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Rafting in TAOS: When and Where To Go

21 March 2022

By planning an adventurous rafting trip in Taos, you can experience the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Rio Grande River from a different perspective and with a bit more thrill. In addition to the countless outdoor activities that Taos offers, a rafting trip provides a unique opportunity to experience the outdoors and, even better, a fun way to cool off during the hot Southwest summers.

The rafting season typically begins in mid-March and can run until October, depending on the weather, local snowmelt, and the resulting water levels. So if you're planning a trip and looking for things to do in Taos this spring or summer, we've put together a helpful list of favorite runs and local rafting companies to help you create a memorable and, if you so choose, white-knuckle trip. Be sure to book lodging in advance and get ready for an adventure!

DECIDING WHERE TO GO There are a few factors to sort through before choosing when and where to go whitewater rafting in Taos. The first and most important step is to determine your comfort level. In the rafting industry, rivers are categorized into five Classes based on difficulty and the severity of rapids. These Classes range from Class I, which is your typical unobstructed slow-moving river, to the more thrilling Class V, which are characterized by highly challenging rapids, best tackled only by experts. Here are a few river options for wherever you land on that adrenaline scale.

RACECOURSE With Class III rapids such as Big Rock, Narrows, and Souse Hole, the Racecourse is a perfect middle ground choice for intermediates or families looking for a touch of adventure. This section of the Rio Grande River is a fun opportunity to get your feet wet (pun intended!) and soak up the breathtaking views of the canyon. Individuals can elevate their adventure by trying to take on the rapids in a kayak or funyak on the Racecourse!

TAOS BOX When people think of rafting in Taos, they tend to think of the adrenaline-packed Taos Box. It is well known for being a full-day adventure filled with varying Classes of rapids that will keep you on your toes. The best time to experience the Taos Box is the end of May or the beginning of June, depending on water flow levels. This particular run is not for the faint of heart and is highly recommended for more experienced rafters.

THE RIO CHAMA Are you looking for a magical two or three-night rafting adventure? Then the Rio Chama is the perfect river for you. This Class II river offers a relaxed 31-mile multi-day float and is a quaint tributary of the vast Rio Grande. Book a trip with a local guide outfitter listed below, or plan a self-guided trip down the river with friends.

RAFTING COMPANIES AND GEAR PROVIDERS NEW MEXICO RIVER ADVENTURES New Mexico River Adventures is an established company that offers a rafting experience for every skill and comfort level. Whether you prefer a big water experience like the Taos Box, a more casual scenic float down the Rio Grande, or something in between, this company offers it all. Their dedicated and knowledgeable team of guides will ensure you have a memorable trip down the river.

LOS RIOS RIVER RUNNERS With over 40 years of rafting experience, the Los Rios River Runners is the oldest and largest rafting company in Taos, New Mexico. The founder, Cisco Guevara, and the team of guides are passionate about getting locals and visitors outside to show you the best of what the Rio Grande has to offer. Los Rios provides half-day, full-day, and even a sunset dinner float for individuals or families.

FAR-FLUNG ADVENTURES The Far-Flung Adventures boathouse is only 20 minutes from Taos Ski Valley and is one of the closest meeting places for a fun rafting adventure. If you're looking to combine rafting with an outdoor activity, say fly fishing, horseback riding, or camping, then Far-Flung is the place to go. While Far-Flung offers adventuresome guided trips across New Mexico, they also provide rental and shuttle services for those looking to craft their own experience.

INFORMATION FOR EXPERIENCED RAFTERS Even if you have years or decades of rafting experience, the most important thing to remember is that the river is always unpredictable. Due to the Rio Grande's southwestern location, the river experiences varied water levels compared to surrounding major rivers that tend to have high spring flow levels. Locals and guides joke that the Rio Grande is similar to creek boating and yet can still be more dangerous than other rivers if someone doesn't have experience in the area.

If you're new to rafting in the Taos area, the Racecourse is an excellent place to start. It is accessible and a well-loved run by both guides and visitors. While the Taos Box may be intriguing to beginners or intermediates, we highly recommend that you go with an experienced rafter or someone who has run it a few times. It also should certainly not be run solo. This challenging stretch of river is 16-miles long and is very isolated for a Class IV, and you can even experience Class V rapids depending on the season.

Also as experienced rafters know, planning ahead is essential as many places around Taos for rafting do require permits which can get sold out way in advance. Not getting a permit is irresponsible in terms of thinking about the ecological impact but also could result in a rather unpleasant fine if you’re caught. We would recommend starting by consulting Taos BLM then going from there.

The Taos rafting community is passionate and dedicated to providing fun river opportunities for all skill levels. Whether you're looking for opportunities to find fellow rafters to team up with, a shuttle service, or even run support, there's no shortage of talented companies and guides in the area. So, are you ready to plan a trip to Taos? If so, check out lodging options and the other outdoor activities Taos has to offer.