california rafting trips & vacations

South Fork American 1/2 Day PM Gorge Run

North Fork American River is a GO this Spring

Plan Your 2024 Vacation

Top 25 Summer Activities in Northern California

Summer has arrived and these 25 activities are sure to help you beat the heat with fun in the sun for adults and kids alike!

Here is a list of the top 25 things to do in Gold Country, a quick drive from Sacramento, and close to the San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, the Redwoods, Yosemite, and more! These adventures are perfect for familes, couples, bachelor and bachelorette parties, corporate groups, and youth groups! These are even accessible for a  weekend expedition from Los Angeles. If you’re thinking of coming to Northern California, DON’T MISS THESE GREAT ACTIVITIES!

American River Rafting, Water Conditions, American River Rafting Conditions

1. White Water Rafting

California is a white water rafting Mecca. We boast some of the most technical most challenging rivers in the world, as well as river trips suitable for young kids (ages 4+). With over 13 permits up and down California we can do it all. We offer trips on the American River, Truckee River, Klamath, and Trinity rivers all summer long!

Want to see and experience Gold Country from all aspects in one package? California Outdoor Retreats and Expeditions invites you to stay in the comforts of the Nugget B&B, invigorate the senses on our guided hikes, relax/ restore and strengthen the body in our yoga classes, build communication on our ropes courses, be in the moment with nature –  let your wild heart run on our whitewater trips and sip it all down with a glass of vino.


2. Fishing

There are many options for fishing all over Northern California, but what better way to fish than to combo with a rafting trip. Raft California is pleased to now offer fishing trips on the Forks of the American River, Trinity, East Carson and more! Catch huge trouts and browns on our guided fishing tours. We provide all the gear and meals, you are also welcome to bring your own fishing gear.

3. Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Want to hone your balancing skills with a fun sport? Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) is the way to go. The South Fork American river has a wonderful class 2 section from the Gold Discovery state park to Greenwood, or even check out Folsom lake and Lake Tahoe if flat water SUP is more your style. Check out located in Auburn, CA.


4. Gold Panning/History

Want to find a hobby that pays for itself? Maybe even a bit more if you’re lucky? Get back to your California historical roots and give gold panning a try. You can even take lessons and learn about the rich history of the gold Rush and why California became a state. 

5. Boating/Jet Ski/ Wakeboard

Ready to get your boat in the water? Northern Cali has great lakes to explore which include Folsom Lake, Lake Clementine, and of course the ever gorgeous Lake Tahoe! All are close to Sacramento and the Bay Area.


6. Kayaking

Whitewater kayaking allows you to connect with the river in a beautiful individual way. Kayaking challenges your skills and brings you closer to nature and yourself. Take a lesson and rent everything you need to get started!

7. River Surfing

Yes it’s a thing. A very fun, wet dynamic challenging thing. On the South Fork American River Accessible from Camp Lotus “Barking Dog” wave can be surfed in a kayak, in a raft, in a river board or even a surfboard (just be sure to bring a wetsuit ? )    



8. Riverboarding

Think boogie boarding, but in a river. River boards are large high float bodyboards, paired with fins, elbow pads and a helmet; nothing gets you closer the the action of whitewater! Boards can be ordered locally through

9. Camping/Glamping

Get out of town and into the woods! Coloma has fantastic camping. 
No tent? No problem all these resorts offer everything you need including canvas tent cabins.  Other great campgrounds locations include:


10. Festivals

Viva la musica!

Travel back in Time to the Gold Rush Era!

  • Coloma Gold Rush Live – Live through a reenactment of gold Rush history at the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park. Costumes, gold panning and a real life blacksmith await as you are transportation back to 1849 to live the life of a gold miner. Great fun for kids!


11. Paragliding

Take flight and ride the air currents. Beginner lessons available in the hills of Coloma at Cronan Ranch. Once you have some experience under your belt take an advanced course at Sagebrush.

12. Mountain Biking/ Hiking

Solid trails all around the area allow you to bike or hike to your heart’s content. Cronan ranch, Magnolia trailhead, Dave Moore nature area, Salmon falls & American river trail. Check out for more details!

13. Yoga

Finding your flow while visiting the American River… Sol Flow Yoga Studio has beginner designed Gentle Flow classes for everyBody and for advanced yogi’s moving with breath Vinyasa flow to light the fire within. 

