Tour of the America’s Southwest
"SAMPLE" Itinerary for 7 Full Tour Days that begins in phoenix, arizona and ends in las vegas, neveda
All our itineraries are custom designed for your specific tour needs. This is just a sample itinerary.
This tour includes the following major points of interest, parks, and activities:
- Phoenix, Arizona and the Sonoran Desert
- Indian Ruins
- Sedona, Arizona
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Navajo Indian Lands
- Painted Desert
- Monument Valley Navajo Park and a Navajo back-country guided tour
- Antelope Canyon Navajo Guided Tour
- Lake Powell
- Boat tour to Rainbow Bridge National Monument
- Float trip on the Colorado River through Glen Canyon in the upper Grand Canyon area
- Horseshoe Bend overlook
- Bryce Canyon National Park and a cowboy style dinner show
- Zion Canyon National Park
- Las Vegas, Nevada
Day 0 ~ Arrival Day in Phoenix, Arizona
Day 1 ~ Montezuma Castle & Well, Sedona, & Oak Creek Canyon
On your first tour day you will enjoy a variety of sites and scenic viewpoints.
MONTEZUMA WELL & CASTLE
Near the crossroads between Phoenix, Flagstaff, and Sedona are the many ruins of an ancient community. The Sinagua (Spanish for “without water”) people built all three of the structures located in the Verde Valley, Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Well, and Tuzigoot Pueblo.
Montezuma Castle is a 5-story cliff dwelling constructed under overhanging cliffs and over a hundred feet above the Verde River. Montezuma Castle is one of the best preserved Indian ruins in the Southwest. Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well were misnamed, as the Sinagua inhabitants abandoned the area long before King Montezuma of the Aztecs was born.
Formed long ago by the collapse of a limestone cavern, water flows continuously into Montezuma Well through underground springs, providing a constant supply of warm, fresh water. This unique aquatic habitat has served as an oasis for plants, wildlife, and humans for thousands of years. The prehistoric Sinaguan people took advantage of this source of water by irrigating crops, and visitors can still see traces of ancient lime-encrusted irrigation ditches from past farming activity
Sedona rivals the famous Grand Canyon as Arizona's second most popular tourist attraction. Its many scenic and cultural features throughout this “Red Rock Country” distinguish Sedona. Most of its appeal is attributed to its unique and scenic geology. The Sedona area is one of such profound beauty that it could have easily become one of our most spectacular National Parks.
Sedona has also been a major attraction to filmmakers for decades where many Western Cowboy motion pictures were made. Hardly a day goes by that you don't see a scene from the Sedona area in a television advertisement. The Sedona area was first discovered by the movie industry in 1923 when Victor Fleming filmed The Call of the Canyon, a black and white silent movie adapted from Zane Grey's novel. The movie was actually filmed in Oak Creek Canyon at the confluence of West Fork and Oak Creek, at a site that was to become a popular early resort.
The most well-know and photographed scenic site in Sedona is the Red Rock Crossing area that includes Red Rock State Park, Crescent Moon Picnic Area and the towering Cathedral Rock. This is a great place to fish, swim, picnic and wade in the creek. Photographers especially enjoy scenic shots of Cathedral Rock reflecting in Oak Creek. It is also a popular place to hike and walk on the edges of Oak Creek.
OAK CREEK CANYON, SAN FRANCISCO PEAKS
On the way to the Grand Canyon you will travel through the beautiful Oak Creek Canyon, through Flagstaff Arizona, and past the picturesque San Francisco Peaks, the highest mountains in Arizona at 12,633 feet.
The evenings of your first day and second days would be spent near the Grand Canyon at an elevation of 7000’, with an average summer time high of between 75 and 80 degrees.
ACCOMMODATIONS in Flagstaff, Arizona
Day 2 ~ The Compelling Grand Canyon
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, SOUTH RIM
You will be inspired by a tour the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. A powerful and inspiring landscape, the Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size; 277 river miles (446km) long, up to 18 miles (29km) wide, and a mile (1.6km) deep.
