Camping / Rafting destinations in Colorado

If you love outdoor adventure.  Colorado is the perfect place for you.  From Camping to fishing, from skiing to rafting, there is an abundance of outdoor adventure in this state.  Here we are going to explore rafting and camping, so sit back, relax and let’s get going!

The Rocky Mountains are extremely well known for whitewater rivers. Colorado definitely has its share of places to raft. There are more than a dozen commercially rafted rivers.  There are rivers are spread out throughout the  Rockies. The main whitewater rafting season is from June to September, depending on conditions.

Camping is a BIG thing in Colorado.  Whew, there are 830 Colorado RV Parks & Campgrounds.  SERIOUSLY?  WHO KNEW? And, Colorado’s state parks manage more than 4,000 campsites throughout the state.  Colorado is a camper’s dream, full of places to camp, both in campgrounds and campsites. Some sites are free, while others charge a fee.



Also, make sure to check out the Colorado Trail Explorer which can help you navigate your routes!



Let’s take a look at some of the BEST rivers to experience rafting!

  1. Arkansas River
  2. Animas River
  3. Colorado River
  4. Yampa River
  5. Piedra River
  6. Cache La Poudre River
  7. Dolores River
  8. Clear Creek


Let’s Break this down a bit more for you and give you just a bit more information on each of the Rivers above



Arkansas River


The Arkansas River is the most rafted river in the state of Colorado.  It’s also one of the most well-known rivers in the country. The headwaters of the Arkansas River begin near Leadville and flows south past Buena Vista and Nathrop, to Salida, before venturing east to Cañon City, Pueblo, and the plains.

It offers many epic and exciting sections, especially the Royal Gorge. This is an advanced trip that leads through a narrow canyon, with some Class IV and V rapids along the way. Remember there are many different trips you can explore along the Arkansas River. 



Animas River


The Animas River provides recreation throughout the year.  The Animas River offers fabulous whitewater but also offers areas to simply float.  both lazy float.  As with almost all locations in Colorado you can experience either 1/2 or full-day trips!  

The Lower section of the Animas River runs through downtown Durango.  Here where you’ll find a family float section and an easier experience of rapids.   

The Upper Animas River begins closer to Durango’s mountain resort.  At 30 plus miles, It’s the longest, stretch of commercial run Class IV-V rapids Country!


Colorado River

 There are many great sections of the Colorado River to raft, from family-friendly trips to raging whitewater in Gore Canyon.

The Colorado River is known as the most commercially rafted whitewater in Colorado.  There are countless epic rafting trips on this 1 river. The Colorado River is divided by numerous dams and has two main sections: the Upper Colorado River and the Lower Colorado River.   Fun Fact:  “The 1,450-mile-long  river drains an expansive, arid watershed that encompasses parts of seven U.S. states and two Mexican states.”



Yampa River


The Yampa River is Northwest Colorado’s most notorious river! It’s actually the longest non-dammed river in the state. Many come the Yampa River for multi-day rafting trips where they can relax and enjoy the amazing scenery.  There are some whitewater thrills along the way for those looking for a bit of excitement.  


Piedra River


There are two great trips on the Piedra River: the Upper and Lower.

The Upper Piedra River, located northwest of Pagosa Springs is best suited for children 12 years and up. It includes numerous Class II, III, and IV rapids. The Lower Piedra River is also exciting and suggested for those 16 years old and up.  There are several BIG drops along the way.  The trip along the Lower Piedra has Class IV+ rapids and multiple deep box canyons.


Cache La Poudre River


This River known as the Poudre is much less crowded than most other spots in Colorado.  It offers great whitewater rafting but has few outfitters guiding it. There are a couple of different trips here suited for all types of “rafters”.  There are beginner and intermediate trips here on the River as well as advanced class III and IV as well.  

The Poudre Canyon is known for its scenery. The river itself is the only one designated a national wild and scenic river. 


Dolores River


There are very limited trips here along the Dolores River.  Rafting usually starts in April and is finished by June.  It is a gorgeous spot and rafters do love it when trips are available.  Those who actually know about this spot absolutely love it.   Here you raft down some exciting canyons and drops.  The Dolores River offers about 175 miles of rafting. 

Raft the Dolores anywhere from 3 to 10-day trips. You read right, some go as long as 10 days.  Here,  the wilderness is remote to say the least, but it’s also spectacular to see the sights along the way.   



Clear Creek


Here on Clear Creek, you can experience trips for all types of rafters,  beginners, intermediates, and advanced paddlers.  Located 30 miles west of downtown I-70 there are half and full-day trips available.

Clear Creek is the steepest river in the state that’s commercially rafted. 



Additional Camping / Rafting Worth Exploring

Dispersed camping is allowed in Bureau of Land Management areas and national forests. Sometimes camping is allowed in Wildlife Management areas and state forests. Please, look for forest signs and service roads to find camping spots. If camping is NOT allowed there will be signs letting you know.  The best time for camping is between June and September.

Top 10 Camping Locations
  1. Maroon Bells / Aspen
  2. Piñon Flats Campground / Great Sand Dunes National Park
  3. Guanella Pass / Pike National Forest
  4. Bear Lake Campground / Rocky Mountain National Park
  5. Moraine Park Campground / Rocky Mountain National Park
  6. Oh Be Joyful Campground / Crested Butte
  7. Angel of Shavano Campgrounds / San Isabel National Forest
  8. Twin Peaks Campground / Twin Lakes
  9. Morefield Campground / Mesa Verde State Park
  10. South Rim Campground / Gunnison National Park


Here are some other places to go rafting and their locations: 

  • Blue River – Silverthorne
  • Eagle River – Vail
  • Gunnison River – Delta
  • North Platte River – Walden
  • Rio Grande River – Creede
  • Roaring Fork River – Aspen
  • San Juan River – Pagosa Springs
  • San Miguel River – Telluride
  • Taylor River – Crested Butte, Gunnison


Thinking of moving to Colorado? Check out these towns:

Lodging and Places to Stay

Colorado is a HUGE state.   In fact, is it about 104,094 sq mi in size.   There are places to camp and river raft nearly everywhere you look in this state.   SO, below are just a few suggestions of places you may want to consider staying if coming out to go rafting and camping is not your thing!


  1. Arkansas River
  2. Animas River
  3. Colorado River
  4. Yampa River
  5. Piedra River
  6. Cache La Poudre River
  7. Dolores River
  8. Clear Creek



Let’s start off with where to stay near Rocky Mountain National Park.  Unfortunately, there is no lodging in the park, but don’t worry. There are plenty of spots located nearby!