The Lower San Juan River – School Program

Outdoor Education comes to life on the Lower San Juan

The lower stretch of the San Juan river features remarkable geology, high canyon walls, and whitewater rapids, and the epic twists and turns of Goosenecks State Park. Students develop teamwork, communication, self-management skills while navigating this remote backcountry stretch of river. Throughout the trip, youth participate in all aspects of multi-day wilderness expeditions through field studies, river skills, navigation, camp life, and hiking. The San Juan river is divided into two sections: the Upper San Juan and Lower San Juan. These stretches can be done independently or strung together for an epic expedition.

Outdoor Educational Adventure

Lose yourself in the meandering canyon walls of the Lower San Juan. This trip is perfect for connecting to what’s important whether its connection to self, each other, or nature. Throughout the trip there are great opportunities to go on side explorations including pioneer cabins, fossil sites, and overlooks.

Teamwork and SEL

On the lower San Juan, youth participate in all aspects of multi-day wilderness expeditions through field studies, river skills, navigation, camp life, and hiking.

Run the Upper and Lower San Juan together!

Start this trip by rafting the Upper San Juan first.
Packaged price is $925 for a 7 day 6 night trip.

The San Juan River: Mexican Hat, UT to Clay Hills, UT
Call 435 259-7750 for availability
5 days and 4 nights
Group Size:
15 – 25 participants
Age Range:
6th Grade and older
$795 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 $20 BLM Special Area Fee
  • Price includes a Navajo Parks and Recreation special area fee of $15 per night
  • Program fee does not include gratuity. Our educators work extremely hard and appreciate getting tipped.

See other trips in these categories:

Trip Narrative

This stretch starts in Mexican Hat, Utah and ends in Clay Hills, Utah. The Lower San Juan can be done independently, or as a continuation of the Upper San Juan.

This trip has it all: Meandering canyons, human history, exciting rapids, fascinating geology, and most importantly, truly remote backcountry. Right around the corner from the launch ramp, Gypsum Rapid will test your teamwork and abilities. From there, the canyon walls rise higher as you lose your sense of direction in Goosenecks State Park. Don’t worry, though, just continue downriver! Surrounded by intricate layers of sandstones and limestones your boats will venture deeper into the canyon, passing by historic homesteads, side canyons for exploring, big horn sheep and other wildlife. 

You will pull over on beaches to set up camps for the evening, cook hearty meals, and participate in CFI led activities that promote connection to place within this unique landscape.

Continuing along, you’ll encounter more rapids (watch out for Government Rapid!), and more areas for exploration until the canyon walls loosen up again as you approach Clay Hills Crossing. This trip is all about connecting to self, to each other, and to nature. What better way is there to learn about the world around us than unplugging and experiencing it first hand?

This trip is water level dependent. Call Canyonlands Field Institute for latest conditions.


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.