Northern Arizona’s Cultures and Canyons and Western Grand Canyon Rafting

Come discover the many wonders of Northern Arizona as you raft the Colorado River, explore Meteor Crater, learn about native cultures and ride a helicopter above the Grand Canyon!
Rating (5)
Program No. 1076RJ
7 days
Starts at
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7 days
6 nights
16 meals
6 B 4 L 6 D
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Flagstaff, Ariz.
La Quinta Inn and Suites Flagstaff

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

Afternoon: Program Registration. 5:00 – 5:30 p.m. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table in the hotel meeting room 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. Transportation throughout the program will be primarily by 13-passenger vans, unless otherwise noted. Periods in the daily 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: We’ll walk to a nearby local restaurant for a choice of hot plated entrées and an endless salad bar featuring seasonal and local specialties, fresh produce and fruits, soups, appetizers, and cool desserts, plus coffee, tea, water. There is no alcohol served at this restaurant.

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

Museum of Northern Arizona, Walnut Canyon Nat’l Monument
Flagstaff, Ariz.
La Quinta Inn and Suites Flagstaff

Activity note: Driving approximately 15 miles; about 1/2 hour. Walking about 1 mile on Island Trail at Walnut Canyon; approximately 1 hour with stops; paved trail; descend and ascend 185 feet via 240 steps. Rim Trail is about 1 mile; approx. 1 hour; paved and level. Elevation at 6,700 ft.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we will have a buffet including waffles, eggs, bagels, cereal, muffins, and fresh fruit, plus coffee, tea, juices, milk, water.

Morning: We will load our vans to begin our adventure and better acquaint ourselves with the native cultures and natural history of the Grand Canyon region. To start, we’ll engage in a docent-led exploration of the Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA), which was founded in 1928 to honor the natural and cultural heritage of northern Arizona and the beauty and diversity of the Colorado Plateau. At the end of our visit, we will have some time to explore independently.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we will have a choice of entrees featuring a variety of selections, plus coffee, tea, soft drinks, lemonade, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We’ll then travel to Walnut Canyon where we will go on our next field trip to the Sinagua Ruins, the visitor center, and the museum at Walnut Canyon National Monument. Upon arrival, we’ll set out on a hike led by our Group Leader down into Walnut Canyon on the Island Trail, which will bring us face to face with ancient cliff dwellings. Walnut Canyon is a spectacular scenic attraction in its own right and contains diverse plant and animal communities to be enjoyed from all vantage points with interpretive signs to supplement viewing. For those who choose not to go into the canyon, a lovely rim walk led by one of the Group Leaders also offers excellent views and access to Sinagua Ruins. We will return to Flagstaff in the mid-afternoon with time to freshen up and relax before dinner.

Dinner: At a festive local Greek restaurant, we’ll enjoy a choice of plated entrees with something for all palates, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At the hotel, we will have an introduction to the region’s geology with an emphasis on the Grand Canyon presented by a local expert. We’ll gain a background on the forces that created this world wonder which will then make our next day’s field trip to the Grand Canyon even more meaningful.

Desert View Tower, Grand Canyon South Rim Field Trip
Flagstaff, Ariz.
La Quinta Inn and Suites Flagstaff

Activity note: Driving approximately 200 miles total for the day; about 4 hours total driving time, with stops. Walking approximately 1 mile throughout the day; about 2.5 hours on our feet. Approximately 5 flights of stairs to the top of the Desert View overlook.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Setting out from the hotel, we’ll make our way to Grand Canyon National Park for a full-day field trip. During our journey, we will be accompanied by a naturalist who will reveal the unique geologic, biologic, and historic features of the Grand Canyon. En route, we’ll travel through the southwestern corner of the Navajo Reservation and Cameron, Arizona. Entering Grand Canyon National Park at Desert View overlook, we’ll enjoy commentary as we see sweeping views of the Colorado River, the North Rim, and Mary Jane Colter's Watchtower. The Watchtower, which we’ll explore independently upon arrival, is an interpretation of a prehistoric "tower kiva" with lavishly painted interior walls by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie.

Lunch: In the field, we’ll enjoy prepared sack lunches.

