Grand Canyon Odyssey: River Journeys and Canyon Vistas

Within the Grand Canyon’s mile-high walls lies a wealth of natural history and culture. Explore the Canyon's 277 mile length and rim via raft trips, excursions and a helicopter ride.
Rating (4.95)
Program No. 2805RJ
8 days
Starts at
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8 days
7 nights
19 meals
7 B 6 L 6 D
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Tempe, AZ
Hilton Garden Inn Phoenix/Tempe ASU Area

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

Afternoon: Program Registration: 4:30 p.m. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table in the hotel lobby 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. All field trips will be led by our Group Leader, a seasoned and experienced naturalist, unless specified otherwise. All transportation will be via motorcoach unless otherwise noted. 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 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: At the hotel, we will have a buffet featuring salad, entrees, and dessert, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

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.

Scenic Journey to Cameron, Glen Canyon Dam Visitor Center
Page, AZ
Courtyard Page at Lake Powell

Activity note: Driving approx. 268 miles total throughout the day, about 5 hours, with stops: about 190 miles to Cameron; 78 miles from Cameron to Page. Minimal walking throughout the day; up to 2 hours on our feet; mostly flat terrain.

Breakfast: At the hotel, enjoy a hearty buffet meal including eggs to order, breakfast meats, cereals, muffins, whole grain breads, and fruit, plus milk, juices, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Once checked out of the hotel, we’ll make our way to Page Arizona via Flagstaff and Cameron. We’ll marvel at the change of life zones and scenery as we move from the Sonora Desert to the Colorado Plateau travelling past the San Francisco Peaks Volcanic Field and the site of Arizona’s highest point – Humphreys Peak – which reaches an elevation of 12,633 feet. As we drive, our expert naturalist will introduce us to the regional geography and natural history. We’ll then arrive at Cameron Trading Post, located on the western edge of the Navajo Reservation, in time for lunch. Set on the banks of the Little Colorado River, the Trading Post is a welcome stop.

Lunch: At the Cameron Trading Post, we’ll order plated meals from a standard lunch menu. You may wish to sample the famous “Navajo Taco” – a light crispy fry bread loaded with traditional taco toppings – plus lemonade, coffee, tea, water. No alcohol is served on the Navajo reservation.

Afternoon: Next, we will have some time to explore the historic 1916 Cameron Trading Post independently. The Trading Post features a beautiful hidden garden, an in-house Navajo rug weaver, and interesting stone architecture. Continuing to Page, Arizona, via the dramatic Vermilion Cliffs, we’ll gaze at the incredible red rock vistas and features at every turn. Upon arrival at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center and Glen Canyon Dam, we will get our geographical bearings by gathering around a large regional map of the area with an expert who will point out significant features and landmarks. Afterwards, there will be time to independently explore the Visitor Center displays, videos, and the views of Glen Canyon Dam at the head of the 275 mile long Lake Powell. Completed in 1963, this engineering marvel was one of the Bureau of Reclamation's crowning achievements. Controversy has never been far behind its completion because the effects of its operation have had adverse effects on the downstream Grand Canyon environment, and on the flooding of the spectacular Glen Canyon upstream. Afterwards, we’ll complete our transfer to Page in the mid-afternoon and check in to the hotel.

Dinner: In the hotel, we’ll have a catered buffet dinner with beverage choices of coffee, iced tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We will then be joined in the hotel meeting room by a regional expert for a lively presentation on the history and challenges of Colorado River water management and use.

Horseshoe Bend, Glen Canyon Smooth Water Raft Trip
Page, AZ
Courtyard Page at Lake Powell

Activity note: Short morning drive to trailhead; approximately 40 miles to the hotel from the end of raft trip; about 1 hour. Walking approximately 1.5 miles roundtrip to Horseshoe Bend Overlook; about 1.5 hours; well-maintained dirt trail; about 300 feet of cumulative elevation gain. Getting on/off a pontoon raft; ride is approximately 15 miles; about 3 hours.