Worthy of its rank as one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon overwhelms the senses and captivates the imagination with its spectacular combination of incredible scale, dramatic views, awe-inspiring rock formations, and untamed beauty. Over a mile deep (1.6 Km) at its deepest point, 18 miles (29 Km) across at its widest, and 277 river miles (446 Km) long, the Grand Canyon is deemed to be one of the world’s most visually commanding landscapes: an immensely majestic gorge with temple-like bluffs; plummeting depths; fiery chestnut cliffs, towering plateaus; and vibrant, labyrinthine topography dappled with deserts, plains, forests, mesas, lava flows, cinder cones, streams, waterfalls, and one of America’s premier whitewater rivers.
Not only is the Grand Canyon a crowning gem in America’s national park system, but as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Canyon is considered to be of outstanding significance to the common heritage of the entire human race. John Wesley Powell, the one-armed Civil War veteran who took three months to explore the Grand Canyon by boat in 1869, described its stunning vastness as “the most sublime spectacle in nature,” saying of it that, “the glories and the beauties of form, color, and sound unite in the Grand Canyon - forms unrivaled even by the mountains, colors that vie with sunsets, and sounds that span the diapason from tempest to tinkling raindrop, from cataract to bubbling fountain.”
Due to its broad scale, both in elevation and extent, Grand Canyon National Park nourishes an extraordinary diversity of habitats within a remarkably compact geographic area, its equivalent only found elsewhere in a 1,500-mile stretch. Its impressive biological résumé includes numerous rare, threatened, and endangered plant and animal species, as well as some endemic species, like the tassel-eared Kaibab squirrel found only on the North Rim. Within the boundaries of the park there are over 1,500 plant, 355 bird, 89 mammal, 47 reptile, 17 fish, and 9 amphibian species. Visitors may spot goshawks, porcupines, mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep, bald eagles, California condors, antelope, coyotes, mountain lions, northern goshawks, ground squirrels, or the Abert's squirrel (or tassel-eared squirrel)
ACCOMMODATIONS near the entry to the Grand Canyon
Day 3 ~ Mingle with Monuments of Nature at Monument Valley Navajo Nation Park
In the morning you will travel through parts of the Painted Desert and the Navajo Nation Indian Lands on the way to Monument Valley. The highlight for the day will be an afternoon Navajo guided tour through the back country of Monument Valley.
CAMERON TRADING POST
In 1911 a swayback suspension bridge was built over the Little Colorado River Gorge. In 1916, near the site of the bridge, Hubert and C.D. Richardson established a trading post to service the Indians in the area. At first only local Hopis and Navajos came to barter their woolen blankets and livestock for dry goods, flour and other needed items. Over time, the trading post became the economic center for the Navajos and other Indians of the Southwest. They would bring their original crafted jewelry, rugs and pottery to the trader. He would give them groceries, feed for the livestock and dry goods. As the beautifully crafted work spread throughout the nation, the market increased. Today, one can shop at a true trading post and find items for sale that were brought into the store by the person who made them. Authentic, one-of-a-kind jewelry, pottery and weaving are vastly different from items that have been mass-produced from materials made by factories in China or other nations with low labor costs. Instead, they are valuable pieces of authentic Indian art.
The trading post also serves as a bank for the Native Americans. Many of them live in remote and undeveloped areas. So, they bring their jewelry, weavings, pottery and ceremonial gear to the trading post for safekeeping. The owners pay a monthly fee for a safe storage place. They can also pawn items in order to borrow money. In this case, the operator of the trading post gives the owner of a crafted item a sum of money based on its value. When the owner has repaid the loan, the item is returned to him. Over 95% of the pawned items are in this class and will be paid off and returned. A small minority of items not being paid on is called “dead pawn” and can be sold by the operator of the trading post. There is often a native weaver working in or near the Cameron Trading Post lodge in the summer months.