Afternoon: Continuing our explorations along the rim of the Grand Canyon, we’ll make a stop at a beautiful overlook where we will gather on the edge of the abyss. Our Group Leader will point out significant features in the canyon including Phantom Ranch and inner canyon hiking trails, as well as prominent spires, temples, and buttes. Outside here in one of the world’s greatest classrooms, we’ll discuss geologic canyon formation principles. Next, we’ll visit the Grand Canyon Village, full of historic buildings and Native American influences. If we’re lucky, we may even see an endangered California condor soaring overhead as we gaze out at the Canyon. Our Group Leader will plan and discuss afternoon activities depending on group interest and weather conditions. There will be opportunities for independent exploration before our departure back to Flagstaff. This is a long day worthy of one the world’s grandest natural wonders! We’ll return to Flagstaff in the mid-afternoon.

Dinner: At a local restaurant in Flagstaff, we’ll enjoy a plated meal with some southwestern flair popular with locals and visitors alike, plus coffee, tea, soft drinks, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Rest and relax at the hotel following a long day’s exploration.

Meteor Crater, La Posada Hotel
Flagstaff, Ariz.
La Quinta Inn and Suites Flagstaff

Activity note: Driving approximately 40 miles to Meteor Crater; about 1 hour. Drive approximately 25 miles; about 1/2 hour further to La Posada. Walking approximately 1 mile; about 1 hour along the crater’s rim; dirt path, uneven terrain.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: After boarding our vans, we’ll transfer to Meteor Crater, one of Earth’s best preserved meteorite impact site. With an experienced local expert, we’ll walk along the rim of the crater that has been used by both Hollywood and NASA for training of the Apollo astronauts. Along with fantastic crater views, there will be time to explore independently the adjacent museum with excellent displays on exhibits on discovery, exploration, and ongoing research. It is the most heavily studied impact crater, crucial to our modern understanding of the science of impact craters. We’ll then continue our drive to La Posada Hotel.

Lunch: In the Turquoise Room in the La Posada Hotel, we’ll enjoy a selection of plated items from a creative group menu featuring the finest and freshest ingredients, plus coffee, tea, soft drinks, water; other beverages available for purchase. The Turquoise Room is one of the Southwest’s unique restaurants, describing itself as regional contemporary Southwestern with an occasional tribute to the great days of the Fred Harvey Company.

Afternoon: We’ll then have some time on our own to explore the historic and fascinating interior and environs of the La Posada Hotel. La Posada was one of the many sites where the Harvey Girls worked through the first half of the 20th century. These waitresses changed the perception of waitressing thanks to their excellent service and moral character in restaurants established throughout the Southwest by Fred Harvey while assisting the still-developing tourism industry. In the mid-afternoon, we will return to the hotel.

Dinner: At a Mexican restaurant in Flagstaff that is popular among locals and visitors alike, we’ll enjoy plated meals with coffee, tea, water, non-alcoholic drinks included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: In the restaurant banquet room, we’ll then join our Group Leader for a preparatory session regarding our upcoming river trip. We will discuss logistics, river conditions, and what to wear. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

Flagstaff, Native American Culture, To Grand Canyon Caverns
Grand Canyon Caverns/Peach Springs
Grand Canyon Caverns Inn

Activity note: Walking approx. 1 mile in Flagstaff; about 1.5 hours. Driving approx. 140 miles one way; about 2 hours.

Breakfast: At the restaurant adjacent to the hotel, we’ll order plated meals from the menu with a choice of milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: After transferring to the university campus and an on-site meeting room, we’ll enjoy a presentation focused on the Native American cultures of the region. The Navajo, Hopi, Hualapai and Havasupai are but a few tribes that call the Grand Canyon home. A tribal member of one of the area tribes will share with the group their culture and heritage. Then we will check out of the hotel and load our luggage into a trailer for transfer to downtown Flagstaff where we’ll set out for an expert-led walking field trip that will bring to life the unique charms of this mountain town.

