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Hiking Arizona’s Marble Canyon and Vermilion Cliffs: Off-the-Beaten-Path

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Program #6113RJ

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7 Days | 6 Nights
Love to learn in a small-group setting? This collection of programs has at most 10-24 participants.
See our Small Group programs.
EasyFor people looking to exercise their minds more than their bodies. Minimal walking and not too many stairs.
ModerateThese programs get you on your feet and include activities such as walking up to a mile in a day through a city and standing in a museum for a few hours.
ActiveFor people who enjoy walking as much as two miles a day, perhaps to explore historic neighborhoods or a nature trail.
Moderately ChallengingFor hardy explorers who enjoy a good physical challenge, spending most of their days on the go.
ChallengingGet ready to keep up with our highest-energy group. These demanding, and rewarding, programs are for seasoned outdoor enthusiasts.
John from Williamsburg, MI Number of programs attended: 15
Date attended: 11/01/15 - 11/07/15
This was my 16th Road Scholar trip. I didn't read the reviews prior to attending this program because I had already hiked two of the five locations the program was scheduled to use. Once the trip started, I found I had made a mistake. Mike Young (the leader) went to the same general areas I had been to on a prior RS trip, but went much further, and on more difficult routes. At one point we had to rappel down into the canyon without the aid of a climbing harness with the rope secured to a hunk of driftwood held in place by rocks we carried in. The major issue I have with this program is that there were 19 participants, which is far too many for off trail hiking with only two leaders. There were many times when I rounded a corner, and the group was nowhere in sight, and there was no hint of which way to go since we were hiking on rock. Both leaders were at the front of the group because the assistant was learning the route. There was no attempt to accommodate people with different abilities other than telling you not to come on the hike if you couldn't keep up! Mike Young had an obvious chip on his shoulder because he felt RS didn't do an adequate job of screening participants. If Road Scholar reduces the number of participants, I could recommend this program, if you are strong, agile and love exploring difficult routes, and hiking off trail.

Carolyn from Alexandria, VA Number of programs attended: 2
Date attended: 10/18/15 - 10/24/15
Another benefit of this program was the patient coaching we received on hiking technique, including efficient use of poles, keeping weight over the feet on slanted slick rock, taking small steps up loose rock slopes, avoiding "quicksand" in the stream beds, etc. I really appreciated that instruction.

Elizabeth from Thousand Oaks, CA Number of programs attended: 6
Date attended: 10/18/15 - 10/24/15
Definately challenaging,both mental and physical, however the rewards are greater. Spectacular views,moments of silence, all lead by Mike, and Charles, with experience,caring and humor, along with great knowledge and love for this wonderful area.

Seamus from Lethbridge, AB Number of programs attended: 9
Date attended: 10/18/15 - 10/24/15
The Marble Canyon program is so good we did it again. It's an energetic, challenging, energizing and educational trek through some amazing settings: slot canyons, mesas, and the Colorado River canyon above the Grand Canyon. It's may take you out of your comfort zone, but that's the whole point. Mike and Charles are there to share their deep knowledge of the geology, biology, ethnobotany, and more. Go for it!

Carol from North Hills, CA Number of programs attended: 3
Date attended: 10/18/15 - 10/24/15
Definitely a "challenging" program. Well worth the experience. Had a great time with the leaders and other participants.

Brenda from Henrico, VA Number of programs attended: 1
Date attended: 10/18/15 - 10/24/15
Mike and Charles are great leaders and teachers (complementary strengths), who obviously love this land. Indeed, each day was an “off the beaten track” adventure; there are no trails, no level ground and plenty of rocks and fun challenges. We ventured into washes, twisted slot canyons, climbed like mountain goats, and squeezed up chimney rocks… and on the final day we hiked up an actual Sand Hill Crack… exactly that. Loved that we never saw anyone else during our day and how exhilarating to have our final lunch on the rim of the Vermilion Cliffs with the broad valley below. Our weather was challenging (meaning some rain); however, this truly added another dimension of beauty. My one disappointment was not climbing Cathedral Rock. However, it was a true adventure with excellent leaders, stunning vistas and great camaraderie among the group. If you decide to take this RS trip; be sure you’re in excellent shape. It is a rare privilege to see the incredible detail and broad landscapes of the Marble Canyon and Vermilion Cliffs area.

