Whitewater Thrills and Off-River Hikes With Western River Expeditions

Western River Expeditions, over its 60 years of commercial river running, has mastered the art of combining the elements – water, land, air, and sky– into some of the world’s most sought-after adventure vacations.

The company’s particular alchemy mixes up whitewater thrills and opportunities for some exceptional hiking in the fresh air. “Folks love to run the rapids with us, but truth is, some people come rafting just to go hiking and see sites that are only accessible by river,” explains Brandon Lake, co-owner of Western River Expeditions.

Following are four whitewater destinations that provide unique access to hiking trails so remote they are generally only reached via the river through the conveyance of a raft.

Cataract Canyon – Colorado River, Utah


Indian Creek Falls

  • River Mile 31
  • 3.5-miles roundtrip
  • Vertical gain of 100 feet

This is the hike to take to view a spectacular seasonal waterfall, towering 2,000-foot canyon walls, and Native American ruins. After an easy streamside walk, guests are treated to The Falls – a thundering 20-foot cascade that’s best in the spring when runoff and seasonal rains create impressive streamflow. Ancestral Puebloan rock art and well-preserved granaries along the way speak to past lives. Modern adventurers can soak under the falls, dip in the natural pool, or partake in a round of butt slides.

Loop Hike

  • River Mile 36.5
  • 1.3-mile Length
  • Vertical gain of 400 feet

Another must-do hike is the Loop Hike offering an up-and-over adventure through a saddle in the canyon wall that crosses a horseshoe bend in the river which eliminates four miles of river travel. Hikers gain impressive views as they scramble over a large ridge at the base of a massive curve in the river.

Desolation Canyon – Green River, Utah


Rock Creek Ranch Trail

  • River Mile 41
  • Short hike 

An easy trail from the river leads to Rock Creek Ranch, site of a former hideaway on the Outlaw Trail where Butch Cassidy and his gang of desperados were known to have holed-up. Built in 1914 by the Seamont family, this ranch in the deepest part of Desolation Canyon served as homestead, orchard and outpost. Unrestored buildings display century-old homemaking and farming equipment.  Although abandoned in the 1920s, ancient orchards still bear fruit come August. Be sure to visit the outstanding petroglyphs and ancient granaries nearby.

Three Canyon Hikes

  • River Mile 54
  • Various options for length and elevation gain 

Here, three secluded canyons come together creating an abundance of exploring opportunities. The Three Canyon Loop hike follows a route around a large butte just behind camp. From camp, a 20-minute walk from the river leads to a natural bridge.  Following a trail for an hour hike from camp leads to the Three Canyon Overlook, one of the most spectacular views in the canyon. From the overlook you can see two miles upriver. Only for the avid, this is a fairly strenuous hike.

Grand Canyon (Upper Section), Colorado River


Nankoweap Canyon and Granaries

  • River Mile 53
  • Two-mile roundtrip hike
  • Elevation gain of 700 feet 

A trail from camp below the mouth of Nankoweap Canyon leads hikers up a steep slope to one of the most sought-after views the canyon has to offer. Above this viewpoint in the limestone walls under an overhang sit four granaries, or storage units built and utilized by Native Americans. These canyon dwellers practiced hunting and gathering in the canyon and grew crops roughly 1,000 years ago on the delta below.  At 700 feet above the river, a flat overlook provides a breathtaking vista down-river encompassing a world of towering red canyon walls, sparkling whitewater, and blue sky.

Deer Creek Falls

  • River Mile 136
  • Trail Options from 200 yards to four-miles roundtrip 

Just 200 yards from where the rafts are tied-off, Deer Creek Falls thunders into the Colorado River. The 180-foot falls land into a pool perfect for a swim. Adventurous hikers can journey further down a trail to The Patio with sensational Kaibab Plateau views along the way. Reaching The Patio requires careful footwork and cool-headedness to navigate a short narrow ledge with a precarious drop.

Grand Canyon Lower Section, Colorado River


Travertine Falls and Grotto

  • River Mile 229
  • Two-mile roundtrip hike 

Just a few miles below Diamond Creek, is one of the most special places in the Grand Canyon’s lower Granite Gorge.  Mineral-rich water drops down a waterfall through a narrow canyon and then cascades over a second falls in a setting often described as an oasis. The clear and refreshing waters of Travertine are always a welcome experience in the heat of the Lower Canyon. Then comes a scramble with a little help from ropes and ladders into a magical grotto sprinkled with spring water and a waterfall.

Pumpkin Springs

  • River Mile 213
  • Adjacent to the river (scrambling, no hiking) 

A popular stop for all Lower Canyon river trips, Pumpkin Springs can only be accessed by boat. The Springs, because of mineral-laden water and constant evaporation, has created a travertine dome or bowl resembling a gigantic pumpkin. Water pours into the top of the pumpkin, turns a murky green, and then runs over the sides and into the river below. This is a fantastic spot for cliff jumping into the river.

For a copy of Western River Expeditions’ 2021 catalog, questions, availability and reservations call toll-free: 866.904.1160 (Local: 801.942.6669) or visit the recently enhanced website at: http://www.westernriver.com/.

Tags from the story
, ,
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.