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

Afternoon: After rendezvousing at a predetermined time and place we’ll leave Flagstaff and make our way to the Grand Canyon Caverns. During our journey, we’ll cover a historic stretch of the famous Route 66. Along the way, look for old timey Burma Shave signs and enjoy the wide open view. Upon arrival in the mid-afternoon, we’ll check in to the inn.

Dinner: At the hotel restaurant approximately 1 mile from the rooms, which we will reach via program vans, we’ll enjoy a buffet dinner featuring a full salad bar and home-cooked entrees. Soft drinks, iced-tea, coffee, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We will go on a tour of the caverns or, in the hotel meeting room, we’ll enjoy an evening presentation on a subject of local interest. Depending on availability, subjects may include Arizona ranching history, Hualapai culture, Black-footed ferret reintroduction or Colorado River Hhstory and issues to name a few.

Grand Canyon Whitewater Rafting & Helicopter Trip
Grand Canyon Caverns/Peach Springs
Grand Canyon Caverns Inn

Activity note: Driving approx. 20 miles one way; about 1 hour; bumpy dirt road to raft put-in. Driving approx. 127 miles return; about 3 hours; paved roads. Rafting approx. 37 miles on 25-foot inflatable rafts; about 5 hours; some rapid ratings between 5 and 7 on a 1 to 10 scale; requires hand strength to hold on to boat frame; we will get wet with splashing water. Side hike of approx. 1/2 mile; rocky, sometimes steep terrain. Helicopter flight is about 8 minutes. Dress for cold weather, regardless of season.

Breakfast: At the lodge restaurant, we will have a buffet featuring a variety of hot and cold choices, plus milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Heading out from the lodge, we’ll travel to Hualapai Lodge where we will check in with the rafting company and travel down the bumpy Diamond Creek Road – the only road to the bottom of the canyon – aboard a bus. Once at the beach of the Colorado River, our river experts will give us a safety orientation and life vest fitting. Then we’ll load the inflatable motorized pontoon rafts and head downstream on the mighty Colorado! The "Diamond Down" Colorado River trip is about 37 miles in length and during the first 16 miles, we will encounter about 10 sections of whitewater rapids. Some of these are large (5, 6 and 7's on a 1-10 scale). We will get wet! The air temperature at the bottom of the canyon will likely be around 80 - 90 degrees so the splashing is welcome relief and keeps everyone cool. However, the weather can do strange things so in the event of cooler temps, be prepared by having adequate rain gear for warmth. We’ll pull over our rafts to see a couple attractions en route including the beautiful and hidden Travertine Grotto where we’ll have an opportunity to climb on the rocks and splash in the flowing water. After 16 miles the rapids flatten out, but the scenery remains "grand" in all regards.

Lunch: Ashore on a Colorado River beach, we’ll enjoy our sack lunches.

Afternoon: Continuing down Colorado River after lunch, we’ll reach Quartermaster Point, a helicopter landing zone. After disembarking rafts, we will check in with the helicopter flight crew and queue up for loading. When you're called, get buckled into a helicopter for a short but spectacular ride from the river to Grand Canyon West on the Hualapai Reservation. Don't forget your camera for this once-in-a-lifetime experience! In late afternoon, we’ll travel via bus through the starkly beautiful Joshua Tree forest, as well as the basin and range topography of the Mohave Desert to a late dinner. NOTE: Helicopter flight is dependent on wind and/or heat conditions on the rim and in the canyon. On extremely windy or hot days, due to safety concerns, helicopters will not be allowed to fly. Although this is always a possibility, it happens very infrequently. When this occurs the raft trip is extended on the river for an additional 18 miles, about 1.5 hours, to Pearce Ferry where vehicles are able to reach the river.

Dinner: Back at the inn, we’ll enjoy a well-deserved dinner buffet.

Evening: We will then gather for a short program wrap-up session to share some of your favorite experiences of the program with new Road Scholar friends. The remainder of the evening will be at leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

Program Concludes
Flagstaff, Ariz.

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 8:00 a.m. Driving approx. 140 miles one way to Flagstaff; about 2 hours.

Breakfast: Lodge buffet.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll load up our vans and transfer back to Flagstaff, making a stop at the starting hotel for drop-offs. This concludes our program. 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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