The Lower San Juan River – Private Group Trip

A guided trip down the lower San Juan River is perfect for families and groups

Take your group on an unforgettable trip down a unique desert river! The Lower San Juan has it all: archeological resources, side canyon hiking, geological wonders, and even rapids. Your backcountry trip will provide the perfect amount of time for slowing down to reconnect as a group or family. This outdoor adventure features comfortable camping, hot meals, breathtaking scenery, and quality time as a group.

Guided Backcountry Adventure

The lower San Juan truly departs from society as it meanders through the twists and turns of Goosenecks State Park. You will awake with the sunrise and tell stories under the stars. Let us worry about the details, so you can connect to what is really important – each other!

Rafting, Hiking, History, Culture, and more!

Full of ancient and modern history, the Lower San Juan has a number of chances for side explorations along the canyon. You may see pioneer cabins, breathtaking overlooks, waterfalls, or rock inscriptions. Relaxing around camp is also an option!

The San Juan River: Mexican Hat, UT to Clay Hills, UT
Call 435 259-7750 for availability
5 day, 4 night
Group Size:
6 - 25

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.
  • Can be combined with the Upper San Juan River. Packaged price for 7 day, 6 night trip: $1,795
  • Fee includes $20 BLM Special Area use fee
  • Fee includes Navajo Parks and Recreation Department use fee of $15/day

See other trips in these categories:

Trip Narrative

This trip 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 paddling skills! 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.

After the day’s boating, you’ll pull over on a beach to set up camp. You will quickly become accustomed to camplife on the river! Relax to the sounds of the water while reading from our trip library, or explore around camp while you wait for your guides to cook dinner. After dinner, enjoy the campfire and watch the day turn to night. This remote area features some of the darkest skies in the United States. Greet the morning with a hot cup of coffee, and breakfast before packing up for the day’s float.

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.   
  • Tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads are available for rent from 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.