Encounter sprawling cities and a wealth of national treasures on a road trip from Denver to New York.

Get ready to meet the friendly people, vibrant landscapes and rich history that make up this great land. Cross the northern ridge of the United States, taking in the metropolises of Chicago, Detroit, New York, and the natural wonders of Niagara Falls and Yellowstone, on a road trip through the country’s man made and natural highlights. Learn the stories of the Native Americans and meet real cowboys, come face to face with the granite presidents of Mount Rushmore, and spend a night on the plains of the Old West – camping in the shadow of the Devil’s Tower and swapping tales by the fire.


Start
Denver, United States
Finish
Newark, United States
Country
United States
Style
Basix
Theme
Explorer
Code
SSOTC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 13

Why we love this trip

  • Spend an evening on the banks of the Mississippi, Huckleberry Finn style, and rent a canoe to paddle along the famous river

  • Spend two nights in Yellowstone and keep your eyes open for bison, bears and even rare grey wolves

  • Take a scenic drive through the spectacular snow-capped mountains, valleys, lakes and rivers of Grand Teton National Park, one of America's natural treasures

  • Sandusky is a place for the child and thrill seeker inside you. Feel your stomach drop on one of the world’s best rollercoasters at Cedar Point Amusement Park

  • Worship at the sublime altar to Mother Nature that is Niagara Falls, taking an optional wet and wild boat cruise

  • Waterfalls and wine tastings await in the incredible Fingers Lakes, home to some of New York state's most prized wineries

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.

  • Please note that this is a fast-moving trip with a lot of driving. There aren't many two night stops and there are a few long drive days. The destinations are worth it, but you need to be mindful that it isn't a 'relaxing' holiday.

  • The weather in the north can be unpredictable at times and you need to be prepared for all weather conditions. It can get surprisingly hot in summer, but it could also be quite cold. We suggest you bring layers.

  • Summer is mosquito season, especially in areas such as Minnesota and Wisconsin, where they are jokingly referred to as the State bird. It's a good idea to bring repellant.

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

Itinerary

Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting in the hotel lobby at 6pm. 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. Your evening is then free to do as you wish. If you arrive in Denver earlier in the day, perhaps take a walk to the impressive building of the Colorado State Capitol.

