Telluride Colorado Rafting
White Water Adventures Near Telluride
It is not possible to fully appreciate Colorado’s natural beauty without dipping a paddle in at least one of its righteously wonderful rivers. Surprisingly though, rafting in Telluride is still a little more under the radar than many of its other adventure-related activities.
So read on to learn more about rafting around Telluride and the greater area. You’ll likely end up with at least one of them on your bucket list.
San Miguel River
The rafting section of the San Miguel starts just 20 minutes outside of Telluride, where you’ve got mountains to the left, desert to your right, and class II-III rapids the whooole time. The San Miguel River is one of the funnest paddling trips in Southwest Colorado, just ask a river guide. Or better yet, try it out for yourself!
What makes the San Miguel an absolute blast to raft is the twisty and narrow canyon where the boating section begins. This, in combination with a semi-steep gradient, means there’s a lot of steering to be done while tackling one fat splash after the other.
The water moves at a quick pace, sending paddlers bounding through constant wave trains while skirting around obstacles like trees and boulders. It’s a thrilling job, but somebody’s gotta do it!
Late May – July
Intermediate: This narrow and fast waterway does come with some swim potential and plenty of contact with the water.
Upper Section: Ages 10+
Lower Section: Ages 8+
Along its 241 mile journey from the San Juan Mountains to the Colorado River in Utah, the Dolores River creates a landscape more astounding than easily described. But it is seldom seen via raft these days, on account of a reservoir near the small and charming town of Dolores, Colorado.
However every few years when Colorado sees a heavy winter, water is rightfully returned to the ancient canyon. When this highly anticipated event takes place, it makes for one of the most majestic and alluring river runs on the continent.
There are two nearby-ish access points to the Dolores River from Telluride:
- Ponderosa Gorge: Ponderosa Gorge is about two hours away from Telluride. It’s as beautiful as it is bizarre, colored with crimson sandstone and covered in looming ponderosas trees. This section can run from 1 to 3 days, with many class II-III rapids as you drift deeper into the canyon.
- Slick Rock Canyon: Slick Rock is about 1.5 hours from Telluride. The Dolores River becomes more calm in this stretch, as it flows down a gentle slope towards Utah. The scenery is incredibly different here than in Ponderosa Gorge with galleries of wingate sandstone (hence the name Slick Rock) that curve wildly into a maze of meanders. This section is often kayaked, with many class II rapids along the way.
Upper Animas River
If you’re looking to put your athleticism and drive for adrenaline to the test, look no further than the highway of whitewater known as the Upper Animas. Named the most commercially difficult river run in the United States, this Class V run is not for the faint of heart.
The Upper Animas River dives deep into the Weminuche Wilderness, so much so that most of the put-ins and take-outs are only accessible via the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge. The scenery is nothing short of remarkable, with fourteeners as the backdrop of this lush alpine canyon.
Mild to Wild runs the Needleton Section of the Upper Animas. You can opt for a One Day trip, or a Camp Out option to spend the night in the canyon before rafting the next day.
This high adventure experience requires participants to be 16 years and older, physically fit, and able to pass a swim test through a Class III rapid. You can raft the whitewater beast for up to 3 days depending on the water levels.
Late May – Early August
High Adventure: High swim potential and a lot of contact with the water.
Class of Rapids
Needleton Section: 14+ (at lower flows)
Physical fitness is essential. Required orientation the evening prior. Wetsuits are required (rentals available). Paddling experience is recommended.
Complete Telluride Planning Resources
Plan Your Trip
- Telluride for the Adventure Junkie
- Getting Off the Beaten Path in Telluride
- Best Things to do in Telluride with Kids
- How to Ball on a Budget in Telluride