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Exploring the Grand Canyon's North & South Rims With Your Family

Program No. 21290RJ
Get a unique perspective of the Grand Canyon as you explore the North and South Rims, learn about Native American culture and fly above the Colorado River for a bird’s-eye view!

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At a Glance

The Grand Canyon is way too big to take home with you, but on this once-in-a-lifetime family adventure, you’ll create indelible memories so that a little piece of the canyon stays with you forever. Join a Grand Canyon expert to discover the geology, natural history and Native American heritage of this world wonder. Enjoy walks and hikes to beautiful view points, marvel at a sunset. Ride a 4x4 jeep through Sedona’s magnificent red-rock country and so much more as you learn from park rangers about what this treasure means to America.
Activity Level
Outdoor: No Sweat
Walk 1-2 miles daily over varied terrain. Riding jeep on dirt roads, sand and slick rock. Elevations up to 8,000 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

  • Climb aboard one of Sedona’s famed “Pink Jeeps” to explore red-rock canyons and dramatic scenic vistas not accessible to most visitors.
  • Take a thrilling narrated flight high above the Grand Canyon in a fixed-wing aircraft, enjoying bird's-eye views of the Colorado River and inner canyon.
  • Take a refreshing dip in a quiet eddy of the Colorado River in Marble Canyon; see fantastical mushroom rocks and learn about the area’s colorful human history.

General Notes

This is a Family Program for participants, their adult children and grandchildren ages 9 and up.
Featured Expert
All trip experts
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Thomas Combrink
Thomas Combrink was born in South Africa and, as a child, lived in Zambia and Zimbabwe where his father was a British government land surveyor. In the bush with his parents, he gained an appreciation and love for the natural world. Thomas earned degrees from Texas A&M (Park & Recreation Resource Management) and Michigan State University (Agricultural Economics). He retired from Northern Arizona University with research in applied economics and tourism. Living in Flagstaff for 32 years, he has explored much of the Colorado Plateau.

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

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Thomas Combrink View biography
Thomas Combrink was born in South Africa and, as a child, lived in Zambia and Zimbabwe where his father was a British government land surveyor. In the bush with his parents, he gained an appreciation and love for the natural world. Thomas earned degrees from Texas A&M (Park & Recreation Resource Management) and Michigan State University (Agricultural Economics). He retired from Northern Arizona University with research in applied economics and tourism. Living in Flagstaff for 32 years, he has explored much of the Colorado Plateau.
Profile Image of Joel Kane
Joel Kane View biography
Joel Kane grew up roaming Appalachian Pennsylvania but has called the Southwest home for years. After serving in the Navy, he earned a bachelor's degree in geology from the University of California/Los Angeles. He later worked as an interpretive park ranger for the National Park Service at Fossil Butte National Monument in Wyoming, Zion National Park in Utah, Oregon Caves National Monument in Oregon, and the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. He is pursuing his master's degree in geology at Northern Arizona University/Flagstaff.
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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
16 meals
6 B 5 L 5 D
Check-in, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Phoenix & The Valley of the Sun
Hilton Garden Inn Phoenix/Tempe ASU Area

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

Afternoon: Program Registration: Anytime between 4:30 – 5:15 p.m., come over to the Road Scholar desk, located in a 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.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll have plated meals with soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Orientation: 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 by a combination of passenger vans and motorcoach, unless otherwise noted. Some activities en route will require family members to work together. This is a Road Scholar Family program. Adults are responsible for their children. If/when separate age group activities are conducted concurrently, program staff will supervise. Children are never to be left unsupervised. 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. 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.

Sedona 4x4 Field Trip, Grand Canyon National Park
South Rim, Grand Canyon, Arizona
Yavapai Lodge West

Activity note: Driving approx. 230 miles total; about 5 hours, with stops; approx. half morning/half afternoon. Climbing in/out of 4x4s; assistance provided as needed; bumpy roads; seat belts required. Some short walks over packed dirt and rocky terrain to attractions. Walking up to 2 miles total throughout the day; rocky, sandy, uneven terrain; elevation of 4,500 feet. Walking short distances and periods of standing; up to 2 hours on our feet; paved paths along the South Rim of Grand Canyon (7,000 feet).

Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll enjoy an extensive buffet breakfast with many choices of hot and cold items; coffee, tea, milk, juice, water available.

Morning: Once checked out of the hotel, we’ll transfer to Sedona and see how the Arizona landscape changes as we travel from the Sonoran desert, with its famous saguaro cactus, up to the high elevations of the Colorado Plateau region. Our Group Leader naturalist will point out the differences in plants and geography as we travel. Upon arrival in Sedona, we’ll climb into our 4x4 vehicles by drivers who are also well-versed in the geology, flora, fauna, and pre-historic details of the region, then head off on our open-air 4x4 adventure to an off-the-beaten-path location in the beautiful red rocks of Sedona. Expect some sections of road where there may be jostling in the vehicle as the driver navigates dirt roads, sandy washes, and/or slick rock. Vehicles are very comfortable, seat up to 7 people, and have grab bars to hold on to with every seat. There will be some short walks from our vehicles as we visit viewpoints, historic attractions, or archaeological sites.

Lunch: At a Sedona restaurant, we’ll choose plated meals from a menu of entrees with kid-friendly selections available. Beverages include soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We’ll then travel through scenic Oak Creek Canyon on our way to the Grand Canyon. Travelling past the San Francisco Peaks Volcanic Field in Flagstaff and the site of Arizona's highest point, Humphreys Peak at an elevation of 12,633 feet, the afternoon will find us arriving at the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park and the brink of the world-famous chasm. After briefly viewing this world wonder, we’ll check in to the hotel. If you've never experienced it before, get ready for a thrill! Through activities together over the next few days, our expert leader will help us to understand this world wonder. Can you see the North Rim Lodge from the South Rim? See if you can find it! In a few days we’ll be standing there, 1,000 feet higher, and looking back towards the South Rim.

Dinner: At the lodge cafeteria, we’ll use vouchers to select plated meals from a variety of entrée choices, as well as a choice of beverages. Coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase at your own cost.

Evening: Depending on sunset time, we’ll rendezvous either before or after dinner for a shuttle transfer to Mather Point for a Grand Canyon sunset! Mather Point will offer late evening shadows, light in the canyon, and sweeping rim views. Following the sunset, we’ll transfer to our lodging. The remainder of the evening will be at leisure.

Grand Canyon South Rim Village & Trail, Overflight
South Rim, Grand Canyon, Arizona
Yavapai Lodge West

Activity note: Walking approx. 2 miles total throughout the day; wide, dirt and paved trails; elevation of about 7,000 feet along the rim with no more than a 500 foot change over 1/2 mile. Drive approx. 14 miles roundtrip to Grand Canyon's airport; about 1/2 hour total, for a scenic flight over Grand Canyon of approx. 45 minutes. Fly in a dual engine "Vistaliner" aircraft, comfortably seating 19.

Breakfast: At the lodge restaurant, we’ll have plated meals featuring a variety of selections to choose from, including eggs, pancakes, breakfast meats, oatmeal, fresh fruit, and yogurt, plus milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Once boarding our motor coach, we will drive to the Grand Canyon airport to weigh in and then board a 19-passenger, fixed-wing plane for a thrilling flight over the Grand Canyon. The size of the canyon is immense and, while hiking into the canyon and standing on its rim gives great perspective, the overflight will amaze you. After returning from the flight, the remainder of the afternoon is free for independent exploration the South Rim and environs. Using the park pocket guide and map, choose from a variety of activities and viewpoints. The historic Grand Canyon Village, Hermit's Rest West Rim shuttle, Yavapai Point, bike rentals, and rim walks are all popular activities. The free park shuttle allows anyone to access various points on the South Rim. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Lunch: At a local park restaurant we will dine in for a nice plated meal.

