8718
Arizona/Utah
On the Road: Absolute Southwest — A Canyonlands Adventure
This one has it all – three iconic National Parks, two National Monuments, a raft trip on the Colorado, a Jeep trip in Monument Valley and quintessential S.W. landscapes throughout!
Rating (4.85)
Program No. 8718RJ
Length
12 days
Starts at
2,349
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12 days
11 nights
31 meals
11 B 10 L 10 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Phoenix, AZ
D
Hilton Garden Inn Phoenix Airport North - 8718

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

Afternoon: Program Registration: 5:00 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: 5:30 p.m. 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. This is a Road Scholar On The Road (OTR) program. OTR programs are journeys that take participants to multiple study sites in a region with a number of overnight stays. Lectures, talks, discussions, field trips, and on-board commentary amplify the program theme. Some journeys involve great distances and may take hours, others are much shorter. Long or short, On The Road journeys are learning experiences that make the most of our time together. All field trips will be led by our Group Leader, a seasoned and experienced naturalist, unless specified otherwise. Transportation will be provided primarily via motorcoach, requiring ascending/descending a few steps when getting on/off. 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: At the hotel restaurant, we’ll have a tasty buffet meal with salad and dessert; vegetarian and gluten-free selections available with advance notice; coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
2
Montezuma Castle National Monument, Sedona-AZ
Sedona, AZ
B,L,D
Holiday Inn Express Sedona - Oak Creek

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach; driving about 120 miles total, approximately 2.5 hours with stops for field trips. Walking approximately 2 miles total throughout the day; about 1/2 mile at a time; approximately 1.5 hours total; paved walkways at Montezuma Castle. Elevation in the Sedona area ranges between 4,000 and 4,500 feet.

Breakfast: In the hotel restaurant, we’ll have a buffet breakfast with milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Once checked out of the hotel, we’ll load luggage and board our vehicle for our journey north to Sedona. As we move from the Basin and Range region to the central highlands and transition zone of the Verde Valley, we’ll watch the plant communities change. En route, we’ll stop for a field trip with our Group Leader at the picturesque, wonderfully preserved, five-story, 700-year-old Anasazi pueblo ruins at Montezuma Castle National Monument. As we make our way around the site on foot, we will learn about the ruins and the people who built it. Returning to the vehicle after our field trip, we’ll continue our transfer to Sedona.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll have plated meals and a cookie with coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: Setting out again aboard our vehicle, we will explore some favorite spots in the Sedona area including a stop at the beautiful Bell Rock viewpoint with commentary provided by our knowledgeable Group Leader. We’ll then continue to the hotel for a late afternoon check-in.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll have plated meals with a choice of entrée plus a nonalcoholic beverage; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
3
Oak Creek Canyon, No. AZ Museum, SF Peaks, Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon, AZ
B,L,D
Yavapai Lodge West

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach; driving about 120 miles, approximately 2.5 hours with stops for field trips. Walking about 1/2 mile to the canyon rim, approximately 1 hour; paved, level trail. Flagstaff and Grand Canyon South Rim elevation is roughly 7,000 feet.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll have a breakfast buffet featuring choices such as an egg dish, breakfast meats, waffles, cereals, and fresh fruit, plus milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll load up for the trip up one of Arizona's most scenic highways through the steep, rock-walled cliffs of Oak Creek Canyon to the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff. Upon arrival, a museum docent will lead us through some of the exhibits before allowing time for independent exploration. The Museum of Northern Arizona was founded by Harold Colton and Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton in 1928, and is the preeminent museum of the Colorado Plateau with an extensive collection of Native American artifacts.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a buffet meal with soft drinks, coffee, tea, and water included.

Afternoon: Continuing our scenic journey to the Grand Canyon, we’ll make our way through the San Francisco Peaks Volcanic Field. With a stop at Mather Point, named after the first director of the National Park Service, we’ll get our first view of the Grand Canyon on a short narrated walk with our Group Leader. We’ll then complete the transfer to our Grand Canyon lodge where we’ll have a late afternoon check-in.

