Ready for adventure this summer? Hold on to your paddle and get ready for whitewater rafting thrills – rapids ahead!
For summer thrills in beautiful places, there’s nothing quite like whitewater rafting. While opportunities for great rafting abound across the U.S., these destinations offer something for everyone.
Yes, there are thrilling rapids along the San Juan River in southern Utah, but the highlight of a rafting trip here is the proximity to geographical and cultural history. You will bend though a canyon rich with petroglyphs, embedded with fossils, spiked with rock formations and featuring a trove of Pueblo and Anasazi ruins. Half-day trips deliver some of these treasures, but multiday trips earn you access to the pristine deep canyon. While overnight rafting voyages involve camping, day-trippers can rent an airy two-bedroom barn with a hot tub in Blanding, Utah, 30 miles north of home base Bluff.
Charlotte, North Carolina
This nonprofit recreation facility is home to the world’s largest artificial whitewater river. (Yup – there really is such a thing.) Its multiple channels, designed by Scott Shipley, a slalom canoer and three-time Olympic medalist, offer every skill level a chance to get in the water and paddle. Families gravitate to the Class II and Adventure Class III rapids, while the most experienced paddlers beeline to Rodeo Rafting, a rollicking Class V paddle. Revive from your adventure at the River’s Edge, a casual open-air restaurant that overlooks the rapids. Whitewater rafting, however, is only the beginning of the offerings available at this recreation center. Dedicated to promoting the outdoor lifestyle, it features a mindboggling array of outdoor activities on its 1,300 acres, from rock climbing to mountain biking.
Bryson City, North Carolina
Named a top rafting destination by numerous authorities, Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) has been guiding rafters along eight rivers for more than 45 years. Their veteran guides facilitate river experiences for families, who enjoy both rafting and paddling the Nantahala River. For the experienced rafter, guides take you on thrilling Class IV rapids, including the 1996 Olympic whitewater slalom course. Stay for a full day of adventure and explore the NOC’s paddling school programs, zip lines and mountain bike trails, or make it a full week of fun by taking NOC’s wilderness medicine or survival classes. Complete your visit by staying in one of the many lodging options, including a tricked-out cabin on the Appalachian Trail.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
The legendary Rio Grande plays host to river rafting adventures that weave through the high desert of Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico. Depending on the section, the river can be glassy and warm enough for swimming, rocking with frothy waves or rife with rocks that demand technical skill. Kokopelli Rafting Adventures offers unforgettable rafting experiences May through August, ranging from Class II family-friendly floats to Class IV advanced whitewater. Base yourself in the heart of downtown Santa Fe, where the Inn & Spa at Loretto can arrange your whitewater trip and help you relax afterwards amid traditional adobe architecture, kiva fireplaces and Native American textiles.
Cle Elum, Washington
The rivers running through the piney forests of the Cascade Mountains about 80 miles east of Seattle make for some of the most family-friendly whitewater rafting trips in America. Suncadia, a Destination Resort acclaimed for its wood-beamed lodge, is set on 6 miles of the Cle Elum River and arranges four-hour whitewater rafting trips daily in summertime for guests. These include a streamside lunch of barbecued local salmon. In the Native American Yakama language, Cle Elum means “swift water,” and the rapids live up to the name.
The Gant in Aspen, Colorado, makes for a stylish perch from which to launch a whitewater rafting expedition on the Arkansas and Kansas Rivers, which are flanked by red stone cliffs. It’s here that you can tackle Roaring Fork, where rapids ominously dubbed Toothache and Sledgehammer await. There’s literally something for everyone because the rivers run the gamut from bathtub-like Class I water to rollicking Class IV rapids. Added bonus: At the Gant you can try out whitewater sledging, aquatic boogie boarding invented in New Zealand to navigate rapids.
Exclusive Benefits for Subaru Owners
Subaru owners planning a trip to three of the whitewater rafting destinations featured in this story can take advantage of the following special deals, gifts and discounts. Simply follow the instructions.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
The Inn and Spa at Loretto
With its striking adobe architecture, award-winning spa and can’t-be-beat location – close to Santa Fe’s famed galleries, museums and shops – this cozy boutique hotel at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo mountains serves up plenty of south-by-southwest allure. Book a treatment at the tranquil Spa at Loretto or tuck into a bowl of tortilla soup in the whitewashed pine dining room of the Luminaria restaurant. Mention DRIVE and receive a complimentary bottle of arnica balm with purchase of a Sports Enthusiast massage at the spa, as well as one free appetizer with the purchase of an entree at Luminaria. No expiration date.
The Gant Aspen
It’s renowned for its easy access to great skiing, but the all-condo Gant resort also boasts five tennis courts, two outdoor heated pools and outdoor fireplaces, all nestled in a secluded five-acre setting at the base of Aspen Mountain. Kitchens are full-size in each of the 120 units, but be sure to try a cup of locally roasted coffee at Pepperjack’s Café even if you’re cooking in. To receive a complimentary upgrade (based on availability), a $50 resort credit redeemable at Pepperjack’s and a small Aspen gift basket, book here and enter Promo Code RAFT. Book by December 31, 2017.
Cle Elum, Washington
Suncadia, a Destination Resort
Glorious views of the sun-splashed Cascade Mountains will beckon you to head out and explore the nearly 40 miles of hiking and biking trails that wind through 6,000 forested acres surrounding this riverside resort – and, of course, to take advantage of the excellent whitewater rafting on the Cle Elum River. Once back, you’ll want to unwind in one of four outdoor hot mineral baths at the resort’s Glade Spring Spa. Receive overnight accommodations and a half-day rafting trip with Blue Sky Outfitters for two people plus a to-go lunch from Coal House Caffe from $439 by calling 866-904-6300, and mentioning DRIVE. Valid until August 2017. To ensure your raft dates are available, contact Blue Sky Outfitters directly prior to booking.