Top 10 Highlights of Rafting the Grand Canyon

IMG_4413There are lots of reasons to raft through the Grand Canyon. Here are the top 10:

Sleeping under the stars

When you’re in the Grand Canyon, you’re pretty far from light pollution, which makes the night sky absolutely incredible. Most nights you don’t need a tent, so you can take in the view from your cot, maybe even catch a shooting star or two, and wake up surrounded by the magnificent red canyon walls towering above you.

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Riding the rapids

Rafting through rapids is fun. And in a large motorized raft there’s almost no chance of you ending up in the river, which is pretty cool. You can enjoy the thrill of the ride, anticipating the next wave of water to wash over you, in relative calm.

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Hiking to the granaries

It’s fun to think about how the Native Americans would have lived in and experienced the canyon hundreds of years ago. Most of the time you need to use your imagination, but sometimes you have the opportunity to take a little step back in time. One of those opportunities is in Nanokweap Canyon, where you can hike up to granaries used by the Anasazi to preserve and store food. It also doesn’t hurt that the view from the granaries is pretty amazing.

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Seeing native wildlife

The canyon seems like a pretty harsh environment for animals, but there are some hardy species who call it home. You’re almost guaranteed to see lizards and crows, but you also might get lucky enough to see big horn sheep or California condors. There are also cool snakes, frogs, and insects, like the tarantula wasp, to encounter as well. If you don’t disturb them, wildlife will leave you alone. Enjoy them in their natural habitats from a distance and don’t try to touch or feed any of them.

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Experiencing the grandeur of the canyon

When the canyon walls are towering thousands of feet above you, you feel like a speck in the universe (but not in a bad way!). The beautiful rock walls surround you while the powerful river carries you along. It’s a good reminder that we live in a beautiful world and, despite everything that’s happening “out there,” when you’re in the canyon it’s just you and nature. You can leave everything else behind and just be.

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Being completely disconnected from technology

Most of us, myself included, are addicted to technology. We check our phones constantly, scroll through Facebook mindlessly, and read news articles that depress us just for the sake of doing something. When you’re on the river though, those are not options. There’s no cell reception and no wi-fi. It’s a good opportunity to connect with nature and with your fellow rafters. You have time to sit by the water getting to know someone new, time to hike without technological alerts or distractions. It’s a refreshing break that lets you spend more time living in the moment.

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Body surfing the Little Colorado

If you have a guide worth their weight in river water they won’t let you miss the Little Colorado (LC), which meets up with the main Colorado River around mile 61. The water of the LC is a bright baby blue (compared to the green Colorado) and is warmer (not warm, just warmer, but tolerably so). You’ll beach the rafts and walk upriver a little ways to a small set of rapids. You’ll put on your life jacket like a diaper (looks silly, but works great), and you’ll ride the current down the river and over the rapids. Trust me, it’s awesome. Pro tip: take off everything not attached to you (hats, sunglasses, jewelry, etc) or you will lose it.

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Hiking out of the canyon

Hiking out of the Grand Canyon is no small task. It’s a long, difficult trek (8-10 miles, depending on where exactly you start) but comes with a significant sense of accomplishment when you finally cross the canyon rim. There are water stops along the way, but be sure to bring (and eat!) plenty of food. Although you lose sight of the river within a few minutes, the views as you ascend the canyon walls are amazing and you’ll be surprised and impressed with how much ground you’ve covered as you look down at the trail below you.

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Making new friends

You never know who will be on your rafting trip. You might meet someone from your hometown or from the other side of the world. Everyone has an interesting story to tell if you get to know them. Meet your fellow rafters (and your guides!). Chat with them, learn from them, and enjoy the amazing shared experience you are having.

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Lifetime memories

Experiencing something once is better than reading about it a million times. Whether this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip for you or whether you have new adventures all the time, you’ll never forget the feeling of rafting through one of the most beautiful places in the world.

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