California Rafting and Kayaking

With 2000 miles of river protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, California rafting and kayaking trips provide some of the best whitewater in the world. During the winter paddling is typically best on the North Coast of the state. While spring runoff is best in the Sierra. During the summer there are numerous dam release runs throughout the state. While most are day trips, there are some world class multi-day trips to be had particularly for those that enjoy class V.

Classic California multi-day runs include the Tuolumne River, Forks of the Kern, Middle Fork of the Feather through Franklin Canyon, the Upper Kings and Deer Creek through the Ishi Wilderness Area. Looking for something easier try a two-day trip on the East Fork Carson or head up to a section on the Klamath River.
There is a ridiculous wealth of day trips including Cherry Creek, the Cal Salmon Nordheimer, North Fork of the American Chamberlin Falls and Giant Gap runs, the North Fork of the Smith River as well as the Middle Fork and South Fork Gorges of the Smith.
It’s helpful to keep an eye on the snowpack (truckee/carson, statewide) and forecasted flows.

Classic California Multi-day Rafting Runs:

  1. Tuolumne River: Class IV+
    The Tuolumne River has the best combination of consistent flows, high quality whitewater, side hikes and riverside camping of any run in California. Those wanting more rafting adrenaline can do a Cherry Creek/Tuolumne multi-day trip to get even more whitewater. While the Tuolumne can be run in a day why rush it when it can be done in 3 days.
  2.   Middle Fork of the Feather: Class V
    The Middle Fork Feather is the premier run with it’s never ending class V rapids, gorgeous granite scenery and remote location within California. The only draw backs are a short season, a burly portage, and a take-out road that has been unreliable the last few years. It is worth driving through multiple states to run this canyon.
  3. Forks of the Kern: Class V
    Some could argue this run needs to be higher on the list. Rafting the Forks of the Kern takes rafters and kayakers through pristine High Sierra scenery. The rapids are a step up for the Tuolumne and step down from the Middle Feather. The challenge is getting the right water level and get your gear down the multi-mile trail to put-in.
  4. Kings River (Garlic Falls): Class V
    Another High Sierra Classic, rafting and kayaking the Garlic Falls runs just outside Kings Canyon National Park has scenery on par with the Forks of the Kern and a hike of similar challenge. The rapids are more challenging and the shuttle is way longer.

California Day Trips:

Cherry Creek / Upper Tuolumne: Class V

South Fork Tuolumne: Class IV

North Fork Tuolumne: Class IV-V

Merced River: Class IV

Upper East Fork Carson: Class III

Stanislaus River (Goodwin Canyon): Class IV-V