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River Rafting & Railroads: The Grand Canyon With Your Grandchild

Program No. 5831RJ
Share the journey of a lifetime with your grandchild as you visit the Grand Canyon via train, raft the Colorado River and see ancient Indian cliff dwellings at a National Monument.

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At a Glance

Everyone who has experienced that mind-boggling beauty of the Grand Canyon remembers the first time they laid eyes on this colossal wonder. Create an everlasting memory with your grandchild when you bring them to the Grand Canyon for the first time. Climb aboard the Grand Canyon Railway and ride to the canyon’s South Rim, but watch out for train robbers! Look for California condors as you explore canyon geology on a canyon trail hike. Plus, travel through the Navajo Reservation and visit secluded Walnut Canyon National Monument’s prehistoric cliff dwellings.
Activity Level
Outdoor: No Sweat
Walking up to two miles daily. Getting in/out of raft. Elevations up to 7,000 feet.

What You'll Learn

  • Raft the Colorado River beneath 800-foot towering sandstone cliffs, and stop for a short hike to see 1,000 year-old cave drawings.
  • Participate in a Challenge Course with both low and high elements, such as a thrilling free fall to the “Giants Swing.”
  • Enjoy a western shoot-out show on your train ride to the South Rim and help the good guys capture the bandits on board.

General Notes

Program is for grandchildren ages 9-12.
Featured Expert
All trip experts
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Amanda Sahli
Since studying at Northern Arizona University and exploring the Colorado Plateau, Amanda Sahli has lived in the Grand Canyon area for over 20 years. After teaching and leading groups throughout the area, she began working in native plants and archaeology while continuing to share the Grand Canyon with groups of all ages. She has worked as a ranger at the Grand Canyon experiencing it from the rustic winters at Tuweep Ranger Station to baking summers at Phantom Ranch and the wild waters of the Colorado River.

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

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Amanda Sahli View biography
Since studying at Northern Arizona University and exploring the Colorado Plateau, Amanda Sahli has lived in the Grand Canyon area for over 20 years. After teaching and leading groups throughout the area, she began working in native plants and archaeology while continuing to share the Grand Canyon with groups of all ages. She has worked as a ranger at the Grand Canyon experiencing it from the rustic winters at Tuweep Ranger Station to baking summers at Phantom Ranch and the wild waters of the Colorado River.
Profile Image of Kyle Storey
Kyle Storey View biography
Kyle Storey is an urban planner with a passion for creating sustainable and livable communities. He possesses a love for nature and agriculture and is committed to sustainable and environmentally friendly farming practices. Kyle works towards implementing cutting-edge technologies to reduce our carbon footprint and transition towards a more sustainable future. Kyle is also a seasoned outdoor group leader who is deeply in touch with the natural world. He has led numerous outdoor adventures, from hiking and camping trips to wildlife expeditions and nature exploration.
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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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6 days
5 nights
14 meals
5 B 4 L 5 D
Check-in, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Flagstaff, AZ
La Quinta Inn & Suites Flagstaff

Activity note: Walking approx. 1 mile total for the day; paved and unpaved surfaces. Van transport available for those who require it.

Afternoon: Program Registration 4:30 – 5:15 p.m. After you have checked into your room, come to the Road Scholar table in the 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 to meet for dinner and the subsequent Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet at the front desk when you check in.

Dinner: After a short walk to a nearby restaurant, we’ll have plated meals plus access to an extensive salad bar from a select menu. Soft drinks, coffee, tea, water included.

Evening: Orientation in the hotel meeting room adjacent to the lobby. 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 during the program will be provided primarily by motorcoach, unless otherwise noted. For some short transfers, van transport will be available for those who require it. This is a Road Scholar intergenerational program. Grandparents are responsible for their grandchildren. If/when separate age group activities are conducted concurrently, program staff will supervise. Children are never to be left unsupervised. 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. After Orientation, continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the full day ahead.

