When is the Colorado Rafting Season?

We stay excited about the Colorado rafting season all year long, but summer is the best time for whitewater rafting in Colorado. In general, the Colorado rafting season can begin as early as May and last through October. However, the best three months for Colorado rafting are June, July, and August.

Read on to find out more about the Colorado rafting season and what stretches of river you can expect to raft near Vail during this exciting time of year.

May and June: Early-Season Rafting

As temperatures begin to warm up in the spring, Colorado’s winter snows begin to melt. Usually in May, snowmelt-fed rivers near Vail are on the rise. Following winters that have had a big snowfall, early-season rafting can be exciting and intense. This is the time of year when athletic and adventurous paddlers can choose to go rafting on more advanced stretches of whitewater, including the Class IV Dowd Chute on the Eagle River in Vail. Since Dowd Chute is fed by snowmelt, its season is usually only a few weeks long. Water levels can change from day to day, and guides operate according to commercial cut-off limits on the Eagle River for the safety of guests.

Colorado Rafting Season

The Class III Lower Eagle River is a great family-friendly option for this time of the year, and since it’s also snowmelt-fed, its season lasts only a few weeks. When temperatures warm up outside, the dam-controlled Colorado River also opens up for rafting, making it possible to raft the Shoshone and Upper Colorado River sections near Vail during the early summer season.

Find out more about the link between snowmelt and early-season rafting here: “How Snowmelt Affects Vail Rafting.”

June, July, and August: Prime Colorado Rafting Season

With long, sun-filled days and bluebird skies, Colorado has a summer climate that’s perfect for rafting. And if you’re coming to Vail during the height of the summer season, you’ll have plenty of options for rafting. During June, July, and August—prime Colorado rafting season—we’ll still likely be guiding Vail whitewater rafting trips on the snowmelt-fed Eagle River in June, but the Colorado River and the Arkansas River offer the best rafting near Vail during this time.

Timberline Tours Whitewater Rafting The Numbers on the Arkansas River near Vail Colorado - photography by Doug Mayhew | WhiteWater-Pix.com

The Timberline Tours boathouse in Granite, Colorado, is the launching point for Arkansas River rafting classics including The Numbers, Pine Creek/The Numbers, and Browns Canyon. If you’re staying in Vail: no problem. We provide transport to The Ark, as we like to call it, from Vail and get your group outfitted in Granite for all Arkansas River trips. The Arkansas River rafting season usually ends in mid-August, when dam flows are decreased, lowering the river to a trickle for the winter season.

Shoshone Rapid Colorado River

The Colorado River’s Shoshone section is at its best for Vail rafting during the summer months. This section of river begins with a mile-long stretch of rapids followed by an incredibly scenic float through Glenwood Canyon. Timberline Tours offers a few different Shoshone trip options, including a Skip the Rapids option—for those who would like a trip with lesser intensity—and a Triple Thriller that runs three times through the Shoshone rapids for those who want to up the adventure.

September and October: Late-Season Rafting

While Shoshone on the Colorado River is at its best mid-summer, it’s still possible to raft Shoshone into September—and possibly into October, depending on water levels. But the Upper Colorado River is a top choice for a scenic rafting float trip near Vail during September and into October as long as temperatures remain warm. At this time of the year, fall colors make a fine showing along the banks of the river, and Colorado wildlife are also active at this time of the year.

dinosaur whitewater rafting trip

Fall is also a good time to explore one of Timberline’s Upper Colorado River rafting trip variations, which include the Rafting and Dinosaur Discovery trip and the Rafting and Wine Tasting trip. For a back-to-school season adventure, the Rafting and Dinosaur Discovery trip is fun for all ages; it includes an educational exploration while rafting the Upper Colorado River and is followed by a fossil dig at the Fossil Posse camp. The Rafting and Wine Tasting trip is perfect for group events: birthdays, wedding parties, anniversaries, and more. This trip includes an Upper Colorado River scenic rafting float trip followed by a Vines at Vail wine tasting at 4 Eagle Ranch, where you can kick up your shoes and sip wine with mountain peaks on the horizon.

If you’re coming to Vail in the summer season, you’ll be here at the right time to experience the best of the Colorado rafting season. Timberline Tours offers rafting trips for all types of adventurers, so give us a call for advice about what rafting trip is the best fit for your group.


Timberline Tours is the Vail-area’s premier whitewater rafting and backcountry jeep tours outfitter, also offering stand up paddle board (SUP) and duckie river trips on Colorado’s Eagle, Colorado, and Arkansas Rivers. All of our guided trips are open to Vail, Colorado visitors, locals, families, and corporate groups.

To book your Vail, Colorado, adventure, call Timberline Tours at (970) 476-1414, or email us at info@timberlinetours.com.