Amazing America, the Unbelievable US, the Stunning States – from west to south, this trips shows why these names are so right

Find a chain of magnificent national parks linking California, Arizona and New Mexico – Yosemite, Death Valley, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Mesa Verde – it’s hard to believe that such diversity can be found in one nation. Then travel through the south to unique New Orleans. Meet hipsters in San Francisco, Elvis impersonators in Vegas and members of the Navajo Tribe in Monument Valley. Indulge in a shot of wheatgrass in California, nachos in Texas, and gumbo in New Orleans. Discover a new story in every state on a journey you’ll never want to end.

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Terms & Conditions

Start
San Francisco, United States
Finish
New Orleans, United States
Country
United States
Style
Basix
Theme
Explorer
Code
SSOPC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 13

Why we love this trip

  • 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

  • The iconic sandstone formations of Monument Valley have played backdrop to many a cowboy western. Learn about Navajo culture and history during a jeep tour of the park, before spending a unique night in a traditional hogan hut

Is this trip right for you?

  • 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.

  • Traffic in and out of the big cities like San Francisco can be hectic, especially during the holiday period. There may be delays, so be prepared to take part in car games to keep you entertained.

  • You'll be travelling in a van with a group of travellers, so conditions may feel a little cramped. This is all part of the adventure, however, and you might even make some long-term friends.

  • 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. There are many long days of driving, so expect to spend a lot of time in the van.

  • 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.

  • From the steep hiking trails of the various national parks to the towering hills of San Francisco, this trip involves 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.

  • 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.

Itinerary

Welcome to the USA! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting in the hotel lobby at 6pm on day 1. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, 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). 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.

San Francisco is a chilled-out city with a vibrant, multicultural heart. You can catch a tram to visit the waterfront, feast like a king in Chinatown or peruse zany artwork in SoMa.

As there's no 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 (see www.urbanadventures.com).
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
This trip doesn't allow time for a visit to Alcatraz, so you'll need to make your own arrangements to visit. Tickets must be booked in advance as they sell out quickly and tickets are limited. You can make your reservations online: http://www.alcatrazcruises.com/ or by calling +1.415.981.7625 between the hours of 8am-7pm, Pacific Standard Time (USA). We recommend you reserve your tickets for the day before the tour commences.
Drive 300 km to the east, into the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Our destination is Yosemite National Park.

