White River National Forest
Glenwood Springs is Colorado's most popular river rafting center. The Roaring Fork flows into the Colorado River near here, opening up an enticing array of possibilities. The Class IV run from Shoshone Powerhouse to Grizzly Creek is notoriously fun—short (one mile), but wildly popular. Nearer Breckenridge, the Colorado River is tamer—a good spot for an afternoon float.
In the summer, Vail is another good homebase for paddlers. Besides the mighty Colorado, the village has several good rivers near at hand, including the Arkansas and Eagle Rivers.
While technically not in the White River, the Arkansas River offers lots of good stretches and lots of good stories. You can choose among hard-driving Class V and VI sections, a good handful of saner III-V whitewater sections, and a lovely 54-mile stretch that can take three days to complete. Browns Canyon is one of the most popular whitewater runs in the western Rocky Mountains. The season for the Arkansas runs from April to September, with May and June being optimal.
Not quite the same candy box, the Eagle River has a couple terrific three- and four-mile runs. The season here runs May to July. And finally, the Blue River in the neighboring Arapaho National Forest has one perfectly enjoyable Class II to III run that's just right for apprentice paddlers.
The Blue River is popular if only because it's fairly near Denver. It's also one of the most controlled rivers, with a diminished flow because most of the water goes to Denver.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication