The Best of Color Country National Parks: Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyon
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.
Rating (4.97)
Program No. 11573RJ
8 days
Starts at
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8 days
7 nights
20 meals
7 B 7 L 6 D
Getting There
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Check-in, Registration, Orientationn, Welcome Dinner
Las Vegas, NV
Alexis Park Resort

Afternoon: Program Registration: From 5:00 to 5:30 p.m. after you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar table outside of the meeting room to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, and to learn when and where the Orientation session will take place. If your arrival is delayed, please ask for your packet when you check in. Orientation: At 5:30 p.m. the Group Leader will greet everyone with a warm welcome and begin the orientation. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. Finally, everyone will introduce themselves. We will be accompanied by a Northern Arizona University naturalist who will serve as our Study Leader, leading hikes and field trips unless specified otherwise. Please bring a refillable water bottle on the program and on all hikes. Free time is reserved for your personal independent exploration. Evenings at leisure offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable through personal independent exploration, engaging in available activities on your own, or simply relaxing and making new friends among fellow participants. The Group Leader will always be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may be changed due to local conditions/circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: Catered by the hotel restaurant, plus coffee, tea, water; Alcoholic beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Evening at leisure.

Basin & Range, Zion National Park
Zion National Park
Zion Lodge

Activity note: Drive is about 165 miles. Walking up to 1.5 miles in Zion National Park with a max elevation gain of 69ft on a paved but uneven sidewalk.

Breakfast: In the hotel restaurant, we will have a breakfast buffet featuring a variety of items, plus coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Bring your luggage out to the coach and board the coach for the AM departure. Travel with your Northern Arizona University Naturalist/Guide who is knowledgeable and experienced in the region. While the Geology of these three Parks are important and the most obvious topics, your Naturalist/Guide will enhance your travel time with insight into the Geology, Plants and Animals, Human History and Pre-History of the of the area. Travel through the Basin and Range Province and the upper Mohave Desert, and the Virgin River Gorge, to the volcanic edge of the Colorado Plateau. En route hear a lecture on basic geology and discuss how it relates to the Color Country we are traveling through and to.

Lunch: At a local restaurant in Springdale, Utah, just outside of Zion National Park, we will have a buffet, plus coffee, tea, lemonade, water.

Afternoon: Board the coach and travel to the Zion National Park entrance and the Visitor Center. The center has a large scale relief map of the park, where you can overview what you will be seeing the next day and a half. You'll enjoy a pass through the non-profit bookstore at the center as well. Afterwards, Enjoy a short walk to the Lower Emerald Pool (1.2 miles RT/69 ft. elevation change on paved but sometimes uneven or muddy sidewalk).Traversing breathtaking scenery, the pools and waterfalls lay between monolithic sandstone structures and cottonwood and box elder trees.

Dinner: Dinner in the Red Rock Grill of the Zion Lodge in Zion National Park.

Evening: After dinner there will be Ranger Presentation by a Zion National Park Ranger in the lodge auditorium.

Zion Human History Museum, Weeping Rock, Temple of Sinawava
Zion National Park
Zion Lodge

Activity note: 3 walks today: 1 mile/ early morning nature walk;0.5 mile/100 vertical foot walk; 2.2 mile/57 vertical foot walk.

Breakfast: Breakfast in the Red Rock Grill of the Zion Lodge.

Morning: Rising early, some will choose to join a pre-breakfast sunrise nature walk on the PaRus Trail, with an emphasis on the natural environment we see along the trail. The PaRus trail is lovely in the early morning - it is quiet and mostly paved (with one short uneven gravel section) along the banks of the N. Fork of the Virgin River, with good views of the Streaked Wall, the Beehives, the Watchman, Bridge Arch and Bridge Mountain. Along the Trail we can see and discuss native plants and their uses. It is slightly over 1 mile, with 50 ft. elevation loss. We will return to the hotel for Breakfast, and then following breakfast, travel to the Zion Human History Museum with its 22 minute multi-media presentation on Zion. From here, there are great views of the Towers of the Virgin and the Altar of Sacrifice. From the Museum, we will return to the Park Lodge and then switch to the park shuttle to our lunch location.

Lunch: Sack lunch in the park with a variety of sandwich, chips, fruit, and dessert.

Afternoon: The shuttle will bring us to Weeping Rock where we will hike a short but steep trail. - about half a mile round trip, and about 100 feet of elevation change. En route, along the steep canyon walls are natural hanging gardens. View the Weeping Rock seep, and return to the shuttle to travel higher into the canyon. Ride up to the Temple of Sinawava stop where we will begin the trail approaching the Narrows, hiking the down and back Riverside Trail. Then walk back to the shuttle for our return to the lodge.

