Experience the contrasts of the West; from overflowing cities to wild deserts and forests

Explore all the natural and urban beauty that western US offers. Spend time in the big parks of the States – Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Zion, Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon and more. Discover a new landscape around every corner: from huge sculpted cliffs and monster trees to alien deserts filled with strange rocks and massive sand dunes. Sip wine in Sonoma, spend time with a Native America tribe and giddy up on a horse ride through the Old West. Overload your senses in ‘Sin City’ Las Vegas and relax in the city of Angels.

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Get 25% off our trips to the USA! See our terms and conditions for applicable departures. Hurry, offer runs out 31 August 2017.

Terms & Conditions

Start
San Francisco, United States
Finish
Los Angeles, United States
Country
United States
Style
Comfort
Theme
Explorer
Code
SSKPC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 13

Why we love this trip

  • While other trips breeze through spectacular Yosemite National Park in a day, on this adventure you'll spend two nights in the park, allowing for a full day of hiking and exploring. With its pine forests, waterfalls and dramatic granite cliff faces, Yosemite feels like something out of 