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On the Road: National Parks of the West

Program Number: 19584RJ
Start and End Dates:
10/13/2013 - 10/25/2013; 6/1/2016 - 6/13/2016; 9/22/2016 - 10/4/2016;
Duration: 12 nights
Location: San Francisco, California
Price starting at: $3,299.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: On the Road; National Parks
Meals: 35; 12 Breakfasts, 11 Lunches, 12 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

Gain spectacular insights into the dramatic national parks of the West on this itinerant study of six world-famous gems of American wilderness. Join local experts for lectures and active experiences inside Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Joshua Tree, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks.


• In the shadow of El Capitan and Half Dome, marvel at the beauty of Yosemite Valley.
• Walk amid cathedrals of Giant Sequoias to the General Grant, one of the five largest trees on earth.
• View a Grand Canyon sunset at its rim and walk across the Colorado River on the Navajo Bridge.

Activity Particulars

Walking up to two miles a day; terrain from soft and sandy to paved, uneven and bumpy. Must be able to carry luggage. Elevations up to 9,115 feet.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival San Francisco, Calif., 1 night; coach to Yosemite National Park, 2 nights; coach to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park 1 night; coach to Victorville, Calif., 1 night; coach to Joshua Tree National Park, 1 night; coach to Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz., 2 nights; coach to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, 2 nights; coach to Zion National Park, Utah, 2 nights; coach to Las Vegas, Nev., departure.

Coordinated by Road Scholar.

San Francisco

A stunning city with a colorful past and vibrant present, San Francisco offers legendary landmarks — the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, cable cars and elegant Victorian homes — along with spectacular cityscapes and views of bay and bridges.


Set in California's Sierra Nevada range, Yosemite is referred to as the crown jewel of the National Park system. The park offers a changing spectacle of unique glacially-carved valleys, granite monoliths, lush meadows, thundering waterfalls, and deep alpine lakes at any time of year.

Sequoia National Park

The second national park designated in this country, Sequoia National Park encompasses vast and magnificent terrain. From mountain peaks, deep canyons and immense Redwood trees, this park is a gem among gems.

Twenty Nine Palms

Twentynine Palms is a city in San Bernardino County in southeastern California. Established as a town in the 1920s after many years as a wagon stop for Mormon migrants, today Twentynine Palms is a gateway to Joshua Tree National Park, which includes segments of both the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert.

Grand Canyon National Park

Within the borders of its 1.2 million acres, this World Heritage Site offers bikers, hikers, rafters and campers everything from breathtaking vistas to high adventure. Its 277 miles of raw rock and water continue to amaze generations of visitors.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon, famous for its unique geology, consists of a series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved from the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah. Erosion and rainwater have shaped the colorful limestone rock into bizarre shapes including slot canyons, windows, fins and spires called "hoodoos."

Las Vegas (Nevada)

Located in the Mojave Desert, Las Vegas is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Between the world-class entertainment and gambling on “The Strip” and the region’s amazing natural resources including beautiful Red Rock Canyon it is clear why people love this desert community.

Comfortable hotels, inns and lodges.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
David Lukas

David Lukas is a naturalist and writer based in the Sierra Nevada. He has been teaching natural history and bird programs for 16 years and is the author of "Wild Birds of California," and the co-author of "Sierra Nevada Natural History." He is currently at work on a field guide to birds of the Sierra Nevada. David has traveled the world extensively, spending a year in Borneo as a member of the Harvard Research Team and in the Peruvian Amazon under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution.
Mark Wheeler

Mark Wheeler has a M.S. in education and has spent nearly thirty years hiking and studying the mountain and desert landscapes of the West Coast. Mark has worked extensively with wilderness-adventure programming groups such as Outward Bound, training both students and instructors in wilderness travel skills and group dynamics. A working writer, he has focused on subjects about the natural world, and is near completion of a book on traveling alone in the wilderness for extended periods.
Darrell McMahon

Darrell McMahon has worked in natural resource management for more than three decades and has extensive experience as a wildlife biologist, entomologist and habitat biologist. In addition to teaching college courses in geology and natural history, Darrell has taught at Dixie State College and Southern Utah University the past seven years and has knowledge of natural history, forest ecology and wildlife.
Martin Tyner

At the age of 19, Martin Tyner was hired as curator of birds of prey at Busch Gardens, Calif., and was soon working in the movie industry as a trainer of big cats, elephants, primates, sea mammals and raptors. He is the founder of the Southwest Wildlife Foundation, a non-profit wildlife rescue and environmental education organization. With the help of his Golden Eagle, Bud, they received a donation of 22.6 acres of property for the development of a permanent wildlife rescue facility in Utah.
Stanley Beus

