Ruby-Horsethief Canyon – School Program

Connect with nature on an outdoor educational Ruby Horsethief river adventure!

Situated within the 300,000 square mile Colorado Plateau, Ruby and Horsethief Canyons of the Colorado River provide an ideal outdoor classroom setting for students to learn.

Stunning red rock mesas, endless canyons, and the flowing river capture the imagination and provide ample opportunity to learn about the wonders of the high desert. This flatwater section of river is ideal for groups hoping to build community, respect, and understanding within the natural world.

CFI’s expedition style-education means that your students will develop skills in self-management and communication as they work with CFI guides to make and break camps, cook meals, and navigate the river. Our educators provide hands-on exploration opportunities throughout the day while we explore side hikes, natural wonders, and the rich human history present along the river corridor. CFI instructors generate an inclusive learning environment and no prior rafting or camping experience is necessary.

Breathtaking Biology

Ruby and Horsethief Canyons contain an abundance of wildlife including Great Blue Herons, Bald Eagles, River Otters, Beavers, and Bighorn Sheep. Our Naturalist Guides will help your students discover and learn about plant and animal adaptations and the incredible biodiversity of this ecosystem!

Geologic Wonders

Five hundred foot red sandstone walls line the Colorado River’s edge as it cuts a meandering course through 1.7 billion years of geologic time. With mind-blowing natural wonders on display, your students will be inspired to question their natural surroundings.

Looking for more adventure? Funnel Falls awaits!

Extend this trip through Westwater Canyon.
Packaged price is $585 for a 4 day 3 night trip.

Colorado River from Loma, CO to Westwater, UT
Call 435 259-7750 for availability
3 days and 2 nights
Group Size:
15 - 25 participants
Age Range:
Age Range: 6th grade and up, including college
$480 per student

This is how we rate the challenges you might face on a CFI trip.

Level 1 - Easy

  • Low level of physical activity, minimal movement required
  • 0 nights spent camping or in the field
  • Hiking or walking 0-2 miles per day

Level 2 - Moderate

  • Medium level of physical activity, some movement required
  • 1-4 nights spent camping or in the field
  • Hiking up to 4 miles per day
  • Flatwater or mild whitewater rapids

Level 3 - Active

  • Medium or high level of physical activity
  • 1-5 nights spent camping or in the field
  • Hiking up to 5 miles per day
  • Class I - III whitewater rapids

Level 4 - Challenging

  • High level of physical activity
  • 1-6 nights spent camping or in the field
  • Hiking 5 or more miles per day
  • Class IV whitewater rapids
CFI's Essential Eligibility Criteria outlines specific challenges that you may face on CFI trips. Please consult the EEC for information on responsibilities of participants.
  • Price includes $10 BLM special area fee
  • Student groups aged 14+ can extend their trip through the challenging whitewater rapids of Westwater Canyon. Packaged Price: $595 per student for a 4 day 3 night program
  • Program fee does not include gratuity. Our educators work extremely hard and appreciate getting tipped.

See other trips in these categories:

Trip Narrative

This popular trip starts in Loma, Colorado, and ends at the Westwater Ranger Station in Utah.

Ruby Horsethief is the perfect classroom. Starting out in the wide floodplains near Loma, students say goodbye to civilization and allow the sounds of the highway drift pleasantly into the distance. There is no 5G on this stretch! Students are given the chance to connect to themselves, each other, and nature, while witnessing breathtaking wild wonders.

Right off the bat, boaters are exposed to archeological features, like ancient stepways, that tell stories of past inhabitants. The canyon walls rise high above the river and geologic features, like Rattlesnake Monocline, appear in full force! Textbook examples of folding, faulting, and uplift are on full display as the boats meander through the flatwater. For a brief moment, the 1.7 billion year old Blackrock formation appears, hinting at the appearance of the Great Unconformity downriver.

After a full day of boating, we will pull off on one of the beach campsites and set up camp. Your students will be divided into various crews that assist the guides in group tasks like building a campfire, cooking a hot meal, setting up camp, and washing dishes.

There are populations of Big Horn sheep, golden and bald eagles, and river otters that call Ruby Horsethief Canyons home. Student groups will have opportunities for side hiking, and exploration throughout this curriculum rich trip. In addition to the rich opportunities for science and art, mellow water allows students to try their hand at the more technical skills of guiding!

The adventure doesn’t have to end here, though. Groups aged 14 and older have the option to continue past the ranger station and tackle the thrilling challenges of Westwater Canyon itself.


Some people say food is the most important part of the adventure. On all our overnight trips, CFI will provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a morning and afternoon snack, and an appetizer before dinner. If you have a dietary restriction or food allergy, note it on your medical form so we can best prepare.

Depends on the trip. As a general rule, CFI provides all group gear related to fully outfitting your trip. Specialized gear like PFDs, wetsuits, dry bags, educational materials are all provided by CFI. Additionally, we take care of all kitchen and dishware needs. 

Find out more about trip specific packing.

Most importantly, a willingness to slow down, connect to your surroundings, and experience the moment. Additionally, participants are required to bring a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, personal clothing, medication, and other essential personal items. Many gear items are available for rent. Reach out to us if you are interested in seeing a trip specific packing list, or learn more about trip specific packing here.

CFI provides options to rent gear:

  • Two person tent: $30 / trip
  • Sleeping bag: $20 / trip
  • Kid sleeping pad: $7 / trip
  • Adult sleeping pad (paco pad): $15 / trip
  • Package deal: Sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and one tent per two people: $40 / trip

For any CFI summer camp, gear rentals are free!

Every CFI guide has either a Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder certification. Your trip leader will have a Wilderness First Responder certification. Anyone working with youth has passed a background check, and shuttle drivers are insured with clean driving records. Backcountry trips carry In-Reach satellite communication devices for emergencies. All guides have been evaluated by Canyonlands Field Institute as possessing the judgement, skills, and disposition required for mitigating risk in the field. 

As technology grows more and more invasive by the day, CFI promotes connection to what matters. To achieve this, all school and youth programs are unplugged and students are not permitted to bring electronic devices. Not only is there rarely cell service, devices are a distraction to our ability to connect to the present moment. On Private Group Trips or Adult Seminars, the use of devices is permitted but discouraged.

CFI works hard to ensure a positive experience for all guides and participants. Because of the unpredictable nature of outfitting, we have created a series of policies so maintain our ability to manage risk in the outdoors.

For critical information regarding cancellations, deposits, and other participant responsibilities, please view our trip policies page or contact us with any questions.

Thanks for asking...We know this can be an awkward subject. The fact is, our guides work extremely hard and appreciate getting tipped! 

On school trips tips are not expected but greatly appreciated. 

On an adult or private trip, an industry suggested tip is about 10% if your program fee, depending on your experience.

If you wish to include a gratuity, cash is preferred, but sending a check or a payment to CFI's Venmo: @canyonlandsfieldinstitute is also a great way to thank your guides for their hard work.  Tips are always pooled and distributed.

Need to Know

  • CFI staff are trained educators and guides with first aid and CPR certifications. Back-country trips carry satellite communications devices.  
  • All cook and dishware, meals, snacks, and river gear are provided by CFI.

CFI is a non-profit organization and fees are not taxed. By choosing CFI, you are supporting our efforts to provide lifechanging outdoor experiences for hundreds of children per year.  Scholarships are available on an as needed basis.