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.


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

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 16 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Welcome to Las Vegas, USA. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. 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, it’s recommended you arrive a few days early to make the most of this exciting city.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Roller Coaster - Las Vegas - USD14
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Notes: If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time for the group 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).
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 3-4 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 and 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
There are no meals included on this day.
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
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
  • Temples, Tea, & Beatniks Urban Adventure
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, 2 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
  • 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 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 2 reviews in the last year.

Highlights of Southwestern USA, August 2016

Luke Viney

Highlights of Southwestern USA, May 2016

Anna Delbridge