If you'd like to turn a trip to the Grand Canyon into an educational experience, the Grand Canyon Field Institute, P.O. Box 399, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023 (tel. 866/471-4435 or 928/638-2485; www.grandcanyon.org/fieldinstitute), offers a variety of programs throughout the year, but primarily from early spring to late fall. Examples include guided hikes and backpacking trips (some for women only) with a natural-history or ecological slant, photography classes, mule-assisted treks, rafting trips, and hands-on archaeology trips.
Learning Expeditions, a program run by the Arizona State Museum, occasionally offers scholar-led archaeological tours, including a trip to Navajo and Hopi country. For information, contact the marketing department at the Arizona State Museum, P.O. Box 210026, Tucson, AZ 85721-0026 (tel. 520/626-8381; www.statemuseum.arizona.edu).
Through its Ventures program, the Museum of Northern Arizona, 3101 N. Fort Valley Rd., Flagstaff, AZ 86001 (tel. 928/774-5213; www.mnaventures.org), offers educational camping, backpacking, and hotel-based tours primarily in the Colorado Plateau region of northern Arizona. Trips range in length from 1 to 6 days.
Old Pueblo Archaeology Center, P.O. Box 40577, Tucson, AZ 85717-0577 (tel. 520/798-1201; www.oldpueblo.org), is a nonprofit educational and scientific organization that throughout the years has led numerous archaeology-oriented trips around Arizona.
If you have an interest in the Native American cultures of Arizona, contact Crossing Worlds Journeys & Retreats, P.O. Box 3288, Sedona, AZ 86340 (tel. 800/350-2693 or 928/282-0846; www.crossingworlds.com), which offers tours throughout the Four Corners region. Trips visit the Hopi mesas as well as the Navajo Reservation. Journeys of self-discovery are a specialty of this company.
Finally, if you're interested in architecture or the ecology of urban design, you may want to help out on the continued construction of Arcosanti, the slow realization of Paolo Soleri's dream of a city that merges architecture and ecology. Located 70 miles north of Phoenix, Arcosanti offers 5-week learning-by-doing workshops ($1,350 per person) and 1-week seminars ($485 per person). Contact Arcosanti Workshop Coordinator, H.C. 74, Box 4136, Mayer, AZ 86333 (tel. 928/632-6233; www.arcosanti.org).
Because Arizona is home to the Grand Canyon -- the most widely known white-water-rafting spot in the world and also one of the world's premier backpacking destinations -- the state is known for active, adventure-oriented vacations. For others, Arizona is synonymous with winter golf and tennis.
Twice a year, Canyon Calling, Adventures for Women, 200 Carol Canyon Dr., Sedona, AZ 86336 (tel. 928/282-0916; www.canyoncalling.com), offers a 7-day women-only tour that visits the Grand Canyon, Sedona, the Hopi mesas, Canyon de Chelly, Lake Powell, Rainbow Bridge, and Havasu Canyon. The cost is $1,895 per person. There are also twice-yearly 5-day tours of the Sedona area for $1,595.
Food & Wine Trips
If you'd like to learn how to cook Southwestern cuisine while you're in Arizona, you have a couple of options around the state. In Tucson, celebrated local chef Janos Wilder offers 2-hour classes ($50 per person) at his eponymously named restaurant at the Westin La Paloma Resort. At Sedona's luxurious Enchantment Resort, there are cooking demonstrations offered several days a week.
The desert may not seem like wine country, but Arizona has such a diversity of climates that it actually has several separate wine regions. Tours to the central Arizona wine country near Sedona, the Elgin/Sonoita region, and to southeastern Arizona are offered by AZ Wine Tours (tel. 480/528-2834; www.azwinetours.com).
Guided & Package Tours
If you want to see the best of Arizona, but would rather not do all the logistical planning or driving, then you might want to consider a guided tour. Detours (tel. 866/438-6877; www.detoursaz.com) specializes in small-group tours throughout Arizona and other parts of the Southwest. One of its tours, Hillerman Country, is a 5-day journey through northern Arizona with a focus on spots that have been mentioned in Tony Hillerman novels about Navajo Tribal Police officers Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn. Open Road Tours (tel. 800/766-7117 or 602/997-6474; www.openroadtours.com) offers a variety of 1- to 4-day tours around the state. Most of these focus on the Grand Canyon. The British tour company Trek America (tel. 800/873-5872 or 844/576-1400 in the U.K.; www.trekamerica.com) specializes in off-the-beaten-path small-group adventure travel and offers tours of the American Southwest; most include stops at the Grand Canyon and other scenic locations in Arizona. For a tour of some of Arizona's and Utah's most spectacular scenery, check out the Southwest Splendor tour offered each year by High Point Tours (tel. 928/445-2639; www.ilivehistory.com). Company co-owner and guide Todd Weber, an experienced living-history presenter, highlights not only the area's fascinating geology but also its more colorful historical characters.
One great place to shop for Arizona vacation packages is at www.arizonavacationvalues.com, a website sponsored by the Arizona Office of Tourism (tel. 866/275-5816). This website is a clearinghouse for a wide variety of packages.
If you're coming to Arizona specifically to play golf, you might want to let a golf packager arrange your trip for you. For vacations in Scottsdale, contact Arizona Golf Packages (tel. 866/444-0992 or 602/910-6821; www.arizonagolfpackages.com). For vacations in Tucson, contact Tucson Golf Tours (tel. 866/444-0992; www.tucsongolftours.com).
Volunteer & Working Trips
If you enjoy the wilderness and want to get more involved in its preservation, consider a Sierra Club service trip. These trips are for building, restoring, and maintaining hiking trails in wilderness areas. Contact the Sierra Club Outings Dept., 85 Second St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105 (tel. 415/977-5522; www.sierraclub.org). The Sierra Club also offers hiking, camping, and other adventure trips to various destinations in Arizona.
You can also join a work crew organized by the Arizona Trail Association, P.O. Box 36736, Phoenix, AZ 85067-6736 (tel. 602/252-4794; www.aztrail.org). These crews spend 1 to 2 days building and maintaining various portions of the Arizona Trail, which stretches from the Utah state line to the Mexico border.
Another sort of service trip is offered by the National Park Service. It accepts volunteers to pick up garbage left by thoughtless visitors to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. In exchange for picking up trash, you'll get to spend 5 or 7 days on a houseboat called the Trash Tracker, cruising through the gorgeous canyonlands of Lake Powell. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old and in good physical condition, and must provide their own food, sleeping bag, and transportation to the marina. For information, contact Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Attn: Trash Tracker, P.O. Box 1507, Page, AZ 86040 (tel. 928/608-6350; www.nps.gov/glca/supportyourpark/trashtracker.htm).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.