Salida Whitewater Rafting Overview
Just a couple of hours from Denver, nestled beside Gunnison National Forest, is one of Colorado’s best-kept secrets: Salida. An unassuming little mountain town with a robust, loyal community, Salida offers a gateway to some incredible outdoor opportunities, including water sports. The Arkansas River offers a variety of whitewater rafting experiences from easy beginner paddles to advanced class V rapids that will provide a challenge for even the most experienced whitewater rafters. The river runs right through town and Salida also offers plenty of hiking and camping opportunities to round out your outdoor adventures.
Why Salida Rafting is Great
Salida makes an excellent outdoor destination for a number of reasons!
The Arkansas River
The most popular whitewater rafting river in Colorado runs right through town. Some of the Arkansas’ most popular rating sections are in the Salida area.
In Keeping With Colorado Tradition: Great Brews
The need for hops is real when you go rafting in Colorado, and Salida provides. Soulcraft Brewery features 16 local beers on tap and an amazing menu of snacks. Other local favorites for beer include Moonlight Pizza & Brewing, Tres Litros Beer Co, and Elevation Beer Company.
Arts & Culture
Check out the calendar at Salida’s SteamPlant Event Center or look around for gallery openings and art events. Salida’s historic downtown area is a Certified Creative District, so there are plenty of arts and culture events to keep you occupied after you get off the river.
Where to Go Rafting in Salida
Wondering about the best rafting in Salida Colorado? We’ve got you covered.
Bighorn Sheep Canyon
The stretch of the Arkansas River between Salida and Canon City, Bighorn Sheep Canyon runs through the San Isabel National Forest and offers unrivaled solitude and scenery. It’s a great stretch of river for beginner and intermediate paddlers with wildlife viewing opportunities and a few exciting rapids.
Brown’s Canyon Salida Rafting
The section of the Arkansas that runs through Brown’s Canyon National Monument is perfect for whitewater rafting trips in Salida. It features a variety of rapids and can be made into a partial day trip or an overnight trip with 36 miles of exhilarating rafting and camping in granite canyons.
When to Go Rafting in Salida Colorado
Shoot for visiting in early summer: late May to June can make you feel like you have the town of Salida all to yourself! Salida sits in a valley that is ringed by mountains on all sides which impacts its climate significantly. It gets over 300 days a year of sunshine, and much lower precipitation than the surrounding mountains. Most tourists come to Salida in summer in the warmest months of July and August.
Late summer and early fall is also a great time to visit, especially if you’re looking for a more laid-back rafting experience with lower water levels and less zippy rapids. Alternately, for the most excitement and challenge, visit when river levels are full of snowmelt earlier in the season (usually June).
Getting to Salida Colorado
The closest airport to Salida is the Colorado Springs Airport (COS), about 100 miles or a 2-hour drive to the east. If you don’t want to rent a car (which is fine, the town of Salida is very walkable), you can get a shuttle from COS to the town. Denver International Airport (DIA), which is much larger than COS, is just over 2.5 hours’ drive from Salida.
Rafting Companies in Salida CO, Rentals, Tours & Lessons
If you are looking for Arkansas river rafting in Salida, there are plenty of outfitters to choose from. We feature the best Salida rafting outfitters here on TripOutside. These companies are all four-star rated or above and they provide top-notch service and trustworthy, high-quality gear. If you want a guided rafting trip, lesson, or raft rental for your Salida CO rafting trip, these outfitters are your go-to.
Salida Colorado Rafting FAQs
Can you whitewater raft the Arkansas River in Salida?
Yes. Salida is the gateway to the Arkansas River and home to the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area. There are plenty of stretches along the Arkansas that are easily accessible from Salida and allow you to create a trip that is perfectly suited to you and your group. We recommend a guided whitewater rafting trip for the most enjoyable and safe experience.
Can you tube in Salida?
Yes! The section of the Arkansas River in downtown Salida is quiet and calm, perfect for a short or day-long tubing adventure. Most people put in at Big Bend just north of town and float into Salida.