Dinner: At a Grand Canyon lodge café, we’ll have a plated dinner with soft drinks, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. On your own, you may wish to walk to the Canyon Rim for sunset (before or after dinner, depending on the season), take in a National Park Service evening ranger program (seasonal), or just relax at the Grand Canyon.

DAY
4
Natural & Human History at the Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon, AZ
B,L
Yavapai Lodge West

Activity note: Walking about 1 mile in Grand Canyon Village, approximately 1.5 hours; paved, slightly sloping pathway. Opportunities for activities based on personal interest during free time.

Breakfast: At the Grand Canyon Lodge Café, we’ll have a buffet meal with soft drinks, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: For early risers, we’ll set out on an elective pre-dawn excursion during which we’ll transfer via motorcoach and walk to view the sunrise over the Grand Canyon. After breakfast, we will have a walking field trip in Grand Canyon Village where our Group Leader will tell us about the history of each location. Grand Canyon Village includes Verkamps Visitor Center, the El Tovar Hotel, Mary Colter's Hopi House, rock walls, and trails built by the Civilian Conservation Corp, the Bright Angel Lodge with its famous Geological Fireplace, and Kolb Studio.

Lunch: At a Grand Canyon Lodge café, we’ll have plated meals with soft drinks, milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: We’ll then start the afternoon with another expert-led walk either along the Geologic Walk of Time or part of the way down the Bright Angel Trail, depending on the weather. The Trail of Time is an interpretive walking timeline trail that focuses on Grand Canyon vistas and rocks to encourage visitors to ponder, explore, and understand the magnitude of geologic time and the stories encoded by Grand Canyon rock layers and landscapes. The Bright Angel Trail was originally a game trail down a geologic fault line. It has been used, modified, and expanded by successive generations of prehistoric and historic Indians, explorers, miners, and now park visitors. The remainder of the afternoon is free. You might like to explore the Grand Canyon’s famous South Rim, ride the free Hermit’s Rest Route (Red Line Shuttle), take extended walks along the rim, attend ranger programs, or return for longer visits at any of the historic structures visited on the history walk.

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.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
5
Desert View Watchtower, Cameron Trading Post, Navajo Res.
Monument Valley, UT
B,L,D
Goulding's Lodge

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 180 miles total, approximately 3.5 hours with stops for field trips. Walking up to 1/2 mile total throughout the day; paved trails to the Watchtower.

Breakfast: Grand Canyon Lodge buffet.

Morning: Back aboard the vehicle, we’ll travel out to the East Rim of the Grand Canyon for a stop at the Desert View overlook, the location of the famous Mary Colter’s Watchtower and some of the best views of the Colorado River. We will have time to explore the watchtower with our naturalist available to answer any questions. Known for her many works for the Fred Harvey Company and the Santa Fe Railroad, Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter was a 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. Next, we will have some time to explore the historic 1916 Cameron Trading Post independently. Set on the banks of the Little Colorado River, the Trading Post is a welcomed rest stop that features a beautiful hidden garden, an in-house Navajo rug weaver, and interesting stone architecture.

Lunch: At the historic Cameron Trading Post, we’ll have a plated lunch with soft drinks, coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: Continuing on our journey, we’ll travel through the Navajo Reservation and the Painted Desert to Kayenta on the way to Goulding's Lodge. En route, we’ll make a stop at the Kayenta Burger King — the unlikely site of a famous Navajo Code Talker exhibit. Adjacent is a Navajo demonstration area and a museum you may wish to explore independently. We’ll then make our way to Goulding's Lodge.

Dinner: At the historic Goulding's Lodge and Trading Post Restaurant, we’ll order plated meals from a select menu while we enjoy sweeping views of red rock mesas and vistas out the restaurant window; soft drinks, lemonade, coffee, iced tea, water included (alcoholic beverages are not sold on the Navajo Reservation).

Evening: In the Earth Spirit Theater at Goulding’s, we’ll settle in to view a video on a topic of local interest.

