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6113
Arizona

Hiking Arizona’s Marble Canyon and Vermilion Cliffs: Off the Beaten Path

In remote and beautiful Marble Canyon, enjoy challenging hikes in a geologic wonderland of slot canyons, red rock vistas and the awe-inspiring waters of the Colorado River.
Rating (5)
Program No. 6113RJ
Length
7 days
Starts at
1,099
Arizona

Hiking Arizona’s Marble Canyon and Vermilion Cliffs: Off the Beaten Path

In remote and beautiful Marble Canyon, enjoy challenging hikes in a geologic wonderland of slot canyons, red rock vistas and the awe-inspiring waters of the Colorado River.
Length
7 days
Starts at
1,099
Program No. 6113 RJ
Prefer to enroll or inquire by phone? 800-454-5768
climate
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Select your type of room
Price will update based on selection
Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Oct 10 - Oct 16, 2021
Starting at
1,199
Oct 17 - Oct 23, 2021
Starting at
1,199
Oct 24 - Oct 30, 2021
Starting at
1,199
Nov 14 - Nov 20, 2021
Starting at
1,099
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Oct 10 - Oct 16, 2021
Starting at
1,419
Oct 17 - Oct 23, 2021
Starting at
1,419
Oct 24 - Oct 30, 2021
Starting at
1,419
Nov 14 - Nov 20, 2021
Starting at
1,299

At a Glance

In remote and beautiful Marble Canyon, enjoy varied hiking opportunities in a geologic wonderland. While on foot in this challenging terrain, be rewarded with infinite views as well as the hushed space of a twisting slot canyon. Hike hidden trails and explore off-the-beaten-path locations known only to local experts. Spend time on the Colorado River while connecting with nature and history in this storied landscape.
Activity Level
Outdoor: Challenging
Hike six miles daily, largely off-trail, over uneven terrain, high steps and desert vegetation with elevation changes of 1,600 feet. Must have good balance and use of hands to navigate some rocky sections. Elevations of 3,000-5,000 feet.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Hike to the Colorado River via sinuous Cathedral Wash canyon.
  • Explore the Chocolate Cliffs, revealing outcrops of rare petrified wood and ancient rock art.
  • Hear from naturalists as they share their knowledge of the canyon and interpret its geologic, natural and human histories.
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
Mike Masek
Mike Masek is a wilderness skills instructor, herbalist and ethnobotanist living in Flagstaff, Ariz. In addition to his current work with Road Scholar, he is adjunct faculty at Northern Arizona University where he teaches traditional uses of native plants and outdoor survival skills. He also teaches programs at the National Parks and Coconino Community College. He has spent a lifetime exploring the canyons and deserts of the American Southwest and loves to share these treasures with others.

