Summer in Denver means temperatures soar into the 90’s, often breaching the triple digit mark. When it gets uncomfortably warm, Coloradans know that escaping to the mountains is a surefire way to cool off and play outside. The best way to stay cool on a warm summer day is to spend it on the river, navigating rapids and soaking up splashes of whitewater. We’ve outlined a few of our favorite Denver day trips and hope they can bring you relief from the summer city heat.
- Buena Vista, CO – A little more than two hours Southwest from Denver lies Colorado’s favorite riverside community, Buena Vista, CO. Buena Vista is on the shores of the Arkansas River and is home to one of the most popular whitewater rafting destinations in North America – Browns Canyon National Monument. This class 3+, middle-of-the-road rafting trip is perfect for beginners and experienced paddlers alike. Browns Canyon is a nice balance of exciting, moderate rapids and stunning canyon scenery.
Folks looking for more of an adrenaline rush (and more splash for your money!) will want to check-out the fast-paced class 4+ Numbers section of the Arkansas River. If you’re more of a float trip kind of crew, or you have young children not suited for wild rapids, the Mild & Scenic section is the perfect day trip to raft and relax. All full day trips booked through Performance Tours Rafting include a delicious riverside lunch from a build-your-own sandwich bar.
2. Cañon City, CO – Just two hours south of Denver and 50 minutes south of Colorado Springs you’ll find Cañon City. This delightful little river community has a ton of history and ample recreation in the legendary Royal Gorge. The Royal Gorge at it’s tallest point rises more than 1,200 ft and is one of the deepest canyons in Colorado. It’s also called the Grand Canyon of Colorado.
The best way to experience the Royal Gorge is through a whitewater rafting trip on the Arkansas River. This section of the Ark boasts a few bossy class 4-5 rapids that are sure to cool you down and keep you moving. If you love whitewater rafting adrenaline adventures, be sure to add this one to your bucket list. There are a lot of rafting companies in this area, but our local, family-owned-and-operated outfit stands apart from the rest. We recommend a full day trip through the Gorge, as it includes lunch and some of the best raft guide jokes this side of the Mississippi.
The more family-friendly rafting option in the Royal Gorge area is called Bighorn Sheep Canyon also known as Parkdale. This class 3+ section combines fun, splashy rapids with gorgeous scenery. Maximize your time on the river with a full day Bighorn Sheep Canyon trip that includes a riverside lunch.
3. Breckenridge, CO – Breckenridge is just an hour and half west from Denver, about 80 miles on i70, a familiar drive for most Front Rangers. There’s no shortage of recreational activities in Summit County, CO, nicknamed “Colorado’s playground” for good reason! Breckenridge is also where Performance Tours has called home since 1986. As Breckenridge’s first rafting company, PT knows the ins and outs of rafting and recreation in the area.
In early summer, the Blue River is an amazing option to cool off on the river with a quick but memorable class 3 raft trip. Once the summer begins to pick-up, the best rafting near Breckenridge is on the Arkansas River in Buena Vista. If you’re staying in Summit County and don’t feel like making the drive to the river, Performance Tours offers the Summit Deluxe rafting package from Summit County that include lunch and transportation.