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.

Start
New Orleans, United States
Finish
San Francisco, United States
Countries
United States
Themes
Explorer
Code
SSRWC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 13
Carbon offset
1 094kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • 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

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 USA! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm today. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, 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.

As there's a great deal to do in New Orleans, we recommend arriving a few days early to make the most of this exciting city. If you need help booking extra accommodation, our reservations team will be happy to assist. Otherwise known as the 'Big Easy', New Orleans's eclectic mix of European, Creole and Cajun culture manifests itself in the city's architecture, cuisine and music scene. Take in the gaudy sights and sounds of Bourbon Street, relax in the Garden District and absorb the ambience of the French Quarter. In the evening, perhaps check out a jazz show and dance the night away in the bars along Frenchman Street.
It's quite a journey from Louisiana to Houston, Texas (nearly 700 kilometres). You'll be on the road for around six hours today, so sit back and enjoy the ride. There may be the chance to stop for a tour of a Tabasco factory at Avery Island en route. Houston is the largest city in Texas, and the fourth largest in the US. Big and modern though it is, it retains some of that Texas 'cowboy boots and pickup truck' charm. In your free time here, there are plenty of museums and shops to check out. Houston is also renowned for its arts scene and is an up-and-comer in the dining world.
Join the truckers along Highway 10 to San Antonio. Mexican-influenced San Antonio is the home of the Alamo, an original reconstructed Spanish-Mexican fort from the 18th century. On arrival, you can stroll along the famous River Walk and get to know the city's many canals and backstreets by night. Total driving time today is around six hours.
After traversing the state of Texas, enter the deserts of New Mexico on the way to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. One of the largest caverns in the world, Carlsbad Cavern is still only partially explored. Hike deep into the 'Big Room' and beyond. In the evening, witness the overwhelming sight of a bat flight - thousands of bats swarming out of the caverns. As the bats migrate south in October for the winter, this is a seasonal sight and is best viewed in July and August. Total driving today is about seven-and-a-half hours.
Continue the journey north to Santa Fe today. The total drive should take around five hours. Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the US. You might like to check out the pueblo architecture surrounding the town plaza or see the San Miguel Mission, the USA's oldest church. If you're an art buff, then a visit to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum is a must. In the evening, perhaps wind down with a drink in one of the city's bars.
Continue on to Mesa Verde National Park, home to the largest and best-preserved cliff dwellings of the Anasazi Indians. The park protects over 4,000 known archaeological sites. Explore a cliff dwelling on a short walk, or (for a small fee) join a ranger-led walk to the harder-to-access sites. Total driving time today is approximately five hours.
After a drive through fascinating desert regions, reach Monument Valley. Monument Valley is so-named after the giant sandstone formations scattered across the desert. The backdrop for countless westerns, the valley is part of the biggest Indian reservation in the US and is home to more than 200,000 Navajo Indians. See the sights from the back of a jeep with a Navajo guide. Visit areas only open to the Navajo, see traditional Navajo homes, hike up sand dunes and gaze at spectacular rock formations. Total driving time today is around three-and-a-half hours.
Today drive from Monument Valley to the Grand Canyon, stopping at Native American trading posts along the way. The total drive will take around four hours. Words don't do justice to the Grand Canyon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. This stunning gorge is 1.5 kilometres deep, formed by over six million years of erosion from the Colorado River. You'll spend two nights here, in order to allow a full day of exploration tomorrow.
Today is a free day to explore the Grand Canyon. Stroll along the meandering South Rim Trail or hike your way down to Plateau Point. If you're feeling extra adventurous, you might even opt for a scenic flight over the area (at your own expense). In the early evening, relax at the canyon's edge and enjoy a spectacular sunset.
Head out of the Grand Canyon and cross the western deserts of Arizona to Las Vegas. Along the way, you'll drive along a section of the famous Route 66, stopping in at the eccentric township of Seligman. The total drive will take around five 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.
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 or go-karting.
Today is a long day of driving (approximately six hours). You'll cover more than 550 kilometres through Death Valley and across the Eastern Sierra. Death Valley is one of the hottest places on the planet, with temperatures rising to 56°C in the summer. The park features huge sand dunes, sculpted rocks, isolated valleys and volcanic craters. The canyon and mountain walls change colour with the changing light. Elevations fluctuate from 85 metres below sea level near Badwater Point (the lowest point in the United States) to 3,756 metres at Telescope Peak. Stop at the visitor centre and, if it's not too hot, take a walk on the stunning salt flats.
Driving west, travel through the Tioga Pass (snow levels permitting) into the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Your destination is Yosemite National Park. One of the most famous parks in the USA, Yosemite's colossal granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls and redwood forests attract visitors from all over the world. You'll spend two nights in the park in order to have a full day of exploration tomorrow. The total driving time today is approximately five hours, or longer if the Tioga Pass is closed.
Enjoy 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 museum, 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.
Leave Yosemite behind today and drive west for about four hours to San Francisco. The 'City by the Bay' has a beautiful setting and a vibrant, multicultural heart. You might like to check out the vintage stores along funky Haight Street, catch the tram down to the waterfront or take a cruise on the bay to see the impressive Golden Gate Bridge. In the evening, perhaps head out with the group to celebrate your last night with some dumplings in Chinatown or pasta in North Beach.
Today your adventure comes to an end. There are no activities planned so you're able to depart the accommodation at any time. As there's a great deal to do in San Francisco, we recommend staying a few extra days to make the most of this exciting city. If you need help booking extra accommodation, our reservations team will be happy to assist. You might consider doing our one-day Urban Adventure sightseeing tour of San Francisco (see urbanadventures.com).
Special Information
Note: 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.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
n/a
Transport
Private vehicle
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (11 nights), Hotel (4 nights)
Included activities
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park
  • Mesa Verde National Park
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Death Valley National Park
  • Yosemite National Park

Dates

There are currently no departures for this trip.

{{departure_day.departure_date | date:'EEE d MMMM yyyy'}} {{departure_day.arrival_date | date:'EEE d MMMM yyyy'}}

Style: {{departure.style}}

Boat/Ship: {{departure.vehicle_name}}
On sale Hot deal Departure guaranteed On request
{{product.currency_code}} {{room.base_price | noFractionCurrency:product.currency_symbol}}
{{product.currency_code}} {{room.discount_price | noFractionCurrency:product.currency_symbol}}
Fully booked Bookings closed

Total price per person {{room.room_type | lowercase}}
Includes {{departure.kitty_currency_code}} {{departure.kitty | noFractionCurrency:departure.kitty_currency_symbol}} kitty
Includes {{extra.extras_code}} {{extra.extras_symbol}}{{extra.extras_value}} in local payments Single supplement available from {{product.currency_code}} {{departure.single_supp | noFractionCurrency:product.currency_symbol}}

Contact us to arrange an alternative departure for you

Book {{departure.places_left}} spaces left! space left!

If you can’t find the dates you’re after here, click on the button below to find options for the next season. Please bear in mind that some of our itineraries can change from year to year, so this trip may differ slightly next season to the information shown on this page.

Next Season Dates

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.

View trip notes

Reviews

Our Best of America's Southwest trips score an average of 5 out of 5 based on 2 reviews in the last year.

Best of America's Southwest , July 2015

Best of America's Southwest , June 2015