Lois from Williamsburg, MI Number of programs attended: 16
Date attended: 11/01/15 - 11/07/15
My husband and I just finished the Marble Canyon trip (Nov. 1 - 7, 2015), and it was a real stretch for me. The program was too challenging for my abilities, but the difficulties I had were my own fault. I was not in good enough shape to really enjoy the hiking, though the guides were extremely helpful to me (and others) whenever we were in dicey situations. That happened often. The scenery and terrain were fabulous. But from now on, when it comes to walking trips, I will not register for challenging ones, but will stick to those rated as moderately challenging. I've done 8 or 10 of those, and they suit me better. It seemed like everyone else in our group of 19 was a much stronger hiker than I was, several having done treks in Nepal or Patagonia, or just completed backpacking the John Muir Trail. I am more of a casual hiker, and am not used to hiking fast and in difficult terrain. Scrambling over rocks or across slanted rock faces is not my cup of tea. You will enjoy this program if your main outdoor activity is serious hiking. I spend a lot of time biking, canoeing, kayaking and x-c skiing in the Midwest, but none of those prepared me for this trip. I should have believed the reviews, which are all quite accurate. I did feel that the group was too big; I have been on 16 RS trips – always choosing the "small group", and this is the biggest one I've ever seen. The food was good, and plentiful. The motel room was very dark, so we could not read without a headlamp, or see a keyboard for typing. Mike Young and Jeff Strang, our guides, were both knowledgeable and helpful.

Kathleen from Spring Hill, FL Number of programs attended: 3
Date attended: 10/18/15 - 10/24/15
This was a challenging and thrilling program for me! We seldom followed trails but hiked up and over rocks, through canyons, and up cliffs that looked impossible to climb. Our leaders, Mike and Charles, were experienced, full of knowledge of the area, and great teachers and cheerleaders. It was clear how much they loved the area and leading us through it. Just make sure you are willing to climb up and down big rocks and on trails along the cliff that look like they are Mountain Goat trails!

Douglas from Pittsford, NY Number of programs attended: 6
Date attended: 10/04/15 - 10/10/15
The program was definitely challenging. The physical challenges (day hikes, off-trail, at altitudes above 5,000 feet) but the mental challenges were even more difficult. We were required to make ascents and descents that required you to use back, legs, thighs, and forearms to support your weight. The spectacular views more than justified the efforts required on this trip. The shapes of the rocks, sculpted by wind and water, were unimaginably beautiful.

Wallis from Ingleside, TX Number of programs attended: 8
Date attended: 10/04/15 - 10/10/15
This program was challenging. We enjoyed many unique rock formations in places that are not normally open to the public. Our group was lucky when we hiked in the rain, up the Chocolate Cliffs, and witnessed water cascading over the cliffs into the canyon below. Our group and leaders were a great mix of people and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Susan from Brookline, MA Number of programs attended: 3
Date attended: 10/04/15 - 10/10/15
This was not a "traditional" hiking trip. We climbed over big boulders and squeezed through narrow slot canyons in slippery conditions with not much to hold on to. There were no trails to walk on. This was truly an "off the beaten path" adventure that required stamina, balance and a sense of adventure. Our guides motivated us and kept us safe. Training for this trip should include more than just walking several miles a day; i.e., squats, lunges, push/pullups. This trip definitely lived up to its "challenging" rating.

Edda from Massanutten, VA Number of programs attended: 6
Date attended: 04/06/15 - 04/12/15
Great trip. Mike Young is a great leader. Hiking was challenging, to enjoy it you should be in good/great shape.

Linda from Kirkland, WA Number of programs attended: 3
Date attended: 03/08/15 - 03/14/15
This is a fabulous program that proved to be a personal wake-up call for me. As a result of this hiking experience, I plan to be in much better condition for my next 'challenging' Road Scholar program. I'm really glad I participated in this Marble Canyon event.

Charlene from Lodi, CA Number of programs attended: 10
Date attended: 09/28/14 - 10/04/14
This hiking experience was a strenuous, adventure-packed week of discovery for me in many ways. Sometimes I felt like a cross between a rock-hopper penguin and Spiderman, as we hiked, scaled, scrambled, and squeezed our way off the beaten path. Our knowledgeable, informative, and careful guides led us from cliff tops to slot canyons while teaching us about the monumental and diverse forces that continue to shape the landscape. As one of the slowest and most tentative of the participants, I appreciated the support and comraderie my companions as we traversed the various landscapes. We experienced the grandeur of the area in many ways, from the moments of silence, to the humorous anecdotes of our group. For me, it was in some ways uncomfortable in its physical demands, but I experienced a great sense of accomplishment and increased confidence in my abilities. Any participants in this adventure should be in excellent physical shape and ready to experience an incredible landscape in a way that few people are privileged to do.

