Desert Highlights is the only company in town to offer packrafting tours and rentals!
Half Day Packrafting - Custom Flatwater & Whitewater Tours!
A custom float on the Colorado River tailored to your idea of fun in the sun!
Length: 3 to 5 hours roundtrip from Moab
Season: Spring - Fall
Physical Difficulty: Easy - Moderate
Technical Difficulty: Moderate
Rapids: Flatwater or a few class I & II rapids
Total Distance: 5 miles or more
Price: 2-3 people: $105/person + tax
4-9 people: $94.50/person + tax
10+ people: Call for rates
**Add on an exciting half-day of canyoneering for an additional $95/person. Learn more at our Moab Canyoneering page.
Packrafts are lightweight, one-person inflatable boats that can be rolled up and packed into a backpack, allowing us to steer away from standard "put-ins" and cherry pick sections of the river that best suit your floating desires! Whether you have zero boating experience or are a whitewater aficionado, you're sure to have a blast in these versatile boats. From relaxing flat-water to Class I, II and (sometimes) III rapids, we can cater to your idea of fun with these super fun boats on the Colorado River!
The Pedal, Paddle, Pedal
Breathtaking Mountain Bike & Packraft
Journey into the Green River Wilderness
Length: 10 to 12 hours roundtrip from Moab (includes 2 hours of extremely scenic and dramatic round-trip driving time). Trips depart at 7:00 AM.
Season: Year Round, best in Spring & Summer
Physical Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Technical Difficulty: Moderate
Rapids: None; A very scenic float through an amazing wilderness canyon
Total Distance: 12mi/19km biking and 9mi/14km of packrafting
Price: 2-3 people - $240/person + tax
4+ people - $216/person + tax
*$40 discount if you provide your own bike.
This awesome combination of easy mountain biking and a scenic flat water float is a great way to "cherry pick" one of the most beautiful sections of the Green River without spending multiple days on the river. Packrafts (lightweight, one-person inflatable boats) allow us to access this section of the river that otherwise takes folks multiple days of floating to reach. We begin on our bikes, with our boats packed in our backpacks as we descend down to the river's edge. Once we find a clearing in the brush, we inflate our boats and tie our bikes to the front. It is here that we begin a incredibly scenic and relaxing float down river until we decide it's time to ride again. At our "take-out", we re-assemble our bikes, roll our boats up and stuff them away. We complete the day with a short ride to our shuttle vehicle.
The "Pedal, Paddle, Pedal" is destined to become one of the most classic mountain biking and packrafting trips in the West. The legendary Green River and its beautiful side canyons provide both a peaceful and exciting venue for this unforgettable day of exploring some very remote backcountry.
Our day starts bright and early with a very enjoyable downhill mountain bike ride along the mesa top high above the Green River gorge. Easy, carefree pedaling soon leads to the rim of Spring Canyon, a very deep and rugged tributary of the Green. A spectacular dirt road carved into the sheer walls of Spring Canyon switchback down, down, down into the depths of one of the prettiest canyons around Moab. This old road was blasted out over 50 years ago to access the rich deposits of uranium located in the lower end of the canyon. The mine sites have long since been abandoned and the dead-end road largely forgotten. Solitude, peace and quiet reign down here. The road rolls and weaves gently along the canyon floor amidst tall stands of cottonwood trees and sheer 500 foot high sandstone walls. The awe-inspiring scenery often steals our attention away from the task of watching the road ahead!
The exhilirating downhill ride quickly brings us to the lonely junction of Spring Canyon and the Green River. It's here where we enter the magnificent Labyrinth Canyon carved by the Green River. The road veers to follow along the river's edge downstream for another couple of miles. Lush (by desert standards!), pastoral expanses of sagebrush meadows along the river provide scentful, bucolic riding. In many ways the ride down Spring Canyon and along the river is reminiscent of sections of the nearby - and more famous - White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park. Soon we reach the road's terminus and prepare for the next chapter of our journey.
