There are few people about this early in the morning, on the approach through fir, spruce, juniper and cottonwood. Then suddenly the ground opens before you and the sweeping grandeur of the Grand Canyon assaults your senses. No description can prepare you for the sheer size of the vision before you. The chill clear morning air allows views of stunning rock formations of ochre, red and brown, layer upon layer with every shade, colour, hue and texture.
Now begin the walk down to bring the enormity into perspective. The trail disappears into the distance, the layer of rock dating back to times beyond human experience. See the vegetation and fauna that make a home in this seemingly inhospitable place, there are so many things vying for your attention. The thin brown ribbon becomes larger until the full majesty of the Colorado river which cuts the canyon becomes apparent. Then the welcoming shade and sustenance of Phantom ranch signals the finale of this life affirming experience.
This is just one of the myriad attractions as we travel the great national parks of Utah: the alpine valleys of Zion and the sci-fi rock pillars of Bryce; the bizarre buttresses, fins, balanced rocks of Arches Park, perhaps the most surreal of all the landscapes. We’ll drive through Monument Valley with its huge sandstone butts recognisable from just about every Western film you’ve ever seen. Lastly, there has been much to prepare you for the Grand Finale of Las Vegas. But nothing quite does!
Depart London (Gatwick) to Las Vegas. The flight time is approximately 10 hours. Transfer by road to our hotel where we overnight.
Transfer by road late morning to Cedar City where we stay for two nights.
We drive to Zion National Park. here we will discover a labyrinth of narrow canyons, steep walls and amazing rock formations resembling cathedrals, temples, spires and altars. We have several shorter walks here to explore the best of the park. A classic walk for which the park is renowned is to Angels Landing. the last part of this walk is along a narrow rocky ridge with fixed ropes for assistance. It is certainly well over the grade for this holiday but a fit, experienced walkers with heads for heights have completed the walk on previous trips. All clients will enjoy the superb views from Scout Lookout at the beginning of the most difficult section of the path.
Moving on we have plenty of time to explore the highlights of Bryce Canyon National Park with its delicate sedimentary rock pinnacles, arches and spires from our base by the park entrance (1nt). Rivalling and probably surpassing Zion for bizarre rock formations Bryce offers many trails through around and amongst ‘hoodoos’ - natural pillars created out of sandstone by action of wind, rain and ice.
Morning departure to Moab for two nights. The journey is about 5-6 hours with stops, through stunning and ever changing scenery. There is plenty to see on the way and you will be stopping regularly to enjoys the views, short trails, coffee and comfort stops. Moab is a welcoming town with a great selections of restaurants, bars, cafes and shops. The Moab Brewery close by our hotel is particularly recommended for those who have worked up a thirst on the journey.
We will walk in the Devil's Garden in the Arches National Park and in the surrounding area. Arches certainly rivals Bryce for other worldly scenery. We take in a great selection of naturally formed rock arches. Names like Landscape, Wall, Navajo, Partition, Double O, Private, Pine Tree and Tunnel perhaps give some idea of what to expect. The walk here is approximately 7 miles taking between 5 and 6 hours with ascent/descent of 200m. In places the path needs care, crossing smooth rock but in dry conditions (very common here) everybody can make it with perhaps the occasional helping hand from leader or fellow walker.
Drive to the Mesa Verde National Park where we stay for three nights in Cortez on the Colorado Plateau. On the way we pay another visit to Arches NP to take in Delicate Arch, perhaps the most distinctive and photogenic arch in the park, a high accolade indeed!
The Mesa Verde Park was established by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 and is dedicated to protecting America's ancient manmade treasures. There are more than 4,000 archaeological sites within the park and we explore some of these by coach and on foot. We hope to walk the Prater Ridge Trail in the Mesa Verde Park which is approximately 7 miles taking 4 hours and also the Petroglyph Point Trail which is 3 miles and takes approximately 2 hours with ascents/descents of 100m.
