Our trip begins in Phoenix, Arizona. We rendezvous with our guides at 8am and, following introductions and a brief orientation, we head north from Phoenix through the Sonoran Desert and into Arizona?s high country. We?ll stop to stretch our legs and enjoy lunch in the town of Flagstaff before our final scenic 90-minute drive to Grand Canyon National Park. We relish our first glimpse of the Grand Canyon from a fantastic overlook on the South Rim. The sweeping views continue to unfold as we walk along the Rim Trail to Yavapai Point before shuttling the short distance to Mather Campground, our home for the next two nights. As darkness falls, we settle in for our first dinner under a canopy of twinkling stars. Lunch and dinner included.
Transfer: 3.5 hours; Hiking: 3 miles on the Rim Trail with minimal elevation gain/loss.
The smell of pine trees and wood smoke fill the morning air as we rise to greet the day. Our guides have breakfast prepared to fuel us for the challenging hike down (and back up) the Bright Angel Trail. As one of the major geologic fault lines bisecting the Canyon, the Bright Angel Fault has for centuries allowed animals and humans access into and out of the Canyon. Havasupai Indians, pioneering miners, entrepreneurial business men, the National Park Service and the Civilian Conservation Core all played vital roles in the history of this fine trail that offers water, shade structures and even trailside bathrooms. Our hike today delights us with breathtaking views and historical references shared by our guides and ultimately rewards us with a feeling of accomplishment when the day is complete. After our adventure, we return to our comfortable camp, kick back and share stories around the campfire. All meals included.
Hiking: 6-12 miles; Elevation gain/loss: 1,000?-3,000? Terrain: Dirt trails with some steps.
Elk here in the national park have become accustomed to humans, affording us some wonderful close encounters during the early hours. They wander near our campsite in the soft morning light while we sip our coffee or tea and prepare for another memorable hike into the Grand Canyon. Daypacks loaded with water, snacks and supplies for the day, we set off down the South Kaibab Trail (Kaibab is the Paiute word for canyon and translates to ?mountain lying down?), considered by many the most scenic trail in the Grand Canyon. We hike down approximately two miles to Cedar Ridge where we stop for lunch and have time to ponder the powerful geological forces that carved the remarkable landscape spread before us. After climbing back to the rim, we board our van and begin the drive to Lake Powell, the next intriguing stop on our ultimate adventure. All meals included.
Transfer: 2.5 hours; Hiking: approx. 4 miles; Elevation gain/loss: 1,200?; Terrain: Dirt trails with some steps.
We begin the day with a visit to one of the most photogenic slot canyons in the world: extraordinary Antelope Canyon. Renowned for its swirling sandstone formations and the palette of colors created by the sunlight that filters into the slot, a trip into Antelope is a highlight for the photographers, aspiring geologists and canyon lovers among us. This afternoon, we jump into our kayaks for a paddle exploration of Lake Powell. Appearing like a mirage amid the surrounding desert, Lake Powell, the second?largest man?made reservoir in the nation, combines the magic of water with the red?rock glory of the desert Southwest?a stunning juxtaposition of lake, stone and sky. We return to our camp at Wahweap late today and have time to shower, chat with our traveling companions or just relax before dinner is served. All meals included.
Hiking: 1 mile with minimal elevation gain/loss; Kayaking: up to 5 miles in sit-on-top kayaks.
After a leisurely breakfast in camp this morning, we begin the drive toward Monument Valley, perhaps the most iconic landscape in all of the American Southwest. Appearing as a backdrop in many films including The Searchers, Easy Rider and Forrest Gump, the towering buttes and sandstone formations of Monument Valley form a majestic tableau that conjures up images of frontier-era days long past. We spend the afternoon exploring the area on foot, hiking along and soaking in the beauty of the 4-mile-long Wildcat Trail. We enjoy a late afternoon dinner at the View Restaurant, offering sweeping panoramas of the valley spread out before us, before continuing on to Chinle, Arizona, the gateway to Canyon de Chelly. We spend tonight in a small hotel in Chinle. All meals included.
Transfer: 4.5 hours; Hiking: 4 miles; Elevation gain/loss: minimal; Terrain: Sandy washes and dirt trails.
Continuously inhabited for almost 5,000 years, Canyon de Chelly?s sheltering cliffs, rich soil and natural water sources have attracted a variety of peoples to settle among its sheer sandstone walls including the Basketmakers, the Anasazi, the Hopi and, most recently, the Navajo. We spend the next two days discovering Canyon de Chelly on foot accompanied by a local Navajo guide who enlightens us on the history of the canyon and the cultures that thrived here over the centuries. During our visit we enjoy fabulous views of the canyon and soaring Spider Rock from both the rim and the canyon floor, explore the dramatic White House Ruin and other Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) cliff dwellings and ruin sites, and search for mysterious prehistoric rock art carved into the canyon walls. Although we?re in the desert, part of our hike follows the sun-drenched canyon bottom and weaves back and forth across a creek bed through lush riparian habitat. As the sun drops below the canyon rim each evening and darkness falls across the landscape, we settle into our cozy tents and imagine what life must have been like for those who called Canyon de Chelly home through the millennia.
Hiking: up to 8 miles on Day 6, up to 10 miles on Day 7; Elevation gain/loss: 1,000? loss on Day 6, minimal on Day 7 as we hike at the bottom of the canyon; Terrain: dirt trails and sandy washes. All meals included.
A final morning in canyon country finds us already reminiscing about the many wonderful things we discovered during our time in Arizona. After breakfast, we hike back up to the rim of Canyon de Chelly via a rarely traveled trail and say farewell to our Dineh guide before boarding our van for the return trip to Phoenix. We have a late lunch in Winslow, Arizona ? the town gained international recognition in 1972 with the release of the Eagles' hit song "Take it Easy" ? before winding our way through forests of ponderosa pine and beginning our descent back to the Sonoran Desert. We continue on to Phoenix arriving between 5:00-5:30pm this evening. Breakfast and lunch included.
Transfer: 5 hours; Hiking: 5 miles; Elevation gain: 800?.