Budget-friendly Alternatives to a Grand Canyon Rafting Trip

Ok, yes, a Grand Canyon rafting trip is undeniably gorgeous, exciting, educational, restorative and fun—the trip of a lifetime—but trips tend to fill more than 18 months in advance and they can be pretty expensive.  A one-week trip through one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World with an outfitter can cost a family of four more than $10,000. We’re going to let you in on a little secret, though. These three alternatives to the Grand Canyon offer world-class whitewater, breathtaking scenery, and rich history at manageable prices and without the long waitlist…

Budget-friendly Alternative to the Grand Canyon: Yampa River Rafting Trip | Photo: James Kaiser

Yampa River Rafting in Dinosaur National Monument

Rafting down the Yampa gives visitors a backstage pass to some of the most remarkable pieces of geologic and human history. Over the course of four or five days, you are transported into the heart of Dinosaur National Monument where you can discover 150-million-year-old fossils and encounter 1,200-year-old petroglyphs and pictographs from the Fremont Indians.

Lose yourself in the geologic record on the river while you navigate Class III and IV whitewater beneath stunning rock formations like Cleopatra’s Couch and Tiger Wall and hike to spots like Mantle Cave and Wagon Wheel Point.

Budget-friendly Alternative to the Grand Canyon: Cataract Canyon Rafting Trip | Photo: James Kaiser

Colorado River Rafting through Cataract Canyon

Traveling by boat down the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon transports you into the heart of Canyonlands National Park. As you raft beneath colorful canyons and 2,000-foot cliffs you’ll enjoy relaxed floating and adrenaline-infused whitewater rapids.

Side hikes lead to waterfalls, hoodoos, and Ancestral Puebloan sites throughout the river corridor. Each day ends under some of the clearest skies in the country—perfect for stargazing—on giant sandy beaches with a fresh, delicious meal and good company.

Green River_Jim Block

Green River Rafting through the Gates of Lodore

Before it converges with the Yampa and eventually the Colorado River, the Green River winds its way through billion-year-old, red quartzite canyons, which offered renegade outlaws such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid refuge from the law.

A Green River rafting trip also gets your heart pumping with Upper and Lower Disaster Falls, Triplet Falls, and Hells Half Mile—named by early explorer John Wesley Powell—before passing through historic Echo Park; scene of David Brower and the Sierra Club’s first conservation victory against a proposed dam.


Photos: James Kaiser, Justin Bailie, Jim Block

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