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Rafting, Hiking & Horses: Zion National Park With Your Family

Program No. 20966RJ
Get a new perspective on Utah and Arizona’s national parks with your family as you hike, climb and horseback ride, learning the unique story of these beautiful places.

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At a Glance

Rafting down the Colorado River. Hiking through Antelope Canyon and Zion National Park. Horseback riding and much more at Zion Ponderosa Ranch. Join in the ultimate family adventure as you discover the history and science behind the natural wonders of Arizona and Utah! Hike to the sandstone formations of Snow Canyon and Antelope Canyon, and join a falconer for a meeting with some of his closest feathered friends. Enjoy special opportunities to meet members of the local Navajo/Diné community and taste a "Navajo taco." At the Zion Ponderosa Ranch, try your hand at skeet shooting and other great activities — then enjoy s’mores around the campfire!
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Hiking up to 2-3 miles; optional activities include rock climbing, paint ball, skeet shooting, horse back riding. Elevations of 5,500 feet.
Family Programs
Family Programs
Share your love of learning with your family. These programs are designed for any combination of generations: grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents and children.

What You'll Learn

  • Enjoy all kinds of adventures at Zion Ponderosa Ranch, like horseback riding, paint ball, jeep tour and much more!
  • In Zion National Park, hike on the Pa’rus trail which runs along the Virgin River. Watch for mule deer and wild flowers as you take in the magnificent sandstone cliffs.
  • Take a flat water float trip down the mighty Colorado River; then explore the swirly and striped beauty of Antelope Canyon—the most photographed slot canyon of the desert Southwest.

General Notes

This is a Family program for participants, their adult children and grandchildren ages 8 and up.
Featured Expert
All trip experts
Profile Image
Martin Tyner
At the age of 19, Martin Tyner was hired as curator of birds of prey at Busch Gardens, Calif., and was soon working in the movie industry as a trainer of big cats, elephants, primates, sea mammals and raptors. He is the founder of the Southwest Wildlife Foundation, a non-profit wildlife rescue and environmental education organization. With the help of his Golden Eagle, Bud, they received a donation of 22.6 acres of property for the development of a permanent wildlife rescue facility in Utah.

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

Profile Image of Darrell McMahon
Darrell McMahon View biography
Darrell McMahon has worked in natural resource management for more than four decades and has extensive experience as a wildlife and habitat biologist, entomologist and botanist. Darrell has spent many years hiking thousands of miles through this wild landscape and has pinned his soul in the high plateaus and deep canyons of the desert southwest. Darrell has discovered many secret places in the desert southwest and loves to share these places and his knowledge with his best friends and Road Scholar participants.
Profile Image of Janice Hayden
Janice Hayden View biography
Janice Hayden moved to St. George, Utah to work as a field geologist for the Utah Geological Survey after working as an oil and gas exploration geologist. For 20 years, Janice mapped eighteen 7-½-minute quadrangles of southwest Utah that delineate geological formations, structures, soils, water resources, mineral deposits, and geologic hazards. She is now full-time faculty at Utah Tech University and frequently leads local geology field trips as well as field trips to Utah's national parks.
Profile Image of Martin Tyner
Martin Tyner View biography
At the age of 19, Martin Tyner was hired as curator of birds of prey at Busch Gardens, Calif., and was soon working in the movie industry as a trainer of big cats, elephants, primates, sea mammals and raptors. He is the founder of the Southwest Wildlife Foundation, a non-profit wildlife rescue and environmental education organization. With the help of his Golden Eagle, Bud, they received a donation of 22.6 acres of property for the development of a permanent wildlife rescue facility in Utah.
Profile Image of Paula McMahon
Paula McMahon View biography
Paula McMahon has spent a lifetime camping, hiking, backpacking and canoeing in the mountains and deserts of the American West. She feels honored to share her love and passion for these special places with participants on Road Scholar programs, which she has been doing for almost a decade. Paula has also worked for 18 years as an educational paraprofessional with autistic and deaf children and is a sign language (ASL) interpreter.
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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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7 days
6 nights
17 meals
6 B 5 L 6 D
Check-in, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
St. George
Holiday Inn Convention Center

Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 3:00-5:00 p.m. Remember to bring your nametag (sent previously).

Afternoon: Program Registration: 3:00-5:30 p.m. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff, get any updated information, and confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please locate your Group Leader and let them know you have arrived.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Orientation: 7:00 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 will be provided primarily by motorcoach unless otherwise specified. Be sure to bring a daypack, water bottle, sun protection, sturdy walking shoes and anything else you think you will need during our hikes in the desert. Durations of hikes vary depending on the group. 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. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

Snow Canyon State Park, Birds of Prey Presentation
St. George
Holiday Inn Convention Center

Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles on sandy, uneven, and rocky trails with a maximum elevation change of 100 feet. Getting on/off a motorcoach.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll begin our adventure with a field trip via motorcoach to Snow Canyon State Park, where our instructor will introduce the area’s geology via a short hike to a viewpoint along the rim with motorcoach stops within the canyon. We’ll soak in the beauty of the scenery and notice the exquisite red and white sandstone cliffs, rolling mounds of petrified sand dunes and lava (basalt) rock formations.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: We’ll travel to the Washington County Recreation Center for an afternoon swim in the indoor aquatic center.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: We’ll be joined in the hotel meeting room by a federally licensed eagle falconer for a presentation on birds of prey native to the Southwestern United States. With the opportunity to see a live falcon, hawk, and golden eagle up close, we’ll learn about these beautiful and fascinating animals. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

