In Search of Rapids

Published on: May 20th, 2011

This trip isn’t all lounging by the pool and window shopping in ritzy retail districts (we’re looking at you, Aspen). This excursion is for people who want adrenaline in their veins or who crave the force of big rapids and big drops: a great road trip full of half- and full-day river adventures.

Days: Three and a half
Roundtrip: 470 miles
Must-Have Souvenir: A rafting T-shirt and a life-jacket tan line

On the Road:

  • On your way back to Vail after rafting Clear Creek, stop by the DAM Dillon Brewery for a pint.
  • So, you’ve decided to stay the night in Buena Vista. We recommend the Los Manos Bed & Breakfast, a Southwest-styled adobe with tons of personality and romance.
  • You might want breakfast before a full weekend of rafting. Find a table (warning, there might be a wait) at The Little Diner in Lionshead.
  • You’ll find music every Thursday night in Vail Square.
  • You really can’t go to Cañon City without going to prison…well, at least you can visit a prison that has been turned into a museum dedicated to prisons. The Colorado Prison Museum is the second wildest discovery on this trip (the first being the rapids).
  • This trip takes you right through Colorado wine country. Try out Mountain Spirit Winery in Salida.

Head up I-70, and find your room in the Vail Cascade Resort (Vail has pretty nice accommodations, so it’s dealer’s pick). Enjoy a classy dinner at the acclaimed Kelly Liken in downtown Vail, and head to bed early: You’ll need your beauty sleep. Rise early, grab a muffin and coffee at Loaded Joe’s and head back east to Frisco, where you will find Kodi Rafting, which offers trips down a few rivers. Pick one of the half-day trips (either intermediate or advanced) down Clear Creek. These excursions are stellar rides down an intimate river with lots of action, including rapids called Lumpys, Fall River and Deliverance.

The second part of the trip is a super mellow jaunt through Idaho Springs; yep, urban rafting (you’ll float by a Starbucks). Head back to Vail for a night of walking around the ski town. Early the next morning, hit the road and make your way to Buena Vista’s American Adventure Expeditions. Here, you can opt for a half-day trip down the Arkansas River’s famed Numbers or the full-day trip that includes Numbers and Brown’s Canyon. Numbers is one of the densest segments of river in Colorado—it’s full of big drops and class IV and V rapids that are technical feats. It’s wild and unforgettable; Brown’s Canyon has smaller rapids but is tons of fun.

That night, stay in Buena Vista, often considered the whitewater capitol of America, or make your way down to Cañon City (which is considered Colorado’s prison capitol). On your last trip down the Arkansas, you’ll want to find Raft Masters in Cañon City. These local experts will take you down the Royal Gorge, which will blow your mind: Beyond the bucking, exhilarating, sometimes scary rapids, it offers a spectacular bottom-up view of the Royal Gorge…that is, if you can stop staring at the whitewater smacking you in the face.

Road Trips – And Countless Adventures on the Open Road

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