This trip is rated Moderate . Participants should be in very good physical condition and be comfortable with daily hikes of up to 6 miles with elevation gains/losses of up to 2,100'. Hiking trails are composed of dirt, rock and sand with some steep sections and exposed overlooks. All hikes are optional and our guides will brief trip members on the vigorousness and exposure of each hike prior to setting out.
Our trip begins today in Scottsdale, AZ, the blue-sky, fair-weather tourism hub of the Sonoran Desert. Here we meet our guides and fellow travelers in the lobby of our host hotel for introductions and a quick orientation before traveling to beautiful Sedona. En route, we watch the landscape change from low desert to high, say goodbye to saguaro cactus and hello to pinion pine, and make our way to Red Rock State Park. The rolling trails and stunning red rock views Sedona is known for are at their best here, as we bridge meandering creeks and watch for javelina crossing our paths. We enjoy an al fresco lunch before journeying farther north, into the cool pine-covered elevations of canyon country. Our first glimpse of the Grand Canyon is unforgettable and allows us an up-close understanding of how geology created such a fascinating spectacle. Tonight, we check into our rim-side lodge where every room has a view of the canyon, and meet back up for dinner at the lively and historic Fred Harvey Tavern. Lunch and dinner included.
Hiking: 2.4 miles, Elevation gain/loss: 230’; Van transfer: 4.5 hours
After breakfast together, we don our hiking boots and hit the trail. Bright Angel Trail was originally a toll route, traversed by the likes of President Teddy Roosevelt and others who wished to reach the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Set along a natural fault line that can been seen running trans canyon, the unending switchbacks escort us back in geologic time 10,000 years at a time. In just 3 miles we descend more than 2,100 feet in elevation, or about halfway down the canyon. Here we take in the view at the top of the Redwall Limestone layer, a spry 335 million years in age (older than the oldest known dinosaur). We enjoy a picnic lunch and learn about John Wesley Powell’s exploration and mapping of the Grand Canyon in 1869 before we make the challenging trek back to the rim.
This afternoon, you can choose to go your own way and explore the Shrine of the Ages, the Grand Canyon Village, or a ranger-led program. Your guide will offer a hike on the outstanding East Rim Trail along the Trail of Time, an interesting layer-by-layer look at the dozens of rock types that make up the canyon. Tonight, we dine together before an optional night sky viewing led by our guides in one of the world’s official International Dark Sky Parks, where our view of the stars is specially protected for our enjoyment. All meals included.
Hiking: 6 miles, Elevation gain/loss: 2,102’; Optional additional hikes: 2–4 miles, Elevation gain/loss: 500’
We rise to the promise of a day filled with some of the most scenic miles the Grand Canyon has to offer. After breakfast, we ride the park shuttle to Yaki Point, the start of the famous South Kaibab Trail. While the Bright Angel Trail follows a fault line, the South Kaibab was carved from a prominent ridgeline and affords us nearly 360-degree views of the widest part of the canyon. A favorite stop is Ooh-Ahh Point, aptly named. Don’t forget your camera. We continue down the manmade stairs on this well-maintained trail to Cedar Ridge and on to Skeleton Point. Here we get our first glimpse of the Colorado River, the powerful force behind the carving of the canyon itself, and the life-giving artery of the southwestern U.S. After returning to the rim, we again have the option to explore the canyon as desired, with various shopping or hiking options available, including a trek along the West Rim Trail to Hopi Point, one of the best views on the South Rim. Tonight, we dust off for a celebratory dinner in the famed El Tovar Dining Room. All meals included.
Hiking: 6 miles, Elevation gain/loss: 2,060’; Optional additional hikes: 1.5–3 miles, Elevation gain/loss: Up to 250’
For early birds or YOLO enthusiasts, our guides offer an optional sunrise walk out to Trailview Overlook, where we face east into the rising sun while the Bright Angel Trail meanders beneath our viewing platform. Breakfast is on your own today to allow you to set your own pace on our final morning at the Grand Canyon. Today, we explore the lesser-known Hermit’s Rest area, either on foot or by bike—your choice! Cyclists will be able to rent their own hybrid or electric bike and tour the Hermit’s Rest route in style. Hikers will ride the park shuttle out to Hermit’s Rest, a unique building designed by influential architect Mary Jane Colter in 1914, and hike the rim trail back toward the heart of the village. Our hiking route today takes in eight viewpoints, each more stunning than the last. And with regular shuttle stops along the way, we can travel at our own speed and never worry about being on time.
This afternoon we say farewell to the canyon, having visited its most popular trails and navigating to our own secret spots over the past four days. We’ll journey south, from pine to cactus, and return to our host hotel in Scottsdale between 6:00–6:30pm, including a stop at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) for those who have flights out tonight. All meals included.
Hiking (optional): Up to 9.8 miles, Elevation gain/loss: Minimal; Biking (optional and on own): Up to 18.6 miles; Van transfer: 3.5 hours