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

Evening: At leisure to explore Springdale or the Park or choose to rest up after our first few busy days.

Checkerboard Mesa & Grand Staircase, Bryce National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
The Lodge at Bryce Canyon

Activity note: 0.9 mile walk down 100 feet along the Bryce Canyon Rim, unpaved and somewhat rocky trail.

Breakfast: Breakfast in the Red Rock Grill of the Zion Lodge.

Morning: Board motor coach for the trip northbound from Zion National Park to Bryce National Park. You'll travel through the Zion Switchbacks and Tunnels, with their "Galleries" (windows) looking onto some of Zion's most vertical rock faces. Stop at Checkerboard Mesa, and hear why it has horizontal layers and vertical cracks. then climb the Grand Staircase on US 89, heading up Long Valley, rich in early Mormon history to Bryce Canyon National Park.

Lunch: At a local restaurant near the entrance to Bryce Canyon, we’ll have an extensive buffet, plus coffee, tea, soda, water.

Afternoon: Board the motor coach, travel into Bryce Canyon National Park and head for Inspiration Point. The unpaved trail there takes you in .9 mile 100 ft. down through bristlecone pines along the rim of Bryce Amphitheater to Sunset Point. All along the way you'll have great views of the hoodoos standing in rows with their diagonal scour markings. You'll love the contrast between the exposed rock hoodoos and the spruce, fir and bristlecone pine surroundings. The whole walk from Inspiration Point to Sunset is post-card photogenic.

Dinner: Board our motorcoach to Ebenezer's Barn and Grill for dinner and a western music show. We will pick up our preselected choice of entrée from a buffet line, plus coffee, tea, soda or water. Alcohol available for purchase.

Evening: After dinner enjoy a western music show.

Bryce Point, Queen's Garden Trail, Rainbow Pt, Yovimpa Pt.
Bryce Canyon National Park
The Lodge at Bryce Canyon

Activity note: 1/4 mile RT sunrise walk to Bryce Point, 1.8 mile RT Queen's Garden Walk, 1/2 mile RT walk to Yovimpa Point

Breakfast: At the hotel, we will have a plentiful buffet featuring an assortment of hot and cold items, eggs, breakfast meats, biscuits and gravy, French toast, pastries, potatoes, yogurt, and fruit, plus coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Before breakfast is the optional trip to Bryce Point. Early risers will be rewarded for their discipline when they ride our motor coach out to Bryce Point well before sunrise. Here we can watch both the brightening eastern horizon and the hoodoos change below you in Bryce Amphitheater. In the horizontal light of dawn, the colors there are wonderfully rich. After breakfast enjoy the walk to Sunrise Point. There, you'll see the famous Twinkle Toes tree, and learn about the forces of erosion. For those who want to make the hike, there is the 1.8 mile round trip trail one way down 320 feet amongst the hoodoos and see Queen Victoria surveying the Queen's Garden. Participants are also welcome to hike just part of the trail. For those who prefer a more relaxed experience, there are excellent views of the garden from the rim walk. Then we'll take our motor coach on the spectacularly scenic drive to Rainbow Point.

Lunch: Sack Lunch enjoying the view at Rainbow Point at the Park's southern end at 9115 feet above sea level.

Afternoon: At Rainbow 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, with its expansive views of the Grand Staircase and Navajo Mountain to the east and the Kaibab Plateau to the south. After returning from Yovimpa Point, we'll board the motorcoach and ride to the Bryce Canyon National Park Visitor Center, and the return to the hotel.

Dinner: Surrounded by the majestic Ponderosa Pine Forest, the Bryce Canyon Lodge dining room is a wonderful place to relax and take in the inspiring beauty of Bryce Canyon. Enjoy dining in the style of rustic elegance from the 1930s. This certified Green Restaurant serves up an environmentally sustainable menu with regional specialties as well as organic and all natural food choices.

Evening: You may choose an evening National Park Ranger presentation, or walk out to the rim and watch the Hoodoos change color as the sun sets behind you.

Pipe Spring Nat. Mon., Grand Staircase & Long Valley
North Rim, Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon Lodge, North Rim

Activity note: Drive is approximately 185 miles. Walk around Pipe Spring National Monument, 1/2 mile walk down 150 feet to Bright Angel Point

Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at the lodge.

