PHOTOS: Top 10 Whitewater Rafting Trips on the Planet

One of the most-qualified people out there to tell us about the best whitewater rafting trips in the world has to be OARS’ very own Mindy Gleason.  But that’s not just because she’s part of our team. For nearly a decade, Condé Nast Traveler has consistently named Mindy as the only Top Travel Specialist in the rafting industry.

Check out the photos below to find out which whitewater rafting trips make the top ten list, plus what makes them the best of the best according to the top travel specialist in the industry…

1) Futaleufu River, Chile

The Best Whitewater Rafting Trips on the Planet

60 miles / Class IV-V (Class V optional)

The Futaleufu River offers some of the most challenging commercially run whitewater in the world. The camps are unique and comfortable and Chile is a beautiful and friendly country. You’ll not only experience the incredible whitewater action of the “Fu,” you’ll have the opportunity to hike, canyoneer, zipline and rappel, plus more activities than you can likely fit into the days you have. Each camp has its own hot tub, and at each active day’s end, there’s nothing better. Photo: Neil Rabinowitz

2) Upper Navua River, Fiji

PHOTOS: Top 10 Whitewater Rafting Trips on the Planet

12 miles / Class II+

The adventure of the Upper Navua Gorge begins with a thrilling drive on a logging road that ascends steeply to a coastal ridge and then winds into the rainforest. Waterfalls cascade from the walls of the 165-foot gorge, which is 23-feet-wide at its narrowest point. Black volcanic rock walls are covered by twisting vines and lush ferns. Rafting on the Navua has been developed in partnership with the local land-owning families and provides an alternative income source from traditional logging and resource extraction. Photo: Tom Till

3) Tatshenshini River, Alaska

PHOTOS: Top 10 Whitewater Rafting Trips on the Planet

120 miles / Class II-III

The Tatshenshini River offers a consummate wilderness rafting experience in the far north, with outstanding opportunities to view wildlife and spectacular scenery, including glaciers, icebergs and unbroken vistas. For the avid hiker, there are a variety of choices. Visit Walker Glacier and hike to higher elevations with magnificent views of the river and surrounding area. A true expedition. Photo: Justin Bailie

4) Pacuare River, Costa Rica

PHOTOS: Top 10 Whitewater Rafting Trips on the Planet

14 miles / Class III-IV

The Pacuare River is no stranger to top ten lists. Warm water, lush primary rainforest, waterfalls and plenty of whitewater make this river a shoo-in. Big cats, monkeys, and numerous colorful birds call this river corridor home.  It’s best run in two days with an overnight at a riverside lodge. Photo: James Kaiser

5) Chilko River, British Columbia

The Best Whitewater Rafting Trips on the Planet

120 miles / Class IV

This trip actually takes you from the Chilko River onto the Chilcotin and then to the Fraser, delivering three rivers in one rollicking adventure and scenery ranging from boreal forest to rolling badlands. The Chilko’s Lava Canyon includes the continent’s longest stretch of commercially navigable whitewater at more than 14 miles. For anglers, the Upper Chilko and Chilko Lake offer world-class fishing. Photo: James Kaiser

6) Snake River, Wyoming

PHOTOS: Top 10 Whitewater Rafting Trips on the Planet

10.5 miles / Class II

This stretch of the Snake River floats through the heart of Grand Teton National Park, and each bend brings another in-your-face shot of the iconic Tetons. It’s a great river to spot some of the park’s wildlife, including moose, bald eagles and river otter. If you can tear your eyes away, don’t forget to look for the Sleeping Indian across the valley. Jackson Hole, bordered by the Teton Range to the west and the Gros Ventre Range to the east, is one of my favorite places on the planet. Photo: Greg Von Doersten

7) Tuolumne River, California

PHOTOS: Top 10 Whitewater Rafting Trips on the Planet

18 miles / Class IV

The Wild & Scenic Tuolumne River is one of the few real wilderness river trips in California. In the spring the canyon walls are covered with brilliant orange poppies and purple lupine. Arguably the best whitewater trip in the state, the “T” delivers constant action, including the infamous Class IV+ Clavey Falls. In summer, a side-hike up the Clavey River to its hidden swimming holes is a great way to beat the heat. Photo: Picture This

8) Yampa River, Colorado

PHOTOS: Top 10 Whitewater Rafting Trips on the Planet

71 miles / Class III-IV

The Yampa River is the last undammed tributary of the Colorado River system. One of my favorites, it’s located in Dinosaur National Monument, a little-known gem in the park service crown. Once described to me as a “Little Grand Canyon,” it stands out on its own. Sandy beaches, side hikes to vistas that rival Grand Canyon and well-preserved prehistoric Native American sites are encased in a striking river corridor whose tall, vertical walls are streaked with jet-black coloration known as “desert varnish.” Photo: James Kaiser

9) Middle Fork of the Salmon River, Idaho

PHOTOS: Top 10 Whitewater Rafting Trips on the Planet

100 or 75 miles / Class III-IV

Like the Grand Canyon, the Middle Fork Salmon is a river you want to go back to again and again. Here you’ll find 100 rapids in 100 miles, hot springs, great side hikes and blue ribbon fishing. Dropping 3,200 feet in its entirety, the Salmon is free-flowing with high water in early June and trips running through September. Photo: Justin Bailie

10) Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, Arizona

PHOTOS: The Best Whitewater Rafting Trips on the Planet

280 miles / Class I-10 (Colorado River Rating System)

The Colorado River flows 280 miles from Lees Ferry to Pearce Ferry and an oar-powered trip is generally about two weeks long. While the Grand Canyon is at the top of many folks’ bucket list, only a portion of them take the full trip, opting instead for a partial section of river. To really do it right, the whole enchilada is the way to go!  Photo: James Kaiser

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