Estes Park is a highly popular destination amongst adventure-seekers – and for good reason!
Its location in the Rocky Mountains provides an abundance of intrepid outdoor activities, with one of the most popular being white-water rafting.
White-water rafting is a fantastic way to add that element of excitement and thrill to the exploration of the beautiful scenery in Estes Park.
It incorporates the adventure into the sightseeing part of your trip to Estes Park, so it’s definitely worthwhile to check out one of these top outfitters listed below if you’re after an adventure in Estes Park!
For each, we’ll detail:
- The location
- Prices and packages
- Unique offerings
- A general overview
So you know exactly what you’re getting. Let’s get into it!
The Poudre River Experience
The Poudre River is located east of the Continental Divide, starting high in the peaks of the Rocky Mountains. It has both recreational and wild sections in the river.
The Poudre River is named after the early French settlers who were caught in a snowstorm and cached their gunpowder near the mouth of the river.
Depending on where you’re going to raft in the river, it’s just over an hour’s drive west from central Estes Park to the Poudre River.
The Poudre River has strict regulations on it, so this means there are far fewer outfitters operating on it than others – which makes for a less crowded rafted experience!
The rapids in the Poudre River range from difficulty class 2 to class 5, so there is a challenge for everyone.
The hazards and dangers in the area can vary depending on season so going with an outfitter who knows the river is important.
White-Water Rafting Companies in Estes Park
Rapid Transit Rafting
- Location: 161 Virginia Dr., Estes Park, CO 80517 (Open in Google Maps)
- Unique offerings: Trips for children as young as 7 (min. 50lbs)
- Safety measures: All staff trained extensively in first aid, CPR, and hold swiftwater rescue qualifications
- Guided tours: Yes
- Booking and Reservations: Phone on (970) 577-7238, or on their website
- Prices and packages: Full day (from US$145) or Half day (from US$90).
This company is local and has been operating from Estes Park for over 40 years. They’ll drive you to and from the river so you can enjoy the ride from Estes Park.
Trips leave from 6:45, 9:30, and 12:30 every day for half-day trips; full-day trips leave at 6:45.
These trips are safe even for non-swimmers, and you’ll be able to experience rapids with a range of intensities with the peace of mind that the staff are well-trained in first aid and committed to safety.
All trips start with a briefing on safety, walking you through the information you need to know before embarking on your raft.
The full-day trip covers a 12-mile stretch on the Colorado River and includes a picnic lunch. The half-day trip is on the Poudre River and thus has more rapids than the cruisy full-day trip.
All reservations are fully refundable when canceled at least 7 days before your planned trip – and it’s advised to book in advance, due to high demand.
A Wanderlust Adventure
- Location: Meet at Vern’s Restaurant, 4120 W County Rd., 54 G, Laporte, CO 80535 (Open in Google Maps)
- Unique offerings: Leaves from the famed Vern’s Restaurant!
- Safety measures: Staff are experienced in rafting; state-of-the-art NRS self-bailing rafts
- Guided tours: Yes
- Booking and Reservations: Phone on (970) 482-1995 or book on their website
- Prices and packages: Half-day beginner/intermediate (from US$87), Half day intermediate/advanced (from US$99).
This outfitter has won TripAdvisor’s certificate of excellence eight years in a row. If you’re after a deal, they offer limited Early Season Discounts from May 15th to June 18th.
There are a number of experiences available that cater to different experience levels – beginner to intermediate, and advanced.
However, you don’t need any experience to enjoy this white-water rafting, as the staff are knowledgeable and experienced.
These rafting trips leave from 9:30 and 2 pm. It’s not recommended to use a GPS to find the location, but instead to follow the instructions on the website.
The trips leave from Vern’s restaurant, a local favorite for their cinnamon buns and home baking! Be sure to sample these before you leave the meeting point.
- Location: 2801 North Shields St., Fort Collins, CO 80524 (Open in Google Maps)
- Unique offerings: Group specials
- Safety measures: Certified guides, high-quality rafts, free safety gear
- Guided tours: Yes
- Booking and Reservations: Call on (970) 224-3379 or book on their website
- Prices and packages: Wildwater trip 1 starts from US$75 for a half day; Full day trips start from US$180
This outfitter has been operating for over 40 years on the Poudre river and the guides who work there are well-trained to provide a fun experience for your whole group!
A1 Wildwater does special packages for groups, so if you’re bringing out the whole family, they’re a great option.
They also advertise as being pet-friendly; for a $10 fee, you can leave your friendly pet with them on their 4-acre property to run around while you raft.
Note that the full-day trip requires a minimum of six people to book. If you don’t have six people, call in advance and they will try to fill up your trip!
If you’re going in the early season, you’re required to wear a wetsuit – so bring your own if you have one. If you don’t have your own, never fea: they have these available for hire.
