How to Choose the Right Multi-Day Rafting Trip

By Kim Cassels   •   February 1, 2023

How to Choose a Multi-Day Rafting Trip 

Gates of Lodore Staff Trip - Lodore - Mild to Wild Rafting

Shopping around for a multi-day rafting trip but not quite sure where to start? We know that feeling all too well! Mild to Wild offers overnight river trips for 7 different rivers spread across Colorado, Utah and Arizona. What can we say, we love running rivers and we love having options! 

One thing that will always stay the same with any multi-day rafting trip you take with Mild to Wild is a fully catered camping experience with highly professional guides. On any trip with us, you’ll enjoy freshly prepared meals, a comfortable camping set up, and great company with amazing guides. 

Read on to get a better idea of which multi-day rafting trip is right for you! 

And to preface, here are all the Multi-Day Rafting Trips that Mild to Wild runs:

Cataract Canyon (Colorado River) – Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Desolation Canyon (Green River) – Desolation Canyon Wilderness Study Area, Utah

Gates of Lodore (Green River) – Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado & Utah

Yampa River – Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado & Utah 

Castle Valley (Colorado River) – Moab, Utah 

Salt River – Fort Apache Reservation, Arizona 

Upper Animas River – Weminuche Wilderness, Southwest Colorado 


1. How old is the youngest member of your squad? 

Gates of Lodore - Ely Creek Falls - Kids getting splashed by waterfall

First things first! Are you tall enough to ride the ride? Each river presents its own unique flare of whitewater, which is the main factor for our age limits for each trip. To preface however, all participants must be at least 5 years old and 50 pounds to hop in the boat with us on an overnight trip, we want them to fit into their PFD after all! 

Age 5 – 6: Desolation Canyon and Castle Valley 

Age 7: Yampa River (low water), Gates of Lodore (low water)

Age 8: Salt River (low water)

Age 10: Cataract Canyon (low water)

Age 12: Salt River (high water) Yampa River (high water), Gates of Lodore (high water) 

Age 14: Cataract Canyon (high water)

2. How much time do you have? 

Gates of Lodore - Group rafting - Preparing to get in boats

Next things next— What’s your time frame? Some of our rivers are so remote that there’s only one put-in and take-out for the entire stretch of wilderness we’ll row through. Keep in mind, some trips can be done in a shorter amount of time when we have motor assist, this will just result in longer days on the boat versus in camp. If you’re looking to do a mix of activities while you’re on a multi-day rafting trip, always go with the longer options. 

2 Days: Castle Valley, Cataract Canyon, Upper Animas, Salt River 

3 Days: Castle Valley, Cataract Canyon, Upper Animas, Salt River, Gates of Lodore 

4 Days: Cataract Canyon, Gates of Lodore, Yampa River, Salt River, Desolation Canyon  

5 Days: Cataract Canyon, Yampa River, Desolation Canyon  

6 Days: Cataract Canyon, Desolation Canyon

3. When do you want to go? 

arizona salt river camping

Not all rivers run all season long, unless it’s the Colorado! Free flowing tributaries like the Upper Salt River and the Yampa run rampant with fresh runoff, but then quickly trickle off before spring is over. And as a rule of thumb for almost every river, the high water season (when the rapids are at their biggest) is usually from late May to mid-June. 

March – April: Castle Valley, Cataract Canyon, Salt River

May – June (high water season): All but the Salt River 

July – August: All but the Yampa and Salt River

September – October: Desolation Canyon, Castle Valley, Cataract Canyon 

4. Do you want to kayak or SUP? 

Green River Rafting Desolation Canyon – Mild to Wild Rafting & Jeep Tours

Most rivers allow for stretches to paddle your own craft. If you’re looking to be the captain of your own destiny, we offer inflatable kayaks on a few of our trips where guests are welcome to bring their own standup paddle boards as well. If you want to spend a lot of time in a kayak or on your SUP, rivers with lower class rapids will allow for that like Castle Valley and Desolation Canyon. 

