This trip is rated Moderate . You should be capable of hiking up to 8 miles (5–6 hours) while carrying a daypack weighing approximately 10–15 pounds. We hike both on- and off-trail along terrain that includes dirt and sand trails, open sandstone slickrock and some steep inclines/declines. During our rafting excursion on the Colorado River, we use paddle rafts (meaning all group members participate in the paddling) and will be on the water for approximately 6 hours (14 miles). This section of the river contains some rapids rated as Class II–III . No previous rafting experience is required and all associated gear will be provided.
Our trip begins this morning in Salt Lake City, Utah. After introductions and a brief orientation with our guides and fellow travelers, we begin the four-hour drive southeast towards Utah’s canyon country. Arriving in the early afternoon, we stop for a picnic lunch before setting out on a warm-up hike in Dead Horse Point State Park. Located on a mesa top on the edge of Canyonlands National Park, our trail offers outstanding views of the surrounding high desert landscape and the Colorado River far below. At hike’s end, we head to our campsite and pitch our tents before enjoying our first guide-prepared dinner under the vast Southwestern sky. Lunch and dinner included.
Hiking: 3–5 miles, Elevation gain: +900’ / -900’; Van transfer: 4.5 hours
With its colorful geology, giant balanced rocks, and more than 2,000 sandstone arches of all shapes and sizes, Arches National Park is mother nature’s sculpture garden. We head into Arches this morning for a full day of exploration, beginning with a hike along the Devil’s Garden Trail. This 7-mile loop leads us past some of the park’s most magnificent arches including Double O Arch, Landscape Arch (the longest in the park, stretching over 290 feet) and Navajo Arch. Hiking over primitive trail and slickrock, we visit these named arches and take in views of the many sandstone fins and formations that comprise the surrounding landscape. Later this afternoon, we take a second shorter hike between the soaring canyon walls of Park Avenue, walking in the shadows of the Three Gossips, the Courthouse Towers, the Organ, and the Tower of Babel. Back at camp, we reflect on our day of discovery in one of the world’s most unique national parks. All meals included.
Hiking: 8 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,100' / -1,100’
This morning, we drive 90 minutes to a true hiker’s paradise: the remote Needles section of Canyonlands National Park. Our spectacular hike leads to Chesler Park, a large open meadow filled with desert grasses and striated red and white pinnacles towering hundreds of feet high. During the hike to and from Chesler Park, we’re treated to unforgettable panoramic vistas of this entire region of Canyonlands that include thousands of sandstone “needles” rising from the slickrock landscape like a city of stone skyscrapers. On the return trip this afternoon, we stop at Newspaper Rock State Historical Monument to examine the hundreds of petroglyphs carved into the rock face by the Native American peoples who passed through this region throughout the past 2,000 years. Tonight’s tasty dinner will be in a local Moab restaurant, a relaxing end to another full day in canyon country. All meals included.
Hiking: 6 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,000’ / -1,000'; Van transfer: 3 hours
After three days of exploring by trail, today’s fun-filled rafting adventure offers a different vantage point as we glide through this majestic desert region along the legendary Colorado River. Our trip downriver incorporates expert interpretation by our guides, and just enough whitewater (class II–III) to get the adrenaline pumping and cool us off. Back on land this afternoon, we take some time to explore vibrant downtown Moab before returning to camp for another night under a brilliant canopy of twinkling stars.
Rafting: 6 hours (14 miles), Whitewater: Class II–III
Today’s hike in Canyonlands begins with a gradual mile-long climb across open wildflower-filled grassland towards the rim of Island in the Sky mesa. Our sandy trail eventually changes to slickrock before reaching a mesa-top vantage point offering breathtaking views across the Colorado River canyon. From here we can see the pinnacles, arches and spires of the park’s Needles district and the lofty La Sal Mountains in the distance. Watching for bighorn sheep, we hike just below the mesa rim along the Lathrop Trail, with the cliffs of Island in the Sky above and the carved red rock canyons of the Colorado River branching out below. At day’s end, we return to our campsite for a final festive dinner, providing an opportunity to celebrate new friendships and recap the week’s adventures. All meals included.
Hiking: 6 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +350’ / -350'
After breakfast, we break camp and head back into Arches National Park for our last hike up to arguably the most extraordinary natural arch in the Southwest: magical Delicate Arch. Perched above an orange sandstone basin, the graceful shape, color and location of Delicate Arch make it a photographer’s dream. We spend some time lingering near the arch, marveling at its ability to seemingly defy gravity, before heading back down trail to our waiting van. Our final hike complete, we bid farewell to Arches and begin the last leg of our journey back to Salt Lake City. We plan to arrive in Salt Lake City by 7pm this evening. Breakfast and lunch included.
Hiking: 3 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +610’ / -610'; Van transfer: 4.5 hours