From his early days growing up on a dairy farm in Idaho, Dr. Stanley Beus quickly became fascinated with nature. He earned a Ph.D. in geology from UCLA before beginning a career as an exploration geologist, and later became the first head of the Geology Department at Northern Arizona University. Dr. Beus has been both a field and class instructor for Road Scholar programs for over 20 years, and has enjoyed bringing geology to life for literally thousands of participants.
Meals and Lodgings
   Doubletree Hotel San Francisco Airport
  San Francisco, CA 1 night
   Yosemite Lodge
  Yosemite National Park, CA 2 nights
   Wuksachi Lodge
  Sequoia Kings Canyon Parks 1 night
   Hilton Garden Inn
  Victorville, CA 1 night
   Hotel 29 Palms Inn & Suites
  Twentynine Plams, CA Joshua Tree Park 1 night
   South Rim Lodge
  Grand Canyon National Park 2 nights
   Best Western Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel
  Bryce Canyon National Park 2 nights
   Best Western Zion Park Inn
  Zion National Park 2 nights
 Doubletree Hotel San Francisco Airport
Type: Full Service Hotel
  Contact info: 835 Airport Blvd
Burlingame, CA 94010-9949 USA
phone: 650-344-5500
  Room amenities: Flat screen TV with premium cable, clock radio with MP3 connectivity, work desk, dual-line telephone with voicemail and data port, hairdryer, iron and ironing board, coffeemaker with complimentary coffee and tea, and individual climate control.
  Facility amenities: Business center, fax, photocopying, printer, audio/visual equipment rental, airline desk, ATM, baggage storage, car rental desk, guest activity/recreation desk, local area transportation, lounge, room service, safety deposit boxes, restaurant and 24-hour food service, library, bayside jogging path and fitness room.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Check with hotel. Please contact DoubleTree Hotel Reservations directly at 650-344-5500 for additional reservations.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM

 Yosemite Lodge
Type: Lodge
  Description: As the closest property to Yosemite Falls, Yosemite Lodge at the Falls is an idyllic spot for families, group retreats and visitors seeking the comforts of a hotel after an exciting day exploring the wilderness. In 1998, the main complex was redesigned with an emphasis on glass and wood detailing to blend harmoniously with its surroundings. Landscaping of indigenous trees, shrubs and wildflowers further reflect the natural beauty of Yosemite Valley.
  Contact info: 9006 Yosemite Lodge Dr
Yosemite National Park, CA 95389 USA
phone: 801-559-4884
  Room amenities: Rooms are furnished with a desk, private bathroom, telephone and television with select programming. Yosemite Lodge does not have air conditioning in any guest accommodations.
  Facility amenities: On site post office. Wireless access is complimentary to all Yosemite Lodge guests. Free shuttle service to various locations in Yosemite Valley. Heated outdoor swimming pool is open daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day, conditions permitting.
  Smoking allowed: No

 Wuksachi Lodge
Type: Lodge
  Description: Open year-round and conveniently located within prime access to Sequoia's most popular visitor attractions, the Wuksachi Lodge is beautifully crafted of cedar and stone, highlighted by stone fireplaces, natural woods, and panoramic views of the surrounding forest and High Sierra peaks.
  Contact info: 64740 Wuksachi
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, CA 93262-9604 USA
phone: 866-807-3598
  Room amenities: All 102 guest rooms at the lodge are located 100-200 yards from the main lodge building, and feature Mission-style furnishings, private baths, televisions, telephones with computer data ports, hair dryers, coffee makers, iron/boards, mini refrigerators, ski racks, central heat, and daily maid service.
  Facility amenities: Built in 1999 and highlighted by a spectacular mountain/forest setting, the Wuksachi Lodge is an upscale mountain resort featuring 102 spacious guest rooms, a full-service restaurant serving sumptuous Sierra Alpine cuisine, cocktail lounge, and retail and ski shop.
  Smoking allowed: No

 Hilton Garden Inn
Type: Full Service Hotel
  Description: The Hilton Garden Inn Victorville hotel in California, located about 80 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, offers comfortable accommodations, friendly service, and a relaxed atmosphere in the beautiful high desert.
  Contact info: 12603 Mariposa Rd
Victorville, CA 92395 USA
phone: 760-952-1200
  Room amenities: Guest rooms are equipped with the Garden Sleep System, microwave, refrigerator, coffee maker, hair dryer, iron and ironing board, and plasma TV, along with a king-size bed or two queen beds, a comfortable sitting room and complimentary wireless high speed Internet service.
  Facility amenities: Hotel amenities include non-smoking rooms, handicapped-accessible rooms, full-service hotel restaurant, in-room dining service (available nightly), outdoor pool and indoor whirlpool spa, workout facility, 24-hour Pavilion Pantry® convenience mart, and complimentary 24-hour Business Center. Valet and self laundry are available.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

 Hotel 29 Palms Inn & Suites
Type: Hotel
  Description: Hotel 29 Palms is 3 miles from the Joshua Tree National Park. Amenities include a fitness center, a 24 hr business center with high-speed Cable and WiFi wireless Internet access, outdoor heated pool & spa, and a 24 hr front desk with friendly, helpful, and professional staff to assist with your needs. For your travel comfort all guestrooms are non-smoking and have high-speed DSL Internet access, iron and ironing board, coffee maker, hair dryer, 27" TV w/ HBO & ESPN, activity desk and chair.
  Contact info: 71809 Twentynine Palms Hwy
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277 USA
phone: 760-361-4009
  Room amenities: Color TV, desk, free internet, a refrigerator, a microwave, and free morning newspaper.
  Facility amenities: Fitness Center, Business Center and Outdoor Heated Spa onsite.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

 South Rim Lodge
Type: Lodge
  Description: The South Rim lodge (Maswik or Yavapai) was built within a quarter mile of the S. Rim.
  Contact info: S. Rim Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023 USA
phone: 928-638-2631
  Room amenities: Television, phone, bath. Refrigerators available upon request for medications.
  Facility amenities: The lodge is convenient to all the shops, museums and restaurants within Grand Canyon Village. Free shuttle buses stop at the lodge.
  Smoking allowed: No