The consummate picture of Arizona badlands, the Painted Desert is a 146 square mile (378 Km2) swath of vivid exposed, stratified rock layers, comprising reds, oranges, pinks, lavenders, and grays. The buttes and hills sprinkled across this natural canvas resemble multicolored layer cakes baking beneath the Arizona sun. Native American Hopi Indians have called this vibrant landscape their home for over 1,000 years.
NAVAJO NATION LANDS
Encompassing the entirety of northeastern Arizona, plus portions of New Mexico and Utah, the Navajo Nation features 27,000 square miles (69,929 Km2) of incomparable beauty and immense contrast. Pristine canyons, unspoiled wilderness, mountain meadows, national monuments, historical sites, tribal parks, ancient ruins, and lush valleys all combine to form the diversity of beauty and solitude that are Navajo Land.
The landscape of Monument Valley is dominated by immense spires, mesas and buttes formed from red, orange and white colored sedimentary rock. Monument Valley is instantly recognizable as the sweeping backdrop of the classic Southwest. A striking panorama of windswept desert punctuated by immense sandstone monoliths ascending some 1,000 feet (300 m) above the earth, this desolate countryside evokes a timelessness that few others can. Monument Valley has been the setting for over 16 major motion pictures (including the unforgettable John Wayne masterpieces Stagecoach and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon), as well as countless commercials, making it easily one of the most extraordinary, beautiful, and legendary landscapes in the world.
The remoteness of this otherworldly place sets it apart from the crowds and hectic pace of outside life. Surprisingly, the area has hardly changed in the years since Monument Valley’s film debut in 1925 (The Vanishing American). It has been one of Hollywood’s favorite shooting locations, becoming an enduring image of the American West as the setting for more Westerns than any other site. The supreme backdrop for gunslingers, settlers, soldiers, Stetsons, rifles, spurs, gunfights, stampedes, runaway stagecoaches, showdowns, heroic rescues, cattle rustlings, cavalry charges, and Indian attacks, Monument Valley embodies a romanticized tribute to the untamed frontier. John Wayne himself referred to this isolated valley it as the place "where God put the West."
Positioned within the Navajo Indian Reservation on the Arizona/Utah border, Monument Valley is not only a Navajo Nation tribal park, but a current residence. Families continue to live, love, and create here as they have done for generations, their livestock grazing on the slopes of the monuments, unheeding of the visitors thrilling at their sparse pasturelands. They live among the specters of the ancient ones who abandoned their nearby cave and cliff dwellings hundreds of years ago. To them this land is known as the Valley of the Rocks, the playground of rivers past. Their spellbinding art, culture, and traditions infuse this remarkable topography with a uniquely Navajo flavor
Visitors to Monument Valley enjoy an exclusive shopping experience, with an prodigious array of handcrafted items for sale, including traditional and contemporary artwork, jewelry, pottery, baskets, silver, and Navajo rugs (some of which so masterfully wrought that they could be traded for a pickup truck), and other intricate crafts.
ACCOMMODATIONS will be at or near Monument Valley
Day 4 ~ Travel & Tour through a Variety of Landscapes to Unique Canyons
Our morning travels will take us across more of the Navajo Lands by way of Navajo Scenic Highway 98 in route to Page Arizona, Lake Powell, and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
ANTELOPE CANYON ~ optional, & if time allows
Casual tourists often overlook Antelope Canyon because it is not a national or state park. However, Antelope Canyon is instantly recognizable as one of the most-photographed slot canyons in the American Southwest. Its narrow passages, intricately carved sandstone, gently undulating curves and hollows varying from 3 to 9 feet (1 to 3 meters) wide and occasional shafts of radiating sunlight piercing through the soft colors and shadows are unsurpassed in breathtaking tranquility.
