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The Classic Grand Canyon Challenge: Rim to River

Program Number: 8144RJ
Start and End Dates:
9/22/2014 - 9/27/2014; 11/15/2014 - 11/20/2014; 11/19/2014 - 11/24/2014; 2/24/2015 - 3/1/2015; 3/2/2015 - 3/7/2015; 4/30/2015 - 5/5/2015; 5/8/2015 - 5/13/2015;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Price starting at: $1,185.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Walking/Hiking; National Parks; Natural History Activity Level: n (see description)
Meals: 13; 5 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 4 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

Hike into the Grand Canyon and enjoy expert-led presentations and day hikes on the rim. At the bottom of the canyon, spend two nights at Phantom Ranch beneath towering rock walls, under ancient cottonwoods and adjacent to Bright Angel Creek.


• Spend four days hiking in the Grand Canyon; travel down the South Kaibab Trail and back up the Bright Angel Trail; spend a day at Phantom Ranch hiking in the inner Canyon.
• Enjoy rare reservations at remote and historic Phantom Ranch.
• Hike with naturalists who truly know and love Grand Canyon; listen to canyon and river stories and join in discussions about current park and resource management challenges.

Activity Particulars

Backpacking experience a must. Hike 17 miles in two days, steep/rocky trails, 4,600-foot elevation change per day; two days of lighter hiking. Max elevation 7,000 feet. If you have never hiked in the Grand Canyon before or done extensive mountain hiking, we recommend you sign up for Program 6112 before attempting this program. If you are not sure, call Northern Arizona University at 928-523-2359 for more information.

Coordinated by Northern Arizona University.

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.

South Rim: National Park lodge. Phantom Ranch: shared 10 person cabins with hot showers.

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

Bruce Banker is a graduate of Northern Arizona University, where he studied natural sciences and geology. He lives in Flagstaff and has worked for the National Park Service as a naturalist on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, Chaco Canyon National Historic Park and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Bruce also serves as an outdoor educator for the Grand Canyon Field Institute. Bruce has taken students to many of the far-flung corners of the Southwest and has a few good stories to share.
Jennifer Beltz

Jennifer Beltz is a former interpretive park ranger at Phantom Ranch, located in Grand Canyon National Park. She has worked as a naturalist and national park ranger throughout the United States, was co-coordinator of a Road Scholar service program that built a health clinic in Brazil, and has worked on many intergenerational programs. Jennifer has lectured in the Department of Geography and Public Planning at Northern Arizona University and has led programs for Road Scholar since 1992.
Mike Young

Mike Young has lived in Arizona for 40 years, and taught math and geology at Yavapai College prior to his work with Road Scholar. To convey the Arizona landscape, Mike uses a broad range of topics including botany, natural history and geomorphology. He has worked as a commercial boatman, designed and constructed his own home, and conducted field exercises throughout the intermountain west. He is an accomplished hike leader who challenges hikers of all skill levels.
Richard Stephens

Rich has been director of Northern Arizona University’s highly popular Road Scholar programs since 2001. He previously spent many years in the field as a program coordinator and group leader, where he honed his skills and learned the importance of detailed, pre-trip planning. Before making his home in Arizona’s spectacular red-rock country, Rich spent 10 years in Yosemite National Park and the Santa Cruz mountains as an environmental educator.
Mike Masek

Mike Masek is a wilderness skills instructor, herbalist and ethnobotanist living in Flagstaff, Ariz. In addition to his current work with Road Scholar, he is adjunct faculty at Northern Arizona University where he teaches traditional uses of native plants and outdoor survival skills. He also teaches programs at the National Parks and Coconino Community College. He has spent a lifetime exploring the canyons and deserts of the American Southwest and loves to share these treasures with others.
Jeff Strang

