Our trip begins in Salt Lake City, Utah. We rendezvous with our guides at 8am and, following introductions and a brief orientation, set off for Canyonlands National Park. After lunch in Moab, the adventure outpost that serves as gateway to the marvelous red-rock country that lies beyond, we continue on to our campsite near Canyonlands? remote Needles District. En route, we stop at Newspaper Rock to appreciate this exceptional rock art panel containing one of the largest collections of petroglyphs in the Southwest. Arriving at camp, we pitch our tents and head out on a short warm-up hike, enjoying glimpses of the fantastic desert playground that surrounds us. Returning to our cozy basecamp at sunset, we eat our first guide-prepared dinner under the star-filled Utah sky. We spend the next two nights in our Canyonlands camp. All meals included beginning with lunch on Day 1 through lunch on Day 8.
Hiking: 2.5 miles with minimal elevation gain/loss; Transfer: 6 hours.
A hike to Chesler Park is an ideal introduction to the awe-inspiring landscapes and unique geology of Canyonlands National Park. Today?s trail leads us over dirt, sand and slickrock, past the towering pinnacles and fins of the Needles formation and through a series of twisting canyons before emerging at a viewpoint offering fantastic panoramic views of Chesler Park itself. A vast grassy meadow dotted with multi-colored sandstone spires and domes, Chesler Park has a tranquil, otherworldly quality that perfectly showcases the grandeur of this remote national park. After a trailside lunch and some additional time to explore and take photos, we begin our hike back to the trailhead, returning to camp in late afternoon in time for appetizers and a delicious al fresco dinner.
Hiking: 10-11 miles; Elevation gain/loss: 1,755?; Terrain: slickrock and dirt trails with some stone steps.
We drive north this morning toward extraordinary Arches National Park. With over 2,000 sandstone arches of all shapes and sizes lying within its borders, the park contains the largest concentration of natural stone arches on Earth. After a stop at the visitor center, we drive to the Devil?s Garden trailhead where we begin today?s hike. Winding our way over wind-sculpted sandstone, we visit a variety of the park?s iconic arches including Double O Arch and 306-foot-long Landscape Arch, one of the longest natural stone spans in the world. After our walk in the ?Garden?, we transfer to Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint for a view of the park?s most iconic feature, fabulous Delicate Arch. Rising unexpectedly from the edge of a large sandstone bowl, Delicate Arch?s graceful silhouette makes it a lovely sight to behold. We end the day with a final road transfer to our campsite in Torrey, Utah, a stone?s throw from Capitol Reef National Park.
Hiking: 4-6 miles; Elevation gain/loss: 500-800?; Terrain: slickrock and dirt trails; Transfer: 5.5-6 hours.
Still relatively undiscovered, Capitol Reef National Park is a gem in the U.S. National Park system. Waterpocket Fold, the park?s central feature, is a 100-mile-long wrinkle in the Earth's crust which has eroded over time into massive sandstone domes, narrow slot canyons and graceful arches. We spend the day exploring some of the highlights of Capitol Reef starting with a scenic drive to our trailhead along Waterpocket Fold?s tilted layers of burgundy, grey, red, orange and white-colored rock. Today?s through-hike traverses part of the Grand Wash, Frying Pan, and Cohab Canyon trails and gives us access to some of the best views and most interesting sections of backcountry in the park. After a full day of adventure in this untrammeled wilderness, our trail ultimately leads us back to our vehicle, waiting to shuttle us to our nearby campground.
Hiking: 11-12 miles; Elevation gain/loss: 1,000?; Terrain: slickrock, sandy washes and dirt trails; Transfer: 1.5 hours.
It's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument that captures our imagination today as we explore the monument on a hike to a hidden waterfall. Departing Torrey this morning, we head south and west along Utah's Scenic Byway 12 to our trailhead for Lower Calf Creek Falls. Here we'll begin our six-mile hike to the 130-foot waterfalls, a lush oasis concealed deep within the tumbled stone and slickrock of Grand Staircase-Escalante. Continuing to Bryce Canyon, we spend the night in a private campsite near the national park, an ideal spot for stargazing in one of the darkest nighttime locations in the U.S.
Hiking: 6 miles; Elevation gain/loss: 200'; Terrain: dirt trails; Transfer: 3 hours.
Gazing into Bryce Canyon for the first time, it's hard not to feel an overwhelming sense of awe at the sheer number of hoodoos that rise from the canyon floor forming a jagged, colorful landscape unlike any other on the planet. We take full advantage of our hiking time in Bryce today beginning with the outstanding Fairyland Loop hike this morning. During our walks, photographic opportunities abound as we descend into the canyon proper surrounded by the warm-colored sandstone, stands of jade green pine trees, and the whimsical hoodoos that make this national park so uniquely captivating. In the afternoon, we transfer to Sunset Point and hike the Navajo Loop trail before returning to the canyon rim. Saying goodbye to Bryce we jump back aboard our van and hit the road for Zion National Park, the final stop on our amazing journey.
Hiking: 9 miles; Elevation gain/loss: 2,300'; Terrain: dirt trails and sandy washes; Transfer: 2-3 hours.
Our first hike in Zion National Park this morning takes us on the Watchman Trail, one of the park?s best trails for vantage points with breathtaking views stretching out over Zion Canyon. Retracing our steps to the valley, we hop aboard the park shuttle to the entrance of the spectacular Zion Narrows. Alternating between hiking and wading, our trail is the Virgin River itself as it winds its way between 1,000-foot-tall canyon walls. We follow the river for a few miles, marveling at the hanging gardens, beautiful geology and play of light in this enormous slot canyon before returning downriver. At camp tonight, we gather for a special celebration dinner and reflect on all of the wonders we?ve seen during our time together.
Hiking: 6-7 miles; Elevation loss/gain: 368'; Terrain: dirt trails, river wading (sometimes in thigh- to waist-deep water); Transfer: 1.5 hours.?
Before beginning our drive to Las Vegas, one final hike awaits, promising to end our journey on an unforgettable note. The trail to Angels Landing is cut into sandstone walls and follows Walter's Wiggles, a series of 21 switchbacks leading up to Scout Lookout, a viewpoint overlooking Zion Canyon. The final hike to Angels Landing itself is along a steep, narrow trail set on the spine of a sandstone fin rising 1,500 feet above the canyon floor. Chains, for use as handholds, have been installed along the trail for hiker safety on this airy route. The 360-degree views from Angels Landing viewpoint are the perfect exclamation point on our epic Southwestern adventure! After our morning hike, we have lunch before setting out for Las Vegas where we?ll say our final farewells. Please do not schedule any flights out of Las Vegas until after 9pm tonight.
Hiking: 5 miles; Elevation gain/loss: 1,500?; Terrain: dirt trails; Transfer: 4 hours.