Top Places to Look at River Rafting in California

Wow! Rafting season has just hit the country. Undoubtedly, you are here to look for the best river rafting in California.

Surely, we will not disappoint you and get straight to the point. We totally understand your excitement. After all, we are all in the same boat, aren’t we?

Best River Rafting in California – Beginners Guide

Are you’re a hardcore thrill seeking adventure lover? Or, do you want to spend an afternoon with friends on the best rafting experience of your life?

Yes, we have the places for the best river rafting in California up our sleeves for you.

Before you read on and decide which place is best for you, it is important to know what equipment you require. Moreover, there are some pointers you need to understand.

Points to Remember 

  • Always hire or buy the best white water rafts you can get your hands on. Never settle for anything less than the best. Even if you have to pay a higher price as compared to the others on the market. Literally, your life depends on it.
  • Now, you don’t need to worry if you are expert enough to raft. Sure, you can be a beginner and still find a spot to raft in California. The vast rivers have something for everyone. From beginners to pro!
  • You can even get around to having rafting trips of different durations. Starting from half day trips to multiple days at a go.
  • NEVER forget to wear all the necessary safety equipment. For instance, the helmet, life jacket etc.
  • It is very important to check that the outfitter you are going to is licensed and certified. Therefore, you are sure that the equipment you are buying is genuine and original. 

So, all geared up, are we? 

Now, we know California is full of rapid water flowing. Therefore, it is the best location you can pick for rafting. We have shortlisted the 10 most impressive and worthwhile destinations in California you need to visit if you are a rafting fan.

Destination 1: Merced River

Welcome to the hottest white water rafting location in California!

It is located just 3 and half hours outside of San Francisco. Undoubtedly, it is the most popular rafting destination of California. Best of all, it is a vast 18 miles long. Hence, you can easily have a fun filled day with the family.

When is the best time to visit? 

Of course, Spring. This is the time of the year when the water is in full force and you can have a hell of an experience while rafting.

Destination 2: Trinity River

Welcome to the “Hell Hole”

Yes, did we get that adrenaline rushing? 

The Trinity River has a deep drop right in the middle of it. Therefore, rafters have started to call it the “hell hole”. A 10 foot drop, that is what we are looking at.

Undoubtedly, it is not at all for the faint-hearted. But, for someone looking for a hardcore adventure, the Trinity River is not something to miss.

The river passes near highway 299 and can easily be spotted from the laughter and screams of the people rafting on it.

Destination 3: Klamath River

Full of thrilling rapids and sheer beauty, the Klamath River is a must visit spot. But, the rafting section does not start at the beginning. The rafting spot starts near Oregon, a little after the Klamath Falls. 

Destination 4: American River, South Fork

In the inland of North California, is the famous American River. Even though it stretches for more than 119 miles, the entire river is not apt for rafting. However, the South Fork is the most popular spot for it.

Reason being, the waters provide different levels of rapids.

Do you know what this means? 

Yes, it means anyone can easily raft in these waters. After all, it has different water levels for different types of rafters.

So, what are you waiting for?

Books your spot right away!

Destination 5: Russian River 

Don’t worry!! We aren’t going to guide you all the way to Russia. The Russian River is situated just 1 and a half hours out of San Francisco. 

Are you looking to go ahead and practice some water rafting skills? 

Bingo! The river has moderate to mild rapids. Therefore, it is a perfect place to polish your skills before you go on and tackler harsher waters.

Destination 6: American River, Middle Fork

Again, the American River makes it to the list of 10 best places. This time, it is the middle fork of the river. Unlike the South Fork, the Middle Fork is not for the faint-hearted.

If you are looking for some challenge and a bit of an adventure, don’t forget to take your whitewater rafts to this part of the river.

Undoubtedly, you are in for a treat!

Destination 7: Cal-Salmon

Are you a hardcore raft junkie? 

If you are not, we suggest skipping this one destination. It has some of the fastest rapids there are and is a nerve-wrecking experience. People have even gone ahead and defined it as a “death-defying experience”

Reason being, it is a wild body of water. The currents are fast and rapid and literally do not stop. It has been labeled as the most terrifying body of water in all of California.

Destination 8: Upper Sacramento River 

True, the river is not open to water rafting most of the year around. The current is not so strong and the maximum you will get is a simple stream.

But, visit it in spring and you are in for a lifetime experience. The waters reach as high as 8 feet and are strong enough to raft easily.

Destination 9: Tuolumne River

Just near Yosemite, the Tuolumne River is for people who are in for a serious adventure. The rapids are strong and fast. 

Normally, it is available most of the year round. But, during June and May, as the snow melts and falls into the river, the currents become stronger and give rafters a tougher time.

So, if your aim is to have a challenging experience, it is advisable to visit in those days.

Destination 10: American River, North Fork

Look what made it to the list again? 

Yes, the American River tops the charts once again. This time it is the North Fork we are talking about.

Unlike the other two forks which are totally hydro-controlled, this one is natural. Only the most healthy and tough people are able to beat the waters here.

In a nutshell, it does not get tougher than this. 

Now that you know the 10 best places you can go rafting this Spring/Summer get on your rafting gear and plan ahead.


Finally, you now know the places for the best river rafting in California. Also, don’t forget to read about all the safety measures and precautions necessary. Moreover, always study the rapids and the currents before you go ahead and book a spot.

With spring just around the corner, what are you waiting for?

Get your booking done before it gets too late.

Happy Rafting!

Adriana a Matěj - Czech the World - travel blog

Adriana & Matěj

Travelers, sport enthusiasts and photographers behind this blog. Creating high-quality and informative guides for your travels. Read more about us here.

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above may be affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, we earn a commission if you make a purchase. We recommend only products and companies we personally use and we use this income for further improvement of this website. Thank you!

We are regularly updating all of our posts, however all the places are changing quickly and sometimes it's hard to see all the changes. Theferove we would be glad if you could tell us about any change you have found.

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