Antelope Canyon is composed of two separate canyons. In Navajo, the canyon names are Tse' bighanilini, meaning "the place where water runs through rocks," and Hasdestwazi, or "spiral rock arches." Its English name comes from the herds of wild pronghorn antelope which used to roam freely throughout the area.
Antelope Canyon was primarily eroded through the soft Navajo Sandstone by countless flash floods. During the monsoon season, rainwater runs into the extensive basin 7 miles upstream from Antelope Canyon and then funnels into its narrow passages, deepening and smoothing the already flowing rock walls. Rain falling even dozens of miles from the canyon can funnel into them with very little prior notice, making a trained guide a requirement for all visitors. Antelope Canyon’s safety systems have been heightened and flood-proofed since 1997, when eleven tourists were killed in the Lower Canyon by a sudden flash flood that swept away the wooden ladders. Today’s ladder systems are bolted into the rock face, and deployable cargo nets are ready at all times.
RAINBOW BRIDGE NATIONAL MONUMENT
You will take an afternoon Lake Powell boat tour to Rainbow Bridge National Monument. Located in the rugged, isolated canyons at the feet of Navajo Mountain, Rainbow Bridge was known for centuries by the Native Americans who have long held the bridge sacred. Ancient Pueblo Peoples were followed much later by Paiute and Navajo groups who named the bridge Nonnezoshe or "rainbow turned to stone." Several Native American families still reside nearby.
By the 1800s, Rainbow Bridge was probably seen by wandering trappers, prospectors, and cowboys. Not until 1909, though, was its existence publicized to the outside world. Two separate exploration parties - one headed by University of Utah dean Byron Cummings, and another by government surveyor, W.B. Douglass - began searching for the legendary span. Eventually, they combined efforts. Paiute guides Nasja Begay and Jim Mike led the way, along with trader and explorer John Wetherill. Late in the afternoon of August 15, coming down what is now Bridge Canyon, the party saw Rainbow Bridge for the first time.
The next year, on May 30, 1910, U.S. President William Howard Taft used presidential proclamation to designate Rainbow Bridge National Monument. Teddy Roosevelt and Zane Grey were among the first visitors to make the trek by foot and horseback from Navajo Mountain. Rainbow Bridge became more accessible with the popularity of river running in Glen Canyon after World War II, although the trip still required several days floating the Colorado River plus a seven-mile hike up-canyon. By the early 1950s, people could travel upstream by jet boat from Lee's Ferry. Glen Canyon Dam was authorized in 1956. By 1963, the gates on the dam closed and rising Lake Powell began to engulf the river and its side canyons. Higher water made motorboat access to Rainbow Bridge much easier, bringing thousands of visitors each year.
LAKE POWELL & GLEN CANYON
At Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Visitor Center, you can tour Glen Canyon Dam and its' hydroelectric generating station. It took eight years of construction by the US Bureau of Reclamation to build the Glen Canyon Dam. The dam's crest rises 583 feet above the river water at its base. Waters of the Colorado River backed up behind the dam creating a lake 186 miles long and a shoreline of over 2000 miles, longer than the entire West Coast of the US. When the lake is full, first achieved on June 22, 1980, the deepest portion is immediately back of the great dam at 568 feet deep. The lake has ninety-six named navigable tributary canyons and dozens of smaller nameless waterways, eight major bays and two long riverbed arms. The scenery up and down the lake is no less than spectacular. The cliffs and monuments reflect in the water with a shimmering golden orange glow that has captured the attention of countless photographs and artistic renderings.
With additional tour time other local and very popular sites include Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon
ACCOMMODATIONS in or near Page Arizona
Day 5 ~ Colorado River Float Trip Through Glen Canyon
In the morning, you will take a walk to the overlook of Horseshoe Bend, and, if time allows, you will visit the museum at Glen Canyon Dam. Mid-day you will take a float drip down the mighty Colorado River through Glen Canyon, after which you will have some free time in the town of Page
Horseshoe Bend is the name for a horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River located near Page. The bend is locally known as "King Bend". It is located five miles (8.7 km) downstream from the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell within Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, about four miles or 6 km southwest of Page. Accessible via a ½-mile (1.2 km) hike from U.S. Route 89, it can be viewed from the steep cliff above. According to Google terrain maps, the overlook is 4,200 feet above sea level and the Colorado River is at 3,200 feet above sea level making it a breathtaking 1,000 foot drop.
