Discover deserts, national parks, forests and cities on this southwestern America trip

Cities, deserts, forests, canyons, valleys and the gambling capital of the world make up this larger-than-life journey through America’s West. Start slowly in the City by the Bay before lacing up your boots (and filling up your water bottle) and hiking through some of the most spectacular national parks this part of the world has to offer: Yosemite, Sequoia and Joshua Tree. Stay hydrated in Death Valley (it’s one of the hottest places on earth), gamble in Vegas, scramble to Angel’s Landing in Zion (not for the faint-hearted) and take a perfect picture as the sun sets over the Grand Canyon. This is America in all its rugged, dusty, splendid glory.

$1 Deposit on trips

Commit to your dream trip for just a $1 deposit

Terms & Conditions

Start
Las Vegas, United States
Finish
San Francisco, United States
Country
United States
Style
Comfort
Theme
Explorer
Code
SSKQC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 13

Why we love this trip

  • Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch is a true retreat from the bright lights of the city. Unwind as your hosts cook up gourmet meals in the heart of the wilderness

  • Explore the spectacular red desert formations of Monument Valley during a sunset jeep ride. End a day of adventure sharing tacos and stories by the campfire with members of America’s largest recognised tribe - the Navajo. This is a unique opportunity to learn more about Native American culture and history

  • Spend two nights at the Grand Canyon, allowing for plenty of free time to explore the canyon and partake in adventurous optional activities such as hiking or a helicopter flight

  • The journey up the Pacific Coast Highway and through Big Sur is one of the most scenic in the world. Sit back and enjoy the spectacular views while someone else does the driving

  • An Urban Adventure tour around San Francisco’s Chinatown and North Beach areas offers a unique introduction to this exciting city. Learn to make your own fortune cookie, explore the city's oldest temple and discover the history of the Beat Generation

Is this trip right for you?

  • Road tripping is the ultimate way to see the US, and scenic drives are a big part of this adventure’s focus. It's a very big country, so on a short trip expect to spend a lot of time driving in the van, rather than lots of time in each destination. Distances may be much longer than what you're used to (especially if coming from Europe). Long driving days though, while a little cramped, are perfect for soaking up the spectacular scenery, getting to know your fellow travellers, and breaking out that new book or album.

  • Los Angeles is one of the most car-heavy cities in the world and so, along with San Francisco, traffic can be hectic – especially during the holiday period. Take any delays in your stride and get your best car game ready to play.

  • Be prepared for a mix of extreme temperatures. Bryce Canyon is deceptively high and can see flurries of snow, while Zion National Park is usually hot and sunny. Be prepared for all weather conditions, especially outside of the July/August summer months. Pack warm clothes for the cold, sun protection and layers for the heat. It’s best to carefully consider the season and weather conditions to determine the best time to travel for you.

  • The accommodation at Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch is mixed and some rooms have outdoor bathrooms. Groups may be split between the main house, outdoor cabins, or even teepees. Your leader will manage the rooming so that people who have a problem with using outdoor bathrooms receive rooms inside.

Itinerary

Welcome to the USA. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting in the hotel lobby at 6 pm. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

