuolumne River rafting trips, we often have to wait for the dam-released water to reach our campsite, causing a later start in the day.

When spring run-off is highest, water is released from the reservoirs in abundance to make room for the in-flow. This can lead to high flows on our trips. Peak run-off usually occurs between mid-May and mid-June, but can vary widely from early May into July. High-water trips equate to a more intense whitewater experience; a high level of physical fitness is recommended. Water temperatures are coldest during the high water period and wetsuits will be required. In reality, the water is quite cold even in late summer, but lower flows and warm air temperatures mitigate the risk of hypothermia.

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 260 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.

  • 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 online and submit them no later than 30 days prior to your trip, or immediately if booking within 30 days.

Reservations and Payments

A $250/person deposit is required at the time of booking with final payment due 60 days before departure. Accounts on which final payment has not been received 50 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$25/person
179 – 90 days before your trip$50/person
89 – 60 days before your trip$100/person. The remainder of your payment can be transferred to another trip within the same year (or to a credit account for the following year). No refund.
59 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 30 days prior to departure. Do not make non-refundable travel arrangements until you have verified with OARS that your trip is confirmed. 

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 the initial deposit amount and any non-refundable 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 cannot 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

If you need to move your reservation to a different trip during the same season, or to a credit account for the following year, there is a $25/person fee up until 90 days before departure for a one-time transfer of your payment. Transfer requests made 89 days or less before departure will be treated like a cancellation according to the schedule above.

O.A.R.S. West, Inc. operates on the Tuolumne River as a permitted outfitter of the Stanislaus National Forest

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 Tuolumne River from Meral’s Pool to Wards Ferry Bridge, we acknowledge the territories of the Central Sierra Me-wuk.

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