Arizona/New Mexico

Ancestral Homelands: Hopi, Navajo and Chaco Canyon

Immerse yourself in the culture and mystery of America’s Southwest as you explore ancient cliff dwellings, attend a Native-arts demonstration and visit world-renowned Chaco Canyon.
Rating (4.95)
Program No. 4541RJ
7 days
Starts at
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7 days
6 nights
17 meals
6 B 5 L 6 D
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Flagstaff, AZ
La Quinta Inn & Suites Flagstaff

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

Afternoon: Program Registration: 4:30 – 5:15 p.m. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table in the 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. 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 throughout the program will be provided primarily by 10-passenger vans. If you plan to drive to Gallup from Flagstaff in your own vehicle due to future travel plans, inform the leader at registration so that he/she can make group travel arrangements. In this case, you will follow the program vans just while we transfer from hotels on Day Three and Day Five, but otherwise will be in the vans during all field trips. 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.

Dinner: After walking to a nearby restaurant, we’ll enjoy hot plated meals along with access to a large salad bar featuring fresh fruits, soups, salads, hot appetizers, and cool desserts, plus soft drinks, coffee, tea, water included.

Evening: After returning to the hotel, the remainder of the evening will be at leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

Museum of Northern Arizona, Walnut Canyon National Monument
Flagstaff, AZ
La Quinta Inn & Suites Flagstaff

Activity note: Walking about 1 mile on Island Trail at Walnut Canyon; approximately 1 hour with stops; paved trail; descend and ascend 185 feet via 240 steps. Walking about 1 mile on Rim Trail; approx. 1 hour; paved and level. Elevation at 6,700 ft. Driving approximately 15 miles; about 1/2 hour.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll have a breakfast buffet including choices such as waffles, hard boiled eggs, fresh fruits, pastries, bagels, cereals, and muffins, plus juices, milk, coffee, tea and water.

Morning: To facilitate a better understanding of the pre-historic cultural development of the Southwest - we will enjoy an insightful and informative docent-led field trip at the Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA) after arriving by van. The MNA has evolved into a regional center of learning with collections, exhibits, educational programs, publications, and research projects. Museum of Northern Arizona is the premier museum dedicated to the cultural and natural history of the Colorado Plateau. Afterwards, we’ll take some time for independent exploration in the museum.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll enjoy a nice selection of plated entrees including soup, salads, and desserts, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We’ll then travel to Walnut Canyon where we will go on our next field trip to the Sinagua Ruins, the visitor center, and the museum at Walnut Canyon National Monument. Upon arrival, we’ll set out on a hike led by our Group Leader down into Walnut Canyon will bring us face to face with ancient cliff dwellings. Walnut Canyon is a spectacular scenic attraction in its own right and contains diverse plant and animal communities to be enjoyed from all vantage points with interpretive signs to supplement viewing. For those that choose not to go into the canyon, a lovely rim walk led by one of the Group Leaders also offers excellent views and access to Sinagua Ruins.

Dinner: At a festive local Greek restaurant, we’ll enjoy a choice of plated entrees suited to a variety of palates, plus a choice of coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: In the hotel conference room, our Group Leader will conduct a meeting to discuss the logistics of tomorrow's travel day and provide an introduction to the Hopi Reservation and Canyon de Chelly. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

Hopi Cultural Center Demo, Walpi Village
Chinle, AZ
Holiday Inn Canyon De Chelly (Chinle)

Activity note: Minimal walking throughout the day during group activities; periods of standing and strolling up to approximately 1 hour during visit to Walpi Village. Driving approximately 190 miles total; about 4 hours, with stops for field trips. Drive to Hopi Cultural Center is about 100 miles; approx. 2 hours. Afternoon drive to Canyon de Chelly is about 90 miles; approx. 1.5 hours. Add 1 hour due to time zone change in the afternoon.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll board our vans and begin our transfer from Flagstaff to the Hopi mesas and the Hopi Cultural Center. The Hopi trace their history in the Southwest to long before the Spanish arrived in 1540 and many villages have been occupied since the 1100s C.E. Upon arrival at the Cultural Center, we’ll enjoy a fascinating native arts demonstration (pottery making, Kachina carving, or other) presented by a Hopi tribal member and artisan. We’ll then enjoy some time to explore the exhibits and photographs in the Hopi Tribal Museum independently, as well as check out the native arts and jewelry.