Afternoon: We’ll set out from the hotel for a walking field trip through the historic Grand Canyon Village with our Group Leader naturalist. During our walk along the rim, we’ll learn about the formation of this world wonder and its "layer cake of stone," as well as see famous village area landmarks including the Kolb Brothers Photo Studio and the buildings of Fred Harvey designer Mary Jane Colter - including the Bright Angel Lodge, Lookout Studio, and the Hopi House. To the east, we’ll also visit the El Tovar Hotel, one of the great lodges in the National Park system. A discussion on free time options and activities for the upcoming afternoon will be included.

Dinner: 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.

Evening: Participate in an optional evening Ranger Program at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon or choose to rest for the next day's adventure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

Desert View, Page, Glen Canyon Float trip on Colorado River
Page, AZ
Courtyard Page at Lake Powell

Activity note: Driving approx. 180 miles; about 4 hours, with stops for field trips. Morning drive of approx. 20 miles to East Rim and Desert View; about 1/2 hour. Driving approx. 110 miles to Page; about 2 hours. Afternoon Glen Canyon smooth float trip on the Colorado River. Getting off rafts and boarding bus at Lees Ferry to drive 45 miles to Page Hotel. Walking approx. 2 mile throughout the day; climb the fabled Watchtower; paved pathways, sandy and uneven terrain at Colorado River.

Breakfast: Lodge restaurant buffet at the South Rim of Grand Canyon.

Morning: Once checked out of the lodge, we’ll begin an epic day by loading the vehicles and continuing our journey along the Grand Canyon's East Rim. Upon arrival, our Group Leader will lead us to the rim where we’ll marvel at the amazing canyon views at Desert View, which has some of the best vistas of the Colorado River and is the location of the famous Watchtower designed by Mary Jane Colter. Climb the Watchtower on your own – can you find the petroglyphs built into the tower? Next, we’ll exit the park and enter the western edge of the Navajo Reservation, traveling through the Painted Desert en route to Page and Colorado River. We'll continue our transfer to Page, learning from our Group Leader about Navajo Culture en route. Once we arrive in Page we will enjoy sack lunches at a designated location.

Lunch: In Page we’ll enjoy sack lunches with sandwiches, fruit, chips and a cookie.

Afternoon: After transfer to the rafting company headquarters and checking in, we’ll descend via the rafting company’s bus through the tunnel and down to the base of the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River. We’ll have a safety orientation after meeting our boatmen, then board our rafts. As we float downstream watching the walls of the Canyon rise above us, we’ll look for fly fishermen casting for rainbow trout. The water is so clear, we may see them swimming! As we continue floating downstream gazing up at the high cliffs, keep watch for golden eagles, California condors – North America's largest flying bird – hawks, and turkey vultures. We’ll stop along the way and take a short walk led by our boatmen to see the amazing petroglyphs, estimated to be approximately 1,000 years old. We may even catch sight of a chuckwalla lizard sunning itself nearby. At the completion of the raft trip we will transfer to the bus to transport to check in to our Page hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel restaurant we will enjoy a plated meal from a select menu. Kid-friendly choices will be available and non-alcoholic beverage included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We’ll then gather for a secret "Kids Only" activity led by our Group Leaders! Shhhhh! While the kids are engaged, the adults may wish to relax by the pool or engage in purely adult conversation.

Horseshoe Bend Overlook, North Rim Exploration
North Rim, Grand Canyon
North Rim Lodge

Activity note: Driving approx. 2.5 hours, 123 miles. Walking up to 3 miles total throughout the day. Afternoon hike is about 1.5 miles; 1 hour; both paved and unpaved trails; about 2 hours; elevation change of roughly 150 feet; unpaved trail; some stairs near lodge; maximum elevation of approx. 8,800 feet.

