If you just want to get your feet wet—pun intended—but don’t want a white-knuckle adventure, sign up for a do-it-yourself float on Upper Cache Creek, about two hours northeast of San Francisco. Paddle your own rubber raft through the foamy-but-friendly rapids of Cache Canyon, then pat yourself on the back for being such a finely skilled captain.
Cache Creek, which flows out of Clear Lake in Lake County, offers fun but tame Class II rapids—plus a couple of keep-you-on-your-toes Class IIIs that offer brief thrills. That makes it mild enough for first-timers to have a blast commandeering their own boats. This trip is ideal for people who don’t want to share a raft with a bunch of strangers—typically the case on organized trips on other rivers. You can go it alone in a little two-seater inflatable raft, or invite your favorite first mate to climb aboard and grab a paddle too.
One- and two-day DIY trips start near the Central Valley town of Rumsey along State Highway 16, located in the neighboring Yolo County. The season generally runs June through July. While you can just go cool off for a day, the two-day trip runs the full 20 miles of Cache Creek’s sheer volcanic canyon—a wonderfully scenic mini-adventure. Cache Creek Regional Park is also home to a campground with sites, restrooms, and a general store.
Two rafting companies, Cache Canyon River Trips and Whitewater Adventures, provide equipment, instruction, shuttles, meals, and camping gear and sites. Whitewater even shows free movies—with popcorn!—under the stars on Friday nights.