Explore the USA from New Orleans to San Francisco
Set out eastbound across the USA's great southwest for a sampling of the classic American road trip. Journey from the vibrant jazz and colourful Creole scene of New Orleans through the deserts of New Mexico to the Carlsbad Caverns and Santa Fe's artsy hub. Learn about Anasazi Indian culture in Mesa Verde National Park, be dwarfed by the towering sandstone structures of Monument Valley, live it up in Las Vegas then wander through Death Valley and into the wilds of Yosemite. With a perfect blend of natural wonders and urban treasures, this is the perfect trip for understanding the diversities and contrasts that make up this larger-than-life nation.
Learn about the ancient culture and history of the Anasazi Indians on a visit to Mesa Verde National Park, home to 600 traditional Indian cliff dwellings
San Antonio is a little piece of Mexico in the USA. Visit the World Heritage-listed Alamo, an 18th-century mission and fortress, and take a stroll along the lively San Antonio River Walk
The oldest capital in the US, sunny Santa Fe has an ancient history, a contemporary heart and a desert soul. With its adobe architecture and colourful art scene, it's not hard to see why Santa Fe's eccentric locals refer to their home as the 'City Different'
The Grand Canyon National Park needs no introduction. Unlike most trips, you'll spend two nights in the park so there's a full day to explore properly. See the mighty canyon up close on a variety of hikes or take a helicopter flight
Towering granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls, redwood forests and epic night skies - Yosemite National Park feels like utopia. While other tour groups breeze through in a day, you'll spend two nights in the park, allowing for a full day of hiking and exploring
For many, Death Valley conjures up images of a flat and barren wasteland. Be surprised by the park's ethereal landscapes of sand dunes, water-sculpted canyons, extinct volcanic craters and, in the spring, fields of wildflowers
With its 'out-there' culture and wild nightlife, Las Vegas really deserves a decent stay. You'll have a full day and two nights to make the most of this awesome city
Although the long drives through the desert can be uncomfortable and trying at times, they also have their rewards. Enjoy the spectacular views on your classic American road trip
This is a participatory trip. That’s a fancy way of saying you’re not just along for the ride – you’re part of a team! You know the phrase ‘the more you put in, the more you get out’. Well that’s extra true on this trip. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and help out with camp activities like food prep and washing up. It’s all about giving your new travel mates a hand – everyone knows there’s nothing worse than trying to put up a tent on your own!
That teamwork also extends to our optional food kitty of approximately US$10 per day, run to cover the cost of meals. This kitty saves you worrying about stuff like where to get food or what exactly sales tax is, and actually helps keep your costs down. Instead of paying individually as you go, it means we can bulk purchase items and cook our own food – though there’s always the chance to use it for the occasional pizza night! The kitty is optional and for your convenience, so if you've got specific dietary requirements you can opt out and purchase (and cook) your own food.
The United States is a world of endless possibilities – that’s why our Basix trips are designed so they fit together as (not quite endless) combinations. That means while you might just be starting your trip, some of your new travel mates may have been travelling together for a week or more (and so have some great tips for you). You can see how our trips fit together and all the different possible combinations at www.intrepidtravel.com/brochures. Simply click view/download on the North America brochure and look at the combo map on page 12.
Death Valley in the summer is extremely hot and dry. It does hold the record as the hottest place on earth after all. Hiking at this time of year isn't recommended. Sometimes in mid-summer we may be unable to visit the Valley itself if we feel that the heat presents a safety risk.
The USA is a big country. Distances between destinations may be longer than what you're used to, especially if you're coming from Europe. The drive across Texas on Day 4, for example, is around seven-and-a-half hours. Expect to spend a lot of time in the van.
As you'll be spending a fair amount of time in a van with other travellers, so conditions may feel a little cramped. This is all part of the adventure of a US road trip, however, and you might even make some long-term friends.
Although our vans do have air conditioning, it has to work pretty hard to keep a full group cool. Expect to feel hot during summer and cold at other times of the year, especially at night. Please consider the season and research the weather conditions to determine the best time to travel for you. Remember to come prepared with adequate clothing.
While you'll make an overnight stop in the city of Houston, it will be a fairly quick one, so you might not get to see everything you want to see. It's important to make the most of your time while you're here.
On your visit to Mesa Verde National Park, you'll be able to take a short walk around the area, but there won't be a lot of opportunity for longer hikes.
From the steep hiking trails of the various national parks to the towering hills of San Francisco, this trip can involve a lot of walking. Please ensure you bring sturdy walking shoes and comfortable clothes. To make the most of the trip, it's best if you have at least a moderate level of fitness.
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There are currently no scheduled departures on our Best of America's Southwest trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.
1. This trip finishes on arrival into San Francisco in the afternoon on day 5.