As there's a great deal to do in Las Vegas, we recommend you arrive a few days early to make the most of this exciting city. Try your luck on the casino floors, hit the shops, soak up the glitz and gaudiness of the strip or catch one of the many shows on offer.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time for the welcome meeting, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL
If you are interested in seeing a Cirque du Soleil show before your trip, you can book discounted tickets in advance at http://cirk.me/intrepid.
Today, travel across the border into Utah and the spectacular landscapes of Zion National Park (approximately three hours). There's a variety of trails to choose from and you'll have plenty of opportunity to explore among the park's soaring cliffs and cascading waterfalls. Warm up with a gentle walk to the lower end of the Emerald Pools. Continue onto the upper end of the pools, passing a waterfall on the way to Zion's 'beach'. If you're feeling ambitious, perhaps enjoy the park's most famous challenge: Angels Landing. After a strenuous hike along the narrow ridge of the cliffs, you'll be rewarded with a panorama of the red landscape. Please be aware that this isn't for the faint-hearted and requires a moderate level of fitness.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Zion National Park
Optional Activities
  • Zion National Park - Hiking - Free
  • Zion - Narrows Hiking Gear Rental - USD25
  • Zion - River Tubing (seasonal) - USD15
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
In the morning drive to Bryce Canyon, where you’ll have time for a short hike. Millions of years of wind and water erosion have formed the park's distinctive hoodoos - uniquely shaped rock spires rising out of the red desert. Continue onto Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch, where you'll be staying for the next two nights. Today's total driving time will be about four to five hours. In the evening, enjoy an included dinner with the group on the ranch and use the rest of the night to relax.
Accommodation
  • Ranchstay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
Optional Activities
  • Bryce Canyon National Park - Hiking - Free
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Today is a free day to enjoy at the ranch. After breakfast, perhaps take an optional horse ride or go for a hike in the surrounding Dixie Forest. Otherwise just relax on the veranda and take in the breathtaking scenery. Breakfast and dinner are included at the ranch and are sure to be a highlight. There is a kitchen on site and they specialise in (large) locally-sourced organic meals made from scratch.
Accommodation
  • Ranchstay (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch - Hiking - Free
  • Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch - Horse Riding - USD65
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
In the morning make the six-hour drive to the spectacular Monument Valley. There may be time to visit the cliffs, canyons and domes of Capitol Reef National Park on the way.

Monument Valley is part of the biggest Indian reservation in the USA, home to more than 200,000 enrolled members of the Navajo Tribe. Explore the giant sandstone formations scattered across the desert, witnessing the ever-changing colour of the landscape. In the evening, travel by jeep through the Monument Valley with a Navajo guide. Join the locals for an authentic Navajo dinner around a campfire and listen to their traditional songs and stories.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Monument Valley Tribal Park Entry Fee
  • Monument Valley - Jeep Tour and Navajo Dinner
  • Capitol Reef National Park
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
In the morning, make the 3-4 hour drive to the Grand Canyon, one of the largest canyon systems in the world. This a real highlight of the trip, so you'll be spending two nights here. Perhaps take a stroll along the South Rim Trail or hike to Skeleton Point. There's plenty to see and do during your time here.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Grand Canyon National Park
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is a free day to explore the Grand Canyon. There are plenty of optional activities to take part in - your leader will provide you with the details. Take a hike around the canyon or if you're feeling extra adventurous, opt for a helicopter flight over the area. In the evening, sit back and enjoy the sunset behind the red peaks.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Grand Canyon - Helicopter flight (45 mins) - USD295
  • Grand Canyon - Hiking - Free
  • Grand Canyon - IMAX movie - USD15
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
In the morning, take the long drive to Joshua Tree National Park (approximately 7-8 hours). Sitting between the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, the park is home to striking rock formations, many species of cacti and varied desert wildlife such as coyotes, lizards and bighorn sheep. Spend the night in a nearby hotel.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Joshua Tree National Park
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
After breakfast take the short drive to Los Angeles, which takes just over two hours. On arrival in the afternoon, venture out on a half-day sightseeing tour of LA with an Urban Adventure. The rest of the day is then free to do as you please. Perhaps take a stroll around the streets of Hollywood and Beverley Hills, or head to Venice Beach for some sea and sand. It can get really busy at the beach, so watch out for skaters, bikes and skateboarders speeding past as you approach the sands.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Los Angeles - Urban Adventure
Meals Included
  • Lunch
Special Information
As this is a combination trip, your leader and the composition of your group may change at this point. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary. You're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new travel companions.
In the morning, drive north to your first stop of the day at Santa Barbara (approximately 1-2 hours). The traffic around Los Angeles can be very bad so please be prepared for delays. You'll have some free time to explore the charming town of Santa Barbara before continuing up the coast to Pismo Beach where we stay the night. Spend the rest of the afternoon walking along the beach, swimming in the ocean, or take a trip to the nearby town of San Luis Obispo - the happiest town in the USA. Optional activities here include a visit to the Spanish mission of San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, a hike up to Bishop's Peak or a stroll around the farmers' market.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Santa Barbara - Mission - USD8
  • Santa Barbara - Beaches - Free
  • San Luis Obispo - Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa - USD3
  • San Luis Obispo - Bubblegum Alley - Free
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning jump on Highway 101 and head north towards Monterey. After a picnic lunch at Lover's Point, turn south and drive down Highway 1 as far as possible, stopping at Pfeiffer State Beach for some classic coastline views. The Highway here has been impacted by recent heavy rains and travel will be restricted by maintenance works. Head back to Monterey afterwards. On arrival into town, check in to your hotel and perhaps head out on an optional activity. Perhaps sign up for some whale spotting or visit Steinbeck's Cannery Row. The rest of the evening is free to do as you please.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Monterey - Bike rental - USD20
  • Monterey - Kayak rental - USD30
  • San Luis Obispo - Hearst Castle - USD25
  • Monterey - Cannery Row - Free
  • Monterey - Monterey Bay Aquarium - USD50
Meals Included
  • Lunch
Special Information
ITINERARY CHANGE - HIGHWAY 1 CLOSURE

