Canyons of the Desert Southwest
Bryce, Zion, and the Grand Canyon
orning light strikes the sandstone hoodoos and limestone arches of Bryce Canyon’s breathtaking amphitheater. As the sun crests over the Kaibab Plateau, the nebulas of the Milky Way dissolve into a radiant sapphire sky. The glowing walls and columns intensify in luminance as if lit from within. The winds and waters of three hundred million years etch into the geologic formations a history of ancient seas, extinct dinosaurs, and Eocene dunes. As we descend into the canyon, Scrub Jays and Clark’s Nutcrackers pick at the cones of Ponderosa Pines while elk and bighorn sheep decorate nearby hills. At the base of the cliffs, lush groves of aspens and sacred datura flowers frame cool, clear creeks emerging from rare desert springs.
Such is the mesmerizing landscape of the Canyonlands of Utah and Arizona. This week-long excursion strings together explorations of Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Grand Canyon National Parks like beads on a red desert necklace. Starting and ending in St. George, Utah, we will traverse the Kaibab Plateau in search of the region’s stunning geology, rich biodiversity, and unparalleled photographic opportunities.
Please check back soon for a day-by-day itinerary.
Flow of the Day: The itinerary is designed to maximize our experience in nature. We won’t, however, be rushing from place to place to chase the largest species list possible. Our goal is to spend time appreciating the landscape and wildlife, and enjoying our encounters at an enjoyable pace.
Mornings and Evenings will be spent observing the canyons and landscapes. Afternoons will be spent on easy hikes to fantastic places, or driving between parks.
While our pacing is generally slow and relaxed, we are sometimes far from our lodging during the day, making it difficult to guarantee the regular afternoon siesta that some travelers wish for.
Clothing: Pack light field clothing of neutral colors. Bring several pairs of long pants and comfortable, light, airy shirts. Long-sleeved (relaxed fit) shirts are useful for protection from the sun, as is a light hat or cap. Good rain gear is essential, and a small umbrella is also recommended. Be sure to have a pair of comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots, plus a second pair of tennis shoes or sandals. A couple sweaters or fleeces, plus hat and gloves, is important for the mornings. Though we are in the desert, we will be at elevations approaching 9,000 ft, so we can experience near-freezing temperatures in the early morning, and mid-80s in the middle of the day.
Equipment: Bring a pair of binoculars and a camera with extra batteries. The guides will carry spotting scopes. Pack sunglasses and sunscreen, a small flashlight or headlamp, a small alarm clock (a smartphone will work), and a small daypack.
Health Considerations: Please consult your physician before the trip about the elevations we will be at. The region sits on a giant plateau that rises over 9,000 ft above sea level at points.
Physical Expectations: Much of the walking on this trip will be along roadsides or easily walked trails, but do expect some mud, potential soggy conditions, and some uneven and uphill terrain. Some walking destinations may make those with a major fear of heights uncomfortable, but we will never be in places that force travelers to hike near cliff edges or risky exposures.
Participants should be able to hike on moderate terrain at least 3-4 miles per day, and be ready to expect conditions that may be hot, cold, dry, wet, or anything in-between.
This trip is led by NBNC Staff Naturalist and Program Director, Sean Beckett. Sean has guided wildlife safaris, photography tours, and birding trips across North America for over a decade, including in the canyonlands of the southwest. His experience as a top-tier guide is complemented by a background in western wildlife research ranging from from raptor banding to deer monitoring to cougar tracking. Sean holds a M.S. from the University of Vermont's Field Naturalist program, and guides regularly with the World Wildlife Fund.
- All lodging and meals.
- An expert naturalist guides.
- Entrance fees and park admissions.
- Transportation in a comfortable van, including transfer to and from the airport.
- Pre-departure orientation session before the trip.
What is not included: Airfare, gratuities, pre- and post-trip meals, and incidentals.
Ready for the Southwest?
Email [email protected] to get signed up.
For a list of species seen on previous tours in this region, contact us at [email protected]