7 Incredible River Hikes
One of the added bonuses of rafting through a beautiful river canyon is the exclusive access you get to some of the best (and least traveled) hikes out there. After all, you need a boat to get to these hidden trailheads. And oftentimes there’s a big reward for making the trek, like water slides, hot springs or swimming holes to cool off in.
From Oregon to the Grand Canyon and everything in between, here are a few outstanding river hikes worth the trip…down the river, that is.
Doll House Hike
Location: Colorado River through Cataract Canyon
You have to wake up early to beat the heat on the 6-mile (round trip) Doll House hike into the remote Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. The trek starts out with a grueling 45-minute, 1,300-foot Stairmaster climb, but is well worth it once you arrive at the top of the canyon among playful rock formations that make up the iconic Doll House region. Here you’re also rewarded with an awe-inspiring, 360-degree panoramic view of the colorful spires of the Needles and Island in the Sky Districts of Canyonlands, and the Colorado River below you. Wander around the rim of the canyon to discover an Anasazi granary, and an area called the Refrigerator that offers a slot canyon experience with relief from the heat.
Stone Creek/Land of the Seven Waterfalls Hike
Location: Colorado River through the Grand Canyon
Accessible from two separate superb river camps in the Grand Canyon, above and below mighty Dubendorf Rapid, this one has it all: Ancient granaries, incredible geology, numerous swimming spots, and one waterfall after another. You can make it as long or short as you want, as leisurely or as active as you want. If you go long there’s an incredible cove an hour or so up. Or, you can up the adventure level and find your way into the final Quartzite slot, over boulders and around a few exposed ledges, to the best waterfall of all (a four-hour round trip including some hang time).
Loon Creek Hike
Location: Middle Fork of the Salmon River, Idaho
Also worth the mention on the Middle Fork Salmon is the 1 ½-mile (one-way) Loon Creek Hike to hidden hot springs. The trail to the springs is easy to moderate and offers lots of options for hikers who might want to peel off and sit by Loon Creek or even go fly-fishing. For a longer, harder hike, going past the hot springs takes you into a gorgeous granite gorge. The trail climbs from there and gives a great view of a valley before descending back to the creek and crossing a lovely small bridge.
Tate Creek Slide Hike
Location: Rogue River, Oregon
Despite being a short, ¼-mile hike, the Rogue River Trail at Tate Creek Camp offers a special surprise that will leave a lasting impression. Following a creek bed on the moderate-to-challenging trail, hikers find themselves at a lovely waterfall. But this isn’t just a waterfall to admire. Lively spirits can go hand over hand up a rope to the top of the waterfall, turning it into a wild 10-foot water slide with a 5-foot free fall into a refreshing pool below.
Jack Creek Overlook Hike
Location: Middle Fork of the Salmon River, Idaho
This is a buns-of-steel hike approximately 1-mile straight up from Little Pine Camp. The pay-off after an hour’s worth of very steep and switch-backed hiking is unquestionably worth it, though, as the overlook’s summit gives an unencumbered view of the Impassable Canyon and incredible perspective on the far-reaching and wild Frank Church Wilderness. Hikers get unbeatable views of snow-capped peaks and forests for as far as the eye can see.
Wind River Hike
Location: Main Salmon River, Idaho
Winding its way back into the Humboldt Wilderness, the Wind River Hike ranges from between 3 and 6-miles round trip. After approximately 1 ½-miles, the trail leads to a beautiful shady nook of pouring pools to cool off in. This is a good turnaround point for people looking for a shorter hike, or you can continue on from here for a longer moderate-to-difficult 6-mile round trip trek.
Seven Devils View Hike
Location: Snake River, Idaho
From Salt Creek Camp on Idaho’s Snake River, deep in Hells Canyon, take on a difficult ¾-mile round trip hike for stunning mountain and river views. The steep, semi-marked trail is a steady gradient with some need for scrambling. Reach the top and see a bird’s eye view of the winding Snake River below you, or look off onto the horizon to take in the Seven Devils Mountains, which make up the Idaho/Oregon border.
Insider Tip: The Ultimate Hiking and Rafting Vacation
While we’re talking about rafting and hiking, the proximity of the Tuolumne River in California to all the great trails and iconic landscapes in Yosemite National Park has to be mentioned. In fact, hiking enthusiasts can take a wild ride down the action-packed Class IV Tuolumne River and then spend a few days exploring Yosemite’s backcountry by foot on a special Tuolumne & Yosemite Hiker trip. If you’ve got 6 days, this might be the most epic hiking and rafting vacation you can take.