Lunch: At the Hopi Cultural Center, we’ll enjoy a traditional Hopi stew and choose from a selection of freshly made sandwiches, plus a choice of soft drinks, coffee, tea, or water.

Afternoon: Next, we will drive to the nearby village of Walpi on First Mesa for an exploration led by a native Hopi tribal member. Our Hopi leader will provide us with insights into the rich cultural history and practices that connect the modern-day Hopi people to their ancient Puebloan ancestors. Then, after setting out from Walpi, we will drive through the Hopi and Navajo Nations to Chinle—the gateway to Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Upon arrival at the hotel, we’ll check-in and take some time to freshen up before dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel restaurant, we’ll have a plated dinner including a nightly selection of entrees (some with a southwestern flare), a trip through the salad bar, and dessert, plus soft drinks, coffee, tea, water.

Evening: At leisure.

Canyon de Chelly Activity Choices, 4-Wheel Drive Canyon
Chinle, AZ
Holiday Inn Canyon De Chelly (Chinle)

Activity note: Driving approx. 5 miles one way to White House Ruin Overlook; about 1/2 hour roundtrip. Choice 1: Riding in van about 24 miles roundtrip; approx. 2 hours; paved road, frequent stops. Minimal walking at overlooks. Choice 2: Hiking approx. 3 miles roundtrip; about 1.5 hours; established trail, some uneven, sandy sections; total elevation gain/loss about 600 feet. 4WD about 18 miles; approx. 3 hours; dirt roads, bumpy sections, sandy washes; many short stops for exploration and/or bathroom needs.

Breakfast: At the hotel restaurant, we’ll enjoy an alternating breakfast buffet including an egg dish, pancakes or biscuits and gravy, breakfast meats, cream of wheat, a variety of cereals, and fresh fruit, plus juice, milk, coffee, tea and water.

Morning: We’ll transfer all together to the White House Ruin Overlook at Canyon de Chelly National Monument where we will embark on one of two field trip choices for the morning. Choice 1: Aboard our vans, we’ll take a narrated field trip along Canyon de Chelly's South Rim to White House Ruin Overlook and Spider Rock Overlook led by our Group Leader. Choice 2: Led by one of our Group Leaders, we’ll take a beautiful hike on the White House Ruin Trail. The White House Ruin Trail hike follows a well-established, manageable trail that is generally wide with some exposure and some uneven terrain. The upper part of the trail is built on a sandstone surface so caution must be taken, but footing is good overall. The lower part of the trail becomes sandier as the grade decreases. The trail ends at the White House Ruin canyon viewpoint. We will all return to the White House Ruin in the afternoon during the 4-wheel drive field trip. Before returning to the hotel and regrouping with everyone for lunch, everyone will have some time to explore the Canyon de Chelly National Monument Visitor Center independently.

Lunch: At the hotel, we’ll have a buffet lunch including multiple stews, entrees, sides and salads, plus a choice of soft drinks, coffee, tea, or water.

Afternoon: Once boarding 4-wheel drive vehicles at the hotel, we’ll embark on a scenic field trip into Canyon de Chelly with certified Navajo/Diné leaders. The afternoon will include exploring 2 canyons: Canyon de Chelly and Canyon del Muerto. En route, we will stop at cliff dwellings, homesteads and petroglyph sites for pictures and shared stories of the "Ancient Ones" as given by our knowledgeable Navajo/Diné leaders. We’ll then return to the hotel.

Dinner: Hotel plated meal.

Evening: At the hotel conference room led by a local tribal member, we will learn more about Navajo/Diné people during a cultural presentation. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

Hubbell Trading Post, Window Rock, Navajo Museum
Gallup, NM
Comfort Inn Gallup

Activity note: Walking up to 1 mile total throughout the day; paved sidewalks. Driving about 93 miles total; approximately 2 hours.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel we’ll load the vans and begin traveling to Gallup, New Mexico. Our first stop en route will be at the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site where we will step back in time to recount the important and influential trading post era on the Navajo reservation. While here, we’ll enjoy an informative expert-led field trip of the Lorenzo Hubbell House and, afterwards, take some time to explore the still active historic trading post independently. Continuing our transfer, we’ll arrive at Window Rock, the capital of the Navajo Nation and the Window Rock Veterans Memorial Park. Highlights of the morning will include visits to the Window Rock geologic formation and the touching memorial tribute to the World War II Navajo Code Talkers where program staff will provide commentary. For fans of Tony Hillerman mystery novels, Window Rock is the heart of "Hillerman Country."

