Canyons of the American Southwest
8 days with Natural Habitat Adventures Rating:
Day 1: St. George, Utah
Our canyonlands adventure begins in the red rock country of St. George, Utah. This evening we meet for an informal welcome dinner at a local restaurants. Our Expedition Leader offers a brief orientation to the history, wildlife and ecology of the Colorado Plateau, which we'll explore in depth in the days to come.
Days 2 & 3: Bryce Canyon National Park—Scenic Helicopter Flight
Bryce Canyon’s magical landscape offers a portal to another world. Its pink pinnacles, limestone formations and natural amphitheaters capture the imagination with endless geological surprises. Red rock walls create deep channels while whimsical hoodoos—rock spires carved eons ago by erosion—rise hundreds of feet into the sky. As we travel in specialty North American Safari Trucks with double-wide pop-top roof hatches, Bryce Canyon's arresting sights offer endless opportunities for photography. Capture a stunning array of colors as the light reflects off the canyon’s rock formations, natural bridges, cliffs and waterfalls. Rising early to watch the sunrise or lingering over a radiant sunset, experience the ever-changing grandeur of this astounding landscape.
A special highlight is a 30-minute helicopter flightseeing opportunity, offering an unusual aerial perspective on the forest of pink sandstone hoodoos. We stay at Bryce Canyon Lodge, a classic national park hotel set amid ponderosa pines on the canyon rim. The lodge is one of very few places to stay inside the park and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Restored to its original 1920s character, it is replete with Old West atmosphere right down to replicas of vintage hickory furniture.
Days 4 & 5: Zion National Park
Early Mormon pioneers gave Zion its name—so stunning was its beauty that it evoked images of the biblical Promised Land. The U.S. government agreed and made it a national park. Multi-hued sandstone cliffs rise above the valley floor where the Virgin River flows among the cottonwoods, carving a deep canyon over millennia. Trails along the river and rock walls lead to quiet recesses, where we may hear and see many birds unique to the American West. Listen for the haunting cry of canyon wrens, look to the skies overhead for golden eagles and prairie falcons, and find American dippers and phoebes in the willows along the riverbanks.
Days 6 & 7: Grand Canyon National Park—North Rim
The Grand Canyon is one of America’s most iconic national parks. Its fame exists for good reason, and no western adventurer should miss gazing into its mile-deep chasm in the ethereal light of sunset. Its popularity can mean many visitors, too, so we try to avoid the crowds by traveling to the less-visited but no less spectacular North Rim. There's plenty of time to explore, walk along the rim, and absorb the drama of one of the earth’s most spectacular natural landscapes, watching it change as the light shifts throughout the day. Our Expedition Leader knows the best trails and viewpoints for a more secluded encounter with this extraordinary geological phenomenon. Stay near the rim in the pine forest at the venerable Grand Canyon Lodge. A classic national park hotel, the rustic beauty of its limestone walls and heavy timbers complements our high-desert surroundings. For those who are interested, a favorite local adventure is available: an optional mule ride into the canyon.
Day 8: St. George / Depart
Though we bid farewell today to the red-rock wonders of America’s canyon country, we’ve left a piece of our hearts behind. Our Grand Canyon adventure tour concludes as we arrive back in St. George for afternoon flights home (1:30 pm or later).
All This Included
Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon's North Rim, searching the shadowy depths for a glimpse of the silver ribbon that is the Colorado River, we're overcome by a sense of wonder at our own tiny instant in geological history. The canyon's sedimentary layers, stacked more than a mile thick, are a calendar for the millennia, formed by the erosive power of water and wind over eons. While this is known as Red Rock Country, the canyon walls glow gold, rose, rust and violet, ever changing as the high desert light works its magic. No less moving are neighboring Bryce and Zion, whose pink pinnacles and soaring sandstone ramparts round out this trio of famed Southwest national parks. Explore all three in depth on this classic Western adventure, enjoying stays in historic park lodges en route.
St. George: Abbey Inn
Bryce Canyon National Park: Bryce Canyon Lodge
Zion National Park: Flanigan’s Inn
Grand Canyon National Park: Grand Canyon Lodge
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