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Explore some of the country’s most dramatic vistas on this adventure through the iconic landscapes of the West. During daily walks led by experienced local guides, you’ll follow footpaths only the locals know, allowing you to truly experience stunning landscapes and the history and culture of the region. Most days average 4-7 miles of walking, with shorter and longer options available when possible. Experience this unique high desert terrain in a way that invites you to slow down and truly immerse yourself in this ancient and fascinating terrain.
In Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, haunting beauty greets you in Sand Canyon as you follow the rim to an ancient pueblo that once held 420 rooms. Explore prehistoric towers and underground kivas before heading into the desert, where a land of mammoth shapes and forms reveals itself. A nearby site also features impressive cliff dwellings where Ancestral Pueblo people flourished in the 13th century. Tour the park museum and follow winding trails to sweeping views, ancient petroglyphs and archaeological treasures.
A refreshing half-day float trip down the Colorado River winds past water-carved rock formations. Trek through Canyonlands National Park’s sheer-walled canyons to sandstone spires, jagged cliffs and looming mesas. In Arches National Park, walks across red sands lead to natural stone bridges, from sublime Delicate Arch to Landscape Arch, whose 290-foot span is the largest in the western hemisphere. Throughout your walks, pause to drink in the vivid hues of the countryside, see delicate arches carved by wind in stone and marvel at steep cliffs that tower majestically against the desert sky.
• 5 nights accommodations: 2 nights in Mesa Verde and 3 nights in Moab
• All meals except for 1 dinner; wine and beer included with dinners
• All on-tour transportation from meeting point to departure point
• Assistance of 2 expert, local guides throughout (for groups of 8 or more)
• Guided walks in Mesa Verde, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks
• Mobile phone rental - includes free phone rental, preferred calling rates and complimentary shipping
• All entrance fees and special events as per itinerary
Note: Please bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary, and the actual activities, sites and accommodations may vary due to season, special events, inclement weather or transportation schedules. Therefore unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise but any itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and our guests’ experience.
Day 1 - Arrive in Durango / Cliff Dwellings and Petroglyph Point (4 miles, Moderate)
Arrive in Durango where we transfer to Mesa Verde National Park (approximately one hour). Mesa Verde was the first National Park set aside to protect manmade wonders. Today the park is home to more than 4,000 archaeological sites, ranging from simple pithouses to complex cliff dwellings built in large alcoves in the steep sandstone canyons. Your explorations begin with a visit to the park’s museum and the Spruce Tree House, an impressive cliff dwelling sheltered by Douglas fir, juniper and piñon trees. After a picnic lunch and a short welcome meeting, embark on a guided tour of the most famous and largest of the cliff dwellings, the Cliff Palace. Here you will get an in-depth glimpse at how the Ancestral Puebloans lived during the 13th century.
This afternoon’s walk takes you on a three-mile loop lined with distinctive canyon vegetation – Douglas fir, Mormon tea, serviceberry, prickly pear cactus and broadleaf yucca. The trail skirts a deep canyon and culminates at a panel containing the most well-known group of petroglyphs in Mesa Verde. A short climb to the mesa top provides sweeping views on the return leg. Tonight, gather for a welcome drink and dinner in the Metate Room, overlooking the surrounding mesas. Choose from local specialties such as cactus dip, grilled blue corn trout, stuffed quail with Anasazi beans, or roasted elk.
Accommodation: Far View Lodge - 2 nights
Day 2 - Mesa Verde National Park Optional Sunrise Walk (1 mile, Easy) / Sand Canyon (6.5 miles, Moderate with challenging sections)
This morning you may wish to join your guides on an optional pre-breakfast walk and enjoy the view from Park Point Overlook. As the sun rises in the east, you savor the peace and quiet at this tranquil time of day.
After breakfast, drive approximately one hour outside the park to Sand Canyon, nestled in the canyons of the Ancients National Monument. The walk begins at the Sand Canyon Pueblo. Although no standing walls are exposed, this ancient pueblo includes 420 rooms, 100 kivas (round buildings dug into the ground) and 14 towers (this site was excavated in the late 1980s and early 1990s and then backfilled to preserve the buildings). The walk follows the rim of Sand Canyon along a sandy trail. En route you pass several small, fragile cliff dwellings hidden in the shelter of natural alcoves. These sites were occupied by the Ancestral Puebloans during the 13th century. Dinner this evening is at the lodge, highlighted by views of Mesa Verde as the sun sets in the distance.