Notes: 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).
Accommodation
  • Hostel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today you'll venture north into Wyoming and Sinks Canyon State Park, a trip that will take around six hours. Sinks Canyon is a rugged canyon at the base of the southern Wind River Mountains in Wyoming. Located on the eastern slope of the mountains, the canyon is named for its unique geologic formation, “The Sinks”, where the river vanishes underground near the mouth of the canyon.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Take a 3.5 hour drive to Jackson, a cute mountain town with a cowboy feel. Soak up the easy-going vibes with a visit to the Million Dollar Cowboy bar, or get your heart bumping on a rafting adventure on the Snake River.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Grand Teton National Park
Optional Activities
  • Grand Teton - River rafting - USD70
  • Jackson Hole - Town shoot out - Free
  • Grand Teton - Jenny Lake Hike - Free
  • Grand Teton - Jenny Lake Boat Ride - USD8
  • Jackson - Aerial tramway - USD35
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Prepare for a jaw-dropping drive through Grand Teton National Park, a wonderous place where snow-capped mountains stand watch over golden plains and fast-flowing rivers. The spectacular national park will serve as the entree to Yellowstone's main course. Yellowstone National Park, America's first national park, is a stunning 9,000 square kilometre tract of wilderness home to bison, bears and grizzly grey wolves, who were only reintroduced in 1995. The day will be split between the two parks, depending on the wishes of the group.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Yellowstone National Park
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Return to Yellowstone National Park for a driving tour. See all of the park's main highlights, such as serene lakes, tumbling waterfalls and volcanic geysers. There will even be a visit to the famous Old Faithful geyser, so named for its predictable eruptions that take place every 35 to 120 minutes. If you're lucky enough you may even come across a herd of bison along the way. 
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Buckle up for a longer drive today as you leave Yellowstone and head to the Devils Tower National Monument in eastern Wyoming, a journey that takes around 8 hours. The Devils Tower is an imposing laccolithic butte composed of igneous rock in the Bear Lodge Mountains. The Kiowa refer to the monument as the 'rock tree' due to its height. Spend a night under the stars, camping in the shadow of the Devils Tower. Listen out for coyotes howling in the distance. 
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today there is a short drive (approximately 2.5 hours) to South Dakota and Mount Rushmore National Memorial. See the famous sculptures of former presidents that are carved into the face of Mount Rushmore and perhaps take a look at the nearby Crazy Horse National Monument, a giant Native American sculpture in progress that will soon match the main presidential attractions. 
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial
  • Custer - Crazy Horse Memorial
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Drive approximately two hours this morning to Badlands National Park. Witness the lunar-like landscape of the park and discover a wide array of intriguing creatures on a short hike. Continue approximately four hours across South Dakota to the Sioux Falls area.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Badlands National Park
Optional Activities
  • Mitchell - Corn Palace - Free
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Drive from Minnesota to neighbouring Wisconsin (approximately 5-6 hours). Your destination tonight is the mighty Mississippi River and Goose Island. Along the way you may stop at the Spam Museum (they have free samples!) There is an opportunity this evening to rent canoes and go for a paddle on the world-famous river.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Austin - SPAM Museum - Free
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
In the morning travel east into the state of Illinois to the ‘City of Skyscrapers’ (also ‘The Windy City’ and ‘Chi-Town’) – Chicago (approximately 5-6 hours). Laidback, lakeside and with a famously friendly local vibe, Chicago is a regular highlight of many a trip to the States. Located on Lake Michigan and with over 45 kilometres of lake-front paths, Chicago is one of the world's most walkable (or bikeable) cities. Amble up N Michigan Avenue to check out the shops, pass the beautiful downtown buildings along the ‘Magnificent Mile’, or drop by the Art Institute. Perhaps connect with the locals, who will be happy to tell you about their favourite restaurants, cafes, blues bars, or where to find the best slice of the city's legendary deep dish pizza. The city is also great for experiencing music in the evenings, so possibly head to Chicago Blues for a memorable night.
Accommodation
  • Hostel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is a full free day in Chicago. Perhaps hire a bike and cycle around the city or walk the lakefront paths. For a panoramic view of the city, scale the Willis Tower (with a Skydeck that has huge glass panels and a glass balcony) or head up the John Hancock Centre. Alternatively, check out one of the city's museums such as the Art Institute of Chicago or experience the rides on Navy Pier. Take a river cruise to see the soaring buildings and numerous bridges, and don’t miss the Bloomingdale Trail (‘The ‘606’), the city’s answer to New York’s High Line – a 4.3 kilometre old freight train route turned into a park.
Accommodation
  • Hostel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Chicago - Adler Planetarium - USD12
  • Chicago - Art Institute of Chicago - USD23
  • Chicago - Field Museum - USD15
  • Chicago - History Museum - USD14
  • Chicago - Museum of Contemporary Art - USD12
  • Chicago - Museum of Science and Industry - USD27
  • Chicago - Navy Pier - USD16
  • Chicago - Willis Tower Skydeck - USD18
  • Chicago - Bobby's bike hike - USD35
  • Chicago - Baseball game (in season) - USD40
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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 any new travellers that join the group.
Leave the state of Illinois and head east into Michigan and Detroit (approximately 4.5 hours). The city is gritty and urban, but it also has an undeniable energy that its recent bankruptcy hasn't been able to dim. More recently, Detroit has been reinvented with young artists and entrepreneurs moving in, as well as the opening of quirky bars, urban farms, and street art installations like the Heidelberg Project. You could also pay a visit to the Detroit Institute of Arts for a look at one of America's most significant art collections. Alternatively, head to the Motown Museum and Ford Museum for an insight into two of the city's famous exports. The balmy evenings in the city are also perfect for strolling riverside paths and sitting on brew pub decks.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Detroit - Eastern Market - Free
  • Detroit - Heidelberg Project - Free
  • Detroit - Institute of Arts - USD8
  • Detroit - Ford Museum - USD20
  • Detroit - Motown Museum - USD15
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Skirt the edge of Lake Erie and cross the Midwest into Ohio, with Sandusky as your destination (approximately two hours). Make your way to Cedar Point Amusement Park, the so-called ‘Roller Coaster Capital of the World’. Cedar Point also features the Millennium Force, which has been voted the greatest roller coaster in the world, making it the place to be if you love an adrenaline hit. If the thrill of the ride gets too much for you, head to the nearby beach and simply stretch out on the sandy shoreline. In the late afternoon, set up camp near Lake Erie and wander down to the lakeshore for a memorable sunset.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Sandusky - Cedar Point Amusement Park
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Visit one of the country's greatest natural attractions – Niagara Falls. Follow the edge of Lake Erie all the way up to this famous sight, which sits sandwiched between the borders of the United States and Canada (approximately 4.5 hours). There are numerous viewpoints from which you can appreciate the power of this amazing set of falls, but there's no better way than to approach them from the water. Don a blue poncho and experience the full force of the falls with an optional Maid of the Mist cruise. A word of warning though, prepare to get a little wet. For the ultimate show, head to the falls at night and see them lit up in all of their glory.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Niagara Falls - Maid of the Mist boat tour - USD16
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Cross into upstate New York and drive to the town of Seneca Falls on the Finger Lakes (approximately three hours). This area is named for its 11 finger-like lakes that stretch north to south between Lake Ontario and the state boarder. As New York’s largest wine producing region, the Finger Lakes region has over 100 wineries to discover (just don’t try and visit them all today!) Perhaps indulge in a wine tasting session or head out on a hike to a nearby waterfall. Taughannock Falls State Park is home to a 215-foot waterfall, 33 feet higher than Niagara Falls itself! The park's walks are dotted with little waterfalls along the way and the surroundings are just beautiful. Set up camp for the night in the state park.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Finger Lakes - Wine Tasting - USD15
  • Finger Lakes - Waterfall hikes - Free
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Leave the natural setting of the Finger Lakes and head to the urban jungle. This journey usually takes around five hours, but as the traffic can be really busy, please be prepared for delays. This adventure comes to an end on arrival in Newark, just across the river from New York City. There is no accommodation included tonight. From iconic landmarks to hidden gems, the possibilities are truly endless in the global city of New York, so why not stay a few days longer. We’ll be happy to help you book additional accommodation (subject to availability).
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
The arrival time depends on each group, but you should expect a mid-afternoon arrival into Newark. If you decide to fly out this day please don't book a flight before 8 pm, which will give you enough time to travel from the hotel to the airport and be there two hours before departure.

Meals

No meals are included on this tour

Transport

Private vehicle

Accommodation

Camping (with facilities) (12 nights), Hostel (2 nights), Hotel (1 night)

Included activities

  • Grand Teton National Park
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial
  • Custer - Crazy Horse Memorial
  • Badlands National Park
  • Sandusky - Cedar Point Amusement Park

Dates & availability

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There are currently no scheduled departures on our North USA Highlights trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.

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Important notes

1. This trip finishes on arrival into New York in the afternoon on day 16.

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.