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6 Kid-Friendly River Trips

Everyone in the family can get a piece of the action on these summer floats

Scenic views and easygoing rapids along Utah's Green River make for the perfect paddling adventure with family and friends. (Taylor Reilly / Aurora Photos)

Everyone in the family can get a piece of the action on these summer floats

Floating downstream allows you to experience gorgeous canyons and remote wilderness you can’t see any other way. But the real beauty of river trips? With a raft to haul your stuff, you can bring heavy coolers full of food, lawn chairs, massive tents, and, yes, your kids. No iPads allowed. Here are six great overnight and multiday river trips suitable for the whole family.

Green River, Utah

Families and laid-back rafters will enjoy the scenic views and leisurely pace of this storied western waterway that tumbles through Dinosaur National Monument before eventually meeting up with the Colorado River. You’ll take post-paddling hikes through redrock slot canyons and hunt for prehistoric fossils. You can do it yourself—Canyon Voyages in Moab offers raft rentals and shuttles—or take a guided, full-service trip with O.A.R.S. From $765.

Rogue River, Oregon

Kids will love the natural water slides and eddies full of salmon and steelhead in the Rogue River canyon. Best of all, the Class II rapids are exciting enough to keep everyone entertained yet mellow enough to keep you from clutching the raft for dear life. Score a permit and rent a raft to charter your own trip, or let professionals lead the way: Rogue Rafting Company offers guided trips for travelers ages six and up. From $950.

Salmon River, Idaho

Idaho’s Salmon River is a classic, bucket-list kind of river trip. So why not do it with your kids? The main Salmon, dubbed the River of No Return, is friendlier for younger kids ages six and up, while the middle fork has rowdier rapids better suited for an older crowd. You’ll wind through the picturesque Frank Church Wilderness and spend your days paddling, trout fishing, and dipping in hot springs. Rocky Mountain River Tours hosts weeks designated for kids and teens. From $1,995.

Chattooga River, Georgia

Older kids (ages eight and up) will enjoy the thrill of Class II and III rapids on the Chattooga River, a stunning, free-flowing river that was designated Wild and Scenic in 1974. If you’re traveling with younger kids, aim for Section III—still rugged but tamer than the lower section, and the hardest rapids can easily be walked around. Wildwater leads one-day and multiday trips, which include a steak dinner at camp. From $329.

Carson River, California

The east fork of the Carson River is the perfect family float, recommended for kids ages five and up. Start near South Lake Tahoe and be treated to two or three days of easy Class II rapids over a 28-mile stretch of river—plus geothermal hot springs and vast desert landscapes. Tahoe Whitewater Tours offers full-service, guided multiday trips. From $260.

San Juan River, Utah

Located near the Four Corners, the San Juan River’s rolling Class II waves are mellow enough for kids to pilot their own paddleboards or inflatable boats. They’ll be delighted by the sand dunes and petroglyphs, and you’ll be happy to watch the action from your perch on the oar rig. It’s a relatively easy river to run yourself, but you’ll need a permit. Wild River Expeditions rents rafts and offers guided trips on the San Juan for everything from a half-day sampler to a ten-day epic. From $89.

Filed To: Travel / Road Trips
Nicolas Henderson/Creative Commons )

San Marcos, Texas

Billed as the world’s toughest canoe race, the Texas Water Safari, held each June, is a four-day, 260-mile jaunt from the headwaters of the San Marcos River northeast of San Antonio to the small shrimping town of Seadrift on the Gulf Coast. There’s no prize money—just bragging rights for the winner. Any boat without a motor is allowed, and you’ll have to carry your own equipment and overnight gear. Food and water are provided at aid stations along the way. Entry fees start at $175 and increase as race day approaches.

The Ring

(Courtesy Quatro Hubbard)

Strasburg, Virginia

The Ring is a 71-mile trail running race in early September along the entire length of Virginia’s rough and rocky Massanutten Trail loop. To qualify, you need to have run a 50- or 100-mile race before the event and win a spot through the lottery system. Entry is free. Complete the run and you’ll become part of the tight-knit Fellowship of the Ring and be eligible for the Reverse Ring, which entails running the trail backwards in the middle of winter.


(David Silver)

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Each spring, competitors gather in Santa Fe’s historic plaza with a simple goal: be the first to reach 12,308-foot Deception Peak, 17 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain away. Competitors run or bike the first 15 miles to the local ski area before transitioning to their waiting ski-touring setups for the final push to the top. Time stops only when they’ve skied back down to the tailgate in the resort’s parking lot, which is funded by the modest entry fee of around $25. To add to the sufferfest, some participants sign up for the Expedition category, in which they strap their skis, skins, boots, and poles to their bikes for the long ride up. Start dates vary depending on snow conditions, but look for the event page to be posted on Facebook in late March or early April.