Like almost all our tours, this is a small group trip. The vehicle used generally has between nine and 14 seats. Our guides are skilled in the geology, customs, traditions, history and people of the areas through which you travel – feel free to ask all and any questions!
We'll leave the bright lights of Vegas in the rear view mirror as we depart town. The route to the Grand Canyon takes us past both Lake Mead and Hoover Dam. A bridge has been built over the Colorado River, and this road bypasses Hoover Dam. Because of this, some tours that go out to the Grand Canyon may no longer stop there for a photo opportunity.
Leaving Hoover Dam we travel through the desert, before arriving in the small Arizona town of Kingman, where we pick up the freeway towards the Grand Canyon. At Williams, Arizona, we head north for about 50 miles (80 kilometres), towards the South Rim.
Day 1 - Grand Canyon helicopter tour - About half an hour
A tiny town called Tusayan borders the Grand Canyon, and the small local airport is just to the south of Tusayan. We will stop there to allow those of you who want to take an optional helicopter tour to do so.
Although expensive, a helicopter is a great way to see as much of the Grand Canyon as possible, in a short period of time. You fly over the deepest and widest parts of the Grand Canyon, through the Dragon Corridor, and on to the North Rim, where you can view the geological differences between the two rims. On the way back to the South Rim you will take in breathtaking views of temples, shrines and other rock formations. The tour must be ordered ahead of time, preferably when you order the main tour itself.
There are times when adverse weather conditions prevent the tour from taking place. Should this happen, you will get a full refund. If you choose not to do the helicopter tour, you will have the opportunity to explore Tusayan, and do some more shopping or eating.
At the Grand Canyon we will take you to several of the main viewpoints, including Mather Point and Bright Angel. Your skilled guide will give you an overview of the layout of the South Rim, and then leave you on your own to explore for a while. You can stroll around the Canyon, take pictures, admire the views, buy souvenirs, or get something to eat.
You can now extend your stay at the Grand Canyon. Instead of leaving the Canyon now and continuing your tour, you can spend as many extra nights there as you like. When you order the tour, you will see an option to add extra time at the Grand Canyon. Simply add as many additional nights as you want to stay there. Note that we will charge your card for the extra night(s) at the time we make the Grand Canyon hotel booking for you.
The way it works is that you will be taken out to the Grand Canyon, be shown some of the sights, and you will then check into your hotel. We always try and reserve a room at Bright Angel Lodge, which is at the rim. Depending on how late you book, this is often not possible, and we may book you at either Maswik Lodge, which is about a quarter mile (0.4 km) from the rim, or Yavapai Lodge, which is less than half a mile (0.75 km) from the rim, on the free shuttle route.
You will be at liberty to explore the Canyon on your own for the extra time that you choose. Please note that there will not be a tour guide with you for the extra night. The extended Grand Canyon stay is subject to lodging availability in the park. We will check this once the order has been placed.
Please also be aware that if the helicopter tour option is available on your tour, and you order it and extend, on some days you will need to take a taxi from the Grand Canyon to the Grand Canyon airport. We can help you arrange it, and we will pick you up after your helicopter tour, and take you back into the park.
The rest of the group will continue on their way through the Canyon to Page. If you extend, you will be picked up by one of our guides after your extended stay. The tour carries on as detailed below for those who are not spending a night or two at the Grand Canyon.
Grand View Point And The East Side Of The South Rim
The route we take out of the Grand Canyon travels along the less visited east part of the South Rim. There are several photo opportunities along the road. On the way we will stop at the Desert View Watchtower, a unique building designed by the legendary architect, Mary Colter, using rocks brought up from the bottom of the Canyon. The inside of the tower is full of artwork by Hopi (Indian) artists.
Desert View Watchtower
We will start dropping down from the South Rim, to the desert that is Navajo Nation land below. On the way we pass the Cameron Trading Post, one of the best purveyors of southwestern souvenirs and native American art and jewelry. If there is time we will stop here briefly.
Climbing up to a plateau once again, we start to approach Page, on the shores of Lake Powell. In the summer months, after checking in at your hotel we invite you to join our guide for a hike to Horseshoe Bend. When there is less daylight we may do Horseshoe Bend some other time.
Horseshoe Bend is one of the west's best kept secrets. The hike there is about 20 minutes each way, up and down a hill, and at times the ground below is made up of loose sand. The views of the Colorado River far below, seen through the precipitous canyon walls, are spectacular.
Horseshoe Bend: Optional hike
You are on your own for dinner. Remember that tomorrow morning there is a free breakfast included in the tour price.
