Vail Whitewater Rafting for Beginners

Timberline Tours offers Vail whitewater rafting trips for beginners that range from relaxing float trips to those that are rippling with rapids. If you’ve never been rafting before, don’t worry: Beginners are welcome! We can help you choose the river section that’s best for a safe and fun introduction to the sport of whitewater rafting. And our expert guides go through a pre-trip safety talk that includes whitewater paddling techniques and common rafting paddling commands, so you’ll learn what you need to know before you slide your raft into the river.

Whitewater Rafting for Beginners: Considerations and Class Ratings

If you’ve never been whitewater rafting before, consider your fitness level and your desired adventure level when choosing a trip. Are you athletic and willing to try out paddling? If so, you might like to begin rafting with a Class III (intermediate intensity) whitewater rafting trip such as Browns Canyon or Shoshone for your first time rafting. On these trips, you’ll paddle through whitewater rapids interspersed with calmer sections of current.

Whitewater Rafting Colorado through the Shoshone Rapid

If your vision of a day out rafting involves a relaxing float trip with a guide paddling the boat, then an Class II (splashy, low intensity) Upper Colorado River trip would be a better fit for a first day out on the river. But if you’re an athlete with a high fitness level and a bold sense of adventure, then a Class IV (advanced, high intensity) whitewater rafting trip such as The Numbers could be a good choice for you, even if you are a beginner to whitewater rafting. Most first-timers, however, find that a Class III (intermediate intensity) trip is often the best choice. For return trips, you’ll then know if you want to keep the intensity level the same, increase the intensity on a Class IV trip, or take it a step down for a more relaxing Class II river float.

Whitewater Rafting for Beginners: Shoshone and Browns Canyon

Shoshone and Browns Canyon are our top picks for Class III whitewater rafting for beginners. Some age and weight limits apply on these trips (see individual whitewater rafting trip pages for more details), so if children don’t yet meet these requirements, then a Class II Upper Colorado River trip will likely be a better fit. But if everyone in your group is excited to try out rafting on an intermediate-intensity stretch of whitewater, then chose from one of these two top trips.

Rafting for Beginners

Along with amazing views, Shoshone includes a mile of Class III rapids followed by a calm and scenic float to the take-out in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. This stretch of river is a great introduction to whitewater rafting, and it’s fun for all ages. While floating Shoshone’s mild sections, you’ll be able to relax, jump in the river for a swim on hot days, or play around having water fights with other rafts. We offer morning, afternoon, and higher- or lower-intensity Shoshone trip options.

Why Shoshone is a good trip for whitewater rafting beginners:
Shoshone gives you a good taste of what it’s like to paddle through rapids and then what it’s like to enjoy a relaxing float. Because you get to experience both whitewater and calm water on this trip, you’ll discover whether you’d like more of one or the other for your next whitewater rafting trip.

This family-friendly rafting trip will take you through the heart of Browns Canyon National Monument, an area known for its incredible mountain scenery and wildlife. While you’ll get the experience of paddling through some exciting rapids, you’ll also have some time to relax and enjoy mountain views and a riverside lunch.

Why Browns Canyon is a good trip for whitewater rafting beginners:
The rapids in Browns Canyon are continuous in sections, but most beginners will say that they’re neither too big nor too small. Browns Canyon is classic, Class III whitewater at its best, and you’ll discover whether this level is just what you’re looking for—or if you want to try more or less intensity the next time.

Please call us anytime to consult if you need help deciding what trip is best for your group. Explore more advice for whitewater rafting beginners on our website ahead of time to know what will increase your personal comfort and safety:

What to Wear Rafting
Rafting Safety
Common Rafting Paddling Commands
Rafting Paddling Tips
River Class Ratings Explained
Timberline Tours Whitewater Rafting and Jeeping FAQ


Timberline Tours is Vail’s premier whitewater rafting and backcountry jeep tours outfitter. We offer rafting trips on Colorado’s Eagle, Colorado, and Arkansas Rivers, and we also guide duckie river trips. All of our guided trips are open to Vail visitors, locals, families, and corporate groups.

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