Breakfast: At the hotel, the breakfast buffet includes hot and cold items including fresh fruit, breakfast meats, an omelet station, granola, yogurt, and breakfast pastries, plus milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Get ready for another fun and adventurous day! We start our day with an excursion to Horseshoe Bend Overlook (4 mile drive from our hotel). This iconic 1.5 mile round-trip hike follows a paved path over a small hill to the edge of a 1,000-foot cliff looking down on a meander of the Colorado River. Photos from this world famous view of the Colorado River are one of a kind. Following our early morning hike to Horseshoe Bend, we will load the bus and depart for the North Rim. Back on the bus we will soon pass Marble Canyon and be traveling along the base of the Vermilion Cliffs before rising up into the cool verdant Kaibab Plateau. After a pit stop at the historic Jacob Lake Lodge to stretch our legs we will continue our drive 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. As we travel we will climb to over 8,000' in elevation and may see the unique Kaibab squirrel, wild turkey, and deer.

Lunch: Under the ponderosa pines at Grand Canyon, we’ll enjoy sack lunches including deli-style sandwiches, chips, fresh fruit, and cookie, plus a water jug for refills.

Afternoon: After our lunch at the North rim, we will set out for our hike on the Transept Trail led by our Group Leader naturalist. As we travel all along the rim we’ll enjoy views down into and across Grand Canyon, marveling at the steepness and differences from the South Rim. We’ll even see remnants of where early peoples lived on the rim and talk about their lifeways. Alternatively, those who would rather not hike may wish to attend a ranger program or enjoy a relaxing afternoon at the Grand Canyon. Following our hike along the rim we have one more highlight before checking into our rooms! Easily reached via a half mile paved walkway, Bright Angel Point has spur paths where visitors can enjoy sweeping views of Bright Angel Canyon below and canyon buttes and temples. The South Rim is 11 miles on the other side and far in the distance to the south are the San Francisco Peaks. This is the awe inspiring viewpoint of the North Rim not to be missed. Check into our historic cabins in late afternoon.

Dinner: Lodge plated meal.

Evening: Afterwards, we’ll enjoy a presentation given by a National Park Service Ranger in the lodge auditorium. The remainder of the evening will be at leisure. With an adult, you may wish to visit some of the amazing viewpoints below the lodge where the canyon's panorama is on all sides and waaaaay below as well. If the sky is clear, you may want to look at the stars and planets from the lodge deck after darkness falls. Be sure to have a flashlight as the night skies at the Grand Canyon are very dark. Can you see the Milky Way? Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

Navajo Bridge, Cameron Trading Post, Return to Phoenix
Phoenix & The Valley of the Sun
Hilton Garden Inn Phoenix/Tempe ASU Area

Activity note: Driving approx. 350 miles to Phoenix; about 6 hours, with scenic stops. Walking up to 1 mile throughout the day; paved surfaces.

Breakfast: Lodge buffet.

Morning: After breakfast, we’ll check out of the hotel and begin our transfer back from the Grand Canyon to Phoenix, with a stop at the historic Navajo Bridge. During our stop at the Navajo Bridge, we’ll walk across it to marvel at the 500-foot chasm and the waters of the Colorado River below. Led by our Group Leader, we’ll keep a look out for California condors sunning themselves or perching under the newer adjacent bridge, and we may even spot fishermen down below, giving us a real sense of the immensity of the canyon. Returning to our vehicles, we’ll continue to the historic 1916 Cameron Trading Post where we can see Native American arts and crafts, as well as some ancient dinosaur tracks hidden under the door mat at the gallery!

Lunch: At the Cameron Trading Post, we’ll have plated meals featuring standard lunch menu selections as well as their famous "Navajo Taco" – a light, crispy fry bread loaded with traditional taco toppings. It's a memorable experience! Coffee, iced tea, soft drinks, water included.

Afternoon: After lunch in Cameron, we’ll travel to Flagstaff through the Verde Valley, Cordes Junction, and onward to our Phoenix hotel.

Dinner: Hotel plated meal.

Evening: We’ll then gather for a program wrap-up session with our Group Leaders, including reflections and farewells to new friends of all ages from across the country. It will be a great time to share our memories of the week spent together exploring the Grand Canyon region. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

Program Concludes

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 12:00 Noon. The hotel provides free shuttles to Phoenix Sky Harbor airport.

Breakfast: Hotel 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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