Experience the contrasts of the West; from overflowing cities to wild deserts and forests

Explore all the natural and urban beauty that western US offers. Spend time in the big parks of the States – Yosemite, Sequoia, Zion, Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon – which means there’s a new landscape around every corner: from huge sculpted cliffs and monster trees to alien deserts filled with strange rocks and massive sand dunes. Sip wine in Sonoma, spend time with a Native America tribe and giddy up on a horse ride through the Old West. Overload your senses in ‘Sin City’ Las Vegas and relax in the city of Angels.

Start
San Francisco, United States
Finish
Los Angeles, United States
Countries
United States
Themes
Explorer
Code
SSKPC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 13
Carbon offset
0kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • While other trips breeze through spectacular Yosemite National Park in a day, on this adventure you'll spend two nights in the park, allowing for a full day of hiking and exploring. With its pine forests, waterfalls and dramatic granite cliff faces, Yosemite feels like something out of 'The Land Before Time'
  • Don't let the name fool you. With its water-sculpted canyons, extinct volcanic craters, palm-shaded oases and salt flats, Death Valley is rich in natural beauty and endemic wildlife, and is often a highlight of the trip
  • Walk among 2,000-year-old trees as tall as skyscrapers in Sequoia National Park. Think of all the things they must have seen in that time
  • Due to popular demand from past travellers, spend time in California's Joshua Tree National Park. The park's rugged desert scenery, natural cactus gardens and lush oases mark the meeting place of the Mojave and Sonora deserts
  • Get away from it all at the stunning Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch. Indulge in delicious home-cooked meals and marvel at a pure night sky far from the city lights

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Welcome to the US of A! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting today at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so ensure you bring these details to provide to your leader. If you're going to be late, please inform hotel reception. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time for today's welcome meeting, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend.

This evening head out with the group on an Urban Adventures tour, which includes a guided walk through San Francisco's famous Chinatown district and dinner at a local restaurant. San Francisco is a chilled-out city with a vibrant, multicultural heart.
Special Information
Notes: As there's very little time spent in San Francisco on this trip, we recommend you arrive a few days early to see the sights. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). Consider doing our one-day sightseeing tour of San Francisco through urbanadventures.com.