 Best Western Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel
Type: Hotel
  Description: The Best Western Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel offers the newest luxurious accommodations for visitors to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.
  Contact info: 30 North 100 East
Bryce Canyon City, UT 84764 USA
phone: 866-866-6634
  Room amenities: Rooms have a flat panel color television with over 50 channels and pay-per view movies available. The room also offers an iron, ironing board, hairdryer, coffee/tea maker with complimentary coffee, data ports, wireless Internet and voice mail.
  Facility amenities: Interior corridors, heated outdoor pool and spa,business center, exercise facilities and guest laundry.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

 Best Western Zion Park Inn
Type: Inn
  Description: Zion Park Inn has the towering red rock cliffs of Zion National Park as a backdrop and offers spectacular views from rooms and the restaurant windows. This premier lodging choice offers stunning scenery along with excellent amenities and comfortable rooms. The Zion Park Inn is the largest facility within Zion National Park area. The comfortable guest rooms have been designed to echo the natural elegance of Zion National Park. Natural furnishings complement the creature comforts and amenities you would expect in the heart of Zion National Park lodging. Guests can relax in the "Great Room" with its soaring ceiling and roaring fireplace, take a dip in the outdoor pool, or soak in the hot tub. Whatever you choose, you'll enjoy the charm and beauty of the meticulously landscaped grounds.
  Contact info: 1215 Zion Park Blvd
Springdale, UT 84767 USA
phone: 435-772-3200
  Room amenities: Desk work area, individual climate control, alarm clocks, feature data ports, televisions, pay-per-view movies, interactive games and music, coffee maker, hair dryer, refrigerator, voice messaging, and free high speed wireless access.
  Facility amenities: Convenient onsite amenities include full service Switchback Grille Restaurant with patio, deli, liquor store, and guest laundry facilities, heated outdoor pool and hot tub, basketball/volleyball court, badminton, putting green, gift shop, and elevator.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Hotel check in begins at 3:00 PM. Program registration begins at 4:00 PM. You will be staying at Doubletree Hotel San Francisco Airport that night.
  End of Program:
10:00 AM McCarran Airport in Las Vegas. You will be staying at Best Western Zion Park Inn the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. Desert Institute Field Institute / Joshua Tree National Park Association's Participant Agreement form. Please bring your photo ID and your National Park Pass if you have one.
  Parking availability:
Parking is complimentary at the Doubletree for a total of 14 days. Beginning on the 15th day, parking is $18.00 per day. When you check into the hotel, be sure to ask for a voucher to park your car in the hotel parking lot for the duration of the program.
To Start of Program
  Location:  San Francisco, CA
  Nearest airport:  SFO, OAK
  From End of Program
  Location:  Las Vegas, NV
Travel Details

San Francisco- Doubletree Hotel (from San Francisco Airport)


From Airport




Hotel Shuttle
phone: 650-344-5500


Per Person/One Way:


Prices are subject to change.


The Doubletree Hotel offers a complimentary airport shuttle. Call 650-344-5500 after you have picked up your checked bags for transportation.


San Francisco- Doubletree Hotel (from Oakland Airport)


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
phone: 800-258-3826
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


$85 for the first person, no additional charge for each person in your traveling party
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


Plan at least 45 minutes travel time 


SuperShuttle provides shared shuttle service. Reservations can be made my calling 800-258-3826 or online at


Las Vegas Airport


To Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle


After hotel check-out the last morning of the program, we board our motorcoach for the transfer to Las Vegas. We'll arrive by 10:30 AM. Be sure to book your flight departing AFTER 12:30 PM.

Driving Directions
  From the North Take US 101 south to Broadway/Burlingame exit east. Go east over the overpass, remain in the right lane. Turn right at the first light (Old Bayshore Rd.) and left at the next light onto Airport Blvd. follow the road around until you see the hotel on your right, approximately a quarter of a mile.
  From the South Take US 101 north to the Broadway/Burlingame exit east. Go east and remain in the right lane. Turn right at the first light and follow Airport Blvd. until you see the hotel on your right.
  Los Angeles International Airport Take Hwy. 101 north to Burlingame. Exit Anza Blvd. Hotel is on the left side.
  Oakland International Airport Take Hwy. 80 West to 101 South. Exit Broadway/Burlingame and go over the overpass. Right at the light (Old Bayshore). Left at the light (Airport Blvd.) and the DoubleTree Hotel is on the right side.
  San Franciso International Airport Start out going southeast on T-1 turnaround. Merge onto US-101 S. via the ramp on the left toward San Jose. Take the Broadway exit toward Burlingame. Take the ramp toward Overpass. Turn right onto Rollins Rd. Turn slight right onto Broadway. Turn right onto Bayshore Hwy. Turn left onto airport Blvd. End at 835 Airport Blvd. Burlingame, CA 94010
Elevation Note: Elevation ranges from 1,000 feet to 9,115 feet

The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Arrival & Hotel Check-in, Program Registration, Pre-Dinner Wine Social, Orientation, Program Overview
(Sunday, October 13)
 Afternoon: HOTEL CHECK-IN begins at 3:00 PM. After you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar desk in the lobby after 4:00 PM to register with the program staff and pick up your arrival packet that we'll review during orientation this evening.

Please be aware that local circumstances could require adjusting the schedule and/or program elements. In the event of changes, we will notify you as quickly as possible. We appreciate your understanding.

WINE SOCIAL: We'll gather in our private meeting room before dinner for a wine social to begin getting to know one another in a convivial atmosphere.

 Dinner: Enjoy a plated dinner in an elegant, inviting atmosphere. Meals feature traditional American and California cuisine.
 Evening: ORIENTATION: Back in our meeting room, we'll have introductions and then review the up-to-date schedule, discuss responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, any other administrative issues, and answer your questions.