Day 3 - Mesa Verde National Park / Moab / Negro Bill Canyon (4 miles, Easy with moderate sections)
This morning, depart for Moab, Utah (approximately three hours), and following lunch at a favorite local restaurant, stretch your legs on an easy walk en route to the next hotel. The trail skirts a clear canyon stream, (where you may hear spadefoot toad song) and follows a mixed route of flat, open trails of sandy ground and slickrock sandstone with its curious natural gripping effect. After 1.5 miles you leave the stream and follow a side canyon to Morning Glory Bridge, an impressive natural arch that measures 243 feet - the sixth longest natural rock span in the United States.
Late this afternoon, check into your riverside lodgings and relax in the pool or Jacuzzi as you enjoy a dazzling sunset over red cliffs. Dinner this evening is alfresco (weather permitting) on the resort’s deck overlooking the Colorado River.
Accommodation: Red Cliffs Lodge - 3 nights
Day 4 - Colorado River Rafting Excursion / Canyonlands National Park / Island in the Sky (2-4 miles, Easy)
Early this morning, meet your rafting guides and embark on a half-day float trip on the Colorado River (some short sections of class I and II rapids). You drift through red rock canyons and past famous rock formations including Fisher Towers, Castle Rock and the Priest and Nuns. En route, stop to eat lunch on a river beach.
Later, drive approximately one hour to the Island in the Sky Section of Canyonlands National Park, a wilderness area of sheer-walled canyons, sandstone spires, jagged cliffs and high mesas. Once again, sweeping views accompany a walk to overlooks of the Green River snaking through the landscape in the distance. Dinner is on your own this evening in the small western town of Moab. Your guides are available to assist you in selecting a restaurant.
Day 5 - Arches National Park / Double Arch and Landscape Arch (4.2 miles, Moderate) / Delicate Arch (3 miles, Moderate)
Following an early breakfast, drive the short distance to Arches National Park, home to some of the region’s most extraordinary geologic sites. You begin the morning walk at the Double Arch area of the park. This park contains the world’s greatest known concentration of natural stone arches – more than 2,000! The walk leads to a few of the most impressive arches, including Landscape Arch. Its 290 ft. span makes it the longest in the park.
Following a picnic lunch amidst the red rocks, continue toward Delicate Arch, one of the most recognized arches in the park. The trailhead begins near Wolfe Ranch, a historic settlement dating back to 1880 and also the site of a fascinating panel of Ute rock art. The terrain along the trail leading to Delicate Arch is varied. It begins with rocky paths and switchbacks then yields to portions of slickrock. Steps have been carved into the sandstone to make ascending some of the steeper sections easier. The final portion of the trail is exposed but wide, so even though it is flanked by sheer cliff drop-offs, the walking is safe and awe-inspiring. Pause to take it all in: sweeping red rock views and the rising La Sal Mountains on the horizon. Tonight the week is celebrated in style with a final dinner, sampling wines from the lodge’s own vineyard.
Day 6 - Optional Sunrise Walk (1-2 miles, Easy) / Durango for departure
Early risers may wish to join your guides on a pre-breakfast walk in the hills behind the resort to enjoy a final sunrise in the lovely Southwest. After breakfast, the drive to Durango takes approximately three hours, stopping along the way to stretch your legs and have a picnic lunch.
Limitations & Restrictions
*Prices are per person based on double occupancy, are subject to availability at time of booking, and may change without notice. Single supplement may apply. Except for packages including air transportation, unless stated otherwise, airfare, taxes and government fees are not included. Offers valid for new bookings only. Member Benefits are per person and apply to first and second traveler only. Member Benefits are available only with advertised fare and are subject to change without notice. Your travel arrangements may be modified or canceled subject to the travel providers’ policies. Blackout dates and other restrictions may apply. We make every effort for accuracy at time of printing but reserve the right to correct errors. AAA Travel strongly recommends the purchase of trip protection insurance. Except for packages including air transportation, fares may not reflect additional fuel supplement or port charges and vary by provider.
CST #1003968-80. Registration as seller of travel does not constitute approval by the State of California.