This trip doesn't allow time for a visit to Alcatraz, so you'll need to make your own arrangements if you want to see the island prison. Tickets must be booked in advance as they sell out quickly and numbers are limited. You can make your reservations online at alcatrazcruises.com or by calling +1415 981 7625 between the hours of 8 am and 7 pm, Pacific Standard Time (USA). We recommend you reserve your tickets for the day before the tour commences.
This morning hit the road out of San Francisco and drive north to the beautiful Sonoma Valley wine region. The small town of Sonoma was the site of the rebellion which paved the way for California's independence from Mexico. Enjoy lunch, a wine tasting and an optional winery tour at a local vineyard. Explore the historic buildings and scenic trails of nearby Jack London State Park, the area the famous writer and adventure once called home. Spend the second night of the trip in Sonoma.
Today is a long day of driving (approximately seven hours) as you head east to Yosemite National Park, where you'll spend the next two nights. Featuring sequoia forests, granite cliff faces and waterfalls, the scenery in this World Heritage-listed park is breathtaking.
Enjoy a free day to explore Yosemite National Park. There are plenty of hikes to do, each varying in difficulty. Perhaps take a 4-5 hour hike to the base of Nevada Fall, or a short and easy walk to the serene Mirror Lake. Keep an eye out for squirrels (and perhaps even a bear) along the way. You might like to hire a bike and cycle around Yosemite Valley, stopping by the park's museum, photo gallery, shops and restaurants on the way. In the heat of summer, float down the Merced River on a raft and then enjoy a few drinks at the local cafe.
Continue driving through national parkland today on your way south to Sequoia National Park. Today is a long day of driving (close to eight-and-a-half hours in total), but the spectacular scenery will keep you distracted. Feel small as you explore the Giant Forest of sequoias and redwoods, which contains approximately half of the planet's largest trees. The General Sherman tree is not only the largest living tree in the world, but also the largest living organism.
Leave the forest for the desert today as you drive south to Death Valley (approximately six hours). On our first night here we stay in the town of Lone Pine, not far from the entrance to Death Valley. Here there's the option to visit the Museum of Western Film History, which celebrates the many movies that have been filmed in the area, such as Iron Man, Django Unchained, How The West Was Won, and True Grit.
This morning we drive the short distance into Death Valley National Park. Death Valley National Park is a geologically rich area, featuring huge sand dunes, canyons, sculpted rocks, valleys and volcanic craters. Elevations fluctuate from 85 metres below sea level near Badwater Point (the lowest point in the USA) to 3756 metres above sea level at Telescope Peak. Death Valley is extremely hot and dry, so pack plenty of water. Perhaps hike up to Dante's View for amazing vistas over the valley. Check out Ubehebe Crater or find a shady trail through Mosaic Canyon. You might like to take a guided historical tour of Scotty's Castle, named after Walter Scott, or brave the heat of the Badlands. 
After exploring the park, we drive out the other side of Death Valley and spend the night on the Nevada side.
It's a short three-hour drive through Nevada today to the glitzy desert city of Las Vegas. Las Vegas may be the gambling capital of the world, but if the pokies aren't your thing, there's a lot more to do in town. Wander along the Strip past impersonators, billboards and hotels, checking out the Bellagio fountain show. Hit the chain stores or lose all sense of time exploring the gaudy interiors of The Venetian, Caesars Palace and New York-New York hotels. In the evening, join up with the group for an included buffet dinner, Vegas style. If you're up for it, see an after dinner show or hit up a nightclub.
Spend a free day in Las Vegas seeing a show, further exploring the casinos on The Strip or riding the go-karts and roller coasters at the Adventuredome theme park.
Special Information
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
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.
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 three hours. In the evening, enjoy an included dinner with the group on the ranch and use the rest of the night to relax.
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. There may even be time to visit the cliffs, canyons and domes of Capitol Reef National Park, which is about an hour's drive away. The park is situated in the Waterpocket Fold, a geological 'wrinkle' in the earth. All of your meals are included today.
In the morning make the four-hour drive to the spectacular Monument Valley. The biggest Indian reservation in the USA, the valley is 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 local tribespeople for an authentic Navajo dinner around a campfire and listen to their traditional songs and stories.
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 Plateau Point. There's plenty to see and do during your time here.
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.
In the morning, take the long drive to Joshua Tree National Park (approximately 5-6 hours). Sitting between the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, the park is ideal for hiking and is home to striking rock formations. Perhaps look into the possibility of mountain biking or rock climbing, or simply walk around and take in the scenery. Spend the night in a nearby hotel.
After breakfast, take the short drive to Los Angeles. On arrival in the afternoon, go on a half-day Urban Adventure sightseeing tour of LA with the group. The rest of the day is free to as you please. Perhaps take a stroll around the streets of Hollywood and Beverley Hills, or head to Venice Beach for a dose of sea, sand and eccentric boardwalk characters. It can get really busy at the beach, so watch out for skaters, bikes and skateboarders speeding past.
Your National Parks adventure comes to an end this morning. There are no more activities planned and you're able to depart the accommodation at any time.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
7 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 5 dinners
Transport
Private vehicle
Accommodation
Hotel (15 nights), Motel (2 nights)
Included activities
  • San Francisco Dinner Urban Adventure
  • Jack London State Historic Park Entrance
  • Sonoma Wine Tasting
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Sequoia National Park
  • Death Valley National Park
  • Zion National Park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Monument Valley Tribal Park Entry Fee
  • Jeep Tour and Navajo Dinner
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Los Angeles Urban Adventure

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Important notes

1. A single supplement is available on this trip.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide 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.

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Reviews

Our USA National Parks Explorer trips score an average of 5 out of 5 based on 6 reviews in the last year.

USA National Parks Explorer , August 2016

USA National Parks Explorer , August 2016