PROGRAM OVERVIEW: Your study guide will provide an overview of the parks you’ll be exploring during this exciting new program. From mountain to desert, you’ll gain insights into the spectacular national parks of the West as we visit seven world-famous gems of American wilderness: Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Joshua Tree, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion national parks.

Accommodations: Doubletree Hotel San Francisco Airport
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Transfer to Yosemite National Park, Field Trip in the Park, Hotel Check-in, Evening Program: A Geologic Wonder
(Monday, October 14)
 Breakfast: Enjoy a full breakfast buffet in the hotel dining room.
 Morning: TRANSFER TO YOSEMITE: As we board our motorcoach, you’ll be anticipating an extraordinary experience ahead. People have been drawn to the place we now call Yosemite for tens of thousands of years. Wrote famed naturalist John Muir, “It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter.” The transfer should take approximately 4.5 hours.
 Lunch: We'll stop en route for lunch at a popular local café in Mariposa, California.
 Afternoon: FIELD TRIP: We begin with an introduction to America’s beloved Yosemite National Park, established in 1890 and designated a World Heritage Site in 1984.

Yosemite is known for its majestic granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, giant Sequoia groves, and biological diversity. Two designated “Wild & Scenic Rivers” — the Tuolumne and Merced — begin in the park and flow west to the Central Valley. Yosemite Falls, one of the world's tallest, is actually made up of three separate falls: Upper Yosemite Falls (1,430 feet), the middle cascades (675 feet), and Lower Yosemite Falls (320 feet).

We’ll meet our local guide at Tunnel View, and travel on to Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, Sentinel Bridge, and Lower Yosemite Falls, learning about various aspects of natural and human history as we go.

At the conclusion of our first field trip, we'll take the motorcoach to check in at Yosemite Lodge, the property closest to Yosemite Falls. The main complex was redesigned with an emphasis on glass and wood detailing to blend harmoniously with its surroundings. Landscaping of indigenous trees, shrubs and wildflowers further reflect the natural beauty of Yosemite Valley.

 Dinner: The Yosemite Food Court offers an extensive buffet with various stations serving pastas and pizza, grilled items, salads, fruits, vegetarian and non-vegetarian entrées, desserts, and beverages.
 Evening: EVENING PROGRAM: Our study guide leads a fascinating examination of the park’s natural wonders, addressing aspects of park history, geology, ecology, natural and cultural history including the Native Americans of Yosemite.
Accommodations: Yosemite Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Yosemite National Park, Glacier Point, Tunnel View, Half Dome, El Capitan, Waterfalls, Ahwahnee Hotel Historic Landmark, Evening Presentation: A Talk with “John Muir”
(Tuesday, October 15)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the Yosemite Food Court.
 Morning: FIELD TRIP: Entering Yosemite Valley, we pass through Wawona Tunnel and come out to see one the park’s most photographed views, looking east into the Valley towards El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Falls. We’ll stop at sites along the way to take in and learn more about this magnificent place. To round out the Yosemite experience, we’ll ride 30 miles (about an hour) from the Valley to the where the road ends at Glacier Point. This overlook has a commanding view of the Valley, Half Dome, and the High Sierra. There is a short walk to the viewpoint. Many say Glacier Point has the most spectacular views of anywhere in the park.
 Lunch: We’ll have lunch at the Ahwahnee Hotel, a National Historic Landmark and one of the most impressive National Park lodges, in the very heart of the Park. The crown jewel of Yosemite dining, the award-winning Ahwahnee dining room is both magnificent and intimate. The 34-foot-high beamed ceiling with large sugar pine trestles complement granite pillars, floor-to-ceiling windows. The lunch menu typically offers options for soup, salad, sandwiches, pasta, entrées, sides, fresh cut fruit, and beverages.
 Afternoon: EXCURSION: This afternoon we'll have a walking excursion through the renowned Ahwahnee Hotel to understand why it is a designated National Historic Landmark. Completed in 1927, the hotel was built in a rustic style with American Indian motif. Historic paintings of Yosemite, stunning stained-glass windows, and woven tapestries grace the walls of The Great Lounge and Dining Room. Walk back or the park shuttle may be avaialble to take you to the Yosemite Lodge after the excursion.

FREE TIME: You’ll have some free time to explore on your own. Multiple opportunities are available! Don't forget to check out the Ansel Adams Gallery!

 Dinner: Dinner in the Food Court, with its many options. Share your favorite highlights of the day with new friends.
 Evening: PRESENTATION: We’ll be joined this evening by none other than “John Muir” who will share perspectives on his life and his love for this special Park.
Accommodations: Yosemite Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Transfer to Sequoia National Park, Giant Forest Museum, Walk Big Trees Trail, Giant Sequoia Ecology, Check in to Hotel
(Wednesday, October 16)
 Breakfast: Breakfast is in the Yosemite Food Court.
 Morning: TRANSFER TO SEQUOIA: We’ll board our motorcoach and say goodbye to Yosemite, turning our sights towards Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. These two parks lie side by side in the southern Sierra Nevada, east of the San Joaquin Valley. The landscape testifies to natural beauty and diversity with huge mountains, rugged foothills, deep canyons, vast caverns, and the world’s largest trees.

The transfer should take approximately 4 hours.

