Grand Canyon

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Rafting the Grand Canyon

Jan 2013

Any current recommendations about rafting the grand canyon this summer? Which segment, what company? Karen

AZRA! They were great. We did both segments back to back so we would not have to hike into or out of Shadow Ranch. Some other companies can helicopter you out. I liked the top section best. If you are active, take a hybrid trip where you can paddle the paddle raft part time. Otherwise you are a passenger on the oar raft unless they let you row the quiet stretches. There were more quiet stretches than I had imagined. Fantastic company, fab food, great side trips. Totally memorable. We went in July a few years ago. kathryn

My husband and I rafted the Grand Canyon two summers ago, and it was an amazing experience. There are three ways to 'raft' the canyon, and your choice will influence which company you use. The first option is a big, motorized craft which holds about 25 guests. It's very non-interactive; you sit on the big inflatable wearing a life jacket and watch the canyon go buy. The second option is an oar boat, which is a smaller inflatable maneuvered by the guide while the passengers again sit and watch. The third option--which is what we did--is a six-person paddle boat steered by a guide. All passengers have a paddle and actively participate in propelling and maneuvering the boat. It's very participatory, great exercise, and a lot of fun. We booked with Outdoors Unlimited, which was recommended by a friend in Oregon that owns a rafting company. I figured if someone in the rafting community was recommending OU, it was probably a good choice. We plan on doing the trip again in a few years and I would definitely use OU again.

In terms of trip options, you can do the upper river (generally 5 or 6 days from Lake Powell to the Bright Angel trail), lower river (8 or 9 days from the Bright Angel trail to Lake Mead), or the whole river (15 days from Lake Powell to Lake Mead). We did the lower river, and while 9 days seemed like a lot when we signed up for the trip, I was very sad when it was over and will definitely do the entire river the next time.

A warning that if you do only the upper river, you have to hike out at the Bright Angel trail, which is an eight-mile, uphill, very hot hike to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. As we were hiking down the trail to meet for our launch, we passed a lot of miserable people who were hiking out. Erin

Grand Canyon River Rafting, girls only

March 2006

Planning a girls only trip and need some advice/recommendations. Any rafting companies recommended? Specific guides? Time of the year to go? Minimum/maximum number of days to spend? Any advice on logistics? Any other advice that I haven't thought to ask? Thanks for your responses in advance!!! Celebrating Our Milestone Birthdays

Check out for their great Grand Canyon river trips. A group of us went on the 6 day last summer and had the time of our lives. It was the best trip we ever took (and we've all traveled a lot). Go for the 6 day, not the 3 day (too mild, end of the trip for guides, not as scenic). They were a top notch outfit - fantastic guides, great food, big safe yet awesome raft, cots to sleep on, perfect in every way! Would go again!

You may have your heart set on the Grand Canyon and I certainly wouldn't blame you. I wanted to throw out a recommendation anyway. In Stanley, Idaho there is a company called Rapid Transit. They run trips (I think 7 days or so) down the Middle Fork of the Salmon river. I have done this trip twice with friends and it is truly one of the most beautiful remote places I have ever seen. (I have done a lot of hiking around the Grand Canyon and it's great as well). I would at least check it out. The guides are wonderful, usually play guitar, set up tents and cots for you and cook gourmet dinners. This is one of those undiscovered things. I believe the Grand Canyon trips run anywhere from 7 days to 3 weeks. Kim

Rafting on the Grand Canyon's Colorado River

Sept 2005

Hi - My husband has decided that he'd like to celebrate his 50th birthday next year with a family raft trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Now we just need a great company to raft with, and would appreciate any recommendations, cautionary tales, or advice about specific companies, times of year to go, other relevant advice. Our kids will be 10 and 12 and are good swimmers and hearty campers. I think one week would be better than two, which seems one week too long. The website has recommendations for California and Oregon trips but not Arizona's Colorado River. Many thanks for your input. D