One of the most famous parks in the USA, Yosemite National Park's colossal granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls and redwood trees attract visitors from all over the world.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Yosemite National Park
Optional Activities
  • Yosemite - Cycling in Yosemite Valley - USD12
  • Yosemite National Park - Hiking - Free
  • Yosemite - Raft Rental (seasonal) - USD30
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Please note that the campsites around Yosemite National Park are limited and receive mixed feedback. We tend to use different campsites depending on the time of the year. The campsites closest to the park can get overcrowded in summer and tend to have poorer facilities, whereas the nicer campsites are a little further away, requiring more driving time to enter the park each day. Your leader will book the site they believe best suits the needs of the group depending on the time of year and availability, however please note that there may be limited access to showers whilst at this location, or that you may be camping just outside of the park.
Today is a free day to get out and discover the park. There are plenty of hikes available, each varying in steepness and difficulty. Hike under the cooling breezes of Nevada Falls (4-5 hours) or to the serene Mirror Lake (45 minutes). Keep an eye out for squirrels and perhaps even a bear along the way. You might prefer to hire a bike and explore Yosemite Valley. Visit the park's photo gallery, shops and restaurants along the way. In the heat of summer, a relaxing float down the Merced River followed by a few drinks at the park's cafe is just the trick.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Leave Yosemite behind and drive into the eastern Sierra Nevada. Spectacular mountain scenery, crystal clear lakes and breathtaking vistas are in store for us today. Total driving time is about 3-4 hours (170 km), depending on weather conditions and road access over Tioga Pass.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Travel east through Death Valley to Las Vegas (about six hours). Las Vegas may be the gambling capital of the world, but there's plenty to do if gambling isn't your thing. Hit the shops, feel your stomach drop on a rooftop roller coaster or simply stroll along the Strip, soaking up the glitz and gaudiness. In the evening, perhaps feast on an 'all you can eat' buffet, check out one of the many shows on offer or party the night away in a Vegas nightclub.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
You'll have another day to further enjoy the delights of Las Vegas. Use the opportunity to find a swimming pool to relax by, have a crack at black jack, check out a show or just soak up the craziness that is Vegas. You may also choose to go on an optional adventure on the infamous Las Vegas Roller Coaster.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Las Vegas - Big Apple Express roller coaster - USD15
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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. After the meeting, you'll be free to enjoy your last night in this energetic city.
While the lights of Las Vegas might be dazzling, your eyes are in for a real treat today as they'll fall on the incredible Grand Canyon. Leave Vegas and drive along a section of famous Route 66 to one of the world’s seven wonders (approximately 5 hours). You’ll have two nights here to help you’ll fully comprehend this amazing sight. There are plenty of things to see and do during your time here, so be prepared for busy and active days. Peer over the rim and stand in awe as you watch the setting sun ignite the multi-coloured rock walls. For the next two nights you’ll camp out in one of the world’s most magnificent settings, surrounded by the smell of pine and cedar and enveloped by a stunning canopy of stars at night.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Grand Canyon National Park
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.
Take time today to explore at your own pace. Maybe rise early for an incredible sunrise, then soar like a California Condor over the canyon with a scenic helicopter flight (not included). If you get active, then descend through pine trees into the heart of the immense abyss, hiking from red rock to white powder. Discover this stunning gorge – 1.5 kilometres deep and formed by over six million years of erosion from the Colorado River – by strolling around the edges, or hiking along the South Kaibab trail or to Plateau Point. Or perhaps join rangers to learn about the park’s geological story, watch an IMAX film to discover the canyon from a different perspective, or simply relax with a book and a backdrop like no other. Whatever you choose, you’ll find that the canyon depths are nothing short of mind-blowing.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Cruise the scenery of classic Western cinema into the Navajo Nation, home to Monument Valley and one of the largest North American Indian tribes (approximately 4 hours). The reservation here is the largest in the US and home to more than 200,000 Indians of the Navajo Tribe. The towering sandstone formations scattered across the landscape give the area its name, and the angle of the sun means that the landscape is constantly changing colour and it's near impossible to take a bad photo. When you arrive, let a Navajo guide share their culture and knowledge on an optional Jeep ride through the beautiful landscape, taking in flaming red cliffs, visiting traditional Navajo homes, and hiking up sweeping sand dunes. You’ll visit places that are only accessible with a Navajo guide, and tonight you can choose to join the locals for an authentic Navajo dinner around a campfire, listening to their traditional songs and stories.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Monument Valley - Navajo-guided jeep tour (2.5 hrs) - USD55
  • Monument Valley - Jeep tour & overnight experience - USD90
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Step back in time today and understand human history in North American with one of the best and largest archaeological sites in the country. Travel from Monument Valley to Mesa Verde National Park (approximately 3.5 hours). Although the desert-scapes and cactus-spiked mesas might seem pretty uninhabitable, this part of the American Southwest has been settled for thousands of years. The park protects over 4,000 known archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloans, who made the area their home for over 700 years from A.D. 550 to A.D. 1300. Explore a cliff dwelling on a short walk – where you can descend a ladder into a kiva, a round, subterranean ceremonial structure – or (for a small fee) join a ranger-led walk. The ranger will help you access the more difficult sites like ‘Cliff Palace’ or ‘Balcony House’, and help you learn more about this ancient site.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Mesa Verde National Park
Optional Activities
  • Mesa Verde - Guided Tour of Ruins - USD13
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Continue the journey north to Santa Fe (approximately 6.5 hours). Welcome to a place that the locals call ‘the city different’, a place often seen as a haven for colourful characters. Santa Fe is a city whose artistic, musical and culinary offerings are greater than its size suggests. The capital of New Mexico, Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the US, and a place where artists and culture-buffs flourish under the hot desert sun and year-round blue skies. Pop your head into the museums (like that dedicated Georgia O'Keeffe or those dotted around downtown), or contemplate eccentric (weird, wonderful and just downright bizarre!) folk-art at the numerous galleries. You might like to check out the pueblo architecture surrounding the town plaza or see the San Miguel Mission, the USA's oldest church.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Head south and unearth a world hidden beneath the stark, barren desert after leaving Texas behind for New Mexico (approximately 5 hours). When you arrive, head deep underground for a world-class cave experience in Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Marvel at the massive, ornate formations that burst from the cavern’s edges in the 8.2 acre ‘Big Room’ and beyond. One of the largest caverns in the world, Carlsbad Cavern is still only partially explored, with 119 caves recorded so far. There are yet more wonders outside the cave – take a seat outside the park at sunset and watch hundreds of thousands of bats spiralling out in a swarming column in search of food. Please note that as the bats migrate south in October for the winter, this is a seasonal sight and is best viewed in July and August. You’ll spend the night in a campground near the town of Carlsbad.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Take a long full day’s drive southwest across the Lone Star state of Texas to San Antonio (approximately 9 hours). This is the perfect chance to soak up the scenery, catch up on some reading, and ask your fellow travellers any questions you’ve been dying to know the answer to. In San Antonio discover a little piece of Mexico in the US and a city full of rich history. San Antonio is home to the famed Alamo, a shrine to Texan liberty. The 18th century Spanish-Mexican fort has been reconstructed and you can relive Davy Crockett’s last days here. The famous frontiersman was one of 187 people who died trying to defend the fort against a 1,000-strong Mexican army. San Antonio is also brimming with historical missions and fine art museums. Don’t miss the chance to meander through the shops and restaurants that line the city’s famous River Walk, sample the impressive cocktail scene, and seek out some of the city's amazing food trucks.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • San Antonio - The Alamo Mission - Free
  • San Antonio - Riverwalk - Free
  • San Antonio - The Alamo IMAX Theater - USD14
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Join the truckers along Highway 10 for the drive towards Louisiana (approximately 7 hours). Today is flexible as we try to cover as much ground as we can to get us as close to New Orleans as possible. We will likely camp somewhere in East Texas, or near Sam Houston Jones State Park or the town of Lafayette in Louisiana.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Head across the state of Louisiana to New Orleans - the 'Big Easy' (approximately 2.5 hours).