 Lunch: We’ll stop for a quick lunch at Bear Mountain Pizza between Fresno and Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks.
 Afternoon: FIELD TRIP: Sequoia National Park. Upon arrival, we’ll visit the Giant Forest Museum for a basic introduction to the primary features of the Giant Forest including its sequoias, meadows, and human history. Then we’ll walk the 2/3 mile Big Trees Trail (paved/boardwalked) that circles Round Meadow, a large grassy clearing usually filled with wildflowers in spring and summer, and lined by several very large sequoia. You’ll learn about giant sequoia ecology and recent studies suggesting that natural forces should be allowed to operate freely throughout the groves, enabling the giant sequoia ecosystem to be perpetuated much as it was in millennia preceding human arrival on the scene.

At the conclusion of the field trip, we’ll drive to Wuksachi Lodge and check in at this upscale mountain resort built in 1999 amid a marvelous mountain forest setting.

 Dinner: Dinner in the Wuksachi Lodge. With soaring glass windows that frame giant trees and majestic mountain peaks in the background, the dining room combines an upscale, rustic decor with forest-inspired colors. The chef likes to use fresh seasonal ingredients for a changing menu of salads, entrées, meat, fish, pasta dishes and vegetarian options, and desserts.
 Evening: FREE EVENING: It's been a full day so this evening is free to explore the Lodge, get to know new friends, or just relax.
Accommodations: Wuksachi Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Kings Canyon National Park, General Grant Tree, Overnight Rest Stop En Route to Joshua Tree National Park
(Thursday, October 17)

Note: After departing Kings Canyon for Joshua Tree National Park, we stop to break up the drive with an overnight in Victorville, California.

 Breakfast: Breakfast is in the lovely Wuksachi Lodge. The giant trees for which this park is known rise just outside your dining room windows with soaring mountain peaks in the background.
 Morning: FIELD TRIP: Kings Canyon National Park. A portion of what is now Kings Canyon was originally set aside in 1890 as General Grant National Park, later absorbed into the new and larger Kings Canyon National Park. The story of how this park came into existence is fascinating. Photos by Ansel Adams, hired by then Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, helped lead to Congress creating the park in 1940. Managed together by the National Park Service, Sequoia and Kings Canyon total over 863,700 acres.

We’ll begin at the Kings Canyon Visitor Center in Grant Grove Village before walking to the General Grant Grove that preserves giant sequoias including the famous General Grant Tree, second largest in the world and estimated to be more than 1,600 years old. The trail is gently-graded and paved, looping one-third of a mile through the sequoia grove.

Our natural history specialist will guide us during our Kings Canyon exploration, delving into the history of the establishment of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, the re-establishment of fire in the parks and the logging history of the Giant Sequoias.

At the conclusion of the field trip, we’ll board the motorcoach and continue our journey of discovery en route to Joshua Tree National Park.

 Lunch: We’ll stop for lunch at the Hometown Buffet. While there's always something new to try at Hometown Buffet, you'll also find a delicious line-up of freshly prepared comfort foods. Or create your own salad…but don't forget to leave room for dessert!
 Afternoon: TRANSFER: It’s a long drive from Kings Canyon National Park to Joshua Tree National Park, so for your comfort we have planned an overnight in Victorville, California, in the heart of the high desert. After checking into the hotel and having dinner and a good night's rest, we'll resume our journey to Joshua Tree tomorrow.
 Dinner: Dinner is in the Great American Grill at the hotel.
 Evening: FREE EVENING: Take a dip in the hotel pool, use the fitness room, try your hand at bowling or miniature golf in the entertainment center adjacent to hotel, or relax.
Accommodations: Hilton Garden Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Transfer to Joshua Tree National Park, Park Field Trip with Trail Walks, Evening Program: Astronomy of the Desert Night Sky
(Friday, October 18)
 Breakfast: Enjoy a freshly prepared breakfast in the hotel dining room.
 Morning: TRANSFER: We depart for Joshua Tree National Park.
 Lunch: We’ll stop for lunch at the Crossroads Cafe, a popular café that showcases the work of local artists.
 Afternoon: FIELD TRIP: Joshua Tree National Park. Originally designated as a national monument, it became a national park in 1994 when Congress passed the California Desert Protection Act. The park is named for the native Joshua Tree, a member of the Yucca family.

Entering the Park at Joshua Tree Visitor Center, gain an overview of the Park as you travel along park roads. We’ll then walk along trails (paved or hard-packed sand) to see and learn about this special place shaped by forces such as strong winds, torrents of rain, and climatic extremes.

Specific stops will be determined by temperatures but we hope to visit Keys View, the highest trail in the Park accessible by a paved road. Count on a brisk breeze (and bring your windbreaker). We'll walk along a paved quarter-mile loop with (weather permitting) scenic overlooks of valley, mountain and desert from its elevation of 5,185 feet.

At the conclusion of the field trip, we’ll drive to Twentynine Palms, California. Local lore says it was so called by gold miners because of 29 palm trees surrounding an oasis. We’ll check in to our hotel.

 Dinner: We'll head out to dinner at the 29 Palms Inn, an outstanding restaurant noted for its homemade breads, fruits and vegetables picked fresh from the Inn’s own garden.
 Evening: EVENING PROGRAM: We'll step out into the high desert to explore the universe surrounding us and have an expert-led look at the astronomy of the desert night sky using sight, binoculars, and telescopes (provided).
Accommodations: Hotel 29 Palms Inn & Suites
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Joshua Tree National Park, Mohave & Colorado Deserts, Trail Walks, Cholla Cactus Garden, Transfer to Grand Canyon National Park, Sunset Excursion
(Saturday, October 19)
 Breakfast: Enjoy breakfast in the hotel's breakfast bar.
 Morning: FIELD TRIP: Joshua Tree National Park. Enter the Park at the Oasis Visitor Center where we'll learn about the transition between the Mojave and Colorado deserts from our expert guide from the Desert Institute. Because the Park straddles the two deserts, an unusual variety of plants are found within its boundaries.

