There are few things in life as exciting as going whitewater rafting. Whether you’re trying it for the first time or are a regular river-runner, the rush of floating down some of the largest and most powerful rivers on Earth can give you an adrenaline high like no other. But where should you go? We’ve put together this list of the top 5 whitewater rafting destinations in the world to help make your decision easier!
1) Missionary Ridge, Tennessee
If you’re a whitewater pro, or want to test your skills, there are few better destinations than Tennessee’s Nolichucky River. With Class III-IV rapids and 20 miles of continuous whitewater, it’s more advanced than some rivers in North Carolina but with plenty of safety measures.
Plus, you have incredible views of Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Missionary Ridge!
2) Upper Gauley River, West Virginia
First up is one of my favorite areas for rafting in West Virginia, and for a few reasons. First, many people think that West Virginia doesn’t have any decent whitewater to run (despite being home to some of our country’s best rivers) but if you know where to look you can find some awesome runs.
The Upper Gauley River area is home to countless Class IV rapids with a few Class V thrown in here and there. If you’re looking for a trip down an iconic stretch of river that doesn’t come at an outrageous price, then take a look at our Upper Gauley page!
3) The North Fork of the American River, California
The North Fork of California’s American River is a classic, with its Class III rapids that beginners and experts alike will love. Along with a variety of riverside dining options, you can enjoy some stunning views of Lake Tahoe.
The most popular run on the North Fork is known as The Chute. This class IV+ section stretches 2 miles and drops over 500 feet along 18 rapids. Because it's so wild, you'll need to be in good physical shape if you plan to raft it (so don't come here expecting a lazy float). However, it makes for an incredible time for those who are game.
4) Youghiogheny River, Pennsylvania/West Virginia
While technically a run (as opposed to a class), Class V rapids are what make Youghiogheny River so popular with whitewater rafters. In fact, it's often referred to as Class V heaven. If you're just starting out in whitewater rafting, be warned: The biggest rapids on Youghiogheny are unrunnable.
Take too many chances and you could wind up getting hurt or worse; but even if you're an experienced rafter, don't expect a smooth ride. The last few miles of rapids are so gnarly that they've got names like Outrageous and Standing Room Only—and these rapid sections aren't for beginners. You'll need multiple weeks' worth of training before attempting them yourself.
5) Snake River, Idaho
The Snake River is often overlooked as a whitewater rafting destination, but it should not be. The Snake is home to some of the most breathtaking views and amazing rapids in America. This river offers both family-friendly rapids and a few class V rapids that are sure to get your adrenaline pumping!
The year-round water temperature makes rafting an appealing activity during any season. The Snake also hosts many festivals and concert events throughout each year, which provide even more fun for families during their vacation. If you’re looking for one of America’s best whitewater rafts destinations, look no further than Idaho!
What to wear for Whitewater rafting?
If you’re headed to an exotic locale for a whitewater rafting adventure, take note of typical weather and fashion trends. To stay safe and comfortable, dress in fabrics that will dry quickly, like nylon or polyester blends. Also keep in mind that you may be getting wet from head to toe, so be sure your gear includes plenty of sun protection.
This should go without saying when out on a boat for hours at a time—but it’s a good idea to wear waterproof sunscreen on all exposed skin. And don’t forget comfy shoes! Sandals or flip-flops are best for keeping your feet clean and free from blisters after long hours in water-filled shoes.
We have an excellent collection of Whitewater Kayaks which are tough enough for class four whitewater, but stable, dry, and comfortable on flat-water as well