Our trip begins this morning in Las Vegas, Nevada. We meet our guides at 7am at our host hotel and, following introductions and a brief orientation, begin the three-hour drive over the Utah border to Zion National Park. Arriving midday, Zion?s extraordinary beauty immediately reveals itself as we set out on a hike into the Virgin River Narrows. On this amphibious exploration, our trail is the Virgin River as it winds its way between the thousand-foot-high walls of the enormous slot canyon (a significant portion of the Narrows hike requires wading through ankle to thigh-deep river water). Hiking through the Narrows can feel like a dream as the ever-changing light reflects off the cliff walls, continually altering the color of rock and water. At hike?s end, we transfer to our campsite and pitch our tents before enjoying our first guide-prepared dinner together under a star-filled Southwestern sky. We spend the next two nights at the Watchman Campground in Zion National Park. Lunch and dinner included.
5 miles (with a significant amount of river wading), Elevation gain/loss: Minimal; Van transfer: 3 hours
We get an early jump on the day, heading out for our exhilarating hike to Angels Landing. A short ride on the park shuttle transports us to the trailhead, where our route takes us up Walter's Wiggles?21 switchbacks that ascend the walls of Zion Canyon before joining with the trail to Angels Landing itself. The final leg to the landing is on an exposed, narrow trail built along the spine of a sandstone fin rising 1,500 ft above the canyon floor. Chains have been installed along the trail for use as additional handholds on this airy route. At trail?s end, the 360-degree view of Zion Canyon makes every uphill step worthwhile. After our vigorous morning hike, the afternoon provides an opportunity to go for a refreshing swim in the Virgin River, or for more relaxation time back at camp to soak up the sunshine. Tonight?s dinner is on our own, allowing us to try a restaurant of choice in the charming town of Springdale, just outside the park entrance. Breakfast and lunch included.
Hiking: 5 miles, Elevation gain/loss: 1,500'
Rugged and remote, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a vast wilderness playground filled with soaring cliffs, prehistoric ruin sites and labyrinthine slot canyons awaiting discovery. Our hike today leads us into one of these slots on a unique backcountry adventure and crash course in the geology of the Colorado Plateau. Following our guides, we make our way down over slickrock and sand to a series of narrow canyons, their pink and magenta striped walls less than an arm?s length apart. Squeezing our way through the narrowest passageways, we take advantage of the excellent photographic opportunities created by the light, shadow, color and rock textures converging in this geological masterpiece. After returning to the trailhead, we hop in the van and head to our private campground, just minutes from Bryce Canyon National Park. Tonight, we feast on appetizers and a delicious dinner before ending the day around the campfire?s warm glow. All meals included.
Hiking: 6.5 miles, Elevation gain/loss: 450'; Van transfer: 4 hours (with multiple activity stops)
Visiting Bryce Canyon for the first time, it's hard not to feel an overwhelming sense of awe at the sheer number of towering sandstone pinnacles (hoodoos) that rise from the canyon floor, forming a jagged, colorful landscape unlike any other on the planet. We spend the morning exploring this otherworldly wilderness, hiking along some of the park?s most scenic trails. Descending below the canyon rim, it?s easy to become mesmerized by the orange-colored sandstone, stands of jade green pine trees, and thousands of hoodoos that make this national park so uniquely captivating. In the afternoon, we begin the drive south across the Arizona border towards another remarkable canyon, this one many times larger than Bryce. Our campsite for the next two nights sits on the Grand Canyon?s North Rim, with sweeping views just a short stroll from our tents. For dinner (on our own), choose from the restaurants at the North Rim Lodge, perched on canyon?s edge and a perfect spot for watching a brilliant high desert sunset. Breakfast and lunch included.
Hiking: 5 miles, Elevation gain/loss: 600'; Van transfer: 4 hours
Providing the only maintained trail access to the bottom of the Grand Canyon from the North Rim, the spectacular North Kaibab Trail is our hiking route of choice this morning. Although we won?t make it all the way to canyon bottom, we descend the trail to Redwall Bridge for great views of the inner canyon and its awesome river-carved landscapes. Portions of this hike are challenging, but our guides encourage and educate us along the way, keeping us engaged and energized. Back at the rim, we pack in another scenic photo stop at Cape Royal to take in Angel?s Window, a stunning natural arch. Our guides prepare a final, festive dinner at camp for us tonight, providing an opportunity to celebrate new friendships and reflect on the week?s adventures. All meals included.
Hiking: 7 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +2,600'
After breakfast, we break down camp, bid farewell to the Grand Canyon, and begin the drive back to Vegas. Before returning to civilization, our final hike winds through Water Canyon, a lush oasis in the desert. This lovely canyon near Colorado City features a trail that parallels a permanent stream dotted with beautiful waterfalls, clear pools and slot-like passageways?a very different experience than the hiking we enjoyed on previous days. Our final hike complete, we board the van for the last leg of our journey, passing by Hoover Dam and arriving back at our host hotel between 4:30?5pm this afternoon. Breakfast and lunch included.
Hiking: 4 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +800'; Van transfer: 4.5 hours