The trip finishes on arrival into New Orleans and no accommodation is provided tonight. The arrival time depends on each group, but if you decide to fly out on this day, please don't book a flight before 9pm. This will give you enough time to catch a shuttle from the hotel to the airport and be there two hours before departure. If you are staying in town for the evening, perhaps take a walk down rowdy Bourbon Street or through the former plantation area of the Garden District, or head out for a typical Cajun-style dinner and toast to your adventure.

If you do wish to spend extra time in New Orleans we'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
Optional Activities
  • New Orleans - Bourbon Street - Free
  • New Oleans - Cabildo - USD5
  • New Orleans - Cemetery Tour - USD25
  • New Orleans - French Market - Free
  • New Orleans - Swamp Tour - USD49
  • New Orleans - Mississippi Riverboat Cruise - USD70
  • New Orleans - New Orleans School of Cooking - USD29
  • New Orleans - Presbytere - USD6
  • New Orleans - Preservation Hall Jazz - USD15
  • New Orleans - Ursuline Convent Tours - USD5
  • New Orleans - Voodoo Museum - USD7
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

No meals are included on this tour

Transport

Private vehicle

Accommodation

Camping (with facilities) (11 nights), Hotel (3 nights)

Included activities

  • Yosemite National Park
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Mesa Verde National Park
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. This trip finishes on arrival into New Orleans in the afternoon on day 15.

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.