The OTHER Southwest—cactus, UFOs, and desert vistas...

Deserts of the Southwest


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Deserts of the Southwest Overview

Polaroid - Saguaro Cactus

Cactus, caves, hot sand. Ancient pueblos, Tex-Mex food and UFOs. Retrace parts of historic Route 66 across three states! We go off-the-beaten track in three great American deserts, and for a few days explore the higher wooded countryside of the Colorado Plateau. Start with the Mojave Desert and Grand Canyon. Visit the two main cities of New Mexico—Albuquerque and Santa Fe, for a taste of Southwest culture. Then dive south into the sagebrush of southern New Mexico to Rosewell the UFO capital, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park. This is the Chihuahuan Desert! Hike Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas before spending a night in El Paso. Next up, White Sands National Monument and a variety of other cactus-y places all in the unforgiving Sonoran desert where keeping a careful eye out for rattlesnakes and drug smugglers is good advice! Visit Tucson, Arizona’s nicest big city and the quirky desert towns of Bisbee and Gila Bend before taking the road back to Vegas. Interesting places and stark landscapes abound, with nightlife opportunities in Las Vegas, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Tucson, and those lonely desert towns…

DAY 1: Las Vegas.

Arrive any time. HOTEL: Las Vegas, NV

DAY 2: Hoover Dam & Mojave Desert.

Tour starts. Explore the nearby Mojave Desert. HOTEL: [vicinity of] Kingman, AZ

DAY 3: Grand Canyon National Park.

Drive Route 66 to the Grand Canyon. Views & IMAX movie (included). Tusayan, AZ

DAY 4: Grand Canyon National Park.

Full day for hiking on your own in the Grand Canyon. HOTEL: Tusayan, AZ

DAY 5: Sedona.

Pass through Flagstaff and visit the beautiful redrock country of Sedona. HOTEL: Payson, AZ

DAY 6: Mogollon Rim.

Drive the high Mongollon Rim to a lake resort community. CABINS: Greer, AZ

DAY 7: Albuquerque.

Drive to Albuquerque. Visit ancient Indian pueblos and explore the city. HOTEL: Albuquerque, NM

DAY 8: Santa Fe.

Head north for the day to picturesque Santa Fe. HOTEL: Albuquerque, NM

DAY 9: Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Stop in Roswell, NM & visit the Carlsbad Caverns. HOTEL: Carlsbad, NM

DAY 10: Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

Hike the highest mountain in Texas! HOTEL: El Paso, TX

DAY 11: White Sands National Monument.

Drive day west, first visiting White Sands. HOTEL: Bisbee, AZ

DAY 12: Saguaro National Park & Tucson.

Explore southern Arizona, Saguaro National Park, and Tucson. HOTEL: Tucson, AZ

DAY 13: Organ Pipe National Monument.

Visit remote Organ Pipe National Monument on the Mexican border. HOTEL: Gila Bend, AZ

DAY 14: Las Vegas.

Return to Las Vegas, end of tour. HOTEL: Las Vegas, NV

Autumn 2013:  13 days / 14 nights

DAY 1:

Las Vegas.

Kick off the tour in the desert heat of Vegas!

DAY 2:

Hoover Dam & Mojave Desert.

Catch a glimpse of Hoover Dam, the highest dam in the world when built, as we enter the forbidding desert environs immediately outside of Las Vegas. A world apart, we’ll find time to hike before a fun night in a quirky town that time forgot.

DAY 3-4:

Grand Canyon National Park.

Retrace historic Route 66 to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. A full day for hiking in the Grand Canyon National Park, where you can take an exciting helicopter ride over the canyon (optional). Watch the Grand Canyon IMAX movie for a more thorough appreciation (included).

DAY 5:


Head south through Flagstaff and hike the red rocks outside of Sedona, Arizona. Here you will find Indian ruins, beautiful canyons, and picturesque mountain towns.

DAY 6:

Mogollon Rim.

Near the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau, we parallel the scenic views along the Mogollon Rim. Still in the high country, hike, horseback ride, or enjoy the day at a lake resort oasis in the tiny community of Greer, Arizona.

DAY 7-8:

Albuquerque & Santa Fe.

Two nights in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the biggest city in the state. Visit ancient Pueblos and eat the best Tex-Mex food anywhere! Tomorrow, a day trip up to Santa Fe, New Mexico, the oldest territorial capital in North America with charming plazas and a New Age vibe.

DAY 9:

Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Temperatures rise as the sagebrush rolls by on the way to Carlsbad, New Mexico, passing through Roswell (alien epicenter of America). Spend the afternoon in the famous Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

DAY 10:

Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

Hike in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, a spectacular desert mountain range in otherwise barren western Texas, before spending the night in El Paso.

DAY 11:

White Sands National Monument.

Visit White Sands National Monument, before heading west to copper mining town turned artists’ mecca, Bisbee, Arizona.

DAY 12:

Saguaro National Park / Tucson.

Explore some of southern Arizona (San Pedros River, Tombstone), before visiting Saguaro National Park outside Tucson, Arizona’s attractive second city.

DAY 13:

Organ Pipe National Monument.

Very close to the Mexican border, trek to Organ Pipe National Monument for a final dose of cactus, spending the night in a small desert town.

DAY 14:

Las Vegas.

Return to Las Vegas for a night out extravaganza!

What do I get for my money?

  • Included activities (see sidebar at right).
  • All ground transportation by climate-controlled van (maximum 13 persons).
  • Shared hotel accommodation (2+ stars) and cabins on all 14 nights.
  • Admission to all included national parks and recreation areas.
  • Services of an experienced tour leader.
  • Sandwich lunches on most days (excluding free days).

$2,500 USD   per person

Departure 1:

October 2013 calendar

  • OCTOBER 5, 2013 (saturday night arrival in Las Vegas) to OCTOBER 18, 2013 (trip ends on friday in Las Vegas.)


wildlife or nightlife?

GRAPH - Deserts of the Southwest Ranking Index

departure #1

  • OCTOBER 5, 2013 (saturday night arrival in Las Vegas) to OCTOBER 18, 2013 (trip ends on friday in Las Vegas.)

view brochure

View or save our brochure in PDF format:

our route

Deserts of the Southwest Itinerary Map

travel style

  • age range: 18+
  • accommodation: 13 nights hotels, 1 night cabins
  • group size: maximum 13 persons

Polaroid pic #3 Polaroid pic #1 Polaroid pic #2

make your own memories!

included activities

  • Grand Canyon IMAX movie
  • Admittance to Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
  • Vegas limo cruise on the Strip

further optional activities

  • Helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon
  • Horseback riding

major cities

  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • El Paso, Texas
  • Tuscon, Arizona

cultural heritage

  • Ancient Indian pueblos
  • UFO conspiracies
  • Wild West towns

national parks & monuments

  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park
  • Guadalupe Mountains National Park
  • White Sands National Monument
  • Saguaro National Park
  • Organ Pipe National Monument

national forests & recreation areas

  • Coconino National Forest, Mogollon Rim, Arizona