Travel along the road to the Cottonwood Visitor Center, stopping for walks along trails (to be determined by temperatures at the time). Our route may include the Cholla Cactus Garden, an easy quarter-mile sandy loop trail. Learn about the cholla cactus (commonly called teddy bear cholla...but don't be certainly can sting) and the ocotillo (desert flora) amongst others.

At the conclusion of the field trip, we’ll depart via motorcoach for Grand Canyon National Park, stopping en route in Parker, Arizona.

 Lunch: We'll have lunch at the Calico Restaurant in Kingman, AZ where we'll enjoy sandwiches and an opportunity to stretch our legs.
 Afternoon: TRANSFER: The coach continues along the Colorado River. Our local instructional specialist joins us in Williams, Arizona where we take a rest break at the Visitor Center in this old Route 66 town. We have climbed up onto the Colorado Plateau, home to Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion National Parks and left Basin and Range country behind us. From Williams it is one hour to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon where we plan to arrive in time for sunset and time to take in the majesty laid out before us prior to check in at a Grand Canyon Lodge. Our check in time late afternoon / early evening will be determined by the sun!
 Dinner: Dinner will be at a National Park Lodge cafeteria where choices abound.
 Evening: Following dinner and depending upon the time of sunset at the South Rim (and NPS schedules) we may have the opportunity to take in an evening ranger program at the Shrine of the Ages auditorium. Breathe in the scent of the stately ponderosa pines and the fresh air. You have climbed to 7000’ in elevation.
Accommodations: South Rim Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: The Grand Canyon: An Open Book of Earth's History
(Sunday, October 20)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the Lodge cafeteria with coupons provided to select your preferred choices.
 Morning: The morning begins with an opportunity to take in a Grand Canyon Sunrise on your own (ask your Group Leader for logistics on how/when to access the rim from your lodging). Travel to the rim of the canyon for a presentation by your naturalist on Grand Canyon geology to gain an understanding and appreciation of the geologic forces that created this wonder of the world. Often referred to as "the greatest open book of earth's history," the Grand Canyon provides opportunities for scientific inquiry equal to its inherently spiritual qualities. Then travel to historic Grand Canyon Village for a walking tour and optional short hike down the fabled Bright Angel Trail (maximum distance guided hike 2/3 mile with up to 200’ elevation change).
 Lunch: We'll have lunch as a group at the Maswik Lodge cafeteria.
 Afternoon: This afternoon is left open for you to explore the Grand Canyon at your own pace. Travel further afield using the park’s free shuttle bus system to visit Hermit’s Rest and view the scenic viewpoints along the park’s Hermit Rest Route. Amble along other parts of the rim trail to photograph, journal, contemplate or meditate while you gaze upon this world wonder. Other hiking options include: South Kaibab Trail, further down the Bright Angel Trail and Hermit Trail. Take more time at the park’s visitor center, Kolb Studio or Verkamp’s Curio Shop (now a visitor center focusing on human history of the park). There are also ranger-led programs which you may be able to take advantage of during this afternoon. And perhaps a California condor will fly over your head while you are enjoying an ice cream cone outside the Bright Angel Lodge Fountain. Your Group Leader and Road Scholar Grand Canyon guide can offer suggestions to make the most of your free afternoon in one of our country’s most treasured national parks.
 Dinner: This evening we will reunite on the rim of the Canyon for either a catered dinner or at one of the Canyon’s finer restaurants. Enjoy trading stories of your day’s exploration of the Canyon while the sun sets, painting the walls of the canyon in hues of reds and gold as the stars begin to appear.
 Evening: Enjoy a relaxing evening strolling on the rim after dinner (take your flashlight!), gazing at the sky and stars in some of the darkest skies in the country or turning in early in anticipation of what tomorrow may bring.
Accommodations: South Rim Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Desert View Watchtower, Marble Canyon, Navajo Steel Arch Bridge over Colorado River, Vermilion Cliffs, Learning About Bryce Canyon National Park
(Monday, October 21)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the Lodge cafeteria with coupons provided to select your preferred choices.
 Morning: After departing the lodge shortly after breakfast, we’ll travel for 30 minutes along the scenic South Rim to the Desert View Watchtower, built in 1932 as a replica of a prehistoric Indian watch tower. This iconic structure commands a magnificent view of the Grand Canyon and the Painted Desert. Recognized as a National Historic Landmark, the tower was designed by architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter in collaboration with Hopi artisans and notable Hopi artist Fred Kabotie, whose murals adorn the interior. Leaving Desert View and Grand Canyon National Park we will make a brief stop at the historic Cameron Trading Post where we’ll say good-bye to our Grand Canyon guide. Then we’ll travel the western edge of the Navajo Nation, through part of the Painted Desert with the beautiful Vermilion Cliffs alongside as we approach Marble Canyon.
 Lunch: We’ll enjoy box lunches during our stop at the historic Navajo Bridge where we hope to see California condors soaring or perching.
 Afternoon: TRANSFER: One of the most beautiful stretches we will travel lies before you. We ride down from the 7,000-foot elevation of the South Rim to the Colorado River at a 3,600-foot elevation in Marble Canyon and we now say goodbye to our Arizona instructional specialist .

