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Best of Color Country National Parks: Zion, Bryce & Grand Canyon

Program No. 11573RJ
Discover the colorful and ancient landscapes of three iconic national parks as you explore geological monuments, visit historic lodges and marvel at scenic wonders with a naturalist.

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At a Glance

The Colorado Plateau has created monuments shaped by winter snows, rain and geological upheaval over a span of time eluding human comprehension. Even with an understanding of geology, the multi-hued amphitheaters and hoodoos of Bryce, the cathedral canyons of Zion and the lush North Rim of the Grand Canyon seem improbable — inspiring wonder and defying imagination. Venture into these breathtaking national parks to discover their evolution through geologic time and the natural history and human stories that also color this country.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Elevations up to 9,115 feet. Walking up to three miles daily on varied terrain.

What You'll Learn

  • Enjoy a free day to explore Zion National Park on your own, taking in its natural beauty and impressive hiking trails at a pace that’s right for you.
  • Spend a day among hoodoos and other rock formations of Bryce Canyon National Park.
  • Marvel at the awe-inspiring expanse that awaits at “Bright Angel” while at the Grand Canyon's North Rim.

General Notes

Select dates are designated for small groups and are limited to 24 participants or less. Transportation on this program is usually by full sized motorcoach, with about 35 participants in some dates.
Featured Expert
All trip experts
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Amy Calhoun
Amy Calhoun has been writing poetry, short stories and human interest pieces for local publications for nearly 35 years. She is an artist working with furniture and mixed media, pulling from her inspiration -- the great Southwest. Amy enjoys the outdoors as much as anything else she. She has spent time studying archeology and anthropology and enjoys working relationships and friendships with members of many Arizona tribes. She has raised three children and has two young granddaughters.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Amy Calhoun
Amy Calhoun View biography
Amy Calhoun has been writing poetry, short stories and human interest pieces for local publications for nearly 35 years. She is an artist working with furniture and mixed media, pulling from her inspiration -- the great Southwest. Amy enjoys the outdoors as much as anything else she. She has spent time studying archeology and anthropology and enjoys working relationships and friendships with members of many Arizona tribes. She has raised three children and has two young granddaughters.
Profile Image of Kristin Hooten
Kristin Hooten View biography
Kristin Hooten has spent the majority of her life in the mountains of Flagstaff, Arizona. She earned a bachelor's degree in Parks and Recreation Management with an emphasis in Outdoor Education and Leadership from Northern Arizona University. Kristin has worked in the outdoor industry in different capacities and enjoys her ongoing education with the surrounding region. When not in the office or field, she is found enjoying the great outdoors either on a paddleboard or in her camper.
Profile Image of Christopher Eaves
Christopher Eaves View biography
Christopher Eaves has called the Southwest home for the past two decades, exploring the wild lands and rivers of the region. After teaching middle school math and science for 15 years, he joined Road Scholar to continue his ongoing passion for promoting learning. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Western University of Colorado and a master’s in Education from Northern Arizona University. Chris's hobbies include mountain biking, hiking, and traveling the globe with his spouse and children.
Profile Image of Devon Beam
Devon Beam View biography
Devon Beam has called Northern Arizona home since 2018. After working in the outdoor industry for the past 15 years, he began working with Road Scholar to continue his ongoing passion for promoting outdoor recreation. Devon has traveled extensively throughout the United States and Central America. His hobbies include traveling, baking bread, playing guitar, and biking in remote places with his spouse.
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While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of our published materials, programs are typically advertised more than a year prior to their start date. As a result, some program activities, schedules, accommodations, personnel, and other logistics occasionally change due to local conditions or circumstances. Should a major change occur, we will make every effort to alert you. For less significant changes, we will update you during orientation. Thank you for your understanding.
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8 days
7 nights
19 meals
7 B 6 L 6 D
Check-in, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Las Vegas, NV
Hilton Garden Inn South Las Vegas Blvd

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 outside the 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. We will be accompanied by a Northern Arizona University employee who will serve as our Group Leader, leading hikes and field trips unless specified otherwise. Please bring a refillable water bottle on the program and on all hikes. 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: We will enjoy a dinner in the hotel meeting room.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