Morning: Checking out of the hotel, we will begin our journey towards our third national park of the program. Board the motor coach for the southbound trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. You'll travel down several steps of the Grand Staircase to Kanab, UT and on into Arizona (Change to Mountain Standard Time). Once in Arizona visit Pipe Spring National Monument. Then the road climbs up the Kaibab Plateau. You'll stop at the LeFevre overlook where there is a larger than panoramic view of the Grand Staircase. Here you can look north and see the southern end of Bryce Canyon National Park atop the Staircase, and the tops of the Towers of Zion National Park. After nearing 8,000 ft elevation, you'll arrive at Jacob Lake for lunch at the Jacob Lake Inn

Lunch: The Jacob Lake Inn, a pine-surrounded log structure with a fireplace and a wonderfully homey feel, will serve some of its home-cooked fare. Be sure to leave room for the baked-right-there cookies, on sale near the door as you leave.

Afternoon: We’ll continue southbound across the upper reaches of Kaibab Plateau, through forests of pines, spruce, fir and quaking aspen. Learn why fire is important to the health of Ponderosa Pine forests and what happens when you suppress fires for 100 years. These are incredible woods which, with their huge meadows, give more of a feel of Montana than Arizona. Along the way you may see the unique Kaibab squirrels, wild turkeys and deer. During our drive, we will make several stops, including Pipe Spring National Monument where we will watch a short film, an opportunity to explore the museum, and see Winsor Castle. At Lefevre overlook, we will talk about the geology of the Grand Staircase. When we arrive at Grand Canyon National Park, we will walk out to Bright Angel Point. The walk out the spine of the ridge to the point is paved and is a little steep in places, but worth it. From the point, we will be treated to impressive colorful views stretching well down into Roaring Springs and Bright Angel Canyons. After our walk, we then check in at the Grand Canyon Lodge for our stay in the rustic cabins near the main lodge building and the canyon views on the back porch of the Grand Canyon Lodge.

Dinner: Dining in the historic Grand Canyon Lodge is truly a memorable experience. Regional as well as 1930's themed foods are featured throughout the menus. They take pride in utilizing only the freshest and healthiest ingredients. The "all natural" beef and poultry products are free of any antibodies or hormones. Salmon is wild Alaska caught. Additionally, they offer organic products such as salad greens and pastas.

Evening: After dinner you may choose to take in the presentation by the National Park Service Ranger, or go for a walk out to one of several view points overlooking the canyon to watch the stars rotate over your head.

North Rim, Nature Walk, Point Imperial, N.Kaibab Trail Hike
North Rim, Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon Lodge, North Rim

Activity note: 1 mile nature walk in morning. 1.4 mile RT/ 500 Vertical Foot hike down N. Kaibab Trail.

Breakfast: Breakfast Buffet in the dining room of the Historic North Rim Lodge.

Morning: Start your morning with a nature walk along and near the rim. Then board the motor coach and ride out to Point Imperial, the highest point on the North Rim at 8,803 feet. From the vista point here you can see the winding, narrow slash of Marble Canyon just upstream of where it breaks out into the wider Grand Canyon. The rocks of the Canyon walls are especially colorful here.

Lunch: We will have a sack lunch while enjoy views of the eastern Grand Canyon.

Afternoon: Board the motor coach and travel back through the N. Kaibab forest to the Grand Canyon Lodge, arriving around 2:00 PM. Here your afternoon provides you with several possible choices. You may want to join your group leader and hike down the N. Kaibab trail, which drops 600 feet in 3/4 of a mile. If you're feeling less athletic but still would enjoy a good hike, try the Transept Trail from the Lodge. Or catch an afternoon Ranger Program, or take the afternoon to relax at the coffee bar, the bookstore or saloon, or sit out on the Lodge patio and drink in the views.

Dinner: In the lodge dining room.

Evening: There will be a presentation offered by a park ranger from the National Park Service on the Grand Canyon.

Program Concludes

Activity note: Drive about 300 miles to Las Vegas McCarran Airport and the starting hotel

Breakfast: Early breakfast at North Rim prior to departures.

Morning: We will have an early check out from the hotel for our departure by 7:30 a.m. Sharp! As we make our way to the Las Vegas Airport, we will pass through St. George, Utah and Mesquite, Nevada.

Lunch: En route as we drive Las Vegas, we will have a sandwich and cookie.

Afternoon: Complete the final portion of our drive to Las Vegas, dropping participants at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport by 1:30 PM, followed by the starting hotel. This concludes our program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures sponsored by Northern Arizona University and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Keep in touch via the Road Scholar Social Network and our NAU Road Scholar Facebook page: www.facebook.com/rsadventures; and www.facebook.com/NAUroadscholar where you can share memories, picture and comments. Best wishes for all your journeys!