Good friends of mine just took a 7 day river rafting trip down the Colorado this summer - the same reason - to celebrate #50! They loved it and the company they used, Arizona River Runners. Their web site is Valerie

a few ideas though my trip was 11 years ago so can't remember the name of the company. went in late May, weather was warm enough and there were not the huge crowds of summer tourists, (however Northern Arizona does get cold at night and cold! winters so you might want to research typical May weather to decide.) Otherwise you might try for later summer which would be more crowded but the sun has warmed the river some by then. I had to choose between 5 days or 10 days, though without kids, was very glad I was able to do the 10 days. 7 would be good, as you said one week, but if your choice is 5 or something more, you can really see a lot more, and much more remote parts of the canyon, by going longer (even though the first 5 days are incredible, too.) My trip ended at a place where we got helicopters out and landed on the Utah side (and bus back to the south rim). The shorter trip would end at one of the spots where you can hike out of the canyon. You can probably get a ''dragon'' map of the river at REI (forget the proper name of these) and see where the different stops along the river are. Flagstaff is a cute mountain town with shops, some good restaurants, hiking, etc. if you decide to stay along the way to the G.C. Happy Rafting. Signed: chris

The Grand Canyon is a wonder, and it is a privilege to be there. It is considered ''Mecca'' in the river rafting world - I have been down there three times and consider it to be one of the most life changing experiences of my life.

Because I am a river rafter myself, my trips have been ''private trips'' organized by friends, however I do know of a couple companies that are highly regarded. In order to give you an appropriate recommendation, however, I would need to know what you are looking for. Do you want to travel downriver in an oar raft with guide and a few other people? Or do you want to be on a big motor rig with up to 35-40 other people? Two reputablecompanies that do a very good job are Outdoors Unlimited and Oars, to get you started.

I disagree with you about timeline - in my humble opinion one week would be far, far too short to experience the wonder of the place. If you go on a one week trip, you are going to be in a motor boat, flying past some of the best side hikes and scenery that the world has to offer. When I was down in the canyon, I would often see these folks flying by and think of how much they were missing.

Feel free to contact me - it would be a pleasure to help your family with what could very well be a trip you will all cherish for the rest of your lives. Mary

My best friend just returned from what sounds like an awesome trip. this is what she had to say: Hi - I just returned from a Grand Canyon rafting trip. It was incredible. I went on a two week hybrid trip with AZRA ( I wanted to have the option of paddling, and also the option of lounging around. It was also important to me that there was no motor boat associated with the trip. The two week trip travels approximately 225 miles on the river - and it is awesome. The AZRA guides were knowledgeable, skilled, safe and fun. The oar boats had 5 people (4 guests and 1 guide) and the paddle boat had 7 people (6 guest and 1 guide). Everyday you can just jump on whatever boat with whoever you want to hang out with that day . The weather was perfect. It wasn't too hot during the day and it was very nice in the evening. I think a trip in the middle of summer would be a bit too hot. It was wonderful to be away for two weeks...I think the minimum age for some of the trips is 12 - so you'll have to check that out for the 10 yr old

The one week trip means you only travel half the canyon. If you start at Lee's Ferry (16 miles below the dam) you will hike out at Phantom Ranch - in the Grand Canyon. It is a tough vertical hike (with your pack) and, though beautiful - it is not a mellow way to end a raft trip. You also miss most of the super big rapids. People who were on our trip who left us at Phantom Ranch regretted not doing the entire trip. The alternative is to hike in at Phantom Ranch. 4 people joined our group at Phantom Ranch. They also had a tough time coming down (in fact guides had to hike up and assist them down) - and they had wobbly legs for about two days. I suppose if you go on a motorized trip you can do the entire thing in a week - but it looked like a very different experience. It depends on what the person really wants to do.

We found the people at Rivers and Oceans ( to be very helpful in getting info about all the different outfitters and trip options. They were not helpful as a travel agent. I suggest doing your research through them and then booking a trip directly with the outfitter that is offering the trip.

Have fun. Shahana

Driving from Berkeley to the Grand Canyon

July 2003

We will be driving to the Grand Canyon (south rim) from Berkeley in August. Does anybody have any recommendations as to stops along the way to break up the drive? Little towns with good parks? A good lunch spot along the way? Your favorite hotel to stop-over if you want to do the trip in two days? We know it will be hot, so no need to warn us about that, but we would appreciate any recommendations you have about how to make the drive as fun and/or painless as possible with a 4-year old. Thanks! Looking forward to a HOT summer!

We make the drive to the Grand Canyon about every 2 years to hike the ''big hole in the ground.'' I have enjoyed driving through Nevada, stopping at Boulder Dam for the tour and movie, and walking out on the dam. In Tehachapi is a railroad museum showing the engineering feat of the Santa Fe rail line through that pass.