Basin & Range, Zion National Park
Zion National Park
Hampton Inn & Suites Zion National Park

Activity note: Driving approximately 165 miles; about 3 hours. Hiking approximately .75 miles; about 3/4 hour; gravel path with some steps and uneven footing.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Once checked out of the hotel, we will board the motorcoach for our transfer north toward Zion National Park. Along the way, our instructor will enhance our travel time with insights into the geology, plants, animals, and human history of the region. We’ll travel through the Basin and Range Province, the upper Mojave Desert, and the Virgin River Gorge, en route to the Colorado Plateau and Zion National Park. Upon arrival to the Zion Lodge area we will transfer by free park shuttle to the Grotto picnic area.

Lunch: Within the towering cliffs of Zion Canyon, we’ll enjoy a box lunch.

Afternoon: After lunch we will begin our explorations from the Grotto picnic area walking back to the Zion Lodge area Nestled at the base of stunning canyon walls, the grounds of the Zion Lodge invite people to linger among its shady cottonwood trees and grassy field. At the Lodge, your Group Leaders will give an overview of the area and offer activities at one or more locations. Activities may include walking the Lower Emerald Pools Trail, the Grotto Trail, or a historic walk around the Zion Lodge. Mid-afternoon we will depart Zion Canyon for the town of Springdale and check-in to our hotel. We will have an opportunity to settle in and relax before gathering for dinner.

Dinner: At a local restaurant in the town of Springdale.

Evening: We will gather to discuss free time choices in the park tomorrow. Our Group Leader will provide us detailed park information and shuttle maps. We’ll discuss how the park and Springdale shuttle systems operate and have an orientation to many of the park’s highlights, viewpoints, trails, and feature. The Group Leader will also discuss dining options in town for dinner on your own tomorrow. NOTE: There have been reductions within our Zion National Park Commercial Use Authorization (CUA). The CUA regulates and mandates which trails and parking areas groups are allowed to use and the number of people that constitute a group. These changes in regulations have necessitated an independent exploration day by participants within the park tomorrow.

Zion Park, Free Park Shuttle to Viewpoints and Nature Walks.
Zion National Park
Hampton Inn & Suites Zion National Park

Activity note: Getting on/off Zion Park shuttle; driving about 16 miles round-trip, approximately 90 minutes riding time with stops. Elective walking about 2 - 4 miles round trip according to personal choice, approximately 4-6 hours; paved and unpaved trails. Lower Emerald Pools trail: 1.2 miles round trip 70 ft. elev. gain. Riverside Walk 2.2 miles round trip; paved, relatively level. Bring day pack to carry your sack lunch, water bottle, sun protection.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: In keeping with current park group protocols, today will be dedicated to independent exploration. We will gather in the hotel lobby with our Group Leader to be sure everyone is properly outfitted with the essentials of being out in the field for the day including water, sunscreen, hat, and other weather-related gear. The Group Leaders will review how the park shuttle operates; discuss the many viewpoints and features in the park available to explore; how to return to the hotel using the shuttle system; and answer any questions. We will also have sack lunches distributed. Using our vehicle(s), we will transport as a group from the hotel to the Zion Visitor Center where the Group Leader will confirm our group entry into the National Park. From the Visitor Center, we’ll then stroll across the plaza to the free Zion Canyon shuttle bus terminal where our park exploration and access into Zion Canyon will begin.

Lunch: Sack lunches in the field at your leisure at a location of our choice.

