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: After you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar table in the hotel lobby 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: The Group Leader will greet everyone with a warm welcome and lead introductions. 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. 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 specified otherwise. 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: At the hotel, we will have a buffet featuring salad, entrees, and dessert, plus coffee, tea, water.

Evening: Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

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

Activity note: Drive is about 190 miles to Cameron; 78 miles from Cameron to Page.

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

Morning: Our day begins by checking out of the hotel and departing for Page Arizona via Flagstaff and Cameron. Marvel at the change of life zones and scenery as we move from the Sonora Desert Colorado Plateau. Travel past the San Francisco Peaks Volcanic Field and the site of Arizona’s highest point – Humphreys Peak reaching an elevation of 12,633 feet. As we drive, our expert naturalist will introduce us to the regional geography and natural history. Arrive at Cameron Trading Post, located on the western edge of the Navajo Reservation, in the late morning with some time to explore and stretch your legs. Set on the banks of the seasonally drive Little Colorado River, the Trading Post has a beautiful hidden garden, an in-house Navajo rug weaver, and interesting stone architecture drawing from the various influences of the region.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, order from a standard lunch menu or sample the famous “Navajo Taco” – a light crispy fry bread loaded with traditional taco toppings – plus coffee, tea, lemonade, water. No alcohol is served on the Navajo reservation.

Afternoon: Continue to Page, Arizona via the dramatic Vermilion Cliffs “cut” - incredible red rock vistas and features will be enjoyed at every turn. We will arrive at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center and Glen Canyon Dam. We’ll take time to explore the displays, a regional topographic map and take in 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 as the effects of its operation have adverse effects on the downstream Grand Canyon environment and the flooding of the spectacular Glen Canyon upstream. Mid-afternoon check in to hotel.

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

Evening: In the evening we will be joined by a regional expert for a presentation on a topic related to the region, its ecology, or history. Among the topics we may discuss are the California Condor reintroduction project, wildlife, or the nature and history of the Colorado River.

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

Activity note: Walking 1.5 miles round-trip to Horseshoe Bend Overlook; about 300 foot (cumulative) elevation gain. Getting on/off a pontoon raft.

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

Morning: Our first field trip today is a hike to the Horseshoe Bend Overlook Trailhead. This 1.5 mile round-trip hike goes up and over a small hill (about 300 feet) to the edge of a 1,000-foot cliff and looks over a meander of the Colorado River in a section of Glen Canyon that we will float later. Then it’s is on to our Glen Canyon float field trip. At the put-in, with the dam soaring 700 feet above you, you will board a comfortable pontoon raft for your journey downstream. For the next fifteen miles, you will experience one of the most dramatic stretches of river in the western United States. Your experienced guide will tell the story of the area’s soaring sandstone cliffs, crystal blue-green waters, abundant wildlife, exploration by Major John Wesley Powell and others, and the river's modern role in the Southwest’s water and power delivery system. A stop to view an impressive set of ancient petroglyphs will offer a you chance to stretch your legs while bearing witness to the area’s ancient native cultures.

Lunch: We will have sack lunches to enjoy at your leisure aboard the raft.

Afternoon: The river portion of our field trip ends at historic Lees Ferry, gateway to the Grand Canyon. Here we will board our vehicle(s) for the 45 minute ride back to Page. Arrive back at hotel mid-afternoon.

Dinner: Hotel catered dinner.

Evening: We’ll gather for a presentation on a topic of local interest. Prepare for check-out and our next scenic journey.

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

Activity note: Drive to Cameron is 78 miles; 35 miles to Desert View and 25 miles to Grand Canyon Village.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Check out of the hotel and depart for Grand Canyon National Park. We will retrace our steps to Cameron, turn west, then continue 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 the famous Mary Jane Colter’s Watchtower and some of the best views of the Colorado River. We will have time to explore the watchtower on our own after our naturalist points out prominent canyon features and the historical aspects of the watchtower. Known for her many works for the Fred Harvey Company and the Santa Fe Railroad, Mary Jane Coulter was a rare 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: We will have sack lunches while enjoying our first views of the South Rim.

Afternoon: Continue west along the “East Rim Drive” with diverse and unforgettable canyon views to Mather Point and the Canyon View Information Plaza. Our local expert will point the 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. Our afternoon concludes with our arrival to the hotel, our home for two nights.

Dinner: Dinner will be in the lodge dining facility. Entrees will be selected and ordered ahead of our arrival to dinner and will come with salad, sides and a dessert. Water, ice tea, coffee and fountain drinks will be available. Other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Depending on the Park Ranger schedule, attending a presentation led by a National Park Ranger. The schedule and program topic will be announced upon arrival to the park.

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

Activity note: Walk about 1 mile along the rim. Walk about 1.5 miles, approximately 1 hour on the Bright Angel Trail with an elevation change of about 700 feet each way.