EXCURSION: We’ll stop briefly to walk across Navajo Steel Arch Bridge that spans the 500-foot walls of Marble Canyon. The views will take your breath away as you gaze down at the river below and the towering 800-foot walls of the surrounding Vermilion Cliffs.

We head into Utah for the beauty of "Color Country" en route to Bryce Canyon National Park where we pick up our next instructional lecturer. We'll be staying at a hotel just outside the Park and will check in upon arrival.

 Dinner: Dinner is in the dining room of our Inn just outside the Park.
 Evening: EVENING PROGRAM: Our study leader will discuss the unique geology of Bryce Canyon National Park. As the National Park Service notes, “What is Bryce Canyon? Words confound when nothing comparable exists. A cave without a ceiling? A forest of stone? Even 'canyon' is misleading since Bryce is carved by freeze-thaw cycles, not a river.”
Accommodations: Best Western Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: Bryce Canyon Field Trip, Sunrise Point Early Morning Walk, Canyon Hikes, Rainbow Point & Yovimpa Point
(Tuesday, October 22)
 Breakfast: Breakfast in the hotel dining room.
 Morning: FIELD TRIP: We begin with an expert-led, early morning hike to Sunrise Point for views of incredible formations with evocative names such as Boat Mesa, the Sinking Ship, Pink Cliffs of the Aquarius Plateau, and the hoodoos of Fairyland Canyon. “Hoodoos” are tall, thin spires of multi-colored rock, formed into peculiar shapes by erosion and found more at Bryce than anywhere else in the world. They can range in size from the height of an average person to higher than a 10-storey building.

We continue hiking down into the canyon along the so-called Queen’s Trail. If you use your imagination, the many hoodoos may look like a garden, presided over by the “Queen Victoria” hoodoo that gives the trail its name. Those who prefer a less strenuous outing can view Bryce from above, walking the rim.

 Lunch: We'll have box lunches in the canyon.
 Afternoon: FIELD TRIP: Continue after lunch to view and learn more about the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon. We’ll explore Rainbow Point, where the Park stretches out before you back to the north, and the expansive view of Yovimpa Point to really appreciate the sequence of rock layers called the Grand Staircase. Different sections or steps in the Grand Staircase are named for the dominant color of rock. You’ll come away with a better understanding of the geologic forces in Bryce’s landscapes and an enhanced appreciation of its almost surreal beauty.
 Dinner: We’ll eat out at a popular “barn” and grill for a delicious Western dinner accompanied by cowboy music.
 Evening: EVENING PROGRAM: Our western entertainment will continue into the evening.
Accommodations: Best Western Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: Transfer to Zion National Park, Zion Human History Museum, Hike to Emerald Pools, Evening Program: Zion's Geology, Natural & Human History
(Wednesday, October 23)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at Bryce Grand Hotel.
 Morning: TRANSFER: We'll travel along Highway 89 into the East Entrance of Zion National Park, stopping to view the horizonal layers and vertical cracks of Checkerboard Mesa. This landmark is so called because the massive hill towering 900 feet above the highway is colorful, criss-crossed, and resembles (somewhat) a gigantic checkerboard. We continue through the Zion Tunnel and down the switchbacks.
 Lunch: We'll stop for lunch at a restaurant in Springdale, a small community surrounded by the towering cliffs of Zion National Park.
 Afternoon: FIELD TRIP: Zion National Park in southwestern Utah comprises some of America’s most scenic canyon country, characterized by high plateaus, deep sandstone canyons and cliffs ranging in color from ivory to red, and dramatic rock towers and mesas. This showcase of natural history vividly presents the effects of geologic processes, while traces of early human activity have almost disappeared.

After lunch, we take go to the Zion Human History Museum for a short multi-media presentation providing an overview of the Park. Aftewards, we’ll make a short hike along the Emerald Pools trails to see the pools themselves — named for their green tint from algae — that characterize this delightful, secluded oasis.

Travel then to the Zion Park Inn to check in before dinner.

 Dinner: At the entrance to the Park in Springdale, we'll have dinner at Switchback. They feature artfully prepared dishes with enticing flavors of the American West, France and Italy!
 Evening: EVENING PROGRAM: An expert will capture the essence of Zion National Park in a presentation that will include it's extraordinary geology, and may include elements of its Anasazi history, the building of the Zion Tunnel and the plants and animals resident there, as determined by your questions and interests.
Accommodations: Best Western Zion Park Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12: Zion National Park, Weeping Rock, Temple of Sinawava, Hike Zion Narrows, IMAX "Treasure of the Gods," Birds of Prey Presentation
(Thursday, October 24)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at Zion Park Inn.
 Morning: FIELD TRIP: We’ll take a shuttle to explore some of the most significant sites in the Park. Weeping Rock really appears to weep due to water migrating through sandstone and shale until seeping out onto the surface. The Temple of Sinawava was named for the coyote-spirit of the Paiute Indians and hosts small wildlife such as birds, frogs, gophers, and lizards.

We’ll hike along the Virgin River, an easy 2 mile round trip hike on paved trails, to the spectacular Zion Narrows gorge for views of the towering, vertical rock sides of the canyon. The Narrows were carved by the river in ancient times and are today characterized by soaring walls, sandstone grottos, natural springs, and hanging gardens.

Adventure awaits you as the hike ends at the entrance of the Narrows, and you have the option to hike up the river a few hundred yards to get a feel for being inside a slot canyon. The only way up is "IN" the river! You can choose to either embark on this quite difficult hike (as you can't see the river bottom and are walking on slippery rocks and boulders), or to explore the rest of the river. A little rest time is of course an option as well.

