Rafting the Grand Canyon

Lonely Planet Travel Editor Tom Hall is on a mission to discover 52 of the most awe-inspiring places to visit across the world. This week he gets down on the river in the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon, USA

Southwest USA is the original Wild West, where red-rock vistas stretch on for miles, fortunes are won and lost in Las Vegas and the potential for adventure is endless.

It’s a place to be outdoors: check out the psychedelic rock formations of Bryce Canyon National Park, cruise the scenic drives through the Grand Staircase-Escalante riot of colour or play John Wayne in Monument Valley.

Sooner or later though you’ll hit the world’s most famous crack in the earth: the Grand Canyon. Even with the hype and the crowds, it’s a jaw-dropper.

Rafting in Grand Canyon

Rafting in Grand Canyon

Rafting the Colorado River

The best way to experience the Grand Canyon is to get on the river that runs through it. Rafting the Colorado is an epic adventure with a fraction of the crowds that line the big viewing platforms. As well as plunging rapids there are caves and grottoes to explore, waterfalls to gawp at and starry nights spent camping on sandy riverbanks.

Planning your trip to the Grand Canyon

A guided expedition (costs start at around £1500 for a week-long trip, excluding flights) is the best option to take you through the rapids and handle permits and logistics. It’ll take two to three weeks to run the entire canyon but paddling a shorter stretch is possible.

The warm weather makes June a superb time to be in the area. By getting on the water you’ll also dodge some of the crowds that gather during the summer.

Further information

American Southwest is a comprehensive guide to the national parks and natural landscapes of Southwest USA. Individual state tourist bureaus are the next best stopping points – Tourism Offices Worldwide has links to them all.

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