Best of Sedona: Natural & Cultural Landscapes in Red Rock Country

Immerse yourself in the story of Sedona as you join local experts to learn about and explore ancient cliff dwellings, iconic Red Rocks, a heritage railway and the majestic Grand Canyon.
Rating (4.95)
Program No. 1062RJ
6 days
Starts at
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6 days
5 nights
13 meals
5 B 3 L 5 D
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Sedona, AZ
Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock

Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration 4:30 – 5:15 p.m. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table in the conference room by the pool to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Orientation: 5:30 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. All field trips will be led by our Group Leader, a seasoned and experienced naturalist, unless specified otherwise. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: In our hotel conference room, we’ll have a buffet meal with choice of entrée, the chef's dessert of the day, and a choice of coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

History, Archaeology, Sedona's Loved Sites, Desert Critters
Sedona, AZ
Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock

Activity note: Walking up to 1 mile throughout the day, with stops. Getting on/off trolley; riding approximately 15 miles; about 2 hours.

Breakfast: In a private conference room, we will have a buffet featuring a variety of choices including eggs, breakfast meats, French toast, hot and cold cereals, and fresh fruit, plus coffee, tea, assorted fruit juices, water.

Morning: At the hotel, we will hear a presentation from a local historian on Sedona History. Next we'll hear from an expert on archaeology and the prehistoric peoples who inhabited the Sedona and Verde Valley region.

Lunch: In the hotel, we will have a plated meal with a choice of entrée, plus coffee, tea, or water.

Afternoon: Setting out for a riding exploration of Sedona with our Group Leader aboard a trolley, we’ll see some of the town’s most beloved sites including a stop at the famous Chapel of the Holy Cross. During our exploration, we will learn about the history, geology, climate, flora, and fauna of the area. As we explore, we will have photo opportunities at some scenic vistas.

Dinner: In a private conference room, we will have a buffet that includes an entrée that varies by night, plus a choice of coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: In a conference room at the resort, we’ll enjoy a program led by an educator focused on desert critters such as spiders, live snakes, and scorpions. We’ll have the opportunity to see, touch and have our pictures taken with our desert friends and learn about the ways they adapt and thrive in this harsh environment.

Montezuma Castle & Verde Canyon Railroad
Sedona, AZ
Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock

Activity note: Driving approximately 70 miles total throughout the day; about 1/2 hour to Montezuma Castle National Monument; about 1/2 hour to Clarkdale and the Verde Canyon Railway. Walking about 1 mile total throughout the day; flat, paved trails. The Verde Canyon Railroad travels about 40 miles; approx. 4 hours.

Breakfast: Breakfast buffet.

Morning: We’ll then board our transport with our Group Leader for a field trip to Montezuma Castle National Monument. This 5-story, 20-room cliff dwelling is nestled in a limestone recess high above the flood plain of Beaver Creek in the Verde Valley. It is one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America, constructed approximately 600 years ago by the Sinagua Indians. While here, we’ll observe the ruins from below and take note of Wet Beaver Creek’s unique ecosystem as we walk the paved loop trail.

Lunch: At a Chinese restaurant in Cottonwood, we will have a buffet including soup, salad, entrées, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverages; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Next, we'll transfer to the railroad platform and board the train for a leisurely ride with commentary given by a railroad expert and supplemented by our Group Leader. The Verde Canyon Railroad follows a 40-mile route along the Verde River. We’ll ride in comfort in renovated passenger and open air cars, journeying at a slow pace mostly near the canyon bottom. Along the route, we’ll pass red rock pinnacles, cross bridges, see Native American ruins, and ride through a 680-foot tunnel. Keep your eyes out for native plants and animals including the more than 30 eagles that winter in this scenic area. We'll return to the hotel in the early evening.

Dinner: At a local Mexican restaurant, we’ll enjoy plated meals from a select menu with non-spicy choices available, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We’ll return to the hotel in Sedona in the late evening. The remainder of the evening will be at leisure.

Geology, Western Ballads & Tales
Sedona, AZ
Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock

Activity note: Classroom based activities. Physical activity level dependent on personal interest during free time.

Breakfast: Restaurant buffet.

Morning: At the hotel, we will be joined by a Grand Canyon geologist and Professor Emeritus of Geology at Northern Arizona University for a presentation on the geologic story of Sedona and the surrounding area.

Lunch: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Afternoon: Free time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. Sedona has many activities to offer visitors from fascinating art galleries, hiking the thrilling red rock trails, or taking a “Pink Jeep” out and explore Sedona’s back country and archaeological sites. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Dinner: Dinner buffet in hotel conference room.

Evening: We will be joined at the hotel by local musicians who will perform their western ballads and tales. Our performers are frequent guests at Southwest cowboy poet festivals and have been delighting Road Scholar participants for more than two decades.

Full-Day Field Trip to Grand Canyon National Park
Sedona, AZ
Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock

Activity note: Driving approx. 230 miles throughout the day; about 2.5 hours each way. Walking up to 2 miles throughout the day on mostly flat, paved, or dirt paths.

Breakfast: Breakfast buffet in hotel conference room.

Morning: From the hotel, we’ll travel along Hwy 89A, one of Arizona's most scenic byways, through Oak Creek Canyon, and up its famous switchbacks en route to the Grand Canyon's South Rim. A naturalist will accompany us on our journey, revealing the Grand Canyon's unique geologic, biologic and historic features while we have the opportunity to walk along the canyon's rim upon arrival. During our walk, we’ll see Grand Canyon Village where many of the most impressive structures in the historic village were designed by Mary Jane Colter, a renowned architect and designer for the Fred Harvey Company and Santa Fe Railroad. We may even see an endangered California condor soaring overhead as you gaze into the Canyon's depths below.

Lunch: Along the Grand Canyon’s rim, we will have sack lunches including a sandwich, chips, and fruit.

Afternoon: After a bit of time to explore independently on the rim in the historic village, we will begin our return journey to Sedona. Don't forget to take one last look across to the Canyon's North Rim, 10 miles away as the raven flies, before settling into your seat and recapping the 1.8 billion year layer cake of earth's history you've just seen in person!

Dinner: At a restaurant adjacent to the hotel, we’ll have our farewell buffet dinner.

Evening: Back at the hotel with our Group Leader, we will have a program wrap-up session and reflect on our experiences. Share some of your favorite memories from the program with new Road Scholar friends. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

Program Concludes

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Breakfast buffet. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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