Laughlin has some nice, cheap casinos (we have stayed at Harrah's)--check the days for cheap rates--with free [or nearly free] food. Since we don't gamble, we simply enjoy the cheap room and board, and their nice pool/sauna/etc.

Have a nice trip! Amy

We've drivn from Berkeley to Grand Canyon several times. Last year with our 6 and 9-year olds we drove I-580 to I-5 to Hwy 58 to I-40, passing through Bakersfield, Mojave and Barstow, and spent the night in Needles. On the way back we stayed in Kingman AZ after hiking out of the Grand Canyon mid-afternoon, then spent a second night outside of Bakersfield. Our only criteria for motels was that they have a swimming pool and not be too funky - Needles has plenty that meet that test and Kingman has some. Barstow has some too. In all three towns you can follow old 66 as it goes through town and find places that are at least a couple blocks away from the interstate and thus quieter.

Food and things to do and see along the way: Harris Ranch at I-5 and Hwy 198 in the Central Valley is 180 miles from Berkeley and has excellent food and is very kid friendly. We always stop there for lunch. Bakersfield has several excellent Basque restaurants. Look in the local yellow pages. They serve enormous meals - we try and eat there for dinner on the way home after backpacking. Flagstaff (which you may or may not get to - the shortest way to the Grand Canyon south rim is to turn north off of I-40 at Williams, 30 miles before Flagstaff) has the best food on I-40 and has an excellent museum, the museum of Northern AZ. On the way back, if you take old US66 west after leaving Kingman AZ you pass through the near-ghost town of Oatman AZ (now with rock and gift shops) and come down to the Colorado River between Laughlin NV and Needles. Turn left to get back to I-40 at Needles, and turn right if you want to go gamble). It's better to do this going west because Needles to Oatman is poorly signed, but Kingman to Oatman to Needles is well-signed. The Oatman cutoff is much more scenic than I-40, and only a few minutes longer in time because it's 10-15 miles shorter in distance. The Providence Mountains State Park (~15 miles N of I-40, about 45 miles W of Needles has a cool cave with guided tours. We stopped there on the way home for a couple of cool hours underground in the middle of a hot day. Between Boron and Mohave you'll have Edwards Air Force Base on your south. Look for wierd planes flying low - Edwards is a test center. West of Mohave the largest set of wind generators in the U.S. (many more than in the Altamont Pass) is south of Hwy. 58. And finally, as Hwy. 58 climbs over the Tehachapi mountains east of Bakersfield it passes a place where the transcontinental train line makes a 360 degree loop in order to change elevation. For kids of a certain age, the chance to see a long freight train making a complete loop so that the engine passes right over the rear cars is probably on a par with seeing the Grand Canyon. The ''Tehachapi Loop'' is quite famous among train fans, and because uphill trains travel slowly there's a good chance of seeing one (or more!)if you stop there for 1/2 an hour or so. I think it's near the Caliente exit, but in any case a web search for ''Tehachapi Loop'' should find it.

Hope this gives you a few ideas for the (generally boring but fast - our kids listened to all of Harry Potter on tape on one trip) drive. Remember that it's seriously hot across the desert and aim to do Mohave-Kingman some time other than midday. We find leaving Berkeley about 9 means Harris Ranch from 12-1, Bakersfield about 3, Mohave about 4, and thus a desert crossing as the day is starting to cool off. David Marcus dmarcus2 [at]

Since we're going to Grand Canyon next week, I can only respond to the last part of your message.

We took a lot of successful, pleasant car trips when the children were small. Here are some ideas:

1. Keep a journal. Have the child dictate what they're seeing/hearing/doing. Draw pictures. Include tickets, programs, dried leaves, photos, post cards, etc. Let child see you and your husband writing and drawing in journal. I have found that what works best for a trip journal is to use the plastic sleeves. Take along a glue stick so you can you can make up some of the pages during the trip and slip the stuff into the sleeves.

2. Take along a spray bottle of water -- when somebody gets hot, this helps. But it has to be one that only has a gentle spray; not the kind that will send a stream. I got one for each child at a beauty supply store.

