How To Choose the Right Whitewater Rafting Trip for You

Whitewater rafting season  officially opens when April begins! Rafting. Photo from ACE Adventure Resort

As we've noted, spring is the best time for a rafting trip. But no matter when you're planning to ride the rapids, there are several options to choose from.

There are multiple runs on both the family-friendly New River and the high-adventure Gauley River, and there are a few different boats you can paddle out on the water.

Here's a guide to selecting the right whitewater rafting trip for you:

First, pick your run:

Easy- The Upper New

This tame stretch of water only has mild rapids, so if you have younger children in your group, it's the pick for them to enjoy. You'll paddle through flat water with the beautiful mountains rising up around you, and through some playful whitewater rapids.

Beginner Challenge- The Lower New

The most popular route on the Gorge, the Lower New starts with some little ripples like the Upper, then rumbles into some bigger, crashing waves. There are even a few major rapids. This is a fun ride for beginners to learn the basics, and older children can paddle along as well. In spring and early summer, the river should be at peak performance.

The Wild Card- The Gauley in Spring & Summer

Without the dam release in the fall that swells this river, the Gauley is unpredictable: the boat and route you'll take will depend on water levels the morning of your trip. No matter when or where you're on the Gauley, it's still a highly technical river to navigate.

Intense Excitement- The Lower Gauley

An intense run of 70 swelling whitewater rapids, the Lower Gauley is a nice step up for those who have conquered the Lower New and seeking a challenge. As we said, there's no easy run on the Gauley, but a comfortable paddler can really enjoy this stretch of the river.

World-Class Extreme Adventure- The Upper Gauley

This is a world-renowned stretch of whitewater featuring the formidable "Big 5" rapids, each a unique and challenging run. One is a 14-foot waterfall, if that gives you any idea of the intensity of this 13-mile stretch. The fall Gauley is not for beginners, or youngsters, but for big adventure-seekers. It's quite the thrill!

Mixed Run Trips

You can pair up runs in different ways, such as taking a full river run on either, or even re-running certain sections to double up the fun on your trip. Check with different whitewater outfitters to see what they offer.

Chosen your stretch? Then, pick your raft.

A normal raft fits 8 people and a guide. But, you can also get a smaller boat meant for 6, or even 4 people, which will get tossed around more by the waves for a wilder ride.

Or, you can duckie, with is a small inflatable kayak. Take a solo duckie down the spring or summer gauley for  challenge, or let the kids pair up and paddle them down the Upper New.

Then, just choose your outfitter! There are several companies in the New River Gorge, each with skilled, trained guides who will make your trip safe and exciting.

Which rafting trip are you taking?