Nancy from Largo, FL Number of programs attended: 2
Date attended: 10/19/14 - 10/25/14
This turned out to be a physical, emotional and spiritual experience. The hikes were demanding and required strength and commitment that resulted in a feeling of "I did it!" The accomplishment was made with group support and fostered an emotional tie among members and leaders. All this was done in a setting so beautiful and vast that the spirit was refreshed. Do this program if you are physically fit!

Michael from Atlanta, GA Number of programs attended: 7
Date attended: 10/19/14 - 10/25/14
This program definitely lives up to its billing as both challenging and remote. I did the trip that spent the entire time at Marble Canyon. As a group we pushed the envelope of endurance and went to breathtakingly beautiful and rugged locations. In four full days of hiking we saw only five other hikers. I am 73 and came to this program after previously hiking the Grand Canyon rim to rim, Mounts Mitchell & Washington as well as Pike's Peak, and Kilimanjaro in the last 5 years. It is a trip that will strengthen your heart and bring joy to your soul. October 27, 2014

Lillian from Leasburg, MO Number of programs attended: 1
Date attended: 09/28/14 - 10/04/14
We gained lots of confidence in ourselves on this trip. We scrambled over rocks and climbed up to incredibly high pinnacles!! We squeezed through narrow canyons and slid down ropes into incredible rock formation canyons. The hike on the Kaibab Trail was challenging but doable and very informative. The guides were very knowledgeable about the geology of the area. They were very supportive, encouraging and helpful in getting us up around and through all the various challenges we had. It was a fabulous trip. The scenery is breathtaking and we are looking forward to going back and doing another trip in the near future!

Barbara from Unionville, CT Number of programs attended: 1
Date attended: 09/28/14 - 10/04/14
Fantastic! The places we went were beautiful, high up and way down. Leader Mike (and Mike) so knowledgeable about geology, plants, animals, and more. He kept us laughing and guessing about next challenge. Group dynamics great! Accommodations comfortable with helpful, welcoming staff esp in Marble Canyon. Program definitely challenging!

Alan from Leasburg, MO Number of programs attended: 1
Date attended: 09/28/14 - 10/04/14
Beautiful scenery, renewed confidence in abilities, highly educational, checked off item on bucket list, comfortable accommodations, full days of activity, great hikes and scrambling off trails (loved it), secluded adventures for our group, friendly people in group and staff, Went to top of the world at Cathedral to under ground slot canyons at Waterhole

Gayle from Fort Myers, FL Number of programs attended: 7
Date attended: 09/28/14 - 10/04/14
This really tapped into my inner Tomasina Sawyer. Every morning waking up knowing our leader, Mike, had a new adventure planned which would take us up, up, up or down, down, down....and loving every moment. The destinations were superb, but the real delight was truly in the process of getting there. I stopped at an Anasazi settlement on my way home with the cave dwellings nestled in the cliffs half way between the growing of crops on the rim and the access to water far below. I've always asked myself, "How in the world did they do that?" I now have an inkling........

Valerie from McKeesport, PA Number of programs attended: 2
Date attended: 09/28/14 - 10/04/14
Exceptional trip with a variety of fun and challenging terrain. Each day offered different breathtaking views and the leaders were extremely helpful, knowledgeable, and fun.

Cathy from Boise, ID Number of programs attended: 4
Date attended: 04/06/14 - 04/12/14
I waited for several months to write my review because I thought maybe the “high” I felt afterward would wear off. Maybe it really wasn't as awesome as I gushed to everyone when I got home. Well, it was real, folks, and had everything I love: lots of hiking, lots of red rocks, solitude, beauty, new knowledge of plants, animals, and geology, fantastic group, and the best guides: Mike Young and Charles Goodrich. Oh yeah, and laughter, so much laughter! And...a few long moments of...quiet...listening...just being there, including the best one while floating on the Colorado. But here's the very best part: after I figured out what “off the beaten path” hiking involved, I started calling the experience “Outward Bound for Fogies.” After you have squeezed down through a sandstone crack, rappelled off a rock face, walked and run across inclined surfaces (“trust your boots!,”) and climbed/descended through many, many rocks which may or may not have achieved their angle of repose, and which are definitely not glued down, you have a new awareness of yourself and what you are capable of. I'm still on that same “high.”

Carolyn from Pleasanton, CA Number of programs attended: 1
Date attended: 04/06/14 - 04/12/14
Absolutely LOVED the experience and plan to do another Road Scholar Program. My sister and I shared this time together as first timers. We both love hiking and can't seem to stop talking about what we did and that we were thrilled by every turn of every day! Wonderful!