Jeff Strang's knowledge of the environment stems from over 35 years of hiking, paddling, and photography in the outdoors, his extensive experience as a naturalist, as well as from his education at the University of Oregon and Lewis and Clark Law School. In 1987, Jeff filed a precedent-setting lawsuit against Oregon polluters under the Clean Water Act. Jeff has been leading Road Scholar programs since 2002. In his free time, Jeff enjoys biking to work, hiking, kayaking, outdoor photography and studying geology.
Meals and Lodgings
   Grand Canyon South Rim Lodges - Maswik South
  Grand Canyon - South Rim 2 nights
   Phantom Ranch
  Phantom Ranch 2 nights
   Grand Canyon South Rim Lodges - Maswik South
  Grand Canyon - South Rim 1 night
 Grand Canyon South Rim Lodges - Maswik South
Type: Lodge
  Description: Located in the Grand Canyon National Park, one-quarter mile from the rim in a quiet setting amongst towering ponderosa pine trees. The park’s free shuttle-bus service has a stop directly in front of the lodge that provides access to park viewpoints, Grand Canyon Village and visitor center.
  Ship Information: 10 Main St. Grand Canyon, AZ 86023
  Contact info: 10 Albright (Maswik Front Desk)
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023 USA
phone: 928-638-2631
  Room amenities: Coffee maker, hairdryer, internet, iron, refrigerator, telephone, television, roll away
  Facility amenities: Off site: bank/ATM, laundry service, medical services, park information, and post office. On-site: bell and concierge services, free shuttle from lodge to historic Grand Canyon Village and scenic rim views.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Bathroom: For handicap rooms only: wider doors, bars in bathroom
  Additional nights prior: Varies Reservations are made by calling (888) 29PARKS (297-2757).
  Check in time: 4:00 PM
  Additional nights after: Varies Reservations are made by calling (888) 29PARKS (297-2757).
  Check out time: 11:00 AM

 Phantom Ranch
Type: Cabin
  Description: Phantom Ranch offers lodging in a 10 bed co-ed group cabin and more beds in single sex dorms. You select your lodging preference on the health form. While we try to accommodate your lodging choice, you should be prepared to accept any available cabin space.
  Contact info: Colorado River
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023 USA
phone: 928-638-2709
  Room amenities: Bunk beds. Ear plugs recommended for light sleepers.
  Facility amenities: Restaurant (family style meals), cantina, convenience store.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Bathroom: In shared cabin, 1 toilet for 10 people. Shower in bath house. Shared toilets in same sex dorm as well, but shower is in the same building.

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Lodge cafeteria, 4:30 PM. You will be staying at Grand Canyon South Rim Lodges - Maswik South that night.
  End of Program:
Grand Canyon S. Rim about 9:00 AM. You will be staying at Grand Canyon South Rim Lodges - Maswik South the night before.
  Required documents:
The Road Scholar Health & Safety Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Free parking for the length of the program at the lodge.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Grand Canyon - South Rim
  Nearest city or town:  Flagstaff, AZ, 80 miles south
  Nearest highway: US 180
  Nearest airport:  Commuter: Tusayan, 6 mi S; Intl: Phoenix, 230 mi south
  From End of Program
  Location:  Departures
Travel Details

Grand Canyon South rim from Phoenix


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Arizona Shuttle
phone: 877-226-8060
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Approx. $75 for both legs of shuttle.
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


4.5 - 7, depending on links. 






To go from Phoenix to the south rim requires TWO shuttles, the fist leg is Phoenix to Flagstaff and then the second is Flagstaff to Grand Canyon. Must change vans in Flagstaff. Please call shuttle company for timing of shuttles prior to booking flights. Fastest option is to take the 11:00AM AZ shuttle out of Phoenix to Flagstaff and then take the 2:30 NAU Road Scholar shuttle that departs at 2:30 PM from Flagstaff to Grand Canyon. AZ shuttle runs other options to G.C with later arrivals.


Grand Canyon Village, South Rim to/from Flagstaff


From Train Station




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Arizona Shuttle
phone: 877-226-8060
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


$29.00, $4.00 less for online booking, plus $6.00 entrance fee at gate to Grand Canyon
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


1 hr 45 min - 2 hrs. 




84 miles


3 daily shuttles to and from Flagstaff to GCNP: Depart Flagstaff train station at 8:00 AM, 1:00 PM & 3:45PM; arrive GCNP at 9:45 AM, 3:00 PM& 5:45 PM. Returning: Depart Maswik Lodge 10:15 AM, 3:15 PM & 6:15 PM arrive Flagstaff train station 12:15 PM, 5:15 PM; 8:15 PM. Mid day shuttle runs seasonally, March through October.Times subject to change. Contact shuttle Co before booking flight.


Flagstaff Visitor Center to/from Grand Canyon South Rim (First Day of Program)


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
NAU Road Scholar Shuttle
phone: 928-523-2359
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


$15; plus $8.00 entrance fee at gate to Grand Canyon; entrance fee waived with National Park Pass
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


1 hr. and 45 min. 




