Arizona River Runners / Trip Info – Upper Canyon w/ Hike Out Itinerary
Grand Canyon rafting is a unique adventure. Once we embark into the canyon, we are self-sufficient and self-contained for the duration of the trip. This means packing well is important as there are no stores to supplement things you may have forgotten. We have put a great amount of thought and care into our packing list, and we ask that you trust our experience!
Investing in a good pair of river sandals/shoes is crucial to navigating the various slippery surfaces you’ll encounter. “Aqua socks” are not a good option. Getting on and off the rafts can be surprisingly challenging as the rafts are often moving and the side tubes can be extremely slippery. To help maneuver on these surfaces your river shoes should have grippy tread and attach securely to your foot with laces/straps. For optimal comfort make sure your shoes are broken in before the trip as you’ll be spending a majority of each day in these shoes. River sandals tend to be the most popular choice as they have all of these features and are great for the numerous side hikes on unmaintained backcountry trails which may be through water. Amphibious shoes are another good choice as they provide toe protection in addition to traction in both wet and dry conditions. We recommend Chaco, Keen, Bedrock, or Merrell for excellent river sandals/shoes.
Ideally, you should bring 1 pair of river sandals/ shoes, 1 pair of hiking or tennis/athletic shoes, 1 pair of flip-flops to wear in camp, and several pairs of socks. For your 8-mile hike, some prefer above-ankle hiking boots while others like lighter trail running shoes. Lean on your own experience to make this choice. Your hiking shoes don’t need to fit in your duffel, they can be stored in the community shoe bag that will be accessible during the day. Flip-flops or Crocs are nice to bring so you can give your feet a break and switch out of wet, sandy river shoes once you’re at camp for the evening. Watch out for blisters and sore spots due to rubbing and abrasive sand under the river shoe straps. Socks are a great way to help combat these issues, protect your feet from the sun, and keep them happy. Look for socks that are synthetic or wool instead of cotton. If you tend to run cold, wool socks can also help as they maintain heat when wet, or consider bringing neoprene booties/socks. Having proper footwear goes a long way towards an enjoyable trip!
It is important to have a quality rain jacket with a hood and rain pants. Because the river is very cold year-round, you’ll use rain gear as a splash guard from the rapids. Even on the hottest days, guests often wear rain gear in the morning, while going through rapids, and in the shade of the canyon walls. Make sure your rain gear is waterproof, not just water-resistant. Rain gear with the ability to cinch at the neck and wrists works well. A poncho is not effective. Do NOT go on your river trip without rain gear!
You will pack your backpack in our waterproof bags when you get to the river. Quick-drying clothing is highly recommended. Many of our guides wear long-sleeved shirts every day for sun protection. If it is overcast, it can turn chilly, so pack a fleece jacket to wear under your rain gear, no matter the time of year. You do not need a change of clothes for every day; many people wear the same outfit for several days. Follow the packing list and remember “less is more!”
If your trip is in the early or late season (April/May or September/October), it is very important to bring additional warm clothing. These months tend to have cooler temperatures, cloudy skies, and the potential for storms. In addition to the items on the packing list, we recommend bringing layers including long underwear, fleece/warm pants, warm hat and gloves, warm socks, and neoprene socks/booties. Layering clothing under waterproof rain gear works well as being splashed by rapids on the river can make it feel much colder. We recommend having an additional set of warm, dry clothes, and maybe a puffy jacket for camp. We strongly suggest you bring these items and be happy if you don’t have to use them!
It is customary, upon receiving a satisfactory experience, to tip the river guides. It is an acknowledgement of a job well done and is greatly appreciated by the crew members. A common tip is 8-10% of the total river trip cost. You may leave cash or a check (bring a blank one to fill out on the river) with the trip leader, who will distribute it evenly among the crew. Please come prepared as you will NOT be able to tip with a credit/debit card nor apps like Venmo.
Many times each day, you’ll get on and off the rafts. This can be a challenging maneuver on both our motorized and oar-powered rafts. The rafts are roughly a 2-foot step up and can be slippery and moving; the ground will likely be uneven, sandy, and slippery. Once you’re on the raft, you’ll maneuver to your seat which could be over and around tubes, boxes, or other passengers.
The rafts will have straps in multiple locations to grip as you are going downriver. It’s important you find two handholds that will allow you to hold yourself in place and not be pitched one way or another. Pay attention to the guides’ instructions and keep your hand and feet out of pinch points on the rafts.
The beaches in Grand Canyon vary greatly. Many are sandy, some have steep banks you must ascend to get to the camping area, some are covered with slippery river rock. These beaches will be your home each evening so you can expect to be walking about them often.
We rely on you to participate in the duffel shuffle each morning and evening when we arrive at our camping area. The guides depend on the group’s assistance to load/unload all guests’ bags, sleeping gear, and equipment. Some items are very heavy, like five-gallon buckets of water and propane tanks. All of that work is worth it once you’re settled in and enjoying dinner!
After the rafts have been unloaded, your job is to find your bags and take them to your chosen sleeping area and set up your space. The guides will give an orientation on how to set up the camp gear and then it’s up to you.
During the day all urine must go directly into the river, there are no toilets. This can be a very challenging aspect of the trip for some. Some people choose to wade into the river and others choose to squat at the river’s edge where there is very limited privacy.
While in camp, the guides will set up a camp toilet. Even with the toilet set up, peeing into the river or in our provided pee buckets is still encouraged. The toilet is often set well away from camp. The route to the toilet will likely be uneven, sandy, rocky, or brushy. It is recommended to scout your route to the toilet in the daylight.
This is a wilderness adventure! The weather, outdoor environment, and remote setting can bring their own set of challenges. You can expect to be exposed to prolonged sun, heat, cold, wind, rain, cold water, thunderstorms, and other weather-induced events. The Arizona sun can be intense. People often find they need to wear more sunscreen, cover-up, drink more water and eat more food and snacks in the canyon than they would at home.
Every trip provides the opportunity for hiking in side canyons along the river. These side hikes are optional and a unique part of a river trip. Hikes vary in length and difficulty. Some hikes may require moves that may feel more like rock scrambling than hiking and others may be short walks up a streambed. The more you prepare physically, the more you’ll be able to explore while on your trip.
Please note that some of our trip types do have a required strenuous 8 mile hike in or out of the canyon. Physical preparation is the key to a successful hike on these partial canyon trips.