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How Physically Demanding is a Whitewater Rafting Trip?

By Krystal • February 3, 2024

Rafting the Grand Canyon is a unique adventure that involves much more than just exhilarating whitewater. It is a multi day backcountry expedition through remote wilderness and most of our guests find themselves being challenged physically at some point during their trip. The weather extremes, navigating campsites, getting on and off the rafts and even going to the bathroom can be more difficult than anticipated. Having proper expectations will help you enjoy your Grand Canyon rafting trip to the fullest. Watch the video below or read more about the physical nature of an Arizona River Runners trip. We don’t have a maximum age limit, but all guests must be able to meet the minimum physical requirements found in our Essential Eligibility Criteria. Although it may be challenging, the wonders that await you in the depths of the canyon will be worth it!

“Everyone understands the physical aspect of the hikes, but there is so much more. Getting on and off the boat, carrying your dry bag loaded with your own gear as well as the sleeping bag, set-up and breakdown of cots, and carrying it all back and forth to the boat can be tough. Our group was great and we each stepped in to help one another and work as a team to get camp set up.” – Penny, Tucson, AZ

Here are some additional tips to help you prepare for your adventure:

1. Pick the right trip for you and your group

For a successful adventure, this is key! We offer several trip lengths with varying levels of activity. Our 3 Day Escape is a great weekend adventure. You ease into the wilderness at the Bar 10 Ranch (which has indoor plumbing!) and get introduced to rafting in the canyon and camping for one night. Our full canyon trips (6-15 days long) require you to be outdoors for a week or more and include numerous opportunities for side hikes. Our partial canyon trips are the most strenuous as they require an intense hike in or out of the canyon. A call to our office can help determine which trip is best for you.

2. Take time to train and physically prepare for your trip

“It was a physically challenging and demanding trip for me… I really didn’t prepare beforehand for its demands… not so much the rafting but the lifting of bags in the daily am and pm lines and hiking… A “wake-up” call to be in better physical shape for such a trip.” – Jody, Atlanta, GA

Some guests have mentioned the unexpected challenges they found on the river, such as standing on one foot to put shoes on, carrying gear to their camping spot, or maintaining balance when getting on and off the rafts. These maneuvers are rare in most of our day-to-day lives but common on a rafting trip. Check out our tips to prepare for your river trip.

If you are considering a partial canyon or hiker’s special trip we will want to chat with you before a reservation can be confirmed. On these more physically demanding trips, we strive to book those who currently participate in a regular workout routine and are avid hikers. Each guest is also encouraged to train specifically for these trip types in the months leading up to the trip.

3. Be open-minded and have a positive attitude

At some point during the trip, you are likely to experience what is referred to as “Type 2 Fun.” This means although you may feel miserable in the moment, it is fun when you look back on the memory – we promise! There will be moments on your trip where you are uncomfortable because you are burning hot or freezing cold. This may even happen within the same hour! You will be dirty, exhausted, or even end up covered in sand. This will all pass and make for a great story about your grand adventure!

4. Challenge yourself and step out of your comfort zone

You don’t need to be an experienced camper or rafter. We have taken lots of first timers down the river and are happy to discuss the details or answer any questions you may have. We bet you can do it! ?

No question too small!

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