GLEN CANYON FLOAT TRIP
Departing from the scenic town of Page, Arizona, your trip will begin with an exciting and exclusive ride down the two-mile long Glen Canyon Dam access tunnel. At river level, with the dam soaring 700 feet above you, you will board a comfortable pontoon raft for your journey downstream. For the next fifteen miles, you will experience one of the most dramatic stretches of river in the western United States. Your experienced guide will tell the story of the area’s soaring sandstone cliffs, crystal blue-green waters, abundant wildlife, exploration by Major John Wesley Powell and others, and the river's modern role in the Southwest’s water and power delivery system. A stop to view an impressive set of ancient petroglyphs will offer you a chance to stretch your legs and enjoy your lunch while bearing witness to the area’s former inhabitance by ancient native cultures. If you choose, you may also refresh yourself by wading in the cold, clear river. The river portion of your trip ends at historic Lees Ferry, gateway to Grand Canyon Colorado River trips. Here you will board a bus for your return trip to Page.
Accommodations will again be in or near Page, Arizona
Day 6 ~ See the Color Kaleidoscope of Bryce Canyon National Park
We will take a morning drive to Bryce Canyon NP. On the way you will view part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and travel through Kanab, UT, across the Great Basin Divide, and through Red Canyon just before arriving at Bryce Canyon National Park.
BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
Bryce is considered by many to be the most colorful of all the National Parks. Towering rock pinnacles, strangely sculptured hoodoos and the immense amphitheaters will inspire you.
Located in southwestern Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park is a geologic masterpiece considered by many to be the most colorful of all the National Parks. Sometimes referred to as a forest of stone, Bryce is unique due to its thousands of delicately carved spires, called hoodoos, which rise in brilliant color from the canyon floor. Centuries of wind, water, and geologic mayhem have etched what was once mere sedimentary rock into towering pinnacles and immense amphitheaters. These superb formations stretch for miles along the eastern edge of the 9,000 foot high (2,743 meters) Paunsaugunt Plateau. Evening and early morning light bring the brilliant hues of these formations to life, giving them a lustrous transparent glow. It is just a quarter of the size of Zion National Park.
With rim elevations that vary between 8,000 and 9,000 feet (2,400 to 2,700 meters), Bryce canyon transcends over 2,000 feet (650 meters) of elevation and three distinct climactic zones. This diversity of habitat provides for high biodiversity. Over 160 species of birds, dozens of mammals, and more than 1,000 plant species proliferate within the canyons and plateau that compose Bryce. While touring in the park one may see black bears, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, ground squirrels, marmots, mule deer, prairie dogs, pronghorn antelope, Rocky Mountain elk, and even possibly mountain lions. And should one care to search, one may find migratory hummingbirds, peregrine falcon, swifts, swallows, jays, nuthatches, ravens, eagles, owls, and California condors taking wing.
Bordering the rim of the canyon are ponderosa pines, high elevation meadows and fir-spruce forests, beyond which spread panoramic views of three states, up to 160 miles (260 km) distant. This area boasts some of the nation's best air quality, which, coupled with the lack of nearby large light sources, creates unparalleled opportunities for stargazing. Stargazers can see 7,500 stars with the naked eye, contrasted with the 2,000 or less that can be seen most other places.
Bryce’s namesake, Ebenezer Bryce, a Mormon pioneer who homesteaded in the area in the late 1800’s, described his namesake canyon as a "helluva place to lose a cow.” This remains true today, as the throng of intertwining slot canyons, spires, and hoodoos define a labyrinthine web that is exhilarating to explore.
