Arizona Itinerary – Rivers and Canyons

Arrival/Departure City:  Phoenix (PHX)/Phoenix (PHX)

Know Before You Go:  After arrival in Phoenix, this trip will require access to a car.  If arriving by air, the most convenient location to pick-up/drop-off a rental car will be the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.  Many of the attractions and activities in this itinerary have seasonal hours and/or days of operation.  Be sure to check your exact travels dates to determine availability and scheduling.  Lodging in the Grand Canyon fills quickly; reservations should be made well in advance of your trip (recommended 6 months or more).  All of the information in this itinerary pertains to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, as the South Rim is much more accessible, has more amenities, and is open year-round.

Arrival Day:  After arriving in Phoenix and securing a vehicle for transportation, check in at your hotel and enjoy an afternoon in the pool or a guided mountain hike.

  • Where to Stay ($$):  The Arizona Biltmore, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, is a true architectural wonder in the desert.  Designed by a Frank Lloyd Wright protégé, the 30 acre resort boasts 8 pools, including one with a 92 ft waterslide, an 18-hole putting course, life-size lawn chess, and guided hikes.  A 20,000 sq. ft. spa offers over 80 treatments, and kids (ages 4-12) can participate in a supervised activity program between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm.  Rooms from $109 per night (plus a $28 resort fee and tax; book with a VISA Signature credit card and receive a free room upgrade and free breakfast).
  • Guided Activity ($):  Visit Taliesin West, the winter residence designed and occupied by Frank Lloyd Wright, for a guided tour of the historical residence and grounds, which are still home to the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.  Tours range from 60-90 minutes in length and most cost $35 or less.  Book the Junior Architect Tour (ages 4-12) for a family adventure or the Night Lights Tour (ages 13 and up) for a spectacular sunset experience.  Advance reservations are recommended and can be made here.

Day 2:  Get an early start for the 4-4.5 drive north to Page, AZ, where a fantastic adventure on the Colorado River awaits.  Break up the trip by stopping for a few hours at Out of Africa Wildlife Park for an authentic African safari in the desert.

Day 3:  Experience the magnificent beauty of the Glen Canyon and Colorado River on a fully-guided rafting trip with Colorado River Discovery.  Admire the amazing feat of engineering that is the Glen Canyon Dam and take in scenic views of Lake Powell and Rainbow Bridge before beginning the 3-3.5 hour journey back south to the Grand Canyon.  Upon arriving at the Grand Canyon, check into your hotel and check the daily schedule published in the park newspaper for times and locations of various Park Ranger Programs.

  • Where to Stay ($$):  Yavapai Lodge in the Grand Canyon National Park, from $150 per night (plus taxes and fees).  Links for additional in-park lodging options can be found here.
  • Guided Activity ($$):  Take an exciting ride through a two-mile tunnel to the base of the Glen Canyon Dam where you will board a motorized pontoon raft for a Colorado River Discovery 1/2 day raft trip.  Your excursion includes a stop at a “beach” where you can view ancient petroglyphs, use solar-powered bathrooms, and take a dip in the 47 degree F water.  The 1/2 day trip is $82 for ages 4-11 and $92 for ages 12+ (children must be at least 4 years of age to participate).  Advance reservations are required and can be made here.
  • On Your Own in Page:  Take a short drive from the Welcome Center up to one of the overlooks for the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and enjoy stunning views of Lake Powell, Rainbow Bridge, and the Glen Canyon Dam from a totally different perspective.
  • On Your Own at the Grand Canyon:  Park at the Grand Canyon Village, which has quick accessibility to the Bright Angel Trail.  Take a short hike on the trail before gathering at the Village Amphitheater for the fascinating ranger-led Condor Talk.  If you’re lucky, you’ll see one of the majestic California Condors in flight.  Grab dinner at one of the many restaurants, and then take the (free) shuttle bus on the red route up to Hopi Point to watch the sun set over the canyon.  The daily guide will specify what time to arrive at Hopi Point for the best sunset viewing.
  • Where to Eat in Page ($):  Upon returning to the Colorado River Discovery Welcome Center, enjoy gourmet sandwiches and salads at the River’s End Café (located in the Welcome Center).
  • Where to Eat at the Grand Canyon ($):  Enjoy a nice dinner at the Bright Angel Restaurant, or check out one of the many other dining options.

Day 4:  Combine guided experiences with on-your-own-time to customize your Grand Canyon adventure before resuming your trip south to Sedona.

  • Where to Stay ($$):  The Inn Above Oak Creek in Sedona, from $140 per night (plus tax, includes breakfast).
  • Guided Activity (free):  After breakfast, park the car at the Grand Canyon Village and take the shuttle bus on the red route up to Hermits Rest and join a group for the ranger-led Family Adventure Hike on Hermits Trail.  Learn about the ecology, geology, and history of the canyon and enjoy spectacular views while hiking two miles of the most remote and least-traveled trail.  (NOTE:  The Family Adventure Hike does not take place every day.  Ranger-led alternatives include the Into the Canyon Hike and the Rim View Walk.  Be sure to check the schedule of activities for the specific dates of your visit)
  • On Your Own:  After the approximately two-hour hike, take the shuttle bus back to the Village, stopping at some of the scenic viewpoints along the way.  Buses run continuously, so you can hop on and off as desired.  There are amazing views and picture opportunities all along the rim, but Powell Point is especially spectacular and not-to-be-missed.  If you have time, rent a bike to ride the trail that follows along the rim, visit one of the many museums or historical buildings, or spend some time browsing in one of the many gift shops.  As you leave the park, stop at the Desert View General Store and pick up some snacks for the drive to Sedona.
  • Where to Eat at the Grand Canyon ($):  Try the Maswik Food Court for a wide variety of pizza, salad, sandwiches, hamburgers, and entrees, sure to satisfy a wide variety of appetites.

Day 5:  Cool off at an all-natural waterpark with a smooth, red-sandstone waterslide, a cooling creek, and a swimming hole before taking a scenic driving tour of Sedona on the way back to Phoenix.

  • Where to Stay ($$):  If not departing on a late flight, return to the Arizona Biltmore or reserve a room at a national chain hotel near the airport, if you have an early morning flight.
  • On Your Own ($):   Visit Slide Rock State Park, where you have a choice of three 0.25-0.3 mile hiking trails that offer views of Oak Creek Canyon.  After you work up a sweat, swim or wade in the designated 1/2 mile of creek and slide down an 8 foot slippery shoot.  Entry fee is $20-$30 per car (up to four adults) in the summer and $10 per car the rest of the year.  As you leave Sedona to return to Phoenix, enjoy the beautifully unique red sandstone formations along highways 89A and 179 and stop at the overlook on 89A near Midgley Bridge for some fantastic views and photos.  Maps and directions for various different scenic driving tours in the Sedona area can be found here.



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