Classic Park Lodges & Deluxe Catered Camping in Grand Canyon, Bryce & Zion
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Day 1: St. George, Utah
Our Southwest canyons adventure begins in the red rock country of St. George, Utah. This evening we meet for an informal welcome dinner at a local restaurant. 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 as we make a grand loop through three national parks.
Days 2 & 3: Bryce Canyon National Park
Heading out after breakfast in our specialty North American Safari Trucks
with double-wide pop-top roof hatches, impressive vistas of the Colorado Plateau unfold immediately upon leaving St. George. As we head east, each vista looks new as our vantage points shift on approach to the fairyland of Bryce Canyon, a magical landscape evocative of another world. Its pink pinnacles, swirling sandstone and natural amphitheaters capture our imaginations with endless geological surprises. We spend the next two nights based at Bryce Canyon Lodge, a classic national park hotel set amid ponderosa pines on the canyon rim. The lodge, on the National Historic Register, is the only place to stay inside the park, offering us ideal proximity for exploration. Meticulously restored to its original 1920s splendor, it is replete with Old West atmosphere right down to replicas of the vintage hickory furniture.
Spend our days foraying into the canyon as our Expedition Leader guides us on walks into its maze-like depths. Rock walls create narrow channels for our wanderings while whimsical hoodoos—rock spires carved eons ago by erosion—rise hundreds of feet into the sky around us. The geologic term "hoodoo" was perpetuated by early geologists who thought the towering spires looked like they could cast a spell on onlookers. At sunset, the hoodoos, arches and fins evoke even more wonder as they turn varying shades of gold, maroon, peach and purple with the sinking rays.
Days 4 & 5: Zion National Park / Nat Hab’s Safari Camp
We venture west towards Zion National Park and Nat Hab’s mobile safari camp. Here, we'll enjoy classic tents under the stars, but with real beds, excellent home-cooked meals and hot showers. Our intimate tented camp is reminiscent of the African safari camps of old, offering simple yet comfortable accommodations in the silence of wild country. Though we are just 30 minutes from the park entrance, we enjoy total privacy in contrast to the busy hotels inside the park bounds. With our camp as a quiet yet convenient base, we set out with our Expedition Leader to experience one of the world’s greatest natural phenomena. As we head out for our first encounter with this arresting landscape on our first afternoon, we see how Zion Canyon's overpowering beauty surely inspired the early Mormon pioneers who named the place after the biblical Promised Land. Its scale and scope is stunning, with monolithic sandstone cliffs towering 2,500 feet above us. The Virgin River flows fast and clear, carving a deep, multicolored canyon over millions of years and watering the fertile valley floor. Amid the scent of sage and sweet cottonwoods, listen for canyon wrens and watch for golden eagles and prairie falcons in the blue desert skies.
Zion was established as Utah’s first national park in 1919, though native people have lived in the canyon for thousands of years. The park’s cultural history is a primer on life over the centuries in the American Southwest, and we learn of the influence of ancestral Puebloan, Paiute and Mormon settlers in the valley. Guided by our Expedition Leader, spend two days exploring the secret recesses of Zion Canyon. Walking among giant cottonwoods that provide shade for wild creatures, listen to the tumble of side streams coursing their way to the river where American dippers and phoebes find shelter in the willows along the banks. From secluded trails, we can't help but gaze upward in awe at the near-vertical rock walls, admiring their varied hues of pink, cream and carnelian. Once night falls, we scan the dark tableau for glittering constellations, using our camp’s powerful telescope for a closer view of the stars.
Days 6 & 7: Grand Canyon National Park North Rim
We leave our Zion camp this morning to driving south to ascend the Kaibab Plateau at the north end of the Grand Canyon. This high-altitude tableland is forested in aspen, spruce, fir, ponderosa pine, pinyon and juniper, in contrast to the arid lowlands that encircle it. Our first glimpse of the Grand Canyon awaits just before Jacob Lake, where we stop for an exhilarating view of the west end. Near the park, we witness the impact of wildfires over the past decade, including areas of new growth taking hold, perpetuating the cycle of life in a region shaped by powerful elements. Look for bison and elk, which are often on view in the open meadows. We make our base for two nights at the rustic and atmospheric 1928 Grand Canyon Lodge on Bright Angel Point. Here we enjoy the grand history and seclusion of exploring from the remote North Rim’s sole lodging inside the national park, and we enjoy meals overlooking the canyon.
From the less-visited North Rim, the canyon floor lies more than a mile below us, its depths dissolving into purple shadows as we gaze over the chasm walls. At 277 miles long and up to 15 miles wide, the scale of the Grand Canyon can truly only be fathomed in person. Nearly 2 billion years of geological history are exposed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut through layer upon layer of sediment during the uplifting of the Colorado Plateau. We have plenty of time to explore, and our Expedition Leader knows the best trails, overlooks and hidden spots to share. We take advantage of sunrise and sunset while we’re here—those magical times to gaze over the canyon and sky as changing light alters the colors minute by minute.
Day 8: Grand Canyon / St. George / Depart
Completing our canyonland journey, we depart Grand Canyon this morning, heading northwwest to St. George. 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 adventure tour concludes as we arrive back in St. George for our afternoon flights home (1:30 pm or later).
Please note: Due to the exploratory nature of our Safari America trips, we are still fine-tuning and perfecting this itinerary. If you book your trip before dates or prices are confirmed, please note that the itinerary is subject to change. Some departures are scheduled to visit Zion and Bryce in reverse order from the itinerary above. Itinerary changes will be communicated to you once your trip dates are confirmed.
Physical Rating: Moderate