Page is surrounded by the Navajo Reservation. We will be touring the reservation and meeting its people all day. You will notice the barren, sparse and inhospitable desert landscape as soon as we leave town.
After passing the giant, coal powered Navajo Power Plant, and the turn off to Antelope Canyon, we will drive across the desert, passing a few small Indian settlements on the way. We will branch off the remote Indian road to an even smaller one that leads to the Shonto Trading Post.
This is an authentic, Navajo owned trading post, unlike the large commercial ones you will find around the southwest. You will meet and talk to Navajo people at the trading post, and also be able to look at and buy handcraft that is made by people living on the Reservation. The rugs are particularly attractive, and are a traditional Navajo item.
The road from Shonto to Navajo National Monument is not paved. It will be something of an adventure to leave the regular roads behind, and travel 10 miles (16 kilometres) over the dirt to our next stop. If the road is in a bad state of repair from rain or flash floods, we will need to detour back along the paved road to Navajo National Monument.
There are some great viewpoints here, but the main area of interest is to be found down an easy stroll, to an overlook of some ancient cliff dwellings. Note that the trail slopes slightly downhill getting there, and is a little uphill on the way back. The total distance is about one mile (1.6 km) round trip. If you choose not to go, you can explore the interesting Visitor Centre and souvenir area.
At the end of the trail you will be able to gaze across the canyon to the Betatakin cliff dwellings, which were built in the middle of the 13th century. The alcove in which these were built is one of the biggest to be found anywhere.
It is fascinating to stare at this massive dwelling and imagine what life must have been like for its inhabitants, over 700 years ago. About 80 of the 120 original rooms still remain. In addition to a wide selection of southwestern and Native American jewelry and souvenirs, the Visitor Center also has an authentic Navajo Sweat Lodge and Hogan on display.
The trip to Canyon de Chelly travels across the Navajo reservation. As we pass through the small Navajo town of Kayenta, which is very close to Monument Valley, you will start to see some of the rock formations for which the area is so well known.
Day 2 - Canyon De Chelly - About 3 hours, 20 minutes
Although it is located on Navajo Nation land, Canyon de Chelly is a National Monument. It is one of America's longest continuously occupied locations, containing ruins of the early native tribes which inhabited the region.
Because Canyon de Chelly is on Navajo owned land, in order to access most of the park, you need to go in with a Navajo guide. You will be leaving our vehicle and getting into one operated by a local Navajo company. Like other Native American tribes, the Navajo have a tradition of passing their history from generation to generation by story telling, and your guide will be a story teller. He or she will tell you tales about their ancestors, religious beliefs, customs, way of life and traditions.
In addition to the imposing scenery, one of the first things you will notice about Canyon de Chelly is the lack of regular roads! You will be traveling across dry washes and stream beds, and along sandy unmaintained trails cut through the canyon. There may be flash floods through the year, and if that happens, it may be necessary to curtail or cancel this part of the tour. In the winters it is possible, but unlikely, that ice may also interfere with the regular running of the tour.
Your tour will take approximately three hours. In addition to the towering cliffs, canyons and rock formations, you will visit several ancient dwellings, including White House Ruin (below). Other sights you may take in include Antelope House Ruin, First Ruin, Ceremonial Cave, Petroglyph Rock and other archaeological sites.
All the while, your Navajo story teller will be recounting tales of the Anasazi, Hopi and Navajo peoples. You will learn about the long walk of the Navajo, canyon legends, as well as be told many Dineh stories.
The White House Ruin is the most spectacular and biggest of the many ruins to be found in Canyon De Chelly. The dwelling was built somewhere before 1100 AD and occupied for around 200 years. Your guide will tell you all about the Kayenta Anasazi Indians who were in the same place as you are now, almost 1000 years ago.
Four Corners Monument is a Navajo Nation Park, and is the only place in the USA where four states meet up. They are Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. You can stand, sit or lie in all four states at the same time!
For most of the year you can also buy some unique Native American food here. Navajo fry bread and Navajo tacos are generally on sale, along with souvenirs of the area.
After a long but fun day, we will take a 45 minute drive to our hotel, crossing from the Navajo Reservation on to the Ute reservation. This is a three star property, but because it is on an Indian reservation, no alcohol is allowed! There is a reasonably priced restaurant on site, where you can buy yourself some supper.
Day 3 - Ancient Cliff Dwellings - About 4 hours, 15 minutes
You are in for a real adventure today! We discovered some ancient cliff dwellings on the Ute Reservation, literally miles away from anywhere. Unlike the ones at Mesa Verde, there will not be tens of thousands of tourists and numerous buses with you, as you set off to explore the places where the Anasazi lived more than 700 years ago. This is the real thing.
