Explore cities, deserts, forests and valleys on this action-packed adventure through America’s West

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.


Start
San Francisco, United States
Finish
San Francisco, United States
Country
United States
Style
Comfort
Theme
Explorer
Code
SSKNC
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

  • Release your inner sommelier during a tasting in the famous wine region of the Sonoma Valley. For something a little different, visit the nearby Jack London State Historic Park, which celebrates the life and home of the legendary writer among stunning scenery

  • Yosemite National Park feels like something out of the film 'The Land Before Time'. 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

  • 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

  • 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. Death Valley is extremely hot and dry (it's the hottest recorded place on Earth after all), so hiking in summer isn’t recommended.

  • Our vans do have air-conditioning, but it has to work pretty hard to keep a full group cool, so you may be hot. At other times of the year, it can be quite cold, especially at night. 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. The leader will manage the rooming so that people who have a problem with using outdoor bathrooms receive rooms inside.

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 San Francisco, USA. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • San Francisco Dinner Urban Adventure
Meals Included
  • Dinner
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 tours of San Francisco: 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 reserving 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 adventurer once called home. Spend the second night of the trip in Sonoma.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Jack London State Historic Park Entrance
  • Sonoma Wine Tasting
Optional Activities
  • Jack London Cottage - USD4
  • Sonoma Winery tour - USD10
Meals Included
  • Lunch
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 amazing to explore.
Accommodation
  • Motel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Yosemite National Park
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Enjoy a free day to explore Yosemite National Park. There are plenty of hikes to do, each varying in difficulty. Perhaps take a four to five 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 enjoy a few drinks at the local cafe.
Accommodation
  • Motel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Cycling in Yosemite Valley - USD12
  • Yosemite National Park Hikes - Free
  • Yosemite Raft Rental (seasonal) - USD30
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Continue driving through national parkland today, on your way south to Sequoia National Park. Today is a long day of driving (8-9 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Sequoia National Park
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Museum of Western Film History - USD5
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Death Valley National Park
Optional Activities
  • Death Valley National Park Hikes (seasonal) - Free
  • Scotty's Castle Tour - USD15
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
It's a short three-hour drive through Nevada today, to the glitzy desert city of Las Vegas. This city may be the gambling capital of the world, but if this isn'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. Head to a rooftop amusement park, 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Las Vegas Go-Karts - USD25
  • Las Vegas Helicopter Strip Tour - USD110
  • Las Vegas Limo (per group) - USD250
  • Roller Coaster - Las Vegas - USD14
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Use a free day in Vegas to see a show, further explore the casinos along the Strip or take part in an activity such as go-karting or a rollercoaster ride. 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 in the hotel lobby at 6 pm to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and to meet any new travellers that will be joining the group. Please ask your leader for the exact day, time and location of this meeting.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Roller Coaster - Las Vegas - USD14
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today, travel across the border into Utah and the spectacular landscapes of Zion National Park (approximately three hours). With its soaring cliffs and cascading waterfalls, there's a variety of trails to choose from and you'll have plenty of opportunity to explore. 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 along the way to Zion's 'beach'. If you're feeling ambitious enjoy the park's most famous challenge, Angels Landing. After a strenuous hike along the narrow ridge of the rocky cliffs, you'll be rewarded with a scenic 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 Hikes - Free
  • Narrows Hiking Gear Rental - USD25
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
In the morning take the short drive to Bryce Canyon, where you’ll have time for a brief hike amid the hoodoos. Continue onto Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch (approximately three hours in total). One mile away from the Painted Desert of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and two miles below the pine tree forested peaks of Boulder Mountain, this ranch will be your base for the next two nights. In the evening, have some dinner with the group and use the rest of the night to relax.
Accommodation
  • Ranchstay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
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 area. There may even be time to visit Capitol Reef National Park, which is around an hour's drive away. Once known as the Land of the Sleeping Rainbow to Native Indians, the mix of canyons and protruding rocks is a great place to explore. Head back to the ranch afterwards for an evening meal with the group.
Accommodation
  • Ranchstay (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Hiking - Free
  • Horse Riding - USD65
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
In the morning drive to the spectacular Monument Valley, which takes around four hours. As the biggest Indian reservation in the US, the valley is home to more than 200,000 enrolled members of the Navajo Tribe. Explore the giant sandstone formations that are scattered across the desert, while witnessing the ever-changing colour of the landscape. In the evening travel by jeep through the Monument Valley, led by a Navajo guide. You'll then join the tribespeople around the campfire for an authentic Navajo dinner, before listening to some of their traditional songs and stories.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Monument Valley Tribal Park Entry Fee
  • Jeep Tour and Navajo Dinner
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
In the morning, take the three to four hour drive to the Grand Canyon. This is one of the great highlights of the trip and you'll be spending two nights here. Discover why this place is one of the largest canyon systems in the world, by strolling along the South Rim Trail, hiking to Plateau Point or perhaps opt for a scenic helicopter flight over the canyon. There's plenty of things to see and do during your time here, so be prepared for busy and active days.
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, including a selection of hikes and the chance to watch an IMAX film. Your leader will provide you with the details. In the evening, perhaps sit back and enjoy the sunset behind the red peaks.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Helicopter flight (25 mins) - USD244
  • Helicopter flight (45 mins) - USD295
  • Grand Canyon hiking - Free
  • 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 5-6 hours). Sitting between the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, the park is ideal for hiking because of its striking rock formations, yuccas and natural springs. Perhaps look into the possibility of mountain biking or rock climbing, or simply take in the scenery. Spend the night in a hotel nearby.
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
  • Breakfast
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
  • Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa - USD3
  • Bubblegum Alley - Free
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Continue the coastal part of your journey up the Pacific Coast Highway towards Monterey, which usually takes just over three hours. The views along this route are spectacular, particularly around Big Sur, where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise dramatically out of the Pacific Ocean. Stop in the area for a picnic lunch and to take some pictures, before continuing on to Monterey. On arrival into town, check in to your hotel and perhaps head out on an optional activity. Paddle a kayak around the bay, do some whale spotting or visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The rest of the evening is then free to do as you wish.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park
Optional Activities
  • Bike rental - USD20
  • Kayak rental - USD30
  • Hearst Castle - USD25
Meals Included
  • Lunch
Today you'll have some free time to explore Monterey, before driving to San Francisco in the afternoon (approximately 2-3 hours). You should arrive into the city at around 5 pm, but please don't book any flights out of San Francisco until after 8 pm. This will give you plenty of time to get to the airport in time.
Included Activities
  • Temples, Tea, & Beatniks Urban Adventure
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

7 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 5 dinners

Transport

Private vehicle

Accommodation

Hotel (13 nights), Motel (4 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
  • Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park
  • Temples, Tea, & Beatniks Urban Adventure

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. A single supplement is available on this trip.
2. This trip finishes in San Francisco at approximately 5pm on day 20.

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 America's Western Wonders trips score an average of 4.43 out of 5 based on 7 reviews in the last year.

America's Western Wonders, October 2016

Nicole McFarlane

America's Western Wonders, July 2016

David England