Breakfast: At hotel restaurant, we will have a buffet featuring a variety of hot and cold items, plus coffee, tea, water.

Morning: After a short drive to the trailhead, our first field trip of the day will be a hike from the trailhead to the Horseshoe Bend Overlook. This 1.5 mile round-trip hike goes up and over a small hill to the edge of a 1,000-foot cliff and looks down on a meander of the Colorado River to a section of Glen Canyon that we will float through later. Then we’ll board the motorcoach and transfer to begin our Glen Canyon float field trip. Upon arrival 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!

Lunch: Aboard the raft we’ll have sack lunches featuring a sandwich, chips, fruit and cookie.

Afternoon: 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. Before reboarding the rafts for our spectacular trip around Horseshoe Bend, we may wish to wade into the 48 degree water of the Colorado River! After rounding Horseshoe Bend, we’ll wind up at Lee's Ferry where the Grand Canyon officially begins. As we finish our journey, we may see other boatmen readying their rafts for their exciting trips through the Grand Canyon and its many rapids. We’ll then board a motorcoach for transfer back to our Page hotel, arriving in the mid-afternoon with some time to freshen up and relax before dinner.

Dinner: Hotel buffet.

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

To Grand Canyon, Desert View Watchtower, Mather Point
Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim)
Yavapai Lodge West

Activity note: Driving approximately 138 miles throughout the day, about 3.5 hours total, with stops: Drive to Cameron is approximately 78 miles, about 1.5 hours; approx. 35 miles to Desert View, about 1 hour; approx. 25 miles to Grand Canyon Village; about 1 hour. Walking approximately 1 mile throughout the day; about 2 hours; mostly flat terrain.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Once checked out of the hotel, we’ll begin our transfer to Grand Canyon National Park by retracing our route to Cameron, turning west, and then continuing up the Coconino Plateau to the eastern entrance of Grand Canyon National Park. Our first stop will be the Desert View overlook, the location of Mary Jane Colter’s famous Watchtower and some of the best views of the Colorado River. We will have time to explore the watchtower with our naturalist available to answer any questions. Known for her many works for the Fred Harvey Company and the Santa Fe Railroad, Mary Jane Coulter was a female architect in the early 20th century and helped blend Spanish Colonial and Mission Revival architecture with Native American motifs. The Watchtower is an interpretation of a prehistoric “tower kiva’ with lavishly painted interior walls by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie.

Lunch: At Desert View, we will have sack lunches while enjoying our first views of the South Rim.

Afternoon: Continuing along the East Rim Drive, we’ll make stops to see diverse and unforgettable canyon views at Mather Point and the Canyon View Information Plaza. Our local expert will point out the many interesting and significant features visible including Phantom Ranch, the South Kaibab Trail, and numerous named spires, buttes, and temples. Discussions on geology, the history of the Colorado River, and trail history will be included during the course of our stay on the South Rim. We’ll then complete our transfer to the hotel and check in upon arrival.

Dinner: In the lodge dining facility, we’ll select and order plated entrées prior to our arrival to dinner, which will come with salad, sides, and a dessert, plus fountain drinks, coffee, ice tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Those who wish to participate may transfer to a park location for an engaging elective program led by National Park Service Rangers. Programs will cover a Grand Canyon topic of interest and change nightly. Please note this activity is dependent on national park scheduling.

Grand Canyon Village, Free Time
Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim)
Yavapai Lodge West

Activity note: Walking approximately 1 mile during group activities at the rim throughout the morning; elevation change of about 700 feet each way on the Bright Angel Trail.

Breakfast: At the lodge dining facility, the breakfast buffet includes an egg dish, pancakes, breakfast meats, oatmeal, yogurt, and fresh fruit, plus coffee, tea, juices, water.

