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Spirit of the Desert: The National Parks of the Southwest - A Tauck Escorted Tour
Sunrise to sunset, the spirit of the desert defines the experience. On this tour you’ll hear rich stories and learn about the characters and events that shaped the parks. You’ll come away with much more than a gallery of scenic pictures, as we hope this trip will lead you to a deeper appreciation of the parks, create a lasting memory, and help you feel for yourself the spirit of these special places and people.
Price per person includes:
Return flights from UK to Grand Junction/home Las Vegas
Airport transfers upon arrival and departure
9 nights superior accommodation at sought after locations
Filmed vignettes by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan sharing stories of the national parks
On the ground or by air, explore Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Zion and Grand Canyon national parks
Two Flightseeing Adventures, Capitol Reef National Park and Grand Canyon en route to Las Vegas
Local experts talks and lectures
Dawn Patrol & Sunset Scouts
Mild-to-moderate float trip on the Colorado River
Meals and charges
Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef national parks
Bryce Canyon, Zion and Grand Canyon national parks
Las Vegas and Colorado River
Please phone Bon Voyage for the most up-to-date departures for this itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive Grand Junction
Tour begins: Red Cliffs Lodge, 6:00 PM. A transfer is included from Grand Junction Regional Airport to Red Cliffs Lodge in Moab, Utah.
The Spirit of the Desert defies just one single definition. It's the spirit of the moment, a mood, a feeling harmonious with nature yet transcendent of earth and sky. It moves the senses to create, the mind and soul to soar, adventurers to be bold. And, starting tonight, you will become part of its amazing story. Learn about the days ahead through filmed vignettes by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan.
Day 2 : 2,000 Natural Sandstone Arches
Everyone goes on a Dawn Patrol today with an early start this morning to witness the sun rise in the Windows section of Arches National Park; the first light of day on Turret Arch and Double Arch creates picture-postcard photography. Over 2,000 arches comprise the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches. National park status didn’t come easily, first declared a national monument in 1929, it took over 40 years to achieve. You’re sure to recognize Delicate Arch, the amazing Balanced Rock, and a variety of sensational geological formations during guided sightseeing before returning to the lodge for lunch. Get set for adventure this afternoon when you depart on a scenic float trip along on the Colorado River* – rock towers, colors and light reflect upon the water like mirror images. There is an optional Sunset Patrol, then the evening is spent at the lodge, where you are steeped in the authenticity of an architectural style that defines the West. And your Arches National Park to Grand Canyon vacation crafted by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan begins.
Day 3 : A Navajo Perspective & Canyonlands
Join us for a morning trip to Castle Rock with spectacular views of Book Cliffs and Arches National Park. From the top of a mesa, enjoy views that extend out to Arches National Park, Colorado, and the La Salle Mountains. A lecture by a local Navajo connects you to the sacredness of the desert, to the ancient spiritual life that transcends today’s world. Depart for the fun little town of Moab, then on to Canyonlands National Park, whose countless canyons, mesas and buttes shadow the Colorado River and the Green River. These rivers divide the park into four districts and today you’ll explore the northern section, Island in the Sky, where among other formations you’ll see a famed pothole arch, Mesa Arch, overlooking Buck Canyon. There is no better way to experience Canyonlands than at sunset and the setting sun, during a picnic dinner at Dead Horse Point overlooking the U-turn in the Colorado River, is nothing short of inspirational.
Day 4 : Capitol Reef National Park, Aerial View
Enjoy some free time this morning. Go on an optional Dawn Patrol or visit the Film Museum at the Lodge (both on your own). For the past 70 years, many of the most famous western movies were filmed in and around Moab, learn about the filming locations and the stars who brought them to life. Vignettes today include Dayton Duncan’s insights on the best way to access the major sights in the national parks; some are available at a turnout, while others are inaccessible and require back-country hiking or an aerial overview and that is exactly how you’ll tour Capitol Reef National Park today. Cross the Waterpocket Fold, which is sort of a warp in the Earth’s crust that runs nearly 100 miles, and see Strike Valley, the spectacular sandstone Capitol Domes that give the park its name, colorful cliffs, soaring spires and of course the odd monoliths. Arrive at Bryce Canyon National Park, home to some of Earth’s more whimsical geologic formations; spend some time at the Visitor's Center and enjoy some free time before dinner. There is an optional Sunset Scouts this evening.