84 miles


NAU Road Scholar will provide a shuttle from Flagstaff to GC in combination with AZ Shuttle. Arizona Shuttle has many departures from Phoenix airport to the Flagstaff Visitor Center. The Road Scholar van offers transport to GC S. Rim at 2:30 pm ONLY on the first day of the program from the Flagstaff Visitor Center. NOTE: the 11:00 am PHX - Flagstaff AZ Shuttle departure is the LAST shuttle that will connect with the 2:30 NAU van on the first day of the program. Call AZ Shuttle to confirm times.


Flagstaff, AZ from Grand Canyon (Last day of program 8144).


To Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
NAU Road Scholar Van
phone: 928-523-2359
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Approx. $15;
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


1 hour 30 minutes 




90 miles


This is the first of two shuttles to get to the Phoenix Airport. The NAU Road Scholar shuttle will depart Grand Canyon by 9:00 AM on the last day of the program arriving at the Flagstaff Visitor Center (Amtrak Station) by 10:30 AM. Second shuttle: Arizona Shuttle offers multiple departures from the Flagstaff Visitor Center (Amtrak Station) to the Phoenix airport. Call shuttle companies for current departure times and before finalizing airline flight times.

Driving Directions
  Albuquerque, NM W on I-40 to exit 195 N in Flagstaff, AZ. Follow Milton Rd N for 1.5 miles, and turn left onto US 180 at the first traffic light after the railroad underpass. Stay on US 180 for 52 miles to the junction with AZ 64 in Valle, AZ. Turn right (N) and follow AZ 64 for 30 miles to Grand Canyon. When entering the park make sure to grab the park map for detailed directions to your lodge.
  Los Angeles E on I-40 to Williams, AZ. In Williams, take the Grand Canyon exit, AZ 64 N from I-40. Continue N on AZ 64 for 58 miles to Grand Canyon. When entering the park make sure to grab the park map for detailed directions to your lodge.
  Phoenix, AZ N on I-17 until it ends, becoming Milton Rd in Flagstaff. Follow Milton Rd N for 1.5 miles, and turn left onto US 180 at the first traffic light after the railroad underpass. Stay on US 180 for 52 miles to the junction with AZ 64 in Valle, AZ. Turn right (N) and follow AZ 64 for 30 miles to Grand Canyon. When entering the park make sure to grab the park map for detailed directions to your lodge.
Elevation Note: 7000 ft to 2500 ft and back up, w/ backpack weighing 20 lbs - requires excellent physical condition.

Equipment Requirements: You should bring a well-padded backpack, with a comfortable and padded waist belt and shoulder straps with a sternum strap, and with at least 2200 - 3100 cubic inch capacity; well broken in hiking boots; 2 hiking sticks, small headlamp/flashlight, rain gear (hiking poncho, or rain jacket and pants), appropriate clothing for the weather. Clothing should be lightweight, wicking, and layerable. It should also protect you from extremes in temperature (there can be a 20-50 degree F temperature difference), precipitation (always a possibility) and sunlight (the sun is stronger here). Zip off pants work well. Bring a wide brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. You should be able to carry at least three liters (3 quarts) of water in a way that you can drink without breaking stride while hiking, such as a Camelbak or a Platypus brand tubed hydration bladder. (A more detailed packing list will be included in the Program Packet mailed out to participants prior to the program).
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: Orientation and Introductions
(Wednesday, November 19)
 Afternoon: Registration from 4:30 to 5:15 PM.
 Dinner: Dinner in the cafeteria with the group.
 Evening: After dinner, we will have an orientation session and everyone will introduce themselves.
Accommodations: Grand Canyon South Rim Lodges - Maswik South
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Practice Hike
(Thursday, November 20)

Note: Two hikes, in the morning a stroll along the rim; in the afternoon, 2 mile RT and 1000 vertical feet down and up, with packs.