Multi-Day rafting trips where you can always kayak and/or SUP:

Castle Valley 

Desolation Canyon

Gates of Lodore 

Yampa River 

5. Do you want high adventure and big rapids on your trip? 

Yampa River Rafting-Colorado White Water-Mild to Wild Rafting

Mild to Wild uses the universal I-V rating system for rapids: I essentially being moving water, a class III being a big splash, and a V being a boat encompassing wave. The higher the ages in your group the higher the class of rapids you can take on together. 

Class III – V Rapids: Cataract Canyon, Upper Animas 

Class III – IV Rapids: Salt River, Gates of Lodore, Yampa River 

Class III: Desolation Canyon 

6. And how much whitewater do you want? 

Cataract Canyon - Raft going through white water

While some rivers have huge whitewater, not all of them will have rapids throughout the entire trip. Like Cataract Canyon, which hosts the biggest rapids on the Colorado River, but they all take place within a 15 mile stretch of the 96 mile journey. 

Most: Upper Animas – Nonstop Class III and IV carnage. 

Second Most: Desolation Canyon – Over 60 Class II and III rapid sections 

Third Mostest: Gates of Lodore – This section is shorter than other rivers (45 miles), which makes the ratio of rapids much higher than other trips. 

Quick Top Two’s

What Multi-Day Rafting Trips have the most hiking? 

(If you want to get a good amount of hiking during any multi-day rafting trip, we recommend at least 4 days.)

Cataract Canyon 

Yampa River


What Multi-Day Rafting Trips have the most time in camp?

Gates of Lodore - Experiential learning group hiking

(The shorter the miles we have to cover each day, the more time you’ll have in camp! This goes for trips like Desolation and Cataract Canyon as well, but Lodore and Yampa trips have shorter stretches in general.) 

Lodore Canyon 

Yampa River 


What Multi-Day Rafting Trips have the most Historical Sites? 

All western river canyons have precious archaeological treasures in them, but Desolation Canyon and Cataract Canyon tend to have the highest number of Native American ruins/petroglyphs, fossils, and homesteads.

Desolation Canyon 

Cataract Canyon 


What Multi-Day Rafting Trip has the most wildlife?

Gates of Lodore - Close up of mountain goats

In general, Southwestern rivers host big horned sheep, deer, birds of prey, snakes, lizards, otters, raccoons) 

Desolation Canyon – This area is wonderful and unique for its bands of wild horses. 

Yampa River – Lots of friendly, fat big horns!  


What Multi-Day Rafting trips have the warmest water? 

Enjoy temps around 60-70° F all summer long!

Cataract Canyon 

Desolation Canyon 

What Multi-Day Rafting trips have the most diverse scenery? 

Yampa River Rafting - Dinosaur National Monument - Mild to Wild Rafting


Lodore – Colorful, ever-changing cliffs, lush forests and side canyons, dramatic geologic features are strewn throughout Lodore Canyon. 

Yampa – Beautiful slick rock walls, caves, and wildflower meadows is just the start on the Yampa. 

What Multi-Day Rafting trips have the most shade/plants? 

Dinosaur National Monument sprawls between a rare wilderness section in Colorado and Utah. It’s higher altitude and regular rainstorms provides perfect conditions for cottonwoods, ponderosas, hackberry bushes, and other alpine and desert flora to flourish.



What Multi-Day Rafting trips can you raft in the fall? 

Cataract Canyon runs all the way into October! 

What Multi-Day Rafting trips have the most solitude?

Desolation Canyon Desert Rafting Panorama - Desolation Canyon - Mild to Wild

Yampa River 

Desolation Canyon 


Still need some insight?

We understand it can be a little overwhelming trying to choose the right multi-day rafting trip, especially if it’s your first time down any of these awesome rivers! So please don’t hesitate to drop a question in the LiveChat (it’s all real people on the other side!) or give us a call to help you pick the perfect wilderness getaway!


More Reading

 Taking a Multi-Day Rafting Trip When You’ve Never Camped Before 

9 Overnight Rafting Trips in the Southwest that Will Change Your Life 

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