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

Profile Image of Amanda Sahli
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 Mike Masek
Mike Masek View biography
Mike Masek is a wilderness skills instructor, herbalist and ethnobotanist living in Flagstaff, Ariz. In addition to his current work with Road Scholar, he is adjunct faculty at Northern Arizona University where he teaches traditional uses of native plants and outdoor survival skills. He also teaches programs at the National Parks and Coconino Community College. He has spent a lifetime exploring the canyons and deserts of the American Southwest and loves to share these treasures with others.
Profile Image of Karlyn Bunting
Karlyn Bunting View biography
Karlyn Bunting grew up in Page, Arizona, after the construction of Glen Canyon Dam – at the heart of what is commonly called the Grand Circle. He loves to hike and explore the many natural wonders of the region, and is deeply interested those who traveled this region prior to our modern day — from the Ancestral Puebloans to the Mormon migrations. Karlyn is also an avid photographer and storyteller, and enjoys sharing his unique and multi-faceted perspective of the Colorado Plateau.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West
by Stegner, Wallace
Here Wallace Stegner, a Pulitzer Prize-winner, gives us a thrilling account of Powell's struggle against western geography and Washington politics. We witness the successes and frustrations of Powell's distinguished career, and appreciate his unparalleled understanding of the West. "Stegner's most exciting work." (San Francisco Chronicle) 496pp
Half Broke Horses
by Walls, Jeannette
Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle, wrote this true life novel which unfolds across Northern Arizona from the 1920s to the 1960s. Its heroine, Lily Casey Smith, (Ms. Wall's grandmother) battled the elements, prejudices, economic conditions and politics of remote frontier Arizona. Many of the locations described - Peach Springs, Seligman, Flagstaff, the Navajo Reservation, the Arizona Strip - are sites visited by NAU Road Scholar programs. Readers of this selection will feel the sense of heritage from this tale of life in our distant corner of America.
Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis
by Glennon, Robert
In the middle of the Mojave Desert, Las Vegas casinos use billions of gallons of water for fountains, pirate lagoons, wave machines, and indoor canals. Meanwhile, the town of Orme, Tennessee, must truck in water from Alabama because it has literally run out. Robert Glennon captures the irony—and tragedy—of America’s water crisis in a book that is both frightening and wickedly comical. Unquenchable reveals the heady extravagances and everyday inefficiencies that are sucking the nation dry.
Desert Solitaire
by Edward Abbey
Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire, the noted author's most enduring nonfiction work, is an account of Abbey's seasons as a ranger at Arches National Park outside Moab, Utah. Abbey reflects on the nature of the Colorado Plateau desert, on the condition of our remaining wilderness, and on the future of a civilization that cannot reconcile itself to living in the natural world.
Encounters with the Archdruid
by McPhee, John
The narratives in this book are of journeys made in three wildernesses - on a coastal island, in a Western mountain range, and on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The four men portrayed here have different relationships to their environment, and they encounter each other on mountain trails, in forests and rapids, sometimes with reserve, sometimes with friendliness, sometimes fighting hard across a philosophical divide. 256pp
Everett Ruess - A Vagabond for Beauty
by W.L. Rusho
Everett Ruess, the young poet and artist who disappeared into the desert canyonlands of Utah in 1934, has become widely known posthumously as the spokesman for the spirit of the high desert. Many have been inspired by his intense search for adventure, leaving behind the amenities of a comfortable life. His search for ultimate beauty and oneness with nature is chronicled in this remarkable collection of letters to family and friends.
Lee's Ferry: From Mormon Crossing to National Park
by Reilly, P.T.
The Colorado River and its deeply entrenched canyons create a lengthy barrier to travel in the interior West. Here and there, ancient Indian foot trails descend canyon walls and find access to the bottoms, but one of the few places between Colorado and California where wheeled vehicles can approach the river's banks is at its confluence with the Pahreah River, between Glen Canyon and the steep drop toward Grand Canyon. Here, from the mid-nineteenth until well into the twentieth century, Lee's Ferry was a primary link between Utah and Arizona.. Mormons trying to reach potential Indian converts and new lands for colonization to the south first developed the site. John D. Lee and members of his family, seeking an inconspicuous spot after the Mountain Meadows Massacre, were the first residents at what they called Lonely Dell. In subsequent decades, many interesting and important western characters passed through this topographical and historical funnel, from John Wesley Powell to Buffalo Bill. 542pp.
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7 days
6 nights
17 meals
6 B 5 L 6 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Marble Canyon, AZ
D
Marble Canyon Lodge

Activity note: Lodge check-in available by 2:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration. 5:00 p.m. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table in the meeting room to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes and other important information. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions in our private meeting room. We will review the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions. Transportation will be provided primarily by passenger vans, unless otherwise specified. Throughout the program, our naturalist Group Leader will cover subjects including geology, geography, human, and natural history. We will hike as one group throughout the week with a hike leader in the front and a sweep towards the rear. Helpful hiking skills and tips such as hiking techniques, foot placement on various terrain, and pacing will be communicated throughout the week by our knowledgeable leaders. 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 lodge each night, we’ll enjoy a rotating menu of classic American plated meals, plus a soup and salad bar. Coffee, tea, and water are included; other beverages available for purchase at the restaurant bar.

Evening: After dinner, continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, perhaps use the pool, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Chocolate Cliffs Hike
Marble Canyon, AZ
B,L,D
Marble Canyon Lodge

Activity note: Hiking between 4 and 6 miles at Chocolate Cliffs; approx. 7 hours total; about 700 feet of elevation gain; off-trail terrain in a wilderness setting; scrambling up/down hillsides, uneven footing and loose rocks at times. Minimal driving for the day.

Breakfast: At the lodge restaurant, we’ll enjoy a hearty breakfast buffet featuring hot and cold items including eggs, potatoes, meat, pancakes, oatmeal, fruit, and yogurt, plus milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Setting out from the lodge, we’ll transfer to the Chocolate Cliffs for a hike up to the base of the cliffs by using abandoned road beds and rocky routes. As we reach the wall, we’ll discover 1,000 year old petroglyphs, ancient petrified logs, and jaw dropping views of the Vermilion and Echo Cliffs. The majority of this hike will be off-trail with potential for new discoveries and scenic vistas around every corner. This is a true "off the beaten path" adventure and a favorite of local experts.

Lunch: Along the trail, we’ll stop at a pleasant spot to enjoy our sack lunches. Meal items such as sandwiches, chips, fruit, and cookie will rotate throughout the week.

Afternoon: We’ll continue our hike through incredible scenery until making our way back to the vans and returning to the lodge.

Dinner: Lodge plated meal.

Evening: In the meeting room adjacent to the restaurant, we’ll then learn about the challenges and successes of the California condor reintroduction project, as presented by a biologist from the Peregrine Fund, the lead organization for the reintroduction effort. The California condor reintroduction release site and holding pens are located just down the road from Marble Canyon Lodge atop the Vermilion Cliffs and is at the center of this multi-agency recovery effort.