Morning: With a local expert, set out on foot for a walking exploration of Grand Canyon Village. Our expert will discuss the many characters that helped develop the rim facilities and point out famous village landmarks. The historic district is home to the Kolb Brothers Photo Studio and many buildings designed by Fred Harvey designer Mary Jane Colter, including the Bright Angel Lodge, Lookout Studio, and the Hopi House. We will stop in front of each building for interpretation and stories before moving on. You may wish to return to any or all of them during time for independent exploration. We’ll walk to and visit El Tovar Hotel, one of the great lodges in the National Park system. Constructed for the wealthy elite of the early 20th century, it is a National Historic Landmark and was once considered the most elegant hotel west of the Mississippi. At the conclusion of our rim walk and before going our separate ways, we will have a discussion and distribute handouts on free time opportunities and sites to visit. Some popular activities include exploring more of Grand Canyon Village, using Hermit’s Rest West shuttle, visiting Yavapai Point, and going on rim walks. The free park shuttle provides access to various points on the South Rim. For those with the stamina, our naturalist will lead an elective roundtrip walk down the famous Bright Angel Trail. The trail offers access from the South Rim to the Colorado River with spectacular views accompanying every step you take.

Lunch: At the Maswik Café, which is conveniently located near the Grand Canyon Village and scenic viewpoint shuttle buses, we’ll choose plated meals using vouchers in a food court setting. There will be a wide variety of entrées and sides to choose from, plus soft drinks, coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Free Time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

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

Museum of Northern Arizona, Route 66 to Hualapai
Peach Springs, AZ
Hualapai Lodge

Activity note: Driving approx. 192 miles total throughout the day; about 4 hours in vehicles, with stops for field trips: Grand Canyon to Flagstaff is approx. 80 miles; Flagstaff to Hualapai Lodge is about 112 miles. Minimal walking throughout the day; easy terrain.

Breakfast: Lodge buffet.

Morning: After loading our luggage onto the motorcoach, we’ll check out of the lodge and begin our transfer to the Hualapai Lodge in Peach Springs via Flagstaff. Travelling south past the scenic San Francisco peaks, we’ll reach the Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA) in Flagstaff. With a museum docent, we’ll explore the regional center’s collections, exhibits, and research projects that earned its reputation as the premier museum of the Colorado Plateau’s natural and cultural history. The museum 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 in Flagstaff, we will enjoy selections from an endless buffet featuring more than 50 fresh items including seasonal and specialty salads, soups, hot appetizers, pasta, a taco bar, and cool desserts, plus soft drinks, lemonade, coffee, tea, water. Alcoholic beverages are not available.

Afternoon: Setting out from Flagstaff, we’ll make our way to Peach Springs and the Hualapai Nation along a historic stretch of the famous Route 66 while listening to commentary provided by our driver. En route, we’ll keep a look out for Burma Shave signs, enjoy the wide open view, and drive through a classic location of Route 66 nostalgia – Seligman – with its focus on American road touring in the 1950s. Seligman is the town which Radiator Springs, from the Pixar movie “Cars,” was based on. We’ll check in to the lodge upon arrival in the mid-afternoon.

Dinner: At the lodge, we will enjoy a buffet meal featuring a different entrée each night, plus coffee, tea, water. Alcohol is prohibited on the reservation.

Evening: In the lodge meeting room with a local expert, we’ll enjoy an evening presentation. Depending on availability of speakers - subjects may include Arizona ranching history, Hualapai Culture, Black Footed Ferret Reintroduction or Colorado River History and Issues to name a few.

Grand Canyon Whitewater Rafting & Helicopter Trip
Peach Springs, AZ
Hualapai Lodge

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, we will have a hot buffet breakfast featuring a variety of choices, plus milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Heading out from the inn, 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 a 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 Lodge, 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, Independent Departures
Phoenix & The Valley of the Sun

Activity note: Lodge check-out by 8:00 a.m. Driving approximately 210 miles to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport; about 3.5 hours. Expected arrival in Phoenix at Sky Harbor Airport by approximately 12:30 p.m. and starting hotel by 1:15 p.m.

Breakfast: Lodge buffet.

Morning: Once checked out of the hotel, we’ll transfer to Phoenix for drop-offs at Sky Harbor Airport and the program’s starting hotel. 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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