Afternoon: Continue independent explorations in Zion National Park. Return to the hotel according to personal choice by utilizing the National Park Shuttle and Springdale town shuttle bus system.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost. Dinner is on your own in the quaint town of Springdale, where you can enjoy a variety of restaurants, bars, gift shops, art galleries, and more. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

Checkerboard Mesa & Grand Staircase, Bryce National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Best Western Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel

Activity note: Driving about 85 miles, around 1.5 hours, to Bryce Canyon National Park. Walking about 1 mile along Bryce Canyon rim from Inspiration Point to Sunset Point; approximately 1 hour; about 100 feet of change in elevation; unpaved trail. Elevation is approximately 8,000 feet at Bryce Canyon.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll board the motorcoach and travel to Bryce Canyon National Park, one of America’s smaller national parks, covering only 56 square miles. Bryce is renowned for its unique geological features, carved by nature into hoodoos and pinnacles of an amazing palette of colors. Along the way we will travel through the one mile long Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel and stop at Checkerboard Mesa to hear why it has horizontal layers and vertical cracks. We will also discuss how the vegetation and habitat changes from the valley floor 2,000 feet below us. Then, we will climb the Grand Staircase via US 89, heading up Long Valley, rich in early Mormon pioneer history to Bryce Canyon National Park.

Lunch: At Ruby’s Cowboy Cafe, we will enjoy a variety lunch entree choices. A trip through the salad bar and a nonalcoholic beverage will be included.

Afternoon: After lunch, we will travel to Inspiration Point for a walk to Sunset Point. This one mile, unpaved trail winds along the rim through Bristlecone pine, spruce and fir trees. All along the trail, we'll have great views of the Bryce Amphitheater with rows of hoodoos, fins and spires of red, pink and yellow rock. In the late afternoon, we will check into our hotel.

Dinner: At Ruby’s Cowboy Cafe.

Evening: Evening at Leisure.

Bryce Point, Queen's Garden, Rainbow Point, Yovimpa Point
Bryce Canyon National Park
Best Western Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel

Activity note: Driving about 50 miles total throughout the day; approximately 2 hours total drive time, with stops. Walking approximately 3 miles total: sunrise walk is less than 1/4 mile roundtrip, paved; Queen's Garden walk is about 2 miles roundtrip with 320 feet loss/gain of elevation; walk to Yovimpa Point is approximately 1/2 mile roundtrip, paved.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Before breakfast there will be an elective motorcoach trip to Sunset Point where early risers will be rewarded with a spectacular sunrise over the richly colored hoodoos of Bryce amphitheater. Here we will watch both the brightening eastern horizon and the hoodoos transformative color change below the rim. After sunrise viewing, we will return to our lodge for breakfast. After breakfast, the group will rejoin and depart for a day in the national park. Our first stop will take us back to the rim of Bryce Canyon and a short walk to Sunrise Point. From Sunrise Point, we will have a couple of hikes to choose from. The more ambitious choice is a 1.8 mile roundtrip hike with a 320 foot loss/gain of elevation - to the Queen's Garden. Led by one of our Group Leaders, we will hike below the canyon rim and experience an entirely different view of the hoodoo filled landscape. You may elect to turn around part way down, or you may choose to walk with our other Group Leader along the rim on the relatively level gravel path. Late morning we will reconvene at the bus and depart for to the far southern reaches of the park via the scenic drive to Rainbow / Yovimpa Point.

Lunch: At Rainbow / Yovimpa Point, at 9,115 feet above sea level, we’ll enjoy a boxed lunch.

Afternoon: At Rainbow/ Yovimpa Point, we’ll have a photo opportunity before setting out on a short walk through high woods of many types of conifers to Yovimpa Point. From here, we’ll enjoy expansive views from the top of the Grand Staircase and Navajo Mountain to the east, and the Kaibab Plateau to the south. After walking back from Yovimpa Point, we’ll board the motorcoach for the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center to view the award-winning park video, and visit the natural history museum. We’ll then return to the hotel.

Dinner: We'll walk a short distance from our hotel to dinner and entertainment at Ebenezer's Barn and Grill.