At road's end we'll get off the bikes and relax a bit in this calm canyon setting. Taking the rolled up packrafts and disassembled paddles out of our backpacks seems an unlikely step here. While most folks are familiar with mountain biking, not many are familiar with packrafting. After all, who mountain bikes with rafts in their packs!? The unique brilliance of this trip really begins to take shape here as we inflate our rafts on a sandy bench by the river.We'll spend some time here discussing the fine art of mountain bike packrafting; how the boats inflate, how to lash the bikes to the raft and how to get in, get out and get on with our river journey. It's such a simple and beautiful thing, so much so you'll probably want to order up one of these boats as soon as you get home!
Floating peacefully down the Green River now, we'll look an odd sight. With bike frames, stacked wheels and backpacks strapped high on the front of our rafts you may wonder how this awkward combo can be stable on the water. The wonderful thing about your raft's unlikely cargo is that it actually helps to balance the packraft. These boats are so light that the bike's weight on the bow nicely offsets your body's weight, which is predominately situated at the stern. These boats actually perform better when burdened with your bike! Several lazy river miles lay between us and the nearest road downriver - nine to be exact. Within those miles is some of the most incredible, true wilderness scenery Labyrinth Canyon has to offer. There are no roads to be found, no noisy vehicles or crowds. Just quiet wilderness. Several beautiful side canyons flow into the Green, including Two Mile and Horseshoe. Precarious towers of sandstone soar high above us on either side. I'm gonna stop describing things here, because - simply put - it's next to impossible to find the words to describe the surrounding beauty.
As the day progresses, the changing shadows on the canyon walls become our timepiece. Without a care, we'll eventually find ourselves rounding the bend with the gaping mouth of Hellroaring Canyon coming into view. Two massive isolated towers of sandstone stand guard at its entrance. A faint jeep road along the river's edge is barely discernable here. We'll ferry over to solid ground and pull our boats up the sandy riverbank. In no time we'll have our wheels back on the bikes, rafts rolled and stowed and on our merry mountain biking way on our last leg of the journey. But not without a stop at one of the more interesting historic inscriptions found on any of the miles of sandstone cliffs in southern Utah. Denis Julian, a French fur trapper, etched his name along with a curious image of a sailboat near the mouth of Hellroaring Canyon. Of course, there are many such etchings found in the southwest. The mysterious, ubiquitous images of the Anasazi culture, over a thousand years old, are found all over the area. And evidence of the early pioneers who scratched a living, and their names, along these canyon walls are sprinkled here and there. But Denis Julian was special. His inscription is dated 1836, long after the Anasazi abandoned the area and long before the Mormon pioneers arrival. Who was this man? Many think that he was the first white man to visit this area. Another of Julian's inscriptions lies further downriver in Cataract Canyon, suggesting many to believe he was - not only the first white man in the area - but the first to make a full descent of the Green and Colorado rivers in a boat, more than 30 years prior to John Wesley Powell's historic "first descent" of these rivers in 1869. Perhaps the distinction is important to only a handful of regional historians, but it's just one more fascinating mystery still unsolved in the history of exploration of the American West.
A few fun miles of riding down this trail soon leads to our journey's end at Mineral Bottom. Still within the massive depths of Labyrinth Canyon, this is where we meet our shuttle vehicle and enjoy, in the comfort of our van, a truly spectacular ascent of the Mineral switchbacks. Yet another product of the uranium mining boom days of the 1940's, these switchbacks lead us out of the confines of Labyrinth Canyon and back to a well-deserved shower and beverages in Moab.
In retrospect you'll find it very difficult to define which segment of the day was the highlight. Each segment of this amazing journey - the descent down Spring Canyon, the riverside riding, the Green River float, the Hellroaring Canyon trail - would be an incredible day on its own. Put together, however - and astonishingly all in a day's time - these segments collectively make up one of the finest adventures you'll experience..
Cow Swim Canyon
There's no escaping this canyon without the use of a Packraft and paddle!