 Lunch: Enjoy a box lunch in the beauty of the Park.
 Afternoon: FREE TIME: The afternoon is free for you to explore the Park on your own. You may want to revisit the Park visitor centers and bookstores that offer a wealth of interpretive resources. The Zion shuttle makes your exploration simple to and from the hotel.

View "Treasure of the Gods" in Zion's IMAX Theater— an original giant-screen motion picture by Academy Award Winning Director Keith Merrill. Experience the myth, magic, and drama of Zion Canyon’s history and legends, with scenes from southwest National Parks and Native American lands.

 Dinner: Dinner will be in a local favorite restaurant in Springdale.
 Evening: EVENING PROGRAM: Our expert from the Southwest Wildlife Foundation will amaze you with his "Birds of Prey" presentation with live birds.
Accommodations: Best Western Zion Park Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 13: Program Concludes, Transfer to Las Vegas for Independent Departures
(Friday, October 25)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at Zion Park Inn.
 Morning: TRANSFER: After hotel check-out, we say farewell to these iconic National Parks of the West and board our motorcoach for the transfer to for Las Vegas.

ARRIVAL IN LAS VEGAS: We'll arrive by 10:00 AM local time. Our drop off point will be the McCarran Airport in Las Vegas. If you are planning to fly out of Las Vegas, be sure to book your flight departing AFTER 12:00 PM.

We trust you have enjoyed this exciting new "Exploring North America" learning adventure and will join us for other rewarding Road Scholar programs in the future. Best wishes for all your journeys!

Meals Included: Breakfast

Free Time Opportunities
  San Francisco, CA Aquarium of the Bay
Meet 20,000 amazing marine animals as you walk through 300 feet of crystal clear tunnels. Touch sharks and rays. It's like skin diving without getting wet. Open daily except Dec. 25. For additional information, visit
  Pier 39
There is something for everyone at PIER 39, one of San Francisco's premier Bay attractions: a festival marketplace with more than 110 stores, 14 Bay view restaurants and a variety of fun-filled attractions for all ages, including the world-renowned sea lions, street performers and live daily entertainment. For additional information, visit
  San Francisco Zoo
Northern California's largest zoological park features approximately 1,000 exotic and endangered wildlife. Visit the new Grizzly Gulch (June 2007), home to two grizzly bears and stroll through the African Savannah habitat. Experience the wonders of the Children's Zoo and visit other favorites such as Gorilla Preserve, Penguin Island, Koala Crossing, Lemur Forest and the Australian WalkAbout. Ride the historical Dentzel Carousel and Little Puffer miniature steam train. For additional information, visit
  El Portal, CA Yosemite National Park Activities
A wide variety of activities around the park provide additional photographic opportunities, ways to explore independently or simply relax. For additional information, visit
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

A Naturalist's Guide to Canyon Country

Author: David Williams

Field Guide to the Grand Canyon

Author: Stephen R. Whitney

Grand Canyon Geology

Author: Stanley Beus

John Muir: Nature Writings

Author: John Muir

Living at the Edge: Explorers, Exploiters, and Settlers of the Grand Canyon Region

Author: Michael F. Anderson

Our National Parks

Author: John Muir

Park Profiles: Yosemite

Author: Kenneth Brower

Roadside Geology of Arizona

Author: Halka Chronic

Roadside History of Arizona

Author: Marshall Trimble

Roadside History of California

Author: Ruth Pittman

Roadside History of Utah

Author: Cynthia Larsen Bennett

San Francisco: The City's Sights and Secrets

Author: Leah Garchik

The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons

Author: John Wesley Powell

The Man Who Walked Through Time: The Story of the First Trip Afoot Through the Grand Canyon

Author: Fletcher Colin

Yosemite: The Complete Guide - Yosemite National Park

Author: James Kaiser

Sierra Nevada Birds

Author: David Lukas

Description: Here, in one compact volume, is a treasure trove of information that will satisfy bird experts and beginners alike. Coverage of all 322 species found in the Sierra Nevada, including rare migrants. Full-length accounts for 207 definitive species. Geographic coverage from the foothills to the High Sierra. This is the ultimate reference guide for trail, camp, or home. Provides essential information that complements any of the illustrated field guides. Jam-packed with details on the life history, status, and distribution of Sierra Nevada birds.

Sierra Nevada Natural History

Author: David Lukas, Tracy Storer, Robert Usinger

Description: The magnificent and much-loved Sierra Nevada, called the "Range of Light" by John Muir, is the dominant feature on the California landscape. First published forty years ago, this handbook has become an enduring natural history classic, used by thousands to learn more about virtually every aspect of this spectacular mountain range—from its superb flora and fauna to its rugged topography. Comprehensive yet concise and portable, the book describes hundreds of species: trees and shrubs, flowering plants and ferns, fungi and lichens, insects and fish, amphibians and reptiles, and birds and mammals. Now completely updated and revised, it will continue to be the essential guide to the Sierra Nevada for a new generation of hikers, campers, tourists, naturalists, students, and teachers—everyone who wants to know more about this unique and beautiful mountain range. * Describes more than 750 of the species most likely to be encountered with more than 500 new color photographs and 218 detailed black-and-white drawings * Includes engaging and accessible introductory sections on Sierra Nevada topography, climate, geological history, and human history * The compact, updated species accounts make identification easy, provide informative remarks on ecology and life history, and note which species are threatened or endangered

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