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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Jennifer Beltz
Jennifer Beltz is a former interpretive park ranger at Phantom Ranch, located in Grand Canyon National Park. She has worked as a naturalist and national park ranger throughout the United States, was co-coordinator of a Road Scholar service program that built a health clinic in Brazil, and has worked on many intergenerational programs. Jennifer has lectured in the Department of Geography and Public Planning at Northern Arizona University and has led programs for Road Scholar since 1992.

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

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Jennifer Beltz View biography
Jennifer Beltz is a former interpretive park ranger at Phantom Ranch, located in Grand Canyon National Park. She has worked as a naturalist and national park ranger throughout the United States, was co-coordinator of a Road Scholar service program that built a health clinic in Brazil, and has worked on many intergenerational programs. Jennifer has lectured in the Department of Geography and Public Planning at Northern Arizona University and has led programs for Road Scholar since 1992.
Profile Image of Joanna Joseph
Joanna Joseph View biography
Daughter of a Montana saddle maker, Joanna Joseph is an artist, musician and interpreter of human history. At the University of Montana, she studied art, drama and classical Greek. Joanna was also program supervisor at Glen Canyon Dam, developing an appreciation for the importance of water in the Southwest. A resident of Big Water, Utah, she has worked with Road Scholar since 1994.
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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 your room assignment, 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 of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in.

Dinner: After walking to the 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. Walk or van transfer to Northern Arizona University. 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 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. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the full day ahead.

NAU Challenge Course, Bearizona, & Amazing Arizona Animals
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: After a transfer to Northern Arizona University's Challenge Course on south campus, we’ll engage in a morning of team building events led by certified leaders who are college students at NAU. The goal is to build a trusting and cohesive group of grandparents and grandchildren who just met each other the night before. We will start out with on-the-ground games, then move to low and high element activities, all preceded by a safety orientation. This will include some of the elements of the static course with activities at heights 25 to 30 feet off the ground. This progression of activities will challenge the group with increasingly difficult tasks while encouraging cooperation, inspiring confidence and having fun, all within a supportive and safe environment. Grandparents as well as grandchildren are encouraged to participate, but all activities are “challenge by choice.” We’ll then transfer to Williams, AZ and Bearizona Wildlife Park.

Lunch: Upon arrival at Bearizona, we’ll head inside the wildlife park and have sack lunches featuring sandwiches, fruit, cookie, chips.

Afternoon: At Fort Bearizona, we’ll watch hawks, owls, falcons, and other raptors in “free flight” demonstrations while learning about their natural history, conservation, and important role in ecosystem health from representatives of High Country Raptors, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting raptor conservation through education. Following the raptor show, we’ll take some time independently to see black bear cubs and other North American animals in a walk-through setting adjacent to the raptor show site. Next, we’ll board our vehicle and travel through the Drive Thru Wildlife Park to see large North American mammals including bison, wolves, big horn sheep and black bears. Our Group Leaders will provide commentary on the animals we see as we ride. We’ll return to the hotel in late afternoon.

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: In a meeting room on campus, our kid-focused presentation given by a biologist from the university will cover some aspects of Arizona wildlife. We will learn about some of the critters living in the Grand Canyon region and look at their adaptations to this high desert environment.

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 Page, 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 move on to the town of Page to visit the Carl Hayden Visitor Center perched high above Glen Canyon Dam. Led by our Group Leader while here, we’ll see the relief map in the lobby, look at photos documenting the construction of the dam in the 1950s and ‘60s, and look out floor-to-ceiling picture windows at Lake Powell stretching into the distance. Lake Powell has more shoreline than the west coast of the United States! Next, we’ll shift our gaze down to the rafts moored just below the dam knowing that we’ll soon board one for an unforgettable float through Glen Canyon. 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!

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. 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 jump 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 up 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 get off our rafts and board a motorcoach for transfer to Cameron Trading Post. Time permitting, we’ll stop at the wild-looking mushroom rocks – just part of the fascinating geology near Lee’s Ferry.

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: Walking about 1 mile roundtrip to University classroom; paved and unpaved surfaces. Van transport available for those who require it.

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: 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. You may wish to explore historic Flagstaff and regional attractions on your own or with new friends, or enjoy a dip in the hotel's pool. Because of the numerous opportunities for individual exploration you may wish to combine the afternoon and evening free times and go to Sedona, Meteor Crater, Montezuma Castle, Lowell Observatory, or other points of interest.

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: 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.

Walnut Canyon National Monument, Wrap-Up, Program Concludes

Activity note: 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. Estimated arrival back at hotel by about 11:15 a.m. Hotel check-out by approx. 12:00 Noon.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll travel to Walnut Canyon National Monument to view its 900-year-old Anasazi 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 visit the Monument's museum independently before regrouping for a program wrap-up under the pinon and juniper trees on the monument grounds. We’ll then return to the hotel, making a stop en route for passenger drop-offs at a shuttle pick-up site for those who need it. 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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