 Breakfast: Breakfast in the Cafeteria.
 Morning: After breakfast, the group will have a short presentation on the Grand Canyon, and a question and answer session covering packing gear and "Leave no trace" ethics and hiking safety. We will also hike along the rim to acclimate to the elevation and prepare for the hike into the Canyon, with a discussion of Geology along the way.
 Lunch: Lunch at a Grand Canyon Lodge Cafe, with a coupon provided.
 Afternoon: Following lunch on your own, the group will do a practice hike with full packs, one and a half miles and over a 1000 feet down into the Canyon Along the Bright Angel Trail, and back to the rim. Along the way we will see the Historic Kolb Studio, Several Geologic Layers, and continue our discussion of both Human and Natural History at the Grand Canyon.
 Dinner: Dinner on your own.
 Evening: After dinner there is an optional National Park Service Ranger presentation at the Shrine of the Ages Auditorium, or go to bed early for the big hike down tomorrow.
Accommodations: Grand Canyon South Rim Lodges - Maswik South
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 3: Hike to Phantom Ranch
(Friday, November 21)

Note: 7.5 miles and 4600 vertical feet down with packs.

 Breakfast: Early breakfast at the lodge.
 Morning: After an early breakfast, shuttle to the South Kaibab trailhead. Begin the days long, 7.6 mile, 4,600 ft descent to Phantom Ranch. First stop is Ooh-Aah Point, you'll know why they call it that when you get there. At Cedar Ridge, while someone guards your pack from the marauding squirrels, follow the path to the fossil exhibit, originally built by the CCC and recently restored. Continue down past Skeleton Point and the switchbacks in the Redwall to lunch at the Tonto Trail Junction. We will stop along the way for Photo OPs, to discuss Geology and other aspects of natural history, and rest.
 Lunch: Sack lunch on the South Kaibab Trail.
 Afternoon: After lunch on the trail, we hike past the Tipoff and into the Inner Gorge to Panorama Point and the Black Bridge across the Colorado River to Phantom Ranch and check into cabins/dorms.
 Dinner: Dinner at Phantom Ranch.
 Evening: Optional ranger program (seasonally available) or star gazing or optional visit to the Phantom Ranch Canteen.
Accommodations: Phantom Ranch
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Layover Day
(Saturday, November 22)

Note: Two optional hikes, 2-3 miles.

 Breakfast: Breakfast at Phantom Ranch.
 Morning: A layover day begins after breakfast. A optional guided hike is offered on the bridge to bridge loop, but also plan to absorb being at the bottom of the Grand Canyon by sitting by the creek, walking down to the Colorado River, taking photographs and relaxing.
 Lunch: Sack lunch for your free afternoon.
 Afternoon: After lunch, it's more layover day activities noted above. You can hike up the Clear Creek Trail to Phantom Overlook or beyond; hike part way up the North Kaibab Trail, or kick back and look at one of the world's true wonders. Also plan to absorb being at the bottom of the Grand Canyon by sitting by the creek, walking down to the Colorado River, taking photographs and relaxing.
 Dinner: Dinner at Phantom Ranch.
 Evening: After dinner at the lodge, there will be an optional National Park Service evening presentation (seasonally available), stargazing, or an early turn in before the next day's hike out.
Accommodations: Phantom Ranch
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Big Climb To The Rim/Celebratory Dinner
(Sunday, November 23)

Note: 9.5 miles and 4600 vertical feet up with packs.

 Breakfast: Early continental breakfast at Phantom Ranch.
 Morning: After early breakfast, begin the big climb to the rim. The hike will last throughout the day and will rise 4,600 feet over 10.3 miles. We start by crossing the Silver Bridge and hiking on the River Trail built by the CCC. At the mouth of Pipe Creek we startup the Bright Angel Trail. After we enjoy the improved Devil's Corkscrew (it is not nearly as steep as it used to be), we enter the Tapeats Narrow and pass the Great Unconformity.
 Lunch: Sack lunch at Indian Gardens along the Bright Angel trail.
 Afternoon: Following an early trail lunch at Indian Gardens, everyone has a chance to hike by themselves for the final push up 3060 feet to the rim. Travel across the Tonto Platform and up Jacob's Ladder to the top of the Redwall and the 3 mile Resthouse. Don't forget to glance up at the sky occasionally for a possible condor sighting, and back towards the Inner Gorge for a perspective on how far we have come. As we get closer to the rim, you sense of accomplishment grows with each step. Finally you are at the rim and you head to you room for individual check in and and a well deserved shower!
 Dinner: Enjoy a celebratory dinner to reflect on your accomplishments.
Accommodations: Grand Canyon South Rim Lodges - Maswik South
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Program Wrap Up
(Monday, November 24)
 Breakfast: Breakfast in the Grand Canyon Lodge Cafe.
 Morning: After breakfast there will be a final group gathering and program wrap. The program will end by 9:00 AM. If your taking the NAU Shuttle back to Flagstaff it will depart at 9:00AM so people can meet the 11:00AM AZ Shuttle back to Phoenix Airport with 2:10 arrival.
Meals Included: Breakfast