Day 5 : Hoodoos of Bryce and on to Zion
Another independent Dawn Patrol is available this morning, a hike along the rim of Bryce Canyon to catch the shocking array of colors illuminated by the first rays of light on the hoodoos below. More of a series of horseshoe amphitheatres than a canyon, morning walks reveal millions of pinnacles positively glowing.
This afternoon, depart for Zion National Park; en route you’ll learn about the park’s complicated creation via a film vignette by Ken Burns, who shares his favorite memories of the park. Upon arrival, Ryan Paul, Curator of Frontier Homestead State Park Museum (formerly Iron Mission State Park), entertains with a lecture on singaways and the contribution of the Union Pacific Railroad to the story of the national parks. There is an independent Sunset Scouts opportunity tonight to the historic Virgin River bridge located at the mouth of the canyon.
Day 6 : Zion National Park
“I was so impressed by the red cliffs and wilderness surroundings of Zion Canyon that I determined we should... have it made a national park.” The words of conservationist Horace Albright set the stage for the expansion of national park designations in the Southwest, and the creation of Zion National Park in 1919. Zion’s most striking images are unique sandstone cliffs that range from towering monoliths to narrow canyons, changing in color from light cream to pink to red. Tour the park, with walks to Weeping Rock and the Court of the Patriarchs, then have some free time to explore as you please. Late afternoon, internationally acclaimed environmental historian and author Alfred Runte gives a talk on the history of the railroad in the national parks; he was on the team advising Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan during production of The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, and appeared in every episode. Those who wish a little time for personal reflection this evening might do an independent Sunset Scouts’ visit to the Virgin River, a tributary of the Colorado River that earned the designation wild and scenic. Tomorrow we'll travel to the last of our six national parks for some Grand Canyon holiday memories.
Day 7 : To Grand Canyon National Park
Leave Zion: and en route to Grand Canyon National Park, get a guided tour of fascinating Pipe Springs National Monument to learn about Paiute Indian and Mormon pioneer history. The drive to the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is quite scenic; following lunch, explore the rim, including the vistas from Point Imperial.
Day 8 : Grand Canyon National Park
A talk by Marty Ott, former Superintendent of Zion National Park, takes you inside the national park system and explains about life in the park. The day is free to explore your park as you please; optional activities include additional ranger talks about history, geology etc., and mule rides. Or you just might want to sit for a spell in the Adirondack chairs on the porch and gaze at the most fantastic views on Earth.
Day 9 : Grand Canyon to Las Vegas
A final Dawn Patrol takes in the spectacular sunrise this morning from the North Rim of the canyon. The last of our vignettes features Ken Burns’s reflections about our memories of the national parks. They are not about the views, but instead they are the memories of those you shared these views with. Dayton Duncan’s vignette explains how the parks belong to all of us, and how we need to continue to help protect them for future generations. The most fitting farewell to these treasures of the Southwest is a scenic flightseeing trip from Kanab Utah, over the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas for your return home. Join us tonight for a final farewell cocktail party and dinner.
Day 10 : Journey Home
Tour ends: Las Vegas. Fly home anytime. A transfer is included from Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas to Las Vegas McCarran International Airport.
Today is your last day on the tour, however you may decide to extend your stay and spend a few days in Las Vegas or perhaps head to the California coast for some relaxation.
Call the travel specialists at Bon Voyage to discuss your dream Spirit of the Desert: The National Parks of the Southwest tour.