Lunch: At the Window Rock Quality Inn Restaurant – a favorite meeting place of the local population made famous by the characters Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn from Tony Hillerman novels – we’ll enjoy a buffet lunch featuring an ample salad bar, a rotating hot entree theme of the day, and standard beverage choices of coffee, tea, water. Alcohol is prohibited on the Navajo Reservation.

Afternoon: Then, we’ll walk to the Navajo Nation Museum for a self-led visit through its excellent exhibits on Navajo arts, culture and history. Once completing our transfer to Gallup in the mid-afternoon, we’ll check into the hotel and enjoy some time to relax before dinner.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, enjoy a wide selection of Chinese and American dishes at one of Gallup's newest restaurants, plus soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At the hotel conference room, a local expert will join us and supply us with useful information during an evening presentation in preparation for our field trip to Chaco Canyon tomorrow.

Chaco Canyon, Pueblo Bonito, Casa Rinconada
Gallup, NM
Comfort Inn Gallup

Activity note: Driving approx. 21 miles each way to Chaco Canyon on a bumpy dirt road; about 1 hour. The Road to Chaco Canyon becomes impassable during heavy rain. In this rare instance, we will substitute Chaco Canyon with another interesting destination. Walking up to 2 miles total throughout the day; periods of standing; gravel paths with minor elevation changes to Great House ruins. Be sure to bring sun protection; wear comfortable walking shoes.

Breakfast: At the hotel, the breakfast buffet includes an egg dish, breakfast meats, green chili, assorted breads, cereals, fruit, and pastries, plus milk, juices, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: After an early breakfast, we’ll set out on a full-day field trip to Chaco Canyon within Chaco Culture National Historical Park, which preserves one of America's most significant and fascinating cultural and historic areas. As it was a major center of ancestral Puebloan culture between 850 and 1150 C.E., it functioned as a central hub for ceremony, trade, and administration for the prehistoric Four Corners area – unlike anything before or since. While here, our knowledgeable local expert will lead us on a walking field trip to Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl, two of the park’s “Great Houses.” First, we’ll see Pueblo Bonito which represents the zenith of Ancestral Puebloan culture as it is the largest and most famous ruin in Chaco Canyon. At 5 stories in height with as many as 700 rooms, Pueblo Bonito was the largest standing structure in North America until the 1800s. If weather conditions do not allow us to safely visit Chaco Canyon, our Group Leader will arrange for us to venture to an accessible alternative destination of historical and cultural significance.

Lunch: On the grounds of the Visitor Center, we’ll enjoy a sack lunch. Bathrooms and drinking water are available.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll continue on foot and visit the 500 room Chetro Ketl Great House. Chetro Ketl contains an abundance of unique and stylish architectural features that belies its sophisticated design and its connections to Meso-American cultures to the south. An elegant great kiva, a tower kiva, 900-year-old interior plastered and painted walls, colonnade archways, T shaped doorways and a 500-foot-long back wall are just a few of the features that makes this “old house” an engineering marvel. Our local expert will provide commentary while exploring the site, pointing out these impressive features. Then, with a stop at Casa Rinconada, we will see the largest “Great Kiva” that stands in the southwest! Casa Rinconada is believed to be the impressive venue for ceremonial activities of old. Once having a look at Casa Rinconada, we’ll independently check out the park’s visitor center museum and various exhibits. We’ll then return to the hotel in the late afternoon with some time to freshen up before dinner.

Dinner: At a local Mexican restaurant, a favorite among locals, we’ll enjoy delicious plated meals for our farewell dinner together, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase. Share some of your favorite experiences from the program with new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: We’ll then gather at the hotel for a program wrap-up, impressions from the week, and final reflections. The remainder of the evening will be at leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

Transfer to Flagstaff, Program Concludes
Flagstaff, AZ

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 7:45 a.m. Driving about 185 miles to Flagstaff; approx. 3.5 hours. Expected arrival by approximately 10:15 a.m. We will gain an hour as we cross the border into Arizona and its time zone.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Once checked out of the hotel, we’ll load the vans and depart for Flagstaff. Upon arrival, we’ll make drop-offs at locations including the starting hotel, the Flagstaff Amtrak Station/Visitor Center, and the Flagstaff Airport at Pulliam Field. 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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