Summit County, CO
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Summit County Rafting

Planning a rafting trip for your Summit County vacation? If it’s your first rafting trip in Colorado, you probably have a lot of questions. Whether you have safety concerns or are curious about everything involved in a rafting trip, we’ve got some answers for you.


WhatToDo spoke with Kevin Foley, president of Performance Tours Rafting, a company with 30 years of experience rafting 5 of Colorado’s most popular rivers. Voted “Best Rafting Company” 5 times, Performance Tours knows all the rafting expertise plus insider tips for visitors to have a fun, safe and comfortable trip.

Top 10 Trivia & Tips for Rafting in Colorado

  1. Colorado is one of only two “headwater” states in the U.S., meaning all rivers flow out of the state while none flow in. The other is Hawaii. Plus, the Arkansas River is the most popular commercially rafted river in the United States. Two prime reasons to come to Colorado for a rafting trip – or fit one in while you’re here.
  2. All commercial rafting outfitters are licensed by the State of Colorado. These guys and gals know what they’re doing! All river raft guides go through a rigorous state-required guide certification program. Performance Tours exceeds the State of Colorado’s requirements for guides by doubling the minimum number of training hours.
  3. There are almost always lots of trip options for all ages and ability levels on a variety of Colorado’s most spectacular rivers. You’ll want to consider the skill level and interest of everyone in your trip when you make your reservation. If you group has drastically different preferences (i.e. one person wants whitewater and one person wants a relaxing float to take pictures), you might consider splitting the group up, which is often an option with a rafting company that offers many trips.
  4. Trips vary in length from 1 hour to 5 days. Pick a duration that suits your group. If you get fidgety sitting still or being wet for more than a couple hours, you might not want to sign up for a full day.
  5. Guests have the option of participating by paddling, having the guide row everyone in an oar boat, or going in a “paddle assist” boat which is a combination of the two. Consider the physical capability of participants, but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself! Isn’t that why you’re doing it?
  6. Flows on the rivers are highest during the snowmelt season in June and will gradually decrease throughout the summer. What that usually means is earlier = more exciting.
  7. Even if it’s hot out, you might want a wetsuit! The temperature of the river is coldest in June and will warm up as the river levels subside and air temperatures warm the water. Almost everyone wears wetsuits, booties and splash jackets during the early season “high water” part of the summer – much of the river was snow only a short time ago!
  8. Everyone must wear a Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device to participate, so even “non swimmers” can enjoy a trip on most mild to moderate sections of river.
  9. Wondering what to wear? Performance Tours recommends wearing comfortable, quick drying clothing. Dress like you are going to the beach or pool and avoid wearing cotton since it does not insulate when wet. Protective footwear is required and can be an old pair of sneakers, sandals with retention straps, or “wetshoes”. Crocs and flip flops are not allowed since they would fall off of your feet if you ended up in the river.
  10. What to bring? Always recommended: a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses (with a retention strap). A dry outfit to put on after the trip is also a good idea. (Don’t bring it in the raft, though!)

Other Activities

If rafting doesn’t interest you, there are literally countless activities available in Keystone, Breckenridge, Frisco, Dillon, Silverthorne and Copper Mountain.

The Frisco Adventure Park is centrally located to all the major Summit County resorts and offers many free outdoor activities. A skateboard park and bike park lures the daredevils while those looking for less intense activities will enjoy the disc golf course in the pine forests along scenic Lake Dillon. There’s also a network of bike trails for all skill levels, including little ones and those just trying out mountain biking. Don’t have a bike? Check out our local directory of bike rentals.

Bad weather doesn’t have to dampen your vacation. Here are some indoor options that are surefire crowd-pleasers…

  • Local Recreation Centers keep kids busy and offer the typical workout amenities like cardio machines and weights so you can burn off all the delicious food on your vacation (check out your dining options). The Breckenridge Rec Center has a huge indoor rock-climbing wall, many pools and a large, super-fun water slide. This place is a dream for parents and kids alike. The Silverthorne Rec Center is more like a water park with four pools and a 140-foot spiral slide!
  • Ready Paint Fire, with locations in Keystone and Breckenridge, provides all the supplies you need – plus expert instruction – to paint your own pottery or other types of artistic exploration. You’ll not only enjoy a creative activity with your family or friends, but take home an original creation to remember your vacation for years to come.
  • Ice skating! It’s like riding a bike: you never forget how. The Stephen C. West Ice Arena in Breckenridge is open year-round, offers skate rentals and open skate or lessons – or go in and watch an adult hockey league game for free.
  • Who said history isn’t fun? Especially when it includes cowboys and outlaws and crazy miners! Enjoy an incredibly scenic half hour drive to Leadville where you can check out the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, do some gold panning and take a tour underground at the Matchless Mine or visit the Tabor House, former home of the famous Horace and Baby Doe Tabor. Within Summit County, visit the Country Boy Mine in Breckenridge where you can not only enjoy a mine tour and pan for gold but also slide down a 55-foot mining chute!
  • It’s never to early to get ready for ski season! Learn park tricks and and new skills – or keep yourself from getting rusty at Copper Mountain’s indoor training facility, Woodward. Camps and lessons are available for kids to develop their snowboard park and pipe skills.
  • Did someone say zipline? You’ll never beat these views! Top of the Rockies Zip Line is just a short drive from Copper Mountain, and you can go for a vacation grand slam by combining zip lines with a train ride!

Click here to see all available kids activities in Summit County.