14. Longboard Skateboarding/Inline Skates/ Biking

The El Dorado Trail stretches 8 miles with most of the trail being paved friendly for long boards and skates! Just down Hwy 50 Folsom trails are perfect for walking/biking/skating while some are great way to view the luscious views of the green belt of the American River, others offer more of a community parks.  

Placerville State Park is a well maintained skate park for skateboarders to have fun in a friendly environment.

15. Equestrian Trips

Along the American River in the Coloma-Lotus Valley of Hwy 49 Equestrian enthused trail riders have several well rounded trails to choose from that are horse friendly a few with wide open spaces for horse trailers, and all with breathtaking views of the American River. Trails begin in the valley from Greenwood creek and wind through enchanting woods and wilds down through Salmon Falls.


16. Wine Tasting

In the Coloma valley there are several wineries that offer a variety of red and white wines to satisfy the wine connoisseur and even that tasty summertime sangria to cool off with. If you are looking to satisfy that ever craving sweet tooth Heart to Heart winery offers a unique chocolate pairing – taste premium wines perfectly paired with Cello Chocolate, a handcrafted bean-to-bar chocolate company founded in 2013 by Ned and Debi Russell in the Sierra Foothills. 

17. Golf

Ready to hit the driving range? El Dorado county has what you need ,offering scenic Golf courses that are challenging yet available for new golfers to experience and are easy on the wallet. Visit Cold Springs Golf Course where you can enjoy golf your way – unlimited play, comfortable facilities and the best value of any private golf club in Northern California. 

18. Ziplines/Ropes Course

Have an itch for some outdoor adrenaline? In the heart of the Gold Country visit the Coloma Resort’s High Ropes Challenge Course! This is a highly effective physical, mental and emotional growth experience! It is designed to increase participant’s skills in communication, problem-solving, team development and leadership in a safe and fun atmosphere. This is great for youth groups, youth camps, corporate groups and families!

Just up hwy 50 Tahoe TreeTop Adventure Park offers zipline fun with interesting obstacles in the mix!  

19. Climbing

Auburn Recreation Area offers scattered boulders and smaller rocky walls tucked amid a maze of rivers, canyons and dirt tracks in the Gold Country foothills.

20. Get Hitched!

Have a special someone in your life your ready to tie the knot with? Coloma is a dream destination with spectacular venues located all around the valley. Romantic riverfront sites in a serene outdoor environment, beautiful vistas overlooking wineries, or deep forests surrounded by nature. Visit

21. Have a Bachelor/Bachelorette Party!

Our Wine/Whitewater trip is a perfect outing for Bachelor and Bachelorette parties, and great for a combined adventure! Visit wineries and breweries and spend the next day rafting!

Only want to come for a day trip? Our South Fork American River trips are suitable for groups of all skill levels. You can even rent out our exclusive riverside group camping area. Available for groups who are not rafting too!

22. Kiteboarding

Only 30 min from Sacramento, Folsom Lake is a great location for kiteboarding. Kiteboarding uses the power of the wind to rocket you across the water. Part surfing, part sailing, totally awesome. Besure to adopt your own personal moves, whether your catching big air to do some tricks, or just going as fast as you can, this unique extreme sport is sure to get your heart pumping.

23. Motorcycle rides

Love hitting the open road on 2 wheels? The loop rolling through El Dorado National Forests is perfect for you!

24. 4×4 Trails

The famous Rubicon Trail boasts 80 miles (130 km) of 4×4 trails east of Sacramento.

25. Have a BBQ at our Local parks

Henningsen Lotus Park is a gem of a picnic or hanging the river spot in El Dorado County. This beautiful park has great river access, bbq pits, and plenty of space for tons of activities. Henningsen has a paved wheelchair friendly loop around the park and scenic trails that lead to great river spots to play in the water. Parking is only $5 for day use or $20 for the whole year! Not to mention 2 great baseball/softball fields and a great playground for kids!




*Please note our Truckee River Rafting operations are run by Tributary Whitewater Tours.


Sacramento Sportsmen’s Expo

Enter to win a $250 river rafting gift card! The Tributary team will be at the expo this upcoming weekend January 18-21 and we would

Tributary Blog

Continue reading… Thanks for joining us here – want to read more about the changes coming for 2023?   A New Tributary in 2023