Bearizona, Museum of Northern Arizona
Flagstaff, AZ
La Quinta Inn & Suites Flagstaff

Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles total throughout the day; paved and unpaved, uneven terrain. Driving approx. 65 miles total for the day: 30 miles one way to Williams, AZ; about 1.5 hours total throughout the day. Challenge Course activities will include team building exercises and obstacles at various heights; supervised by certified leaders; safety orientation and equipment provided upon arrival.

Breakfast: At the hotel, the buffet includes a variety of hot and cold items such as waffles, cereals, and fruit, plus milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: From the hotel, we'll drive about 30 minutes west of Flagstaff to Bearizona, a "Drive Thru" Wildlife Park where we'll see large North American mammals including bison, wolves, bighorn sheep, and black bears. Our Group Leaders will provide commentary on the animals we see as we ride. After our driving tour, we'll take some time to explore Fort Bearizona, a walking area with exhibits, animal encounters, and a petting zoo. We'll also have the opportunity to enjoy an interactive wildlife show featuring whichever of the park's animals and birds are feeling frisky that morning!

Lunch: We'll enjoy lunch at Bearizona before heading back to Flagstaff.

Afternoon: After lunch, we'll drive back to Flagstaff and head to the Museum of Northern Arizona, which features exhibits all about the human history, ecology, and geology of the Colorado Plateau. Museum staff will guide the group in a fun, interactive activity about Native American culture and history. Afterwards, the group will have some time to explore the museum's exhibits independently.

Dinner: At a local Greek restaurant with a variety of entree choices for all ages and palates, we’ll have plated meals. Soft drinks, coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: After returning to our hotel, the remainder of the evening will be at leisure.

Navajo Reservation, Raft the Colorado, and Lee's Ferry
Flagstaff, AZ
La Quinta Inn & Suites Flagstaff

Activity note: Driving approx. 135 miles one way to Lee's Ferry, AZ; about 5 hours total roundtrip. Getting in/out of raft; assistance provided as needed. Raft trip is approx. 15 miles; about 3.5 hours. Daytime temperatures can be very warm; be sure to bring sun protection and stay hydrated. Walking up to 1 mile total throughout the day.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Setting out from the hotel, we’ll travel to the Cameron Trading Post in the Navajo Nation for a short rest stop. Then we’ll continue on to Lee's Ferry, the historic starting point for rafts heading down the Colorado River into Grand Canyon. After meeting our river guides, we’ll have a safety orientation, then board our rafts and head upriver through picturesque Glen Canyon and around the famous Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River. We’ll then land just above Horseshoe Bend at Petroglyph Beach, where we can take a short walk to see 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 back downriver, we may wish to jump into the chilly waters of the Colorado River! As we float back 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 enjoy sack lunches with sandwiches, fruit, chips and a cookie. Extra water is provided on board the raft.

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. After rounding Horseshoe Bend a second time, we’ll wind up back at Lee's Ferry, where the Grand Canyon officially begins. As we finish up our journey, we may see other boatmen readying their rafts for their exciting trips through the Grand Canyon and its many rapids. Following our raft trip, we'll head to nearby Navajo Bridge, which extends across Marble Canyon hundreds of feet above the Colorado River. Time permitting, we’ll also stop at the wild-looking mushroom rocks along the way – just part of the fascinating geology near Lee’s Ferry. We'll have the opportunity to walk across the historic bridge (now closed to vehicles), look for California condors, and explore the Navajo Bridge Interpretive Center. Finally, we'll board our motorcoach and head to Cameron Trading Post for dinner.

Dinner: At the historic Cameron Trading Post, we’ll have a choice of plated dinners from a select menu including an authentic Navajo dish; kid-friendly entrees available. Soft drinks, coffee iced tea, water included. Alcoholic beverages on the reservation are prohibited by law.

Evening: We’ll then return to our Flagstaff hotel late in the evening. The remainder of the evening will be at leisure.

