The Best Family Rafting Trips in the West

4 Min. Read
The Best Family Rafting Trips in the West

5 of the Top Family-Friendly River Trips

We could wax on about why family rafting trips are the perfect vacation. Or try to ease your fears if you’re nervous about taking your kids rafting for the first time. But we’re guessing you’re here because you’re a parent (or grandparent) who is ready to take your family on a multi-day river trip but not sure how to choose from all the options out there.

Narrowed down by age, these five family-friendly rafting trips in the Western U.S. are some of the best of the best. They’re all big on scenery, offer great camping and off-the-water activities, and have just the right amount of whitewater action.

Whichever trip you pick, one thing is for certain, this is the family vacation your kids will be talking about for a lifetime.

Graphic with a photo of a dad and son kayaking plus text that reads: The Complete Guide to Planning a Multi-day Family Rafting trip
Start planning your adventure! Download our free Family Rafting Guide, curated by
OARS parents who know first-hand what it takes to make family vacation magic happen.

Best for Kids Ages 4+

The Best Family Rafting Trips in the West
Playful rapids on the Lower Klamath provide young kids with a taste of whitewater excitement | Photo: Josh Miller

Lower Klamath River, California

Nearest town: Happy Camp, CA
River rating: Class II
Trip length: 3 days

The Lower Klamath River in the far northwestern corner of California is ideal for families with little ones. This scenic, forested river trip offers fun, bouncy rapids that are a perfect introduction to whitewater. The Klamath’s signature warm waters also make swimming, inflatable kayaking, rock jumping, and beach time the highlight of this adventure.

Best for Kids Ages 7+

A older man and a boy paddle an inflatable kayak together
Calmer stretches of the Green River offer paddlers the chance to try inflatable kayaks | Photo: John Webster

Green River through the Gates of Lodore, Colorado/Utah

Nearest town: Vernal, UT
River rating: Class II-III
Trip length: 3, 4, or 5 days

On this Rocky Mountain adventure, your family will raft the Green River through the heart of Dinosaur National Monument. Arguably the most beautiful Utah canyon, with scenery that rivals the Grand Canyon, expect to see lush vegetation along the banks, vibrantly colored slickrock sandstone cliffs where bighorn sheep graze among dinosaur fossils, and Wild West artifacts. Along the way, enjoy fun, splashy whitewater, inflatable kayaking, gorgeous side hikes to hidden waterfalls, and comfy beach camping.

The Best Family Rafting Trips in the West
Families revel in the Lower Salmon’s idyllic beach camps | Photo: James Kaiser

Lower Salmon River, Idaho

Nearest town: Lewiston, ID
River rating: Class III
Trip length: 4 or 5 days

This is the ultimate beach vacation deep in Idaho’s pristine wilderness. The Lower Salmon River offers fun, exhilarating rapids through four distinct gorges, camping on huge sandy beaches, and epic stargazing in some of the darkest skies in the nation. The ideal stretch of river for a fleet of boats, including paddle rafts, dories, inflatable kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards, means everyone can choose their own adventure level on this family rafting trip.

A guide rows an oar-assisted paddle raft through a splashy rapid on Oregon's Rogue River.
The moderate rapids on the Rogue provide just enough excitement for adventurous families | Photo: Dylan Silver

Rogue River, Oregon

Nearest town: Grants Pass, OR
River rating: Class III
Trip length: 3, 4, or 5 days

The Rogue River in Southern Oregon is a beloved rafting trip by paddlers of all levels. There’s picturesque forest scenery, the dramatic gorge of Mule Creek Canyon, and abundant wildlife viewing. Combine that with beautiful river camps, waterfall hikes, old miner artifacts, and exciting rapids like Grave Creek, Rainie Falls, and Blossom Bar and you have a family adventure that serves up action alongside beauty and cultural history.

Best for Ages 12+

Two yellow rafts float down floating through a rocky stretch of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho
Jaw-dropping scenery and frequent bursts of whitewater await on Idaho’s Middle Fork Salmon | Photo: Rob Aseltine

Middle Fork of the Salmon River, Idaho

Nearest town: Stanley, ID
River rating: Class III-IV
Trip length: 6 days

If you want to inspire a life-long love of the outdoors and adventure in your older kids, a bucket list destination like Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River is the way to go. With complete wilderness immersion, dramatic mountain scenery, and more than 100 rapids in 100 miles, this adventurous trip offers up tons of excitement for the whole family. By day, you’ll raft through alpine forests and granite canyons, hike to waterfalls, soak in hot springs, and fish for trout. By night, enjoy complete solitude as you camp deep in the heart of Idaho’s majestic Frank Church “River of No Return” Wilderness.

Looking for more outdoor family vacation inspiration? Check out: 25 Unplugged Vacation Ideas the Whole Crew Will Love.

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