Gavin from Waterville, OH Number of programs attended: 6
Date attended: 04/06/14 - 04/12/14
This is an excellent hike, climb, scramble and the leader Mike Young made sure that we were given the information to do the climbs and the slides and the repelling. This is definitely a level six Road Scholar program and if you consider it you should be in really good shape. Make sure you wear hi-top rugged boots, have hiking poles and 2-3 liter bottles for water. Mike gave excellent instructions each day what to take and that helped. Charles, the second leader, was the back up and made sure the end of the line was fine. Together they were an awesome combination and I felt safe even on some really challenging adventures. Mike's knowledge of flowers and creatures and geology was astounding! What amazed me was the whole group of 18 did all of the hikes except one optional hike and the Cathedral Rock. This was the first time in 6 programs that was the case. I think part of that was Mike's ability to instruct us all about the art of climbing, sliding on our back-side and "monster walking" in sand. I never felt that we were put at risk even though the days were very tough and challenging. The food was excellent and the kitchen staff made every effort to serve us well. They even made vegetarian and gluten-free meals for some. That was great. This is an adventure that I recommend only to those who are able to do strenuous hikes and love to be in the desert. It was the best program I have been on and the combination of all that I have mentioned made this a few days that will live with me for the rest of my life. I think this is one of Road Scholar's premiere programs!

Ann from Peoria, IL Number of programs attended: 6
Date attended: 04/06/14 - 04/12/14
This was a fantastic program in all respects. Be sure to take a "camelback"and good hiking shoes!

Linda from Kailua Kona, HI Number of programs attended: 1
Date attended: 04/06/14 - 04/12/14
As with many others, this was my first Road Scholar trip. I had no expectations but loved every day and the challenges that were presented physically. I gained new skills for my hiking "tool belt" and am in awe at my accomplishments. This venture is not for the light hearted as the hiking was strenuous but the leaders encouraged and "pulled" us all along allowing us to prove that we could do it. This "off the beaten path" trip takes you on unmarked trails with only your group. The passion for the outdoors and nature was evident with our great leaders, Mike Young and Charles Goodrich. Remember everyone: "It's not the distance but what you see along the way." (As quoted by our leader Mike - Thank you.)

Mary from Rohnert Park, CA Number of programs attended: 4
Date attended: 04/06/14 - 04/12/14
We were hoping for a physical challenge as well as a glimpse of a place unique and photogenic. Our expectations were vastly exceeded. Flying over this rugged and vivid stretch of Arizona evokes the question, "Is it possible to hike down there?" It is, and we did! We viewed the sky from chasms deep in the earth, and viewed the earth from high outcroppings made of sandstone the color and texture of finely ground gemstones. "Off the Beaten Track" lives up to it's name--the trails are not widely known or easily accessed. Our extraordinary guides were the energizers, enlightening, encouraging, and supporting us. They also kept us in stitches, while expertly preventing anyone from actually needing stitches.

Katherine from Honolulu, HI Number of programs attended: 1
Date attended: 04/06/14 - 04/12/14
This program allows access to a part of the Southwest that most would probably not see without knowledgeable guides, as we did. The information that was imparted during the trip was mind-boggling. It was all done in a fun and friendly fashion. The trip exceeded our expectations ! We would return again.

Ellen from Silver Spring, MD Number of programs attended: 6
Date attended: 04/06/14 - 04/12/14
This is an amazing hiking adventure. I had previously done the combined Marble Canyon/Grand Canyon trip and wanted to get back as a more experienced hiker and to spend the entire week at Marble Canyon. It exceeded my expectations for a challenge and enjoyment and Mike Young is still one of the best leaders ever!

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"Reflections in the Colorado River" Uploaded By: Eileen
"Reflections in the Colorado River" Uploaded By: Eileen

"Climbing Cathedral Rock at Lee's Ferry" Uploaded By: Eileen

"Amazing canyon scenery" Uploaded By: Eileen

"Rappelling in Waterholes Slot Canyon" Uploaded By: James Attended: 04/17/11 - 04/23/11

"Paria River from cliff opening" Uploaded By: James Attended: 04/17/11 - 04/23/11

"Hiking in Marble Canyon" Uploaded By: Sandy Attended: 11/01/09 - 11/07/09
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Our Value Promise To You

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at no additional cost on this date ...
6 nights of accommodations
17 meals: 6 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 6 dinners
2 Expert-led lectures
5 Field trips


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