Due to recent heavy rains, Highway 1 along the California coast has been closed between Ragged Point and Notleys Landing. Mudslides have caused a bridge to collapse and sections of the road have become unstable. It is expected that this closure will remain in effect for the whole year. While this closure is in place, instead of driving along the coast the tour will take Highway 101 inland, past Monterey, and then drive down the coast as far as possible so that you can see some of the Big Sur coast from the north. The rest of the day will then be spent in Monterey.

MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM

At Intrepid we have a strong commitment to animal welfare. We only visit facilities involving wild animals in captivity if the rationale for the sanctuary operation is in the best interests of the animals involved. We have listed as an optional activity a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in support of the conservation and education programs run by the Aquarium an
Head to San Francisco this morning, arriving into the city around lunchtime. This afternoon take part in the Temples, Tea and Beatniks Urban Adventure day tour. During the tour you'll make your own fortune cookie in Chinatown, explore the city's oldest temple and discover the Beatniks of North Beach.

Your Highlights of Southwestern USA trip comes to an end after the tour, and you're free to depart at anytime.
Included Activities
  • San Francisco - Temples, Tea, & Beatniks Urban Adventure
Optional Activities
  • San Francisco - Adventure Cat Bay Cruise - USD45
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
As there's a great deal to do in San Francisco, we recommend you stay a couple of extra days to make the most of the city. This trip doesn't allow time for a visit to Alcatraz, so you'll need to make your own arrangements to visit the island prison. Tickets must be booked in advance, as they're limited and sell out quickly.

Notes: You can make your own Alcatraz reservations online at alcatrazcruises.com or call +1 415 981 7625 between the hours of 8 am and 7 pm, Pacific Standard Time (USA). We recommend booking your tickets for the day after the trip finishes. If you need help booking extra accommodation, our reservations team will be happy to assist (subject to availability). Also consider doing our one-day sightseeing tours of San Francisco through urbanadventures.com.

Meals

3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 dinners

Transport

Private vehicle

Accommodation

Hotel (7 nights), Motel (2 nights)

Included activities

  • Zion National Park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Monument Valley Tribal Park Entry Fee
  • Monument Valley - Jeep Tour and Navajo Dinner
  • Capitol Reef National Park
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Los Angeles - Urban Adventure
  • San Francisco - Temples, Tea, & Beatniks Urban Adventure

Dates & availability

Trip search is unavailable.

There are currently no scheduled departures on our Highlights of Southwestern USA trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.

Jump to a departure month
Earn Qantas Points on trips over $1000* Find out more

Important notes

1. A single supplement is available on this trip.
2. This trip finishes in San Francisco at approximately 5pm on day 12.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

Reviews

Our Highlights of Southwestern USA trips score an average of 5 out of 5 based on 3 reviews in the last year.

Highlights of Southwestern USA, July 2017

Angela Cruden

Highlights of Southwestern USA, August 2016

Luke Viney