Grizzly River Run is one of two Disneyland water rides. Located in Disney’s California Adventure Park, Grizzly River Run is a white water rafting ride that takes you through the spectacular mountain scenery of Grizzly Peak.

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Grizzly River Run” by HarshLight licensed under CC BY 2.0

Fun all year round, this ride is especially popular during the summer months when Southern California temperatures can be upwards of one hundred degrees. When the pavement is hot and the sun is bright, you’ll enjoy the relief of getting drenched as you ride the rapids.

The Legend of Grizzly Peak

One of Disney’s California Adventure Park’s most prominent features is the giant mountain-like statue of a bear that seems to be howling at the sky. The grizzly bear is the symbol of California, so it makes sense why California Adventure Park put this ride center stage. Grizzly River Run is original to the park’s opening and was introduced in 2001.

It is based on an old legend of a bear named Oo-soo’-ma-te, who was turned to stone in order to watch over and protect the mountain.

Experiencing Grizzly River Run

Grizzly River Run is set amongst trees, rocks, rivers and of course, waterfalls. It is designed with nature in mind and is reminiscent of camping in the great outdoors. A wood-carved bear standing fifteen feet tall meets you at the entrance. He’s all geared up and ready to join you on your journey – wearing a helmet, life vest, and a wide grin. He’s even brought his own oar and lantern and is happy to pose for a photo with anyone passing by. 

After you pass under a sign mounted on a wooden awning, you’ll start winding your way toward the loading dock. The wait is spent mostly in the shade, has plenty of viewing spots, as the ending of the rapids will be just off to your left most of the time. Stonewalls made of round river rock and pine trees help to remind you that you’re in the California wilderness.

Once you make it through the old mining town with several footbridges that span the waters, you’ll step onto a revolving platform of wood planks in preparation for boarding your raft. The circular river rafts seats eight guests so unless you have a large party, it’s likely you and your family will be riding together. 

As you set off on your journey, the waters are mostly calm. Your raft will start gently rotating around as you pass boulders along the riverbanks. The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa looms in the distance as passerby’s watch you embark on your journey. Artifacts of the old mining town are the last things you’ll see before your boat passes through a wheelhouse and gets picked up by a large conveyor belt. 

As you crest the lift, you’ll take a gentle turn around some boulders and come face to face with rapids that carry you through a small cave with waterfalls and colorful lights. The rapids pick up from here as you pass an abandoned kayak. Get ready for your first drop! It’s not too steep, and only lasts a few seconds, but it’s the first time you’re likely to get wet. 

You move through an underground mining cave that’s reinforced by wooden beams built into the thick rock as you pick up speed and start your descent down the mountain. There’s another very small drop before you circle back around past an abandoned kayak station. They must have known what was ahead. As you float under a bridge, don’t get distracted by the raft behind you, because now comes the last and final drop of the ride. This is the big one! 

Depending on how the raft has rotated around, you will either be sliding down facing forward or backward. There’s no predicting how much water will kick up and land in the raft, or who will get the wettest, but someone is sure to get soaked. 

You won’t have your picture taken at the end of the ride, but an observation platform that directly faces the drop means at least someone will see you scream, smile or both!

One last gentle curve takes you past those waiting in line before you reach the platform where you’ll be disembarking. This is the same location as where you boarded your raft. You’ll climb a set of stairs and walk around the balcony of the red mining building before walking down another set of stairs and exiting almost exactly where you began. Only this time, you’ll be a little less dry than you were when you started.

Enjoying Grizzly River Run

Grizzly River Run is not exactly a story based ride, although you will get a sense of California nature and what it’s like to be out in the woods. Mining for gold is a significant part of California history, as is enjoying the great outdoors. Grizzly River Run doesn’t follow a narrative, but the ride begins right under the massive statue of the bear and as you travel along the river, you see old canoes and camping gear of people who have travelled the river before you. 

For the majority of the ride, your raft floats gently down the river, but those who are sensitive to motion sickness might experience some discomfort as they rock back and forth. And as the raft is not tethered to a track, the spinning might contribute to the uneasy feeling. 

It’s not entirely a thrill ride, and it’s not entirely a gentle ride. The raft jerks around as it hits the barriers on either side of the raft, and will bounce up and down as it goes over rapids, but the movement is not constant. Most of the ride is gentle as you float along. 

The two main jump scares are along the lines of the big drop at the beginning of The Pirates of the Caribbean, and lasts only a few seconds. There landing is soft due to the water and rubber bottom of the raft. Children who are not used to this kind of ride might find it a little scary, although there is nothing about the scenery that will frighten them. 

