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How to Choose the Best Rafting Trip for Your Family

From the tranquil pools and inviting rapids of the Upper New to the roaring whitewater of the Lower New River, part of what makes the New River Gorge an ideal family vacation destination is the variety of options available to suit adventure lovers of all ages. That, and the fact that—here with Adventures on the Gorge—kids raft free. So, whether you are looking to take your timid 6-year-old out for their first rafting trip, or want to give your thrill-seeker the ride of a lifetime, we’ve got you covered. The key is picking the best trip for your crew. Here’s a guide to get you started.

Best for first-time paddlers and independent kids 

The scenic corridor of the Upper New River is lined with wildlife, splashy shoals, and family bonding time. Our most beginner-friendly trip, the Upper New is the ideal choice for families with young kids (6 and up) or for anyone who is nervous to get out on the water.

The option to paddle in inflatable kayaks (duckies) rather than guided rafts makes this a great adventure for independent kids—or parents—who want to steer their own craft. Depending on your child’s age and how comfortable they are on the water, they can choose between riding on a full-size guided raft, paddling a single ducky on their own, or riding in a double ducky with a parent or sibling.

Best for families with teens and adventurous young ones 

If your family is made up of a range of different ages and abilities—but everyone has a go-getter, ready-for-anything spirit—then our Family Lower New River rafting trip is for you. This trip offers a unique meld of exciting rapids and the security of riding in the raft with an experienced, kid-friendly guide who is usually navigating the river with oars. Oar boats provide the guide with more power and control than the more common paddle-guided boats. This makes it so that, while everyone on board is welcome to paddle, the guide is not as dependent on the paddling power of the crew. That way, if your 10-year-old isn’t able to paddle through the rapids and wants to hold on instead, it doesn’t affect the guide’s ability to safely navigate the rapids. Basically, this trip offers the excitement of the Lower New’s class IV rapids (so your teens don’t get bored) with the security needed for the younger siblings.

Note: This trip is only available at certain water levels and under some circumstances your trip may be moved to the Upper New.

Best for families who love hiking and want to try rafting

If you and your loved ones are new to rafting but love hiking—or are experienced rafters who want to try a new section of river along with a scenic hike—let us recommend the Glade Creek Canyon rafting and hiking combo. This dynamic trip starts with a guided hike along Glade Creek (a tributary of the Upper New) where kids can enjoy swimming in pristine water at the base of a waterfall.

After your hike and a picnic lunch, embark on a rafting trip down a remote section of the Upper New River. Further upstream than the commonly rafted “Upper New,” this trip is usually paddled in inflatable kayaks (singles and doubles available) and is packed with wildlife, beginner-friendly rapids, and chances to relax in nature. 

These are just our top three family rafting trips, but the options don’t stop here. To learn more, contact our adventure specialists at 877-580-0708. And remember, whichever section of river you choose, your child’s trip is on us—ages 6–11 raft free every day, all summer long.  

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