OPTIONS: horseback rides, ATV rides, wagon ride, rodeo, helicopter and airplane tours, and hikes. Reservations are required for most of these activities and they are not all available every day of the week. These activities would need to be planed ahead and added to the tour cost or paid for on an individual basis.
ACCOMMODATIONS will be just outside the park in the small Bryce Canyon City
Day 7 ~ Find Breathtaking Sanctuary in Zion National Park
You will travel and tour the East Entry Canyon on the way to a tour of the main Zion National Park’s canyon floor area.
ZION NATIONAL PARK
Massive canyon walls ascend toward a brilliant blue sky. To experience Zion National Park, you need to walk among the towering cliffs. These unique sandstone cliffs range in color from cream, to pink, and to red. They could be described as sand castles crowning desert canyons.
As Utah's oldest and most visited national park, Zion’s topography is an exquisite spectacle of canyon–mesa country. Encompassing one of the most scenic cliff-and-canyon landscapes in the USA, Zion’s 229 square miles (593 km) are internationally known for their dramatic canyons, towering rock faces, overhanging cliffs, sparkling waterfalls, hanging valleys, high plateaus, rock formations, dripping springs, shaded pools, and particularly for the Virgin River Narrows – one of the premier hikes on the Colorado Plateau. The word Zion is ancient Hebrew meaning a place of refuge or sanctuary, and Zion National Park is just that – an exquisite respite from the surrounding world.
The Virgin River winds its way through Zion Canyon’s scenic 15-mile stretch, cutting through reddish and tan Navajo Sandstone, nourishing the landscape, and serving as a natural corridor for exploration. The Canyon is up to a half mile deep, serving as a haven for rock climbers with massive cliff faces radiant in the sunshine. Some of Zion’s most noted geographical features include the Virgin River Narrows, a gorge as narrow as 20 feet (6 m) wide and up to 2,000 feet (610 m) deep; Angels Landing; Emerald Pools; Hidden Canyon; The Great White Throne; Checkerboard Mesa; The Three Patriarchs; the Temple of Sinawava; and one of the world's longest arches, Kolob Arch.
The Kolob Canyons region in the northwest of Zion National Park is little-traveled in comparison to the more popular Zion Canyon, but every bit as stunning. Home to Horse Ranch Mountain, Zion’s tallest peak, as well as twisting slot canyons, sinuous arches, extravagantly streaked and colored rocks, hanging gardens, drifting streams, and picturesque gorges with sheer cliffs towering above emerald vegetation. The name Kolob comes from Mormonism, where it is considered the dwelling closest to the throne of God.
Zion National Park encompasses 5,000 feet of elevation change. Such unique geography and resultant variety of microclimates allows for remarkable plant and animal diversity: Zion is home to over 78 species of mammals (including 19 species of bat), 291 species of birds, 44 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 8 species of fish. Visitors to Zion can spot badgers, bank beavers, bats, bighorn sheep, cougars, coyotes, desert cottontails, foxes, jackrabbits, Merriam's kangaroo rats, mule deer, porcupines, raccoons, rattlesnakes, ringtail cats, rock squirrels, skunks, and whiptail and collared lizards. Soaring over canyons or chasing one another through the trees can be found bald eagles, California condors, canyon wrens, dippers, gnatcatchers, golden eagles, peregrine falcons, pinyon jays, red-tailed hawks, and white-throated swifts.
Plant species common to Zion include cottonwood, cactus, datura, juniper, pinyon pine, ponderosa pine, boxelder, sagebrush, manzanita shrubs, cliffrose, serviceberry, scrub oak, yucca, gambel oak, aspen, and various willows.
ACCOMMODATIONS in Las Vegas, Nevada near the Las Vegas Strip
You can take a free shuttle service from the hotel to the airport or to the Las Vegas strip and continue your vacation!