3. In Mom's bag is lotion, chapstick, pencils, a notebook with paper, magazines to cut up, special snacks, new car toys.

4. Each child packs a backpack with books, writing/drawing stuff, stuffed animals, healty snacks, bottle of water, car toys (from a box at home that is ONLY used for trips. Car toys don't have parts: etch-a-sketch, magnetic checkers, puzzles with pieces built in, etc.) My neighbor had a holder for each child that hooked over the front seat headpiece with pockets to store their stuff in -- that's probably better than a backpack.

5. Pillow and a crib blanket (smaller than from their beds at home, but familiar and comforting.)

6. A flat space to write/draw on.

7. Everybody has their own space -- NEVER move seats!!! (Grownups can switch to drive as long as they don't fight about someone touching their stuff!)

Have a wonderful trip. Happy Traveller

I thought of more:

8. Outline the trip beforehand for your child. ''It will take us 2 days of driving all day to get there. We'll leave when it's still dark and you can sleep, then we'll stop for breakfast and drive some more . . . '' Each day you can tell them what to expect.

9. Show him the map and trace your route. This is a visual representation of time and helps him figure out how long he'll be sitting in that seat.

10. My mother always led us in singing -- I think it's a wonderful tradition and bonding activity. Story telling, especially about when you were little, passes the time. Read a great book out loud. Take along stories on tape and music. Play all the traditional car games: ''I'm going on a trip and am taking an A...'', I Spy, find things outside that start with A,B..., license plates, most cars of red vs white vs blue.

11. 5 minutes stops at roadside rests to run as fast as you can, throw a frisbee around, turn summersaults. . .

Have fun! More Happy Traveller

Having just taken a long driving trip to Breckenridge, Colorado (a little more northern route than you probably will be taking), I would suggest staying in Best Westerns motel/hotels along the way. The hotels were very clean, great swimming pools (which really helped get out the energy of my 2 and 4 year olds after driving for 7+ hours a day), they always had a coffee pot in the room and 3 out the 4 stays they had a fridge. My husband and I were very impressed with the quality of service at each place we stayed (Wendover-NV, Vernal-UT, Truckee-CA, and somewhere else in southern Utah, which was kind of a blur after 13 hours of driving). Sorry I couldn't be more of a help regarding the route itself, but I think it is worth it to spend a little bit extra for the Best Westerns, and will do so on every long drive when I can. Have fun! Kerri

We drove to Prescott AZ (2 hrs S of GC; time identical; route 95% the same) in late May (the fri B4 memorial day) early june from Oakland. We have a then 2.75 year old daughter - very active. Also along was out 12yr old Lab. I was 6 mos preg. Drove the whole way there in 10.5 hours (return took 1 hour longer) Route: 5S 58E 40E. Tips:

*Left VERY early in the AM(6AM) with breakfast in the car - chunky cheesy scrambled eggs and Krustez mini pancakes (a Special treat!) Given the heat that AZ is having this time of year, I might even consider an evening start and drive most of the night to max sleep time.

*Took a portable DVD player with Monsters Inc, Sound of Music, Mary poppins. routed audio thru sterio system with a sony CD-to- cassette adapter. We all sang along. LIFE SAVER!!!!

*She enjoyed her LeapFrog activity thingy

*We put her in a pull-up to avoid accidents if she fell asleep. She never did wet as the stops were potty-manditory!!!

*Snacks, snacks, snacks - tried to have a good mix of high protein - nuts, hard boiled eggs, turkey sandwiches - include special treats - she was BIG into lolly pops - I used them a quick melt down defusers 1-2X ea way. Generally tried to avoid sugars/cookies, etc

*We stopped in Bakersfield and Kingman AZ for gas and potty - about every 3-3.5 hours. We stopped, ran around hard in the parking lots, walked the dog, got popcicles - 20-30 min. each stop. We did not try to find anything special in terms of parks as this is BARREN land. Needles looks (ed) green (50 min earlier than Kingman)so they might have something.

*If they are sleeping, keep driving.

*Bring huge amounts of water.

Disclaimer - we KNEW that we and our daughter could manage this trip as we had driven back from CT 9/11 when she was 12 mos old and had did it fast - 2 900+ mi days. Even with that - we were prepared to cut this trip in half and stay in a hotel somewhere if needed. My advice is to be prepared to cut the trip up as needed/improvise with your plans. I would look at what worked for you in the past with road trips of any length/what keeps your child occupied now. Have fun and stay cool!!! Liz