“Forward paddle! Back paddle! High side!” Nothing bonds a group like plunging down Class III whitewater. Try rafting the South Fork of the American River. It’s the perfect combination of adrenaline-pumping rapids and downtime opportunities for water fights and riverside lounging. Our recommendation: Divide the 20-mile-long stretch into two 10-mile days. You’ll tackle those friendly rapids: Meat Grinder, Troublemaker, and Satan’s Cesspool. And at night, after a fireside feast, you’ll be camping with your friends on a bank by the river, swapping stories under the stars. Happy whitewater dreams.
BONUS: Looking for a little more bump and grind? Run the Middle Fork of the American River and brave the Tunnel Chute rapid, a 15-foot-wide slide that shoots you through a rock tunnel.
A variety of companies offer trips on the American. Check out nonprofit ARTA, which organizes excursions on both the South and the Middle Forks: 800-323-2782.