Telluride Overflows with Whitewater Rafting Options

Surrounded by the amphitheatre of 13,000 peaks, when the snowpack in the San Juans begins to melt, rafting season starts in earnest on the rivers around Telluride.  Several Telluride river outfitters offer professionally guided trips on the areas trio of wildly scenic rivers: San Miguel, Dolores and Uncompahgre. Most outfitters offer milder float trips suitable for ages six and up. More challenging whitewater trips (Class III and up) usually have a minimum age limit of 12. Trip pricing includes all necessary personal safety gear – helmets and PFDs (personal flotation devices, aka life vests); gratuities not included. 
Here’s what to expect on each of the rivers.


San Miguel River: Featuring mostly Class II with a couple Class III rapids to keep your attention focused, the San Juan is flanked by red rock cliffs and gorgeous mountain scenery. The San Miguel actually flows through the Town of Telluride where it’s popular as a tubing destination. Tubes are available for purchase at Timberline Ace Hardware in downtown Telluride. Rafters put on below town where the river gets deeper. This is a great option for inexperienced rafters and fist-timers. Trips launch in Telluride.


Uncompahgre River: Trips on the Uncompahgre are also family-friendly and begin downriver of Ridgway State Park. More experienced rafters may even enjoy navigating the Uncompahgre in a ducky (Inflatable kayak). Trips launch near Ridgway, east of Telluride.

Dolores River: Partial, full day and multi-day trips are available. It doesn’t matter which of the commercially permitted trips you take, count on amazing scenery that transitions from high alpine forests to Upper Sonoran desert terrain along the lower reaches. Trips not only pass Anasazi petroglyphs and ruins but there are places dinosaur tracks can be spotted in the rocks along the shore. Choose from beginner or intermediate stretches but be aware high water can turn some of the tamer sections of the river quite technical. Trips launch west of Telluride.


Experienced outfitters are based right in Telluride: Telluride Outside, Telluride Boot Doctors/Paragon Outdoors, and Telluride Outfitters. You can also try stand up paddling down tamer stretches of these rivers with Telluride Kayak School. With so many choices, simplify your whitewater decision-making by discussing your interests with Latitude 38 reservation specialists who can connect you with the trip that best fits your time, budget and adrenaline quotient.