- 3 people - $350/person
- 4 people - $315/person
- 5 people - $298/person
- 6 or more - call for rates
Length: 9 to 12 hours (canyon and river time only)
Drive time: 2.5 - 3 hours, one-way
Best Season: Spring & Fall
Physical Difficulty: Moderate - Difficult
Technical Difficulty: Moderate
Rappels: 2 - (85ft/22m, 155ft/43m)
Rapids: None; an incredibly scenic flat water float!
Climbing: A few fourth class downclimbs up to 20ft/6m. Ropes may be used for handlines or belays.
Total Distance: 6mi/9.5km of hiking & 5mi/8km of packrafting on flat water
Total Ascent/Descent: 600ft/195m
As you can imagine, there are many wonderful canyons out there situated far from the convenience of a road. Some of these canyons descend into larger canyons which contain rivers, large creeks or some other body of water. Often these waterways require the use of a boat to traverse. Descending Cow Swim Canyon (which includes a series of downclimbs, rappels and pools of water) will put those without packrafts in a precaraious situation. It's a good thing we'll be carrying these boats with us all day! Once at the mouth of the canyon and on the banks of the Green River, we'll inflate our handy packrafts and float down to the first place we see that provides a possible exit back up to the rim.
The morning could not start in a more beautiful place. Camped hundreds of feet above the river, we are afforded an incredible 360 degree view - a view that was hardly taken in yesterday afternoon as we drove out to the rim camp. We enjoy an early breakfast as we gather an odd assortment of gear that all fits neatly into our packs. A harness, helmet and gloves accompany the usual snacks and water. But wait! Now we slip our 5 lb. packraft into our packs along with a 4-piece kayak paddle? No problem!
All at once, we set out on a cross country hike along the river’s rim. The scenery of this isolated place is unparalleled. Slowly, a deep and narrow canyon begins to show itself. We scramble down into the head of the canyon and don helmets, harnesses etc. If it is early season then wetsuits are a part of the necessary gear. That’s right! We must squeeze and wade through narrows and pools to reach the first of two rappels. At 85’, the first rappel is simple and straightforward, offering a great intro or refresher. Avoiding the heart shaped pool half way down, we finish the rap, landing in soft sand.
More hiking and downclimbing lead to the second and final rappel. Looking down the 155’ drop, it becomes apparent that there will be a significant free hang on this rappel. This means that the rock wall slowly gets farther and farther away, providing a delightful dangle! But caution must be exercised when landing at the bottom of the rappel. Poison ivy dots the edges of a pool and we must be intentional as we pick our way back to open terrain (pants recommended!)
A ½ mile hike down canyon brings us to the confluence with the river. How do we get out of here anyways? It’s a good thing we’ve been carrying these boats all day! In a matter of a few minutes, our boats are inflated and we load our packs in the front of the boat in preparation for a 5 mile, calm water float. A time to relax, take in the scenery, snack and maybe do a little paddling too.
The float ends abruptly as we approach a nondescript side canyon. After rolling the boats up and returning them to our packs, we begin a steep hike up and out of this canyon. Upon reaching the top of the canyon, we find that our vehicle is right there waiting for us! Time to hop in the van and head back to town.
This trip is a very long day with a total of six miles of hiking and five miles of boating. Adding the challenges of the canyon itself makes this a big day indeed!
Don’t like camping? If you’re an early riser, we can meet at our shop in the morning (think 5 am!) and drive 2+ hours out to the canyon.
Desert Highlights is now offering Alpacka Packraft rentals for local adventures. Packrafts are lightweight, one-person inflatable boats that are commonly used for backpacking and canyoneering. They can also be used to run the Daily section of the Colorado River, right outside of town. All rentals include a boat, 4-piece paddle, lightweight PFD and repair kit.
Do you need help with a shuttle? If so, our friends at Moab Trail Taxi would love to tote you around! Give them a call or text at 435-210-0214.
Our Packraft Rental Agreement can be viewed here.
Our fleet includes the following sizes:
Original Alpaca (small)
Yukon Yak (medium)
Denali Llama (large)
Mule (xtra large)
1-2 days: $45 per day
3-6 days: $40 per day
7+ days: $35 per day