Evening: During dinner, we will enjoy a country music show before returning to the hotel for a relaxing evening at leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

Pipe Spring Nat’l Monument, Grand Staircase, Long Valley
North Rim, Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim

Activity note: Driving approximately 185 miles total throughout the day; about 4 hours total of driving time. Walking up to 1.5 miles, about 2 hours, total throughout the day; about 1/2 mile around Pipe Spring National Monument mostly paved, flat terrain; walk to Bright Angel Point is approximately 1/2 mile down roughly 150 feet; mostly paved, somewhat steep and exposed terrain.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Checking out of the Lodge, we will begin our journey towards our third national park of the program. We’ll board the motorcoach for the southbound trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We will travel down the several steps of the Grand Staircase and move on to Arizona where we will visit Pipe Spring National Monument. Upon arrival at the park we will orient to the park's museum exhibits, video and outdoor demonstration stations. In addition we will meet a park ranger for an introduction and subsequent self guided exploration of Winsor Castle – a fort built by Mormon settlers beginning around 1870 – and the surrounding grounds Mid-morning, we will depart Pipe Spring National Monument and travel up the western flank of the Kaibab Plateau. After nearing 8,000 feet elevation, we’ll arrive at the historic Jacob Lake Inn for lunch.

Lunch: At the Jacob Lake Inn, a pine-surrounded log structure with a fireplace and a wonderfully homey feel, we will enjoy some of its home-cooked fare with a plated meal.

Afternoon: We’ll then continue southbound across the Kaibab Plateau through forests of Ponderosa pines, spruce, fir and quaking aspen, as well as huge meadows—more reminiscent of Montana than Arizona. En route, we’ll learn through an onboard lecture why fire is important to the health of Ponderosa pine forests and what happens when fires are suppressed for 100 years. As we travel, we may see the unique Kaibab squirrel, wild turkey, and deer. Upon arrival, we'll take a half-mile roundtrip hike on a inclined paved trail to Bright Angel Point, a promontory at an elevation of 8,148 feet that offers panoramic views of Roaring Springs, Bright Angel, and Transept Canyons, as well as the inner gorge of the Grand Canyon. After our walk we will check into our cabins, get settled in and relax before dinner. Note that the Frontier Cabins in which we will be staying are historic log cabins that were built in the 1930s. They enhance the rustic ambiance of the North Rim. Please be aware that the cabins are smaller and cozier than average modern day lodgings.

Dinner: In the dining room of the North Rim Lodge, we will have a plated meal. As we dine, we’ll enjoy magnificent canyon views through huge picture windows.

Evening: After dinner, the remainder of the evening will be at your leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

North Rim Nature Walk, Transept Trail Hike
Kanab, UT
Holiday Inn Express Kanab

Activity note: Driving approximately 90 miles total throughout the day; about 2 hour, with stops. Walking approximately 2 miles total for the day, about 2 hours combined: nature walk is about 1 mile; Transept Trail hike about 2 mile rim hike; all are unpaved, rolling trails with about 200 feet of elevation change.

Breakfast: At the North Rim Lodge.

Morning: If you would like, rise early on your own to take a short walk and experience a sunrise over the canyon to the east. After a leisurely breakfast, we’ll check out of our cabins and load our luggage. We’ll then decide how to spend our mornings with our Group Leaders offering a guided walk on the Transept Trail, or a nice stroll through the Ponderosa Pine forest along the rim and on the Bridle path, back to the lodge. Depending on the interest of the group, additional time on the rim or additional stops at points of interest en route to Kanab will be added to today's activities.

Lunch: In the field, we will have boxed lunches.

Afternoon: After lunch, we’ll depart the North Rim for Kanab Utah. We will have the chance to make stops along the way to learn about the geologic history of the "Grand Staircase" of Southern Utah. Mid-afternoon we will check into our hotel with time to freshen up before dinner.

Dinner: At a favorite local Kanab restaurant.

Evening: After dinner, we will have the opportunity to explore downtown Kanab. Centrally located on Main St., your hotel is in the perfect location for short walks to local art galleries and gift shops. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

Program Concludes

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 8 a.m. Driving approximately 210 miles from Kanab to Las Vegas; about 4 hours. Expected arrival at Las Vegas Harry Reid International Airport by approximately 11:30 a.m.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Once checked out of our hotel, we will depart from Kanab via motorcoach for our return trip to Las Vegas Harry Reid International Airport with expected arrival to the airport by 11:30 AM, followed by transfer to starting hotel. 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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