Free Time Opportunities
  Grand Canyon - South Rim General Overview
Within 2 hours of the Grand Canyon: Kachina Wilderness, Cameron Trading Post, Museum of Northern Arizona, historic downtown Flagstaff, Lowell Observatory, Northern Arizona University, Sunset Crater National Monument, Wupatki and Walnut Canyon (Sinagua ruins) National Monuments, Northern Arizona University. Within 3 hours: Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona redrocks and wilderness areas, Sedona galleries and restaurants, La Posada railroad hotel and restaurant in Winslow.
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

Field Guide to the Grand Canyon

Author: Whitney, Stephen R

Description: This book describes and illustrates the area's plants and animals, and offers fascinating in-depth information on the natural history and geology of this dramatic region. 272pp

Hiking the Grand Canyon’s Geology

Author: Abbott, Lon, and Cook, Terri.

Description: Geologists Abbott and Cook (Prescott College, Prescott, AZ) present the Grand Canyon though scientists' eyes for rim walkers, day hikers, and serious backpackers. An overview introduces readers to the area's geological history, followed by detailed narratives of 18 hikes. For each hike the authors explore a geological theme, focusing on aspects of the canyon's evolution that are particularly well-illustrated along its length. Basic information such as trail length, elevation change, and difficulty level starts each chapter. Thoroughly illustrated with b&w photos and diagrams as well as 20 color plates. Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR 304pp

An Introduction to Grand Canyon Prehistory

Author: Coder, Christopher M.

Description: People have inhabited Grand Canyon for the past twelve thousand years. Evidence of their lives exists throughout the canyon; but it is up to their ancestors and archaeologists to interpret those remains for us. This book provides a popular look at the architecture, art, and tools of prehistoric Puebloan peoples, as well as information about modern-day Native American tribes. With illustrations and color photographs.

Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West

Author: Stegner, Wallace

Description: Here Wallace Stegner, a Pulitzer Prize-winner, gives us a thrilling account of Powell's struggle against western geography and Washington politics. We witness the successes and frustrations of Powell's distinguished career, and appreciate his unparalleled understanding of the West. "Stegner's most exciting work." (San Francisco Chronicle) 496pp

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

Author: Anderson, Michael F

Description: A comprehensive look at the pioneer history of the Grand Canyon Region, from its earliest residents to the creation of the national park at the end of the pioneer era (circa 1920). Included are close to two hundred historic photographs, many never published before, and 12 custom maps of the region. 184pp

Breaking Into the Current: Boatwomen of the Grand Canyon

Author: Teal, Louise

Description: In 1973, Marilyn Sayre gave up her job as a computer programmer and became the first woman in twenty years to run a commercial boat through the Grand Canyon. Georgie White had been the first, back in the 1950s, but it took time before other women broke into guiding passengers down the Colorado River. This book profiles eleven of the first full-season Grand Canyon boat women, weaving together their various experiences in their own words. Breaking Into the Current is a story of romance between women and a place.

The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons

Author: Powell, John Wesley

Description: Full text of Powell's 1,000-mile expedition down the fabled Colorado in 1869. Superb account of terrain, geology, vegetation, Indians, famine, mutiny, treacherous rapids, mighty canyons. 240 illustrations. 432pp

Carving Grand Canyon: Evidence, Theories, and Mystery

Author: Ranney, Wayne

Description: Ranney explains how rivers in general can physically carve canyons, looks chronologically at the numerous theories that have been presented by successive generations of geologists regarding the Grand Canyon's formation, and describes a plausible sequence of geologic events that could create such a landscape. Numerous color photographs, detailed illustrations, and maps are provided. Annotation ©2005 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR 160pp; 2nd edition 2012.

Grand Canyon: Time Below the Rim

Author: Craig Childs and Gary Ladd

Description: Prepared by the Book Division of Arizona Highways magazine, this book is written and photographed by 2 of the leading authorities on the subject matter. There's no place on earth like the Grand Canyon, and there's no book about the Canyon like this one. "Grand Canyon: Time Below the Rim" connects you with remote sections of the Canyon most people will never see: the waterfalls, the streams, the thousands of side canyons, the prehistoric rock formations, the rock art and other remains of an ancient civilization, and the entire course of the Colorado River through the Canyon.

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