We travel to Kayenta (one night) situated just outside Monument Valley, immediately recognisable to anybody who has seen a Hollywood western circa 1950's. We will have stops en route at places such as Navajo Twin Rocks and Goosenecks. We also have the opportunity to have a guided tour to explore the secret areas of the Monument Valley.
We leave for the Grand Canyon with an en route visit to the Navajo National Monument. The Grand Canyon is truly immense and nothing can prepare you for the experience of seeing it for the first time. The Colorado River has cut through many layers of rock over the centuries giving rise to the distinct colourful banding. We spend three nights on the South Rim.
We spend two days walking the South Rim of the Canyon on trails such as the South Rim Trail which is approximately 10 miles and takes 6-7 hours and down into the Canyon on the South Kaibab trail.
Descend the Grand Canyon and stay overnight at Phantom Ranch. (Non-hikers will stay at the South Rim and rejoin the party on Day 15). We will take the Bright Angel Trail down to Phantom Ranch. It is approximately 10 miles and will take around 5 hours plus stops. The trail will descend 1300m to the river with a slight ascent in Bright Angel Canyon to Phantom Ranch. On the descent there are rest houses with toilet stops and water taps to replenish your water bottles. At Phantom Ranch dinner, breakfast and a generous packed lunch with snacks (for the ascent) will be provided.
Ascend the Grand Canyon and stay overnight on the North Rim. We have an early morning wakeup call and breakfast is at 0500. We collect our packed lunch and then set off on the ascent at 0530-0545. We will follow the North Kaibab Trail which is a distance of 14 miles and ascends approximately 1700m. This is a full day's walking to be undertaken at your own pace. There are some steep sections and once the sun enters the canyon it will be hot, just take it nice and steady! Experience shows that everybody has normally arrived at the top by 4 or 5 pm. Just after reaching the top of the North Kaibab we will walk to meet our coach to go to our hotel for the night.
By road to Las Vegas (one night), the gambling capital of the world. There will be some time for sightseeing in this brash, artificial wonderland which is in complete contrast to all the natural beauty you have just seen.
Transfer to Las Vegas Airport for the overnight flight to the UK.
We arrive back in the UK.
See where this holiday travels to.
You will stay in the newly renovated El Rey Inn and Suites, which comes highly recommended. All rooms include free Wi-Fi, premium cable TV channels, a microwave, mini-fridge, coffee maker, shampoo and conditioner, hairdryer, iron and ironing board, desk with workspace, and more. There is a seasonal outdoor pool, fitness centre and 24 hour front desk service. A continental breakfast is available to guests every morning, including a wide selection of pastries, bagels, cereals, fruit, yogurt, coffee, hot waffles and juice. Many excellent local eateries are within walking distance.
The Grand Canyon Lodge has a collection of cabins with a fittingly rustic theme and is the only lodging inside Grand Canyon National Park on the North Rim. As a result you can expect a tranquil experience with breathtaking views on the rim of the canyon. The lodge dining room serves regional as well as 1930's themed foods and takes pride in utilizing only the freshest and healthiest ingredients. A buffet breakfast is available. There's also a deli, a saloon and a coffee shop.
Phantom Ranch is a historic oasis nestled at the bottom of Grand Canyon. It is on the north side of the Colorado River tucked in beside Bright Angel Creek. Phantom Ranch is the only lodging below the canyon rim, and can only be reached by mule, on foot or by rafting the Colorado River.
In the 1920’s, the National Park Service selected the Fred Harvey Company to build a tourist facility within the canyon. Mary Jane Colter was commissioned to draft the plans for the facility. She produced sketches for a series of cabins. Everyone was pleased and announced they would name it Roosevelt’s Chalets. Upon which she snatched up her work and declared, “Not if you are going to be using my work”. A consummate perfectionist, she had already chosen the name: Phantom Ranch. The rustic cabins and main lodge are built of wood and native stone blending with the natural beauty of the setting.