Kids Only Activity, Hands-On Grand Canyon Geology
Flagstaff, AZ
La Quinta Inn & Suites Flagstaff

Activity note: Morning: Walking about 1 mile roundtrip to NAU classroom (optional); paved surfaces. Van transport available for those who desire it. Afternoon: Walking about 1.5 miles total; approx. 3.5 hours; paved Island Trail descends 185 feet into Walnut Canyon and is about 1 mile roundtrip; pavement can be uneven at times; 240 stairs. There is a paved, level rim trail for those unable to descend into the Canyon. Driving about 12 miles; less than 1/2 hour one way to Walnut Canyon National Monument.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: After walking to the Northern Arizona University classroom, we will participate in an interactive hands-on presentation during which we’ll learn about the region's layer cake geology and how to "read the rocks" as we all participate in building a 3-D model of the Grand Canyon. This presentation will be led by the educators and naturalists from the Willow Bend Environmental Education Center in Flagstaff and it will be a learning exercise that will help prepare us for our visit to one of the greatest geologic wonders of the world – the Grand Canyon. Following the geology exercise, we’ll gather for a secret "Kids Only" activity led by our Group Leaders! Shhhhh! While the kids are engaged, the adults may wish to take a short walk on the campus grounds, relax, or engage in purely adult conversation. We’ll then regroup and walk to our lunch destination.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll have buffet lunches with an extensive salad bar; soft drinks, coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: We’ll travel to Walnut Canyon National Monument to view its 900-year-old Sinaguan pueblo ruins by descending the canyon's 240 stairs (185 feet) to the Island Trail to visit and, in some cases, stepping inside these ancient structures. As we walk in the footsteps of these early inhabitants led by our Group Leader, we’ll have the opportunity see where they lived, learn where they got their food and how they built their homes, all while enjoying the spectacular scenery and geology of Walnut Canyon. We’ll also hear from our Group Leader about the connection that the Hopi people have to this beautiful canyon. On our way out, we’ll have time to peruse the Monument's Visitor Center independently. We’ll then return to the hotel.

Dinner: At a local restaurant just across the street from our hotel, we’ll have plated dinners chosen from a select menu with water, iced tea, soft drinks and coffee are available; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: After dinner, we'll walk or drive over to a classroom on the NAU campus for a special presentation on Native American culture and history. After the presentation, we'll return to the hotel, and the rest of the evening will be at leisure.

Grand Canyon Railway & National Park, Pizza Party!
Flagstaff, AZ
La Quinta Inn & Suites Flagstaff

Activity note: Driving approx. 30 miles one way to Williams and Grand Canyon Railway depot about 1/2 hour. Getting on/off train; assistance available as needed. Rail journey is about 60 miles; approx. 2.5 hours one way. Walking approx. 2 miles, with stops; about 3.5 hours at Grand Canyon National Park; paved pathways on Grand Canyon South Rim. Additional elective hike of about 1 mile roundtrip; less than 1 hour; steep, unpaved Bright Angel Trail.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: After boarding our transportation to the Grand Canyon Railway Depot in downtown Williams, just a short drive from Flagstaff, we’ll be treated to a Wild West show and shootout. Then we’ll board the train for a trip through forests and high desert ranch land to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Keep a lookout for prairie dogs near Williams then watch for mule deer in the ponderosa forest and pronghorn antelope and free range cattle in the open range lands. Our rail car attendant will provide commentary.

Lunch: Aboard the train, we’ll have our pre-selected sandwiches, chips, fruit, and cookies as we travel through an iconic Arizona ranch landscape with mountains in the distance.

Afternoon: Upon arrival, we'll walk to the rim together, many of us seeing this world wonder for the very first time! Then we’ll stroll throughout Grand Canyon Village exploring its many viewpoints of the canyon from the South Rim. We’ll then have some time for independent exploration. Our Group Leader will lead an additional elective hike down the famous Bright Angel Trail if you wish to join. One could also explore the Canyon rim independently or find the nearby fountain for ice cream. We’ll then rendezvous before boarding the train for the return trip to the Williams train station – that is, unless the train robbers get us on the way back!

Dinner: At the hotel for our farewell dinner, we’ll have a festive pizza party with salad and dessert, plus lemonade, iced tea, water. Share some of your favorite experiences from the program with new Road Scholar friends.

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

Wrap-Up, Program Concludes

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: After breakfast, the group will gather in the hotel meeting room adjacent to the lobby for a program wrap-up and farewells. This will conclude 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. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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