DAY
3
Cathedral Butte & Wash Hike
Marble Canyon, AZ
B,L,D
Marble Canyon Lodge

Activity note: Hiking approx. 4 miles roundtrip; about 7 hours total; on canyon floor, some ledges and large steps warranting sit down/step down maneuvers, roughly 200 feet in elevation gain in short, steep section. Minimal driving for the day.

Breakfast: Lodge buffet.

Morning: After breakfast, we’ll travel to the Cathedral Butte and Cathedral Wash hike. The Cathedral Wash hike to the Colorado River begins from the Lee's Ferry Road and winds along the floor of the canyon as the walls rise higher and higher. Some step downs, rock maneuvering and gravel will be encountered. The reward is a close encounter with the Colorado River and a hidden "beach."

Lunch: Sack lunches along the trail.

Afternoon: Upon completion of our hike, we’ll return to the lodge.

Dinner: Lodge plated meal.

Evening: Back in the meeting room adjacent to the restaurant, we’ll settle in to enjoy another select evening program led by a local expert on a regional subject such as Lee's Ferry, Mormon or Southwest history, Canyon Country geology, or musical entertainment.

DAY
4
Instructor's Choice Hike
Marble Canyon, AZ
B,L,D
Marble Canyon Lodge

Activity note: Driving approx. 2 hours round trip; mileage dependent on destination. Hiking between 4 and 6 miles; 5 to 6 hours; combination of trail and off-trail terrain with an elevation gain of roughly 500 feet; some rock scrambling requiring the use of hands to maneuver around boulders.

Breakfast: Lodge buffet.

Morning: Today’s hike will be a route and destination chosen by the Group Leader based on the interest and abilities of the group. Possible destinations include Lee's Backbone, Spencer Trail, Toad Stool Valley or Buck Tank Draw to name a few locations. Each potential destination listed is a classic red rock hiking adventure, complete with rewarding views and memories to last a lifetime!

Lunch: Sack lunches along the trail.

Afternoon: We’ll continue our hiking exploration and, once finished, we’ll return to the lodge.

Dinner: Lodge plated meal.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Boat Ride on the Colorado River, Red Bud Canyon Hike
Marble Canyon, AZ
B,L,D
Marble Canyon Lodge

Activity note: Minimal driving for the day. Getting on/off a boat; ride from Lee Ferry boat ramp to Red Bud Canyon is approx. 3 miles one way; 1/2 hour round trip. Hiking approx. 4.5 miles roundtrip at Red Bud Canyon; about 5 hours; established route to the end of the canyon, then along canyon floor and canyon bank; some scrambling to access amphitheater at the head of the canyon.

Breakfast: Lodge buffet.

Morning: We’ll arrive in Lee's Ferry via passenger vans to board the shuttle boat and transfer upstream on the Colorado River to Red Bud Canyon for a hike. Red Bud Canyon is located on the south side of the river at the base of the Echo Cliffs. This secluded and exclusive canyon hike will take us to remarkable red rock amphitheater formations, certainly making it one of the highlights of the program.

Lunch: Sack lunches along the trail.

Afternoon: Upon completion of our hike, we’ll make it back to the shuttle boat for transfer back to the lodge via Lee’s Ferry.

Dinner: Lodge plated meal.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
6
Vermilion Cliffs Sand Crack Hike
Marble Canyon, AZ
B,L,D
Marble Canyon Lodge

Activity note: Driving approx. 1 hours round trip. Hiking 6 miles round trip 5 to 6 hours; combination of primitive trail, some short but steep sandy sections and rocky, uneven terrain with an elevation gain of roughly 1,600 feet; some maneuvering around rocks. In and out hike - the group returns the same way that they came from.

Breakfast: Lodge buffet.

Morning: The planned hike for today will be the Sand Crack Hike in the Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. This is a classic red rock hiking adventure, complete with rewarding views and memories to last a lifetime! The hike begins at a historic cattle ranching cabin and continues past Rachel Pools, a natural spring area utilized by Mormon pioneers for decades. Elevation is gained on a primitive trail through varied terrain of rocky benches and a couple of short but steep sand features. Numerous ancient rock art panels and jaw dropping views make this a hike worth the effort!

Lunch: Sack lunches along the trail.

Afternoon: Finishing up our hike, we’ll return to the lodge with time to freshen up before dinner.

Dinner: Lodge plated meal.

Evening: We’ll then gather for a program wrap-up session at the lodge. Share some laughs with new Road Scholar friends along with your favorite experiences and accomplishments from the program. The remainder of the evening will be at leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

DAY
7
Program Concludes, Independent Departures
Marble Canyon, AZ
B

Activity note: Lodge check-out by 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Lodge buffet. This concludes our program.

Morning: 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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