Zion National Park
Zion National Park, UT
Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort

Activity note: Walking 2-3 miles, mostly paved trails, some uneven and slippery terrain depending on which hike is chosen with a maximum elevation change of 200 ft. Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving 45 miles, approximately 1 hour riding time.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll check out of our hotel and transfer by motorcoach to Zion National Park for field trips led by our instructor who will provide information about the Virgin River and Zion Canyon’s geology and plant habitat along the way.

Lunch: On the lawn at Zion Lodge, we’ll have box lunches.

Afternoon: We’ll continue hiking in Zion National Park to see more of its natural wonders. Later, we’ll travel via motorcoach on the historic Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, ascend nearly 1,000 vertical feet, and go through a mile-long tunnel to Zion’s breathtaking east side. We’ll make a quick stop to photograph astounding Checkerboard Mesa before leaving the park and checking into our next lodging.

Dinner: At the ranch, an extensive Western-style dinner buffet awaits us.

Evening: At the ranch, we’ll observe the sky and be amazed at how many stars we can see at night!

Ranch Activities & Exploration
Zion National Park, UT
Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort

Activity note: All activities for the day are located at the ranch. Depending on the activity, a low to moderate level of physical coordination is required. Each family should assess their own abilities and comfort level prior to initiating any activity. Some activities require prior no-fee registration in order to accommodate a limited number of participants. Our Group Leader will explain the sign-up process the night before.

Breakfast: At the ranch.

Morning: Let’s get ready for incredible adventures and a fabulous time participating in activities at the ranch! We’ll be able to choose from activities such as horseback riding, rock climbing wall, paintball, a jeep ride, skeet shooting, mini-golf, hiking, ping pong, horse shoes, and swimming.

Lunch: At the ranch’s cafeteria.

Afternoon: Activities at the ranch will continue for an afternoon of fun-filled adventure.

Dinner: Western-style dinner at the ranch.

Evening: We’ll gather around the campfire for stories and s’mores, then prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

Antelope Slot Canyon & Glen Canyon Dam
Lake Powell, AZ
La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Page at Lake Powell

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 100 miles, approximately 2 hours riding time. Hiking is up to 1/2 mile in deep sand in a narrow slot canyon. Closed-toe shoes recommended for the hike through Antelope Canyon.

Breakfast: At the ranch.

Morning: After checking out, we’ll depart via motorcoach to Page, AZ. We’ll stop en route for a field trip to Antelope Slot Canyon, the most photographed slot canyon in the Southwest U.S. There, we’ll embark on an expert-led exploration of Upper Antelope Canyon. The Navajo name is Tse' bighanilini, which means “the place where water runs through rocks.” Upper Antelope is at about 4,000 feet elevation and the canyon walls rise 120 feet above the streambed, all located within the LeChee Chapter of the Navajo Nation. We’ll discover why this beautiful canyon has rightly earned its world-renowned reputation.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: We’ll transfer via motorcoach to Glen Canyon Dam, which forms Lake Powell, one of the largest manmade reservoirs in the U.S. At the visitor center, we will learn via independent discovery about the building of the dam, how electric power is generated, and water use and conservation measures in the west. We’ll then proceed to the hotel for check-in.

Dinner: We’ll transfer via motorcoach to the Native American Performing Arts Theater where we’ll enjoy a traditional Navajo taco dinner.

Evening: After dinner, we’ll get a fascinating glimpse into Navajo history, culture, and traditions via music and dance presented by Navajo tribal members. Upon our return to the hotel, prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

Colorado River Float Trip
St. George
Holiday Inn Convention Center

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 150 miles, approximately 3 hours to St. George after river float, with at least one stop along the way. Minimal walking, no hiking today. We will place our luggage on the curb beside the motorcoach 15 minutes prior to departure for transit to Saint George.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After check-out, we’ll travel by motorcoach a few miles to the banks of the Colorado River, where we begin our flat water float trip, led and operated by local experts. Our field trip begins with an exciting ride down the two-mile long Glen Canyon Dam access tunnel. With the dam soaring 700 feet above, we’ll board a motorized pontoon raft for our journey downstream, where we will experience one of the most dramatic stretches of river found in the western United States. While underway, we’ll hear about the area’s story of soaring sandstone cliffs, crystal blue-green waters, abundant wildlife, former inhabitation by native cultures, exploration by Major John Wesley Powell, and the Colorado River’s modern role in the Southwest’s water and power delivery system.

Lunch: On the river, we’ll have box lunches.

Afternoon: Returning to St. George via motorcoach, we’ll check in to our rooms with time to freshen up and relax until dinner.

Dinner: At a local restaurant. Share favorite experiences and enjoy camaraderie with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

Program Concludes
St. George

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

Breakfast: At the hotel. This concludes our program.

Morning: 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 another rewarding program 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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