Choosing Your California Rafting Trip By Difficulty

When you are choosing your California rafting trip, you should look at the youngest, most timid or least active member in your party. With a wide range of California rafting trips, we really do have something for everyone. Trips suitable for kids as young as 4 years old, seniors and those with special needs and also some of the wildest whitewater rafting in California for adrenaline junkies and experienced rafters.

If you want the closest rafting trips to Sacramento and Bay Area, then go to Choosing Your American River Rafting Trip.

Choosing your California Rafting Trip:

Check out the guidelines for each of the categories below, then at the end of the page select that category to see which California Rafting trips are at that level of difficulty. Consider swimming & athletic ability, age and how adventurous the group is.

If you have to consider the needs of a mixed group, are planning on rafting in the spring, or are concerned about weight limitations, always call us with any questions. Also see General Info & FAQ’s.

Scroll to the bottom for links on Rafting Trip options by Difficulty!

 Class 1-2 (Easiest/Younger Children):

  • Minimum Age: 4 (our minimum age on any rafting trip)
  • For timid older children, seniors and special needs. These trips can also be enjoyed by adults and older youths.
  • Inflatable Kayaks may be added for greater challenge.
  • The Class 2-3 Lower Klamath and Trinity Rivers can also be customized for youths under 8 years

Class 2-3 (Easy/Beginner):

  • Minimum Age: 6-8 years (varies)
  • For first time rafters, corporate groups, families, most youth groups, bachelor and bachelorette parties.
  • OK for non swimmers when flows are at normal levels.
  • This is an ideal level for most, not too scary for most beginners. You definitely get wet and it’s fun and exciting.

Class 3-4 (Intermediate/Adventurous First-timers):

  • Minimum Age: 14 years
  • For adventurous first time rafters and groups (older Scout groups, some corporate and bachelor/bachelorette parties).
  • Class 4 white water rafting runs do require that all participants can swim.

Class 4+ (Intermediate/More Difficult):

  • Minimum Age: 14-16 years
  • Previous Class 3 experience preferred with strong swimming ability – NO NON-SWIMMERS).

Class 5 (Advanced/Most Difficult):

  • Minimum Age: 16+ years (varies)
  • Requires previous Class 4 experience with very strong swimming ability (may require swim tests – absolutely NO NON-SWIMMERS).

International Scale of River Difficulty:

Class I – Easy: Waves are small, regular; riffles.
Class II – Medium: Rapids of medium difficulty; swift current, passages are wide and clear.
Class III – Difficult: Waves numerous, high, irregular; rocks, eddies, rapids with passages that are clear though narrow, requiring expertise in maneuvering.
Class IV – Very Difficult: Long rapids, waves powerful and irregular; dangerous rocks, boiling eddies; powerful and precise maneuvering required.
Class V – Extremely Difficult: Long and violent rapids following each other almost without interruption; riverbed extremely obstructed; big drops, violent current, very steep gradient.
Class VI – Un-navigable: The upper extreme of whitewater rivers, commercially un-runnable.

Choosing your California Rafting Trip by Difficulty: