Capture the extraordinary beauty of Grand Canyon National Park on a hiking adventure with a National Geographic photographer. Photograph a wide spectrum of colors and landscapes as you hike the North and South Rims. Go on an overnight photo shoot in the stunning oasis of Havasu Canyon, hiking through a red-rock labyrinth to turquoise pools and waterfalls that tumble over travertine terraces. Catch the shifting light of sunset as it paints striped canyons rich shades of red and gold. Get a new angle on the geological formations that make the Grand Canyon one of the most magnificent natural wonders of the world.
Hone your landscape photography skills with National Geographic photographer Steven Alvarez while hiking the less-traveled trails of the North and South Rim.
Venture into Havasu Canyon to photograph its spectacular red-rock formations and cascading turquoise waters.
Zoom in on the canyon's wildlife, from condors to desert bighorn sheep.
Hike into a slot canyon with a Navajo guide, and take portraits of members of the Havasupai tribe.
Itinerary - 9 Days
Day 1 — Las Vegas, Nevada
Arrive in Las Vegas and transfer to our hotel. Gather for a trip orientation and welcome dinner this evening. Hyatt Place Las Vegas (D)
Day 2 — Grand Canyon/North Rim
Our drive this morning crosses the Arizona Strip, where deep canyons and unusual rock formations make for great photography before we even reach the Grand Canyon. Arrive at the North Rim, where the higher altitude supports dense forests of pine, fir, and aspen, a striking contrast to the arid landscape of the South Rim. At Point Imperial, enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking the canyon and enjoy a first chance to photograph its spectacular swirling chasm. Embark on a short warm-up hike to the Grand Canyon Lodge, perched on the canyon's edge. In the late afternoon light, head out from our lodge to take shots of the magnificent landscape. (2 miles hiking, 1 hour) Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim (B,L,D)
Day 3 — North Kaibab Trail
After breakfast, set out on a hike below the rim on the North Kaibab Trail, working on different aspects of landscape photography as we pass through several geological layers and life zones. If you wish, turn around at an earlier point and spend the afternoon photographing the breathtaking viewpoints along Cape Royal Road. Or continue on a more challenging descent to Roaring Springs, where we’ll picnic beside the waterfall before hiking back up. (5-10 miles hiking, 2-5 hours) Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Vermillion Cliffs/Antelope Canyon/Horseshoe Bend
Drive to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, making photo stop at several scenic points along the way. At the Vermillion Cliffs, look for reintroduced California condors. Spend time framing the sinuous sandstone waves at Antelope Canyon, one of the most photographed slot canyons in the country, and explore the canyon with a Navajo guide. Later, take a short hike to Horseshoe Bend overlook to photograph the looping Colorado River below red cliffs. Stop at the Cameron Trading Post for dinner, then continue to our lodge at the South Rim. (2-4 miles hiking, 3 hours) Thunderbird Lodge (B,L)
Day 5 — South Kaibab Trail
We have two hiking options today, both full of photographic opportunities. Descend the steep switchbacks of the South Kaibab Trail, passing ancient strata layers and panoramic viewpoints on our way to Cedar Ridge. Or hike the West Rim Trail skirting the South Rim. Enjoy a picnic lunch while learning about the ecosystems and geology of the park. Train your lens on the canyon's wildlife, including mule deer, desert bighorn sheep, condors, and more. Tonight, head out on a photo walk to capture the canyon at sunset from some of the best viewpoints on the South Rim. (3-7 miles hiking, 2-4 hours) Thunderbird Lodge (L,D)
Day 6 — Havasu Canyon/Havasu Falls
A morning drive brings us to Hualapai Hilltop (4,849′) where we embark on a 10-mile hike into Havasu Canyon. Red-rock walls rise overhead as we descend through a series of switchbacks. Near the canyon floor, the rocky terrain opens into a wide plain shaded by cottonwood and willow trees. Visit the village of Supai, home to both the Havasupai tribe and the only U.S. post office that still uses pack mules. Spend time with tribe members and hone your portraiture skills. Then follow the banks of Havasu Creek to our base camp, passing through incredible scenery. After a refreshing dip in the pools of Havasu Falls, take advantage of the late sun to capture the exquisite contrast of cascading turquoise water, deep red rocks, and lush greenery. (10 miles hiking, 4-5 hours) Camping (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Mooney Falls/Beaver Falls
Awaken for a photo shoot as the sun rises over the canyon. Then head out on a hike to the spectacular Mooney Falls, which drop about 200 feet into travertine-lined pools. This area is home to desert bighorn sheep, Gila monsters, and rare bird species including peregrine falcons. Stop to photograph this breathtaking spot and relax on shore, or continue hiking to Beaver Falls. (3-9 miles hiking, 2-5 hours) Camping (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Carbonate Canyon
Set out on a morning hike through Carbonate Canyon, looking for fossils among its narrow slots. In the afternoon, relax at our camp and review your shots, or hike to two newer falls formed by a flood in 2008. At the base of the picturesque falls, swim in blue-green pools surrounded by a dramatic red-rock amphitheater. Tonight, celebrate our photo adventure at a festive farewell dinner. (2-6 miles hiking, 2-3 hours) Camping (B,L)
Day 9 — Havasu Canyon/Las Vegas
This morning, begin our ascent back to the canyon rim, photographing whimsical rock formations and sculpted red cliffs as we hike. An optional helicopter or horseback ride can also be arranged for those who would rather not make the steep climb. Return to Las Vegas this afternoon and depart on your flight home. (10 miles hiking, 4-5 hours) (B,L)
National Geographic Active Expeditions are unique, active itineraries for intrepid travelers that combine spectacular places, cultural interaction, and physical challenge. You'll explore fascinating, off-the-beaten-path places with top guides, and wherever possible, meet National Geographic experts in the field.
Photographer and filmmaker Stephen Alvarez has published more than a dozen feature stories for National Geographic's magazines, covering exploration, culture, religion, and the aftermath of conflict. Stephen has reported on the discovery of the Ice Maiden in the high Andes of Peru, conservation in the roadless jungles of Suriname, rain forest research in Costa Rica, and cave exploration in Borneo, Mexico, Belize, Papua New Guinea, Canada, and the United States. His images have won awards in Pictures of the Year International and Communication Arts, and have been exhibited at Visa Pour L'Image in Perpignan, France. Recent appearances include NPR, PBS, and CBS Sunday Morning.
We will be hiking 1 to 5 hours per day (2 to 10 miles) on moderate to steep grades and at elevations ranging from 3,000 feet to a maximum of 8,200 feet. Most days have options for more, or less, hiking. A horse and mule team will transport our gear during our trek in Havasu Canyon. We will spend 3 nights camping in spacious tents in a base camp situated on the banks of Havasu creek and 5 nights in National Park lodges and hotels that combine comfort and ideal locations.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
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