The check-in times for the half-day trips are 8:45 and 1 pm daily. No refunds are available if you cancel your trip within 10 days of your planned adventure, so be sure to check the weather before booking!
Rocky Mountain Adventures
- Location: Meet at RMA Fort Collins Store, 1117 N Hwy 287, Fort Collins, CO 80524 (Open in Google Maps)
- Unique offerings: Exclusive partnership with the Mishawaka Amphitheatre; group deals
- Safety measures: Safety instructions before each trip
- Guided tours:
- Booking and Reservations: Call (800) 858-6808 or book on their website
- Prices and packages: Starting at US$90.
Rocky Mountain Adventures do trips on the lower Poudre River for a more scenic, cruisey rafting experience, or on the upper Poudre River which is more intense and advanced.
Wetsuits are strongly advised for the more advanced trips, because of the high likelihood of getting dunked or even the possibility of falling in.
The Upper Poudre trip is a full day, with a narrow channel and almost continuous rapids.
This trip also requires a minimum of eight people to book, so be sure to call in advance if you may not make the numbers!
The Rocky Mountain Adventure trips leave at 8 am and 12:15 daily. The minimum age for guests to enjoy white-water rafting on the Poudre with this outfitter is 7 years old.
Be sure to come prepared for a day of hard paddling, especially for the more advanced sections of the river. See their website to watch the recommended Safety Video before arriving for your rafting trip.
Reservations are highly recommended, especially for weekend trips – full payment is required at booking and full refunds are not available upon cancellation.
If your group is large, you may end up being split into two boats or allocated according to seat and weight limits. If your group has ten or more people, each person will receive a 10% discount on booking!
- Location: 1329 N US Hwy 287, Fort Collins, CO 80517 (Open in Google Maps)
- Unique offerings: Dog-friendly, with shaded dog pens available while you raft
- Safety measures: Most experienced guides on the Poudre, with state-of-the-art equipment
- Guided tours: Yes
- Booking and Reservations: Phone on (970) 419-0917, or book online here
- Prices and packages: Half day trips start from US$95 – there is a huge range of options, so check out their website for packages.
This outfitter offers the most extensive range of trips, with everything from half-day and multi-day to raft guide training.
The Poudre Splash is the most gentle trip, with the Poudre Extreme at the opposite end of the spectrum with the most advanced rapids!
Each trip also has different requirements for group numbers, with some being smaller than others, so make sure the trip you want to go on can accommodate your group.
The trips available range from gentle, beginner-friendly catered for children, to extreme trips that go over multiple higher-class rapids.
So whether you’re looking for a more chilled-out trip that’s more focused on enjoying the scenery or getting amongst the rapids, this outfitter can provide an experience for you.
If you want to really remember your white-water rafting experience, Mountain Whitewater has a photographer to record your experience in photos and videos.
As such, you can take home more than just memories from your rafting experience.
Mountain Whitewater also offers trips in inflatable kayaks called ‘duckies’ for more independence to explore the Poudre River.
If you’re a Boy Scout Troop, you get to ride for free if you book with Mountain Whitewater!
Mountain Whitewater also offers special packages that include brewery or winery tours, horseback riding, massage, mountain biking, and more!
These are great for gifts or if you want to pair your whitewater rafting trip with something that’s a little more tame (or even something just as adventurous!).
Mountain Whitewater’s special packages are highly customizable and worth checking out. As always, be sure to book in advance!
Some Tips for You
Now that we’ve gone over the top outfitters for white-water rafting in Estes Park, you’ll be ready for an intrepid adventure on the Poudre River. But be sure to check out these tips before going on your trip, to get the most out of your experience!
- Even though there are restrictions on the Poudre River that mean there aren’t many outfitters operating on it, there is still a wide range of adventures you can take yourself, your partner, your friends, and your family on. Be sure to check out the range of trips and packages available to find something that suits you; if you’re looking for something family-friendly, or something more intrepid, there will be an option out there.
- Be sure to keep safety first. Pay attention during the safety briefings, and check the reputation and reviews of the outfitter you go with before booking to make sure they comply with the safety requirements.
- The best time to go for fast rapids is during the snow melt – so during May and June. However, this can vary slightly from year to year.
- Keep an eye out on the shores of the river, even though it may be tempting to focus entirely on the river! The Poudre River is home to loads of wildlife, from deer, elk, and eagles to squirrels and rabbits. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of one of these animals while you’re on the river!
- It’s wise to wear a swimsuit or light, quick-drying clothes. The river source is in the mountains, so it’s cold even in summer; many outfitters offer wetsuit rentals, which is worth a look if you’re sensitive to the cold. Be sure to apply waterproof sunscreen before heading off, don’t forget your life vest, and wear water shoes or lace-up sneakers that you don’t mind getting wet!
- Don’t forget a change of clothes; something comfy and warm for the trip home is always appreciated after your white-water adventure!
- Checking the weather before booking is a handy tip to make sure you have an enjoyable experience.