DAY
6
Monument & Mystery Valleys by 4WD Truck
Monument Valley, UT
B,L,D
Goulding's Lodge

Activity note: Getting in/out of a four-wheel drive vehicle; driving about 20 miles, approximately 6 hours; dusty, bumpy terrain. Walking up to 1 mile total throughout the day on multiple short walks. Elevation in Monument Valley is about 5,500 feet.

Breakfast: At Goulding's Trading Post, we’ll order plated meals from an extensive selection of breakfast items including eggs, French toast, pancakes, and more plus milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We will have some time for independent exploration of Goulding’s Trading Post and museum, which includes memorabilia from many John Ford and John Wayne westerns, as well as prehistoric artifacts and items from the early trading post days. Then we’ll board a four-wheel drive truck and head out on a full-day field trip to explore Mystery Valley and Monument Valley. Mystery Valley is home to a large collection of Ancestral Puebloan ruins and rock art, and we’ll spend the morning seeing the centuries-old home of the Ancient Ones. Our expert Navajo drivers will provide narration and insight to the natural and cultural features of the region as we get to experience this quintessential scenery of the American Southwest. Along the way, we’ll make stops to take in the views and stretch our legs.

Lunch: Amid the spectacular scenery of Mystery Valley, we’ll have sack lunches.

Afternoon: Continuing our field trip through Monument Valley, we will explore many of the famous monuments including views of the Mittens and John Ford Point, plus a visit to the Monument’s restricted area with our expert drivers to see ancient petroglyphs and unparalleled scenery.

Dinner: Goulding’s Lodge plated meal.

Evening: Gathering in the Earth Spirit Theater at Goulding’s, we’ll settle in to view a video on a topic of local interest. The remainder of the evening will be at leisure. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
7
Navajo Nat. Mont., Glen Canyon Dam, Upper Antelope Canyon
Page/Lake Powell, AZ
B,L,D
Courtyard Page at Lake Powell

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 150 miles total, approximately 2.5 hours with stops for field trips. Walking approximately 2 miles total, about 1.5 miles roundtrip to Betatakin Overlook; paved paths; elevation change of roughly 200 feet. About 1/2 mile in Antelope Canyon; mostly level terrain, loose sandy footing. Elevation at Navajo National Monument is roughly 7,000 feet; Page is about 4,300 feet.

Breakfast: Goulding's Trading Post plated meal.

Morning: We will set out for a field trip to Navajo National Monument. This National Park Service Monument contains some of the Southwest's best preserved ruins of the "Ancestral Puebloans," or Anasazi culture. An orientation to the Navajo National Monument given by our Group Leader will begin at the Visitor Center that features a small museum with exhibits of prehistoric pottery and other artifacts that attempt to piece together what life was like for the early peoples. An excellent 25-minute video on the Ancient Ones will also be shown on request. Next, we’ll walk to the nearby overlook for a view across the canyon of the Betatakin Ruins, one of the best-preserved ruins, which has original walls and an intact roof. The easy, paved Sandal Trail we’ll be walking on begins behind the Visitor Center and winds through a piñon-juniper woodland to Betatakin Point Overlook. Signs along the way identify native plants and describe how Native Americans used them as our Group Leader discusses the area’s ecology and human history. Back at the motorcoach, we’ll continue on our way to Page and Lake Powell.

Lunch: At a local Mexican restaurant in Page, we’ll have plated meals with soft drinks, milk, coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: Arriving at the Visitor Center at Glen Canyon Dam and the head of the 275 mile-long Lake Powell, we’ll explore the displays and take in the views. 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 been determined to have had adverse effects on the downstream Grand Canyon environment and the flooding of the spectacular Glen Canyon upstream. Just outside of Page, Arizona, is Antelope Canyon. This iconic slot canyon is popular with both photographers and other sightseers. The Navajo call Upper Antelope Canyon “Tsé bighánílíní” — the place where water runs through rocks. The short walk through this slot canyon is on level and loose sand. We’ll then move on and check into our hotel.

Dinner: In the hotel banquet room, we’ll have a tasty meal with coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Gathering in the hotel meeting room, we’ll be joined by a local expert for a presentation on a topic of local interest. Past favorites have included talks on the wildlife of Glen Canyon, geology of Glen Canyon, and floating hogans.

