Rafting FAQ


Choosing My Trip

We have learned a lot since George Armstrong put his first raft into the Stanislaus River in 1962. Over 60 years of experience on California rivers means you will be getting a well organized, well executed, high quality rafting trip on any one of California’s 10 best rivers. Whether it is your first trip or your 100th trip, you will feel the difference that over six decades make when it comes to rafting. Our industry-leading peace-of-mind Cancellation Policy, our Quality Service Guarantee, and our exclusive Frequent Floater Program (earn free trips!) make All-Outdoors your best option for an all around amazing California rafting experience. We can’t wait to welcome you into the AO family!

From a "lazy day of summer" on a Tom Sawyer Float Trip on the South Fork American to the "adrenaline rush" of Cherry Creek, All-Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting offers a river trip to satisfy every individual's needs. We welcome anyone, young and old, in reasonable physical condition. The more advanced the trip, the more athletically aggressive and confident a guest should be.

Each river has a usual minimum recommended age. During normal flows, the minimum age is 8 years old on Class III sections of the South Fork of the American and 5 years old on the Class I-II section. Minimum age of 12 is recommended on the Middle Fork of the American and Merced, and 13 years old on the Tuolumne in summer. In the spring, trips on the Tuolumne, along with our other Class IV+ springtime trips, have the recommended age of 15 years old. All rivers may have an increased minimum age recommendation when running at higher flows. The recommended minimum age on Cherry Creek is 17 years.

A parent or legal guardian must give permission for an unaccompanied minor (aged 17 years or younger) to participate in an All-Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting river trip. This is done electronically in advance of the trip. The information may be alternatively provided by filling out our Parent / Guardian Permission & Liability Release Form Form on paper.

Swimming ability is not required during normal flows on the South Fork American River. However, rafters on all other rivers should be able to swim and select a trip that's right for their level of fitness. The higher the classification and/or the river flows, the better shape participants should be in. Individuals that are exceptionally tall or whose height and weight ratio is out of range (overweight) may not be appropriate for rafting due to the inherent nature of the activity. If you are unsure how to evaluate your abilities and size, have special health physical considerations, or are pregnant, we invite you to contact us to discuss options.

Seasonal snowpack and weather can affect river flows. Participants rafting during period of higher flows should be competent swimmers, adventurous, active, not overweight. Usual minimum age may be increased on trips taking place at higher flows.

All guests are required to wear a life jacket provided by All-Outdoors. Due to sizing restrictions, persons with a chest or torso size over 52" (life jacket maximum size) cannot participate in an All-Outdoors rafting trip.

Each river we raft is unique. Beginners and adventurers alike may find what they are looking for on one of California’s two most popular whitewater rivers: the South & Middle Forks of the American River. The Merced, Kaweah and North Fork of the Stanislaus are favorites among the Class IV+ crowd. For exciting Class IV+ -V whitewater and wilderness, it's hard to beat the Tuolumne and Cherry Creek.

Take some time to look at our 10 California Rivers. You will find a description for each river with links to maps and travel details, videos, and great photos. Keep in mind the paddling skills and physical abilities of each member of your group. If you have more questions, call us at (800) 247-2387. Our California Rafting Consultants are experts at matching individuals and groups to the appropriate river.

Whitewater rafting rivers are rated on the international scale of river difficulty ranging from Class I (flatwater) to Class VI (unrunnable). For a description of each difficulty level, visit our River Difficulty Ratings page, and check out our visual guide to White Water Rafting Levels / Classes as well.

California rafting season runs from April to October. River conditions permitting, All-Outdoors offers daily departures for the entirety of the season. Early spring (April) is the best time to experience free-flowing rivers (North Fork of the Stanislaus, North Fork American, Cal Salmon) that don’t have upstream reservoirs regulating their flows. Other spring favorites, such as the Merced and Kaweah Rivers typically hit their prime flows around May. Dam-controlled rivers - the South and Middle Fork of the American and the Tuolumne can be enjoyed for months beyond the spring runoff time thanks to regulated flows even during drought years.

Learn what’s best about each segment of The 4 “Seasons” of the California Rafting Season and be sure to see the current California Rafting Season Update because every year of rafting on California rivers is unique.


Booking My Trip

Prices vary depending on the trip, itinerary, and day of the week. To view trip fees for all rivers, visit our Trip Pricing page. Our Discounts page lists cost-saving options, including discounts for groups and youths. Considering today's cost for hotels, airline flights and other vacation expenses, rafting represents an excellent value for travel and entertainment.

Trips can sell out quickly due to the limited amount of space available. We recommend booking your rafting trip as soon as you confirm your travel plans with your party. For the best availability and deepest savings, book during our 25% Pre-Season Sale which runs annually from November to January. While advance reservations are required to go rafting, we are always busy taking last-minute bookings up to a day before the trip. As long as there is available space, we are happy to help you get on the river - even at the last minute!