It will just be you, your Ute guide, and the small group on this tour. When we explored the area for the first time, it was such a unique experience, to be standing in this quiet shelter, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by history from so many centuries ago.
This Ute Nation Tribal Park has been set aside to preserve remnants of the Ancestral Puebloan, Ute and Hopi cultures. The Park follows a 25 mile stretch of the Mancos River, and encompasses about 125 000 acres. The area is deliberately kept in a primitive state, to preserve the natural environment.
We don't believe that it is enough just to see these incredible areas. We have arranged for you to be taken on the tour by an Ute Indian guide, who will have an extensive knowledge not only of the area, but also of the history, customs and traditions of the Utes, Hopis and Ancestral Puebloans.
After getting into a vehicle driven by your Ute guide, you will leave the paved road behind, and travel over dirt tracks for the rest of this part of the tour. You will leave any semblance of civilization far behind, as you travel deeper and deeper into the reservation. You are more likely to see a herd of wild horses than another vehicle!
You will stop at rock faces with ancient petroglyphs on them, and your guide will explain what the ancient ones were saying when they drew them. The significance of the sun, earth and the Grand Canyon, amongst others, will be explained. The road will then climb up to the top of a mesa, where you will carry on driving, towards Lion Canyon, which is home to several magnificent examples of ancient cliff dwellings.
The parts of Lion Canyon we visit will depend on the make up of our group, weather conditions and where your Ute guide wants to go that day. Your guide will discuss options with you beforehand. The ancient dwellings are called Houses and we will visit at least one House, possibly more. You will first take a fairly easy trail to an overlook of the canyon. From here you can often see the dwellings on the other side of the canyon.
To get down to one or more of the dwellings, you must be able to climb down, and then up a six foot ladder (first picture below). From the bottom of the ladder you can walk to the first dwelling.
Unlikely other ancient cliff houses, the Utes have pretty much left the area untouched. Many of the old artifacts are still there, and you can pick up, touch and examine the ancient corn cobs, yucca string, rock chips and pottery shards that are more than 700 years old!
Leaving the Ute Reservation behind, we will now travel over the Navajo Reservation to Monument Valley. As we get closer, you will start to see some of the rock formations for which the area is so famous.
Up next is a tour of Monument Valley, conducted by a Navajo guide, in an off road vehicle. Visitors love to see the buttes, mesas and other sandstone formations that are so prevalent in the Monument Valley area. Monument Valley is actually not really a valley at all, but a relatively flat plain surrounded by red cliffs, with the buttes, as well as the remnants of ancient volcanoes, towering from the earth.
For fans of old western movies, Monument Valley is the epicenter of the west, with many great cowboys and Indians films having been shot in the area. The familiar rock shapes can be seen from many miles away, with the really great scenery to be seen on the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, which straddles the Utah/Arizona border.
Amongst the sites that your tour may take in are movie locations, 1000 foot monoliths, rug weaving, and, of course, the famous monuments are visited.
You will be touring Antelope Canyon, in a specially converted off road vehicle, led by a Navajo guide.
Antelope Canyon is one of the most striking slot canyons known to man. A slot canyon is a narrow canyon sliced through a mesa by the forces of nature. Some canyons measure less than a yard across at the top, but drop a hundred feet or more from the rim to the bottom. Slots are cut and scoured by water and wind, with the striations of the sandstone becoming almost incandescent.
From within you will see a palette of colors transmuted by light filtering down from above and bouncing from wall to wall. Antelope Canyon can only be visited using the services of an authorized Navajo Nation guide.
Leaving Page we will drive over the Glen Canyon Dam Wall. A short distance up the road is a little known trail which leads to spectacular views over Lake Powell. Time permitting, we will drive up there to take a very brief look at the spectacular golden canyons partially submerged under the blue waters of Lake Powell.
The road to the small town of Kanab leads past Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Kanab itself has been the setting for many western movies. From Kanab we will travel along a picturesque Utah back road, through some tiny towns, before arriving at Bryce Canyon.
Many who have seen both Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon tell us that Bryce is far more spectacular. You will marvel at the weirdly shaped hoodoos, in an amazing array of colorful hues. Bryce is not really a canyon, but a large amphitheater carved out of a variety of rock types. You will be taken to the three main overlooks, and will have time to walk around and explore these.
Feel free to spend an extra night or two just outside Bryce Canyon, at Bryce View Lodge. Please order this option when you check out, and note that it is subject to availability. If you do choose to extend at Bryce Canyon, you will continue with the regular tour after your extension.