Breakfast: At the lodge dining facility. Breakfast buffet includes scrambled eggs, 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 help 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. To the east, visit El Tovar Hotel, one of the great lodges in the National Park system. Constructed for the elite of the early 20th century, is a National Historic Landmark and was once considered the most elegant hotel west of the Mississippi. For those with the stamina, we’ll have a round trip walk along the famous Bright Angel Trail led by our naturalist. The trail offers access all the way from the South Rim to the Colorado River with spectacular views every step you take. Before going our separate ways, we will have a discussion and handout on free time options and activities. The South Rim offers a number of opportunities and sites to visit including more of Grand Canyon Village, Hermit’s Rest West shuttle, Yavapai Point, and rim walks are popular activity. The group will employ the free park shuttle to access various points on the South Rim.

Lunch: At a local café a short walk from the Historic Village, use coupons to order what you like, including soup or salad, and dessert, plus a non-alcoholic beverage. The café is oriented like a food court with a variety of entrée stations.

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. There are a number of dining venues to choose from in the park. If you are interested in eating at the El Tovar Lodge for dinner note that this is the one restaurant that requires reservations for dinner. Call 928-638-2631 and ask for El Tovar dining room. No reservations needed for breakfast or lunch.

Evening: At leisure. Enjoy time to pursue sunset views or leisure time before or after dinner on your own at one of the park’s restaurants.

Museum of Northern Arizona, Route 66 to Peach Springs
Peach Springs, AZ
Grand Canyon Caverns Inn

Activity note: Grand Canyon to Flagstaff is 80 miles; Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Caverns Inn is 112 miles.

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: Load the luggage onto the coach and check out of the lodge for our transfer to the Grand Canyon Caverns in Peach Springs via Flagstaff. Travel south past the scenic San Francisco peaks to the Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA) in Flagstaff. With a museum docent, 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 have an endless buffet including more than 50 fresh items including seasonal and specialty salads, soups, hot appetizers, pasta, taco bar, and cool desserts, plus coffee, tea, soft drinks, lemonade, water. Alcoholic beverages are not available.

Afternoon: Depart Flagstaff for Peach Springs and the Hualapai Nation. We will travel a historic stretch of the historic Route 66. Along the way, look for Burma Shave signs and enjoy the wide open view. Check in to the Grand Canyon Caverns in the mid-afternoon, a lodge offering comfortable accommodations and access to a more remote and western end of the Grand Canyon.

Dinner: At the lodge, we will have a buffet featuring a buffet with a different entrée each night, plus coffee, tea, water.

Evening: Enjoy an evening presentation on a subject of local interest. Depending on availability of speakers - subjects may include Arizona ranching history, Hualapai culture, Black-footed ferret reintroduction or Colorado River history and issues.

Grand Canyon West, Helicopter Trip, Smooth Water Rafting
Peach Springs, AZ
Grand Canyon Caverns Inn

Activity note: Drive is up to 3.5 hours there depending on stops made; approximately 3 hours back not including our dinner stop. Helicopter flight is about 10 minutes. Steep flight of stairs to embark the raft for our 20 mile smooth water trip to Lake Mead, taking about 2 hours. Dress for the appropriate season; fleece jackets and long pants are recommended for the fall for cooler, windy days; shorts and lightweight clothing for warmer summer days. Bring a brimmed hat, sunglasses, and shoes that can get wet.

Breakfast: At the lodge, we will have a hot buffet featuring a variety of options, plus coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Prepare for a long – yet exhilarating and scenic – travel day. Set out for a full day’s adventure to Grand Canyon West, a Hualapai Nation entrance, for experiences and memories that will last a lifetime. Our day begins with a drive along Route 66 and Kingman with stops at points of interest along way. We will then continue along the Grand Wash Cliffs – the westernmost edge of the Colorado Plateau and a world class Joshua Tree forest – as we drive to the Grand Canyon West entrance where our rafting trip will begin. Once we arrive at the heliport, check-in and queue up for a weigh in. Helicopter staff will create a group seating manifest for loading.

Lunch: In the field before the helicopter flight.

Afternoon: Board the helicopter for our short but awe inspiring helicopter flight into the Grand Canyon and down to the Colorado River. WIND ADVISORY: If weather conditions do not cooperate and it is too windy for the helicopters to safely fly, our program coordinator will provide an alternative activity in the area. Though an infrequent risk, we must always be prepared for the possibility. Before setting out on the river, we’ll have a bathroom break at the porta-johns and be fitted with safety jackets (personal flotation devices). On eight passenger motorized pontoon boats, we will raft from Grand Canyon West to Lake Mead with expert raft instructors. Passengers will sit on top of raft tubes on long metal sitting decks that are part of the boat frame. Water and drinks will be available at all times on the raft; bathroom breaks will be au natural along the shore upon request. At the end of our journey, we will “exit” the canyon through the Grand Wash Cliffs and take out at Pearce Ferry boat ramp. From the boat ramp, we will drive to our dinner restaurant in Kingman.

Dinner: In Kingman, enjoy a well deserved meal at a local Mexican restaurant featuring a buffet with a variety of Mexican dishes, chops, and salsa, plus coffee, tea, soda, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Settle in for a one hour ride to return to the Hualapai Lodge in the late evening.

Program Concludes

Activity note: Lodge check-out by 8:00 a.m. Arrive at Phoenix airport by 12:30 p.m.; arrive at first nights accommodations by 1:15 p.m.

Breakfast: Lodge buffet.

Morning: Load luggage, check out of the hotel and depart for Phoenix by 8:00 am. Drop off at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, followed by the program’s starting hotel. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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