You can make a reservation over the phone or online. Our California Rafting Consultants are available during business hours to help you plan and book your trip. Our online booking platform features real-time availability and most trips can be reserved online. Book your trip today!

If you are rafting on the South Fork of the American, our boats can comfortably accommodate up to 8 guests plus their guide. However, all other rivers require the use of smaller boats that can negotiate the tighter chutes and rapids typical of Class IV & V rafting. Most of these boats can accommodate 5 or 6 guests, plus a guide. On Cherry Creek, our most advanced run, there are 2 or 4 paddlers in each raft. For more info about the boats we use, visit our Rafting Equipment page.

Reservations are based on the overall space available on each trip. Our guides determine the boat assignments on the morning of the rafting trip and keep parties together whenever possible. Booking a Private Charter Trip guarantees an exclusive trip with only your group members in all the rafts. Other reserved boat options can be made available in certain circumstances - please direct special requests to our office in advance.

Our guides are professionals in their field, and requests for a specific guide are not uncommon. If you have had a guide you especially liked, and would like to have them guide your next trip, we will do our best to match their schedule to yours. Simply request your guide when you make your reservation.

To provide flexibility and peace of mind, we have a lenient and simple Cancellation Policy. If your trip must be canceled for any reason, you will receive a fully transferable 100% credit toward any future river trip. Guests canceling their trip must notify us by phone or Live Chat during business hours, at least 3 days prior to the departure date.


Preparing for My Trip

Start with general information about what to wear for white water rafting. Additionally, a complete list of what to bring and what to wear is located on each river's What to Bring page. Visit our Travel Information & What to Bring page to find a list of items for your river trip. If your rafting trip takes place in spring, early summer, late fall, or at higher flows, also read about wetsuits and additional layering tips for specific river attire items needed during that particular time.

We do not recommend bringing your cell phone on the river with you. You are welcome to bring a waterproof camera but be aware that it is at risk of being damaged and/or lost. Bringing a strap to secure it to the life jacket is wise. We offer the use of dry bags but they are not 100% waterproof and offer no impact protection. Go-Pro cameras are also welcome and can be attached to our helmets. Again, bring them at your own risk.

We are known for serving high quality, delicious, gourmet style food with lots of options allowing our guests to create their ideal meals. Whether it is a hearty breakfast to jumpstart your morning, perfect sandwich to satisfy your mid-day appetite, or a tasty dinner at the end of an action packed day, we are here to serve you. If you have special dietary requirements, we encourage you to tell us at the time of your reservation so we can discuss options.

Guests are not permitted to raft if under the influence of alcohol or other substances known to cause impairment. If either by direct observation or by exhibited behavior, staff believes someone to be impaired, that person will not be allowed to raft and no refund is provided.

On overnight trips, guests are more than welcome to bring their own alcohol in moderation for the evenings. All-Outdoors does not provide alcohol. For wilderness overnight trips - the Tuolumne and Middle Fork of the American - we provide an ice chest to transport guest beverages (if guests show up with excess alcohol, our guides will ask you to leave the excess in your car). For our South Fork American overnight trips, guests will have access to their vehicles and can store their beverages in their own ice chest. Again, alcohol is to be consumed in moderation.

Each of the 10 California rivers we raft on has its own designated meet place. For directions, maps, and driving times to the meet place, visit our Travel Information & What to Bring page and select your river. Note that none of our rafting trips meet at our Walnut Creek address.

For a list of local accommodations, as well as surrounding attractions, and local weather information for each river, visit our Travel Information & What to Bring page and select your river.


After My Trip

Many of our guests ask us, "should I tip my guide?". Our high level of service is not exercised in order to receive a tip. We serve you because we want to. If you feel the service you received from your guide is exceptional, and you want to say "thank you" with a tip, although it is not expected, it is always appreciated. Our guides are happy to accept tips given in cash, credit card, or via Venmo right after the trip, as well as those called/emailed into our office at a later time. Any amount you feel appropriate is a valued gesture, but if you are looking for a tipping guideline, most gratuities in the rafting industry range between 10% and 20%. Any and all tips collected are shared by all guides who worked on the trip.

A professional photography company may have shot pictures of the whitewater rafting trip you were on. View photo companies listed by river they operate on. You will be able to purchase your rafting trip photos directly from them.

Contact us if you have any additional questions.

If you'd like to share your experience with others (and us too), we invite you to post your review on our website or your review site of choice.


If you can't find the answers you need here, our Reservation office is open year-round and our California Rafting Consultants are available during business hours to help you with any questions you may have.

Contact Us


Back to Top

Email Newsletter

Get season updates, latest rafting videos & blogs, plus enter to Win a Free Trip for Two! Learn more