Southern Segment of Northbound Tours

El Paso, Texas to Grand Junction, Colorado

Departing Mid-May and Late August - 16 Days

We do not provide a day by day itinerary until after a trip is fully subscribed because the interests of the group may result in some adjustments. However, on this page we do account for each of our featured destinations in the order in which they are visited. Most of this information is repeated in our description of the Southbound Tour, but there are also some important differences.

Tour Members - Please refer to this guide when filling out your Options form.
(Instructions at bottom of page)

If you are just curious about what the trip has to offer, read on and enjoy the pictures (all picture panels link to additional information - we hope). However, if you are joining us on a tour, or want to see how the option selection process works, download the form and follow along.

 

Please use our Form Translations page if you need the form translated from English.

El Paso, Texas –

El Paso, Texas is a convenient gathering point with a large airport and numerous flights. You will be greeted at the airport and taken to a downtown hotel where you will be free to explore on your own while we assemble the group. Once we have everyone's flight details we will choose a convenient time to meet at the hotel on the evening before the tour begins.

Carlsbad Cavern –

The cavern offers three main attractions: The Big Room (self-guided), Kings Palace (ranger guided) and Bat Flight (ranger supervised). We assume everyone will want to do all three unless you are afraid of bats, and only Kings Palace requires special tickets. The Big Room can be accessed by elevator, or by walking in via the Natural Entrance. The Natural Entrance is highly recommended - at least once.

Ticket availability is good for Kings Palace, but is much more limited for the other two tours which occur during the week days when we will be in Carlsbad. We need to know as soon as possible if you will want to do the Kings Palace, Left Hand Tunnel, or Lower Cave tours described below:

Kings Palace

Kings Palace

The Kings Palace tour is very much like the self-guided Natural Entrance walk or the Big Room because you are on a paved trail. It is more densely packed with formations and features, which probably contributed to the inability of unsupervised visitors to keep their hands off.

Left Hand Tunnel

Left Hand Tunnel

The Park Service calls Left Hand Tunnel the easiest of the unpaved trail tours, and that is certainly true. It is also the least spectacular in terms of formations. However, it is pleasant to visit the cave the way it was done before electricity. Obviously not the best situation for photography, but this grainy photo does give a good sense of the experience.

Colonel Boles Formation

Lower Cave

The Lower Cave tour is the most challenging of the choices discussed here, owing to some ladder-like stairs and a few slippery spots, but it is well worth the effort. Although there are numerous damaged formations in Carlsbad Caverns, almost all are due to a roof collapse. The broken column of the Colonel Boles Formation is very unusual and thought provoking - as you realize how long the area has to have been geologically stable in order for the formations to exist.

Not all of us will be able to go on the same cave tour on the same day, and there is another great destination in the area, especially if you have an interest in desert ecology. Sitting Bull Falls is literally an oasis in the desert, and a great contrast to spending time underground. If you would like to go, we will work on scheduling everyone’s cave tours so that we can do it all. Keep in mind that daytime temperatures will often exceed 90° F = 32° C.

The August tour also has access to the added attraction of the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park.

Santa Fe –

We recommend a morning walking tour for anyone not content to just wander around on their unscheduled day in Santa Fe. But this is such a great place to just wander around we hesitate to suggest any other idea. (An unscheduled day simply means that you are free to go off on your own away from the group - you don't need to be anywhere at a particular time unless you have chosen one of the options.)

However, we can also take you to Abiquiu (Northbound Tours only), the location of the former home and studio of Georgia O’Keefe. You can do that and visit the O’Keefe Museum in downtown Santa Fe, and still have a bit of time to explore the town. Limited availability, so get your options list submitted as soon as possible.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Museum of Indian Arts & Culture

Museum of International Folk Art

Museum of International Folk Art

If visiting some of the world’s most extraordinary museums interest you, consider spending part of the day at Museum Hill. The Museum of International Folk Art (open for Northbound Tours) is a personal favorite of your hosts, but there are other exceptional museums here as well. All tours can visit the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, or the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art.

Tsankawi

Tsankawi

As an addition to the main site at Bandelier National Monument - which our entire group will visit on the morning we leave Santa Fe - consider taking a walk at Tsankawi, the mesa-top home of early Pueblo Indians. There are no ruins here, but the trail, the caves, and the presence of the place make it very special. There are some ladders to climb, so it is moderately challenging. This is a great hike for lovers of petroglyphs.

Mesa Verde National Park –

Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde National Park

The only reason we can imagine that you wouldn’t want to visit Mesa Verde would be if you have already been there.

If that is the case, we can send a vehicle to:

Chaco Culture -

If even a small group forms for this destination, we will probably have you overnight in a different location than the rest of the tour.

Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park –

&

Grand Canyon National Park -

During the three days between Mesa Verde, Colorado and Page, Arizona (north of Grand Canyon) the group travels together and options are of the general sort - which path to walk and when to have lunch - that don't require any special planning. But, here are two more photos before we move on.

Painted Desert - Grand Canyon

Painted Desert & Grand Canyon

Page Arizona –

Between the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park there are four significant alternatives for things to do.

Grand Canyon North Rim

Grand Canyon National Park - North Rim

Hike the North Rim. A Relatively flat walk through the woods with frequent views into the canyon. It is serene and beautiful and highly recommended.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

Although we don’t really recommend going to Monument Valley because of the driving time (a total of 7 hours by the time we get you back to the rest of the group, as opposed to 2.5 direct) we will take you there if you want to go. We’ll probably arrive in the dark so you can start the next day with something to see.

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon

A very fun spot, if a bit overcrowded (that's not facetious - the photo on the left was taken over the heads of other visitors, and on the right during a three second opportunity). The canyon is so close to the town of Page that we can almost certainly work this in for anyone interested.

Rainbow Bridge

Rainbow Bridge - Lake Powell

This should be a priority destination for anyone not prone to seasickness (or lakesickness as the case may be). Limited availability, but if we can get everyone there we will.  For a sense of scale, note the two hikers in the lower right corner.

Zion National Park –

&

Bryce Canyon National Park -

We may get you to Zion in the dark, but you’ll have the whole next day to ride the park shuttle and pick a hike equal to your energy level. Of course, everyone wants to know about The Narrows, but be sure to watch the video or read the description before deciding if this is what you want to do. Walking from the bottom up doesn’t require a permit, and you can turn around whenever you’ve had enough, so it is worth considering. It doesn't take any planning on our part for you to do this hike, but please let us know if you are going - and don't forget the walking sticks we talked about on the Hot Topics page.  (NOT available for the Springtime (May departure) tour due to high water levels.)

Bryce Canyon is just a stop along the way, but that is simply because you can’t do much more than scratch the surface here unless you want to camp and take a two day back pack trip. No doubt a wonderful thing to do, but perhaps another time. Still, as stops along the way go, this one is pretty special.

After leaving Zion and Bryce National Parks, and before arriving at Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, we have a major choice for you which may depend on your level of physical fitness.

Horseshoe Canyon –

Horseshoe Canyon

Horseshoe Canyon - Canyonlands National Park

This is the most demanding hike we recommend at 7 miles round-trip and 700 feet of elevation change - nicely illustrated in the photo above. You need to carry more water than usual due to what will probably be very warm temperatures. This is a magical place even without the pictographs, but they are truly awesome.

Goblin Valley State Park –

Goblin Valley Utah

Goblin Valley State Park

Nature has a sense of humor. If you pick this spot rather than Horseshoe Canyon as your primary excursion for the day, you get to sleep in a bit, and the hiking is as hard or as easy as you choose to make it. Horseshoe Canyon explorers can actually come here towards the end of the day if they still have the energy after their hike, so it isn't necessarily an either/or choice.

Arches National Park – Delicate Arch Hike –

Delicate Arch

Arches National Park

The Delicate Arch hike isn’t all that long – 3.5 miles - nor does it have all that much elevation change – 480 feet – but it is very exposed. Overall, on a sunny or warm day it ranks as a moderately difficult hike. There is ample opportunity for general sightseeing after the hike.

Canyonlands National Park -

This will be the easy, wander around in the vehicle, alternative to Delicate Arch. The Delicate Arch hikers will also have some time to tour, so we may meet up somewhere - the romantically named Dead Horse Point, for example - to see if we can all catch a good sunset.

Grand Junction, CO -

A pleasant town in Western Colorado with a good airport. We have some special treats for everyone on the full tour while we say good-by to those who signed up for the southern segment only. Those joining the tour for the northern segment will be met here.

Northern Segment of Northbound Tours - Grand Junction, Colorado to Whitefish, Montana -

 

General Interests

This list is included in the Options form which can be downloaded at the top of the page. It is repeated here so that you can easily see if you want to suggest any additions to the choices using the comment box below.

Let us know the things you enjoy doing generally, so that the most popular choices can potentially become part of the itinerary. Some items are simple enough to become a nice way to break up the drive. A few other things we can deliver on an individual basis.

The following interests are on the Option form we would like you to download, fill out, and return. On a scale of one to ten, with one being “I’d rather avoid” and ten being “One of my favorites”, give us a rating for some of the following suggestions.

Note: We don’t provide anything that travels through in the air. No balloons, helicopters, hang gliders, etc. If you like ziplines we will be able to find a good one somewhere.

We did not include items on the list which are already an integral part of the trip, i.e. Shopping, Hiking, etc.

• Museums Generally

Mining Museum
Ranching Museum
Indian Museum
Natural History Museum
Art Museum

Lecture
Zipline
Winery
Horseback Ride
Casino
Fishing<
Live Music Concert
Live Music Club
Raft
ATV
Hot Spring
Swimming Pool
Gondola Ride
Mine Tour
Staying in Historic Hotels

The Options form may change slightly after everyone with a suggestion has commented. But there are enough options to get you started thinking about what you'd like to do.

Instructions for filling out the options form electronically -

When you download your options forms you will find that they are in a .pdf file format which allows you to edit them and email them back to us. Chances are good that you have encountered such a form before, and don't need instructions. If you filled out your Subscription Agreement electronically, you already know how to do this. Or you might prefer to print them and use regular mail, or scan and email them.

Start by downloading and opening the file, and enlarging the window until it is easy to read. Click on the “Sign” button at the upper right, and choose the “Add Text” option. The cursor looks like an upside-down T, so use the horizontal line at the bottom to align with the line you would like to fill.  Then click, and you are ready to type.

You don't need to use the "Add Checkmark" tool, a simple "X" will do nicely. The font type doesn’t matter, but a font size of 10 is a good choice.

When you are finished, you can click the envelope icon to email it with your own software, or use the “Send Signed Document” button if you want to use the Adobe service. In either case, use the email address we sent you when you submitted your subscription form. If you've forgotten or lost it, send us another email and you should get an automated response.

 

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