Because the raft is not tethered, and passengers are only held in by a lap belt, there is a height restriction. You must be at least 42” (107 cm) or taller to ride. And you must be prepared to get wet. 

Because the seat backs are high, there isn’t much sense of being to fall out of the raft, but the space in the middle of the raft is quite large and if not belted in correctly, you could definitely fall. This is unlike other rides where you’re facing the back of the person in front of you. 

There is no point in the ride where you are in complete darkness. Even when passing through the two “caves,” there is plenty of light. Neither is very long, and they both have breaks in the overhead where light comes through. And the only part of the ride that might be frightening to those who are afraid of heights is the first conveyor belt that takes the rafts to the top of the mountain.

It is fairly steep, but moves slowly. And although you’re surrounded by nature, there’s never a sense of being closed-in, so people who are claustrophobic should have no problem. 

Lasting seven and a half minutes, this is one of the longer rides at Disney’s California Adventure Park. As long as everyone meets the height minimum, this is definitely a ride to be enjoyed by the whole family. 

Grizzly River Run Peak Times

Because Grizzly River Run is a water ride, it is more popular in the summer when Southern California temperatures are at their highest. Wait times during the colder months rarely exceed fifteen minutes, and often you can expect to pretty much walk right up to the ride and get on.

This is usually because only a few people will risk getting wet when the air is chilly. Even during the summer it’s recommended to have spare clothes handy. Especially socks as water collects at the bottom of the raft and if yours are cotton it will take some time before they dry out. 

Summer is a different story all together. At the peak of the season, you should expect to wait up to 90 minutes in the stand-by line. As mentioned previously, most of the waiting is done in the shade, but you’ll still be on your feet waiting for quite some time if you don’t plan ahead with a FASTPASS or take advantage of the Single Rider feature. 

You can take advantage of a crowd calendar or a Disney wait times calendar, but because of inconsistency of Southern California weather, they won’t always give an accurate sense of how long you’ll be waiting. There does seem to be a trend of wait times being shorter around mid afternoon regardless whether it is warm or cold, likely because lunchtime seems like a sensible time to change clothes if they get too wet.  

When it’s expected to be warm outside and you’re looking for a way to cool down, you definitely want to take advantage of FASTPASS. Since there are a limited number of FASTPASS tickets issued for each return time window, every time they ‘sell out’, the return time is pushed ahead by an hour.

If you keep your eye on FASTPASS return times through the Disneyland mobile app, you can get a return time that works for you. Since you’re likely going to have to change, this is a handy insider advice. 

Tips for Enjoying Grizzly River Run

Here are some tips on how to maximize your experience on Grizzly River Run. 

FASTPASS – During the busiest summer months at Disneyland, (usually late May through early September) when temperatures consistently stay above eighty degrees, take advantage of FASTPASS to shorten the time you have to wait for a refreshing ride down the rapids. Keep an eye on FASTPASS return times using the Disneyland mobile app, but be cautious about waiting too long. This is one of the rides that run out of FASTPASS tickets the quickest during the summer. Don’t forget to take advantage of Single Rider if it works for your party.

Poncho – Even when it’s warm outside, you still might want to minimize how much you get soaked. A very simple plastic poncho can help with this. If you forget to pack yours, they can be purchased at the nearby Rushin’ River Outfitters.

Lockers – Take advantage of nearby lockers to store a change of clothes for after you ride Grizzly River Run, or as a place to put anything like glasses, bags or jewelry you want to keep dry. As the ride doesn’t have fast speeds, you don’t need to worry about your hat flying off, but it’s a good idea to wear one with a strap just in case.

Change of Clothes – Definitely a must have if you don’t want to spend the day walking around wet. If you don’t want to bother with a full wardrobe change consider wearing shirts and shorts made of water wicking material, or put a bathing suit under your t-shirt. It’s always a good idea to bring Ziploc bags so your clothes don’t get everything else wet.

Shoes and socks – Sandals without socks are the best way to go on this ride. Be cautious of wearing cotton socks inside shoes. They take a long time to dry once they get wet. You don’t want to walk around with soggy feet all day!

Motion Sickness – As with any ride, if you’re prone to motion sickness, pack some medication to help you. The raft free-floats along the rapids, so while it’s fairly well-contained, it can still feel like you’re on the water at times.

Conclusion

Disneyland Resort and Disney’s California Adventure Park at top destinations for summer vacations. Grizzly River Run not only offers relief from the heat, it’s a fun adventure for the family. For those just starting out, it’s one of the gentler thrill rides. And with the beautiful mountain scenery, you’ll feel like you’re on a camping trip in the Happiest Place on Earth. Grizzly River Run is a five-star ride for sure. 

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