There is a free shuttle that runs from a location that is a couple of hundred yards from Bryce View Lodge, into the park and around much of Bryce. Please be aware that this is a seasonal shuttle, which generally runs from the end of April to the end of September, although this is subject to change. We do not recommend extending at Bryce if the free shuttle is not running, as it will be difficult to get around.
You will carry on with the scheduled tour if you do not want to stay a little longer at Bryce.
Day 4 - Bryce Canyon through Zion - 88 mi / 141.59 km - About 2 3/4 hours
We will take a particularly scenic Utah back road, following first the Sevier River and then the Virgin River, towards Zion National Park. Zion's story is one of rock and water, with plenty of both to be seen. The relatively soft and porous Navajo Sandstone is often layered over impregnable Kayenta Shale, and the interaction of this rock with the water has created myriad amazing shapes and patterns.
We will enter Zion at the less used east entrance, and take in the striking rock formations, with trees actually growing in the rocks. You will see how massive sand dunes have solidified into rock over the millennia. After traveling through an amazing tunnel that was blasted into the Navajo sandstone almost a century ago, we descend down a precipitous switchback road, to discover the Great Arch of Zion, a gigantic work in progress.
You can now extend your tour by spending a night or two in Springdale, which is literally right outside Zion. There is a free shuttle system that will take you into the park. You can order this Zion extension when you check out, although we do not recommend extending at Zion unless the shuttle is running, which is generally from the middle of March to the third week of October. If you extend at Zion, you will carry on with the rest of the tour the next day.
The trip continues as normal for those who are not extending at Zion.
Leaving St. George, we travel down the picturesque Virgin River Gorge. We will pass through Mesquite, a casino town on the Arizona Nevada border, before driving across the desert and back to the bright lights of Las Vegas.
Thanks for joining us. We hope to see you again some time in the future!
The days and dates this tour operates can be seen in the calendar at the top right of this page.
This tour requires a minimum of four people to run.
Prices are based on double occupancy. Single, triple and quad occupancy rates are also available and will be seen at checkout. There is no tax.
After ordering this tour please wait to receive a confirmation email before making any plans that are dependent on this tour.
The entry fees to all parks are included.
The off road tours at Canyon de Chelly, ancient Ute dwellings, Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon are included.
Two nights' accommodation are included at the Quality Inn, or similar, in Page, and one at a minimum three star hotel on the Ute Reservation.
The tour itinerary may change at our discretion without notice.
The price includes the services of a guide/driver and transportation.
Vehicles are mini buses or executive vans, which are vans with individual, high back, reclining seats, except for the four Indian off road tours. The Indian tour operators will use their own vehicles.
If you extend your tour by staying a night at the Grand Canyon, there are times when you will be taken out to the Grand Canyon in a large coach. The next day you will continue the tour in a small group vehicle. If you are taken out to the Canyon in a coach, and you are staying at Yavapai Lodge or Maswik Lodge, you will need to take the free shuttle from the drop off location at Bright Angel to the hotel. The shuttles run approximately every 15 minutes. You will be picked up from your hotel the next day.
If you extend your stay at Zion, at the end of your extension, on some days you may travel by pre-paid taxi to St. George, where you will take a shuttle to the Las Vegas airport, where the tour will end. There will be a short wait from the taxi drop off to the time the shuttle departs.
The two breakfasts at Page are the only meals included.
Portions of this tour may be subcontracted to other reputable vendors.
A minimum of four people may be required for a tour to depart. That is not four in your group, but a total of four.
Pick ups in Las Vegas take place on the Strip. If you are staying elsewhere please take a bus or taxi and you will be reimbursed a maximum of $10 against the receipt.
All times are approximate. We are not responsible for the consequences of any delays, and this itinerary may change without notice.
Please note that adverse weather, mechanical issues, or other factors beyond our control may result in tour itineraries being changed without notice, or even tours being canceled in extreme weather. Should a cancellation occur the only amount we will refund is the cost of the portion of the tour that is canceled, or a refund of the entire tour price if the tour itself is canceled.
Payment And Cancellation Details: You may cancel this booking any at time up until 45 days prior to the start of the tour, and you will get a full refund. After that time, we will not accept a cancellation and you will have to pay for the tour in full. Please consider purchasing trip insurance as our cancellation policy is strictly enforced. Half the cost of the tour will be charged to your card any time from 45 days prior to the start of the tour, and the balance will be charged any time from 10 days prior to the start of the tour.