DAY
8
Horseshoe Bend Overlook, Glen Canyon Float Trip
Page/Lake Powell, AZ
B,L,D
Courtyard Page at Lake Powell

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 50 miles roundtrip, approximately 1 hour with stops for field trips. Walking about 1.5 miles, approximately 1.5 hours; loose sand, about 200 feet in elevation gain/loss to Horseshoe Bend Overlook. Getting on/off a boat; rise is approximately 15 miles; flatwater, motor-assisted float trip through the last free flowing section of Glen Canyon.

Breakfast: In the hotel restaurant, the breakfast buffet offers a variety of hot and cold items plus milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We will start our morning with a field trip to the Horseshoe Bend Overlook Trailhead. This 1.5 mile roundtrip hike goes up and over a small hill to the edge of a thousand-foot cliff looking down on a meander of the Colorado River in a section of Glen Canyon that we will float later. Then it’s on to our Glen Canyon float trip. After a safety briefing at the company’s office and passing the security checkpoint, we’ll descend through the tunnel used to construct the dam to the base of Glen Canyon dam. Upon arrival, we’ll board our motorized rafts. Our experienced boatmen will lead discussions on the geology, wildlife, and human history of the area. Halfway down the stretch of river, we’ll stop to view an iconic set of ancient petroglyphs with a chance to stretch our legs, and have a rest stop.

Lunch: On the river, we’ll have sack lunches.

Afternoon: The river portion of our trip will end at historic Lee’s Ferry, gateway to the Grand Canyon, where we will get off the boat, board our vehicle, and ride back to Page.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll have a catered dinner with coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We’ll be joined in the hotel meeting room by a local expert for a presentation on a topic of local interest. The remainder of the evening is at leisure. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
9
The Grand Staircase, Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
B,L,D
Best Western Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach; driving about 150 miles, approximately 2.5 hours. Walking about 1.5 miles along the rim at Bryce Canyon, approximately 2 hours; paved and unpaved surfaces. Time permitting, walk below the rim on unpaved trails. Rim elevation is roughly 8,000 feet.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We will check out of the hotel and drive through the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument with a stop at its Big Water Visitor Center to see the exhibits on recent dinosaur discoveries in the area. The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, at 1.7 million acres, dominates any map of southern Utah. It is the first monument to be administered by the Bureau of Land Management rather than the National Park Service. As presented by our Group Leader, we’ll learn why this National Monument is threatened and why it is a national treasure. Afterwards, we’ll travel up scenic Highway 89 towards Bryce Canyon National Park.

Lunch: At Ruby’s Cowboy Buffet & Steak Room, we’ll have a wide variety of choices at the lunch buffet with soft drinks, lemonade, milk, coffee, tea, water included.

Afternoon: Arriving in Bryce Canyon National Park, we’ll learn that despite its name, Bryce is not a canyon but a series of amphitheaters along the edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Its otherworldly hoodoos are carved from Claron lakebed sediments by frost weathering and stream erosion. Walking out to viewpoints such as Fairyland Point, Inspiration Point Bryce Point, and Sunset Point, we’ll take in the views of the spectacular Hoodoos. Depending on conditions, we’ll walk along the rim and visit the Bryce Canyon National Park Visitor Center.

Dinner: At Ruby’s Cowboy Buffet and Steak Room, we’ll have a delicious buffet dinner with a wide variety of choices plus soft drinks, lemonade, milk, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
10
Zion National Park’s Slickrock Country & Zion Canyon
Zion National Park
B,L,D
Holiday Inn Express Zion National Park

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach; driving about 85 miles, approximately 2 hours. Walking about 1.5 mile roundtrip, approximately 1.5 hours; mostly paved, slight uphill walk to Lower Emerald Pool.

Breakfast: In the hotel restaurant, the breakfast buffet offers a variety of hot and cold items plus milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: After loading up the bus, we’ll leave Bryce for the scenic drive to Zion National Park. Along the way we’ll drive through stunning Red Canyon — once a haunt for Butch Cassidy and his gang — as we journey to the slickrock country on the eastern edge of Zion National Park. Continuing with a stop at Checkerboard Mesa, we’ll then drive through the Zion Tunnels and down the switchbacks into Zion Canyon carved by the North Fork of the Virgin River. Spectacular Checkerboard Mesa is a massive petrified sand dune with horizontal layers laid down in the Jurassic Period and vertical cracks formed during weather over millions of years. While here with our Group Leader, we’ll discuss the reason it is called Checkerboard Mesa, talk about the plants growing at this elevation, and learn how things differ from the lower elevations in the park. The Zion Tunnels were built during the 1920s through solid sandstone walls with views through the "galleries" out to the Pine Creek Valley.

Lunch: At the Majestic View Lodge just outside of Zion National Park, we’ll choose what we like from the tasty lunch buffet with coffee, tea, lemonade, milk, water included. Enjoy spectacular views of the magnificent surroundings.

Afternoon: Moving on, we’ll travel to the Visitor Center at Zion National Park where we’ll see a large-scale 3-D map of the park for an overview what we'll be exploring. We’ll then set out on a walk with our Group Leader to the Lower Emerald Pools in Zion National Park.

Dinner: At the Majestic View Lodge, we’ll have plated meals with soft drinks, coffee, tea, milk, water included; other beverages available for purchase. Enjoy the majestic view from its huge picture windows.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
11
Zion Nat. Park, Pa'Rus Trail, Weeping Rock, Riverside Trail
Zion National Park
B,L,D
Holiday Inn Express Zion National Park

Activity note: Getting on/off a shuttle bus; driving about 20 miles total, approximately 90 minutes over the course of the day. Walking up to 4 miles total; pre-breakfast hike about 1 mile each way, approximately 1 hour; mostly paved; elevation decrease 50 feet. Weeping Rock hike about 1/2 mile roundtrip, approximately 1 hour; steep trail up/down 100 feet in elevation. Walking about 2 miles roundtrip on Riverside Trail, approximately 2 hours; mostly paved, rolling sidewalk. 4,000 feet elevation.

Breakfast: At the hotel, the breakfast buffet includes an egg dish, breakfast meats and potatoes, cereals, and fresh fruit, plus milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: On an elective pre-breakfast nature walk, we’ll set out with our Group Leader along the mostly paved Pa’Rus Trail for spectacular early morning views of the West Temple, Temples of the Virgin, Crawford Arch, and Bridge Mountain. We will walk at a slow pace with plenty of opportunities to discuss the geology and natural history we observe along the way. After breakfast, we’ll head to the Zion Human History Museum via motorcoach to watch a short video introducing Zion National Park. While here, we’ll explore the other exhibits independently.

Lunch: At the Grotto Picnic Area, we’ll have sack lunches.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll head to Weeping Rock via park shuttle where we will walk up a short but steep trail and learn through personal experience and our Group Leader about what makes this dripping garden special. The paved trail ends at a rock alcove with dripping springs and trailside exhibits. We’ll then take the park shuttle to the temple of Sinewava, the Riverside Trail, and beginning of the Zion Narrows — a spectacular gorge in the upper reaches of Zion Canyon. Totaling 16 miles in length, it gets up to 2,000 feet deep, and is at times only 20 to 30 feet wide.

Dinner: Majestic View Lodge plated meals. Share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

Evening: We’ll gather for a program wrap-up session to reflect on our adventures together. The remainder of the evening will be at leisure. Prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
12
Program Concludes
Las Vegas, NV
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out 8:00 a.m. Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 170 miles, approximately 3 hours. Expected arrival and drop-offs at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport (LAS) by approximately 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Once checked out of the hotel, we’ll load our luggage and begin our transfer to Las Vegas, traveling through the Virgin River Gorge carved by the mighty Virgin River through the Virgin River Anticline. As we drive, we’ll pass by Joshua Trees, the signature species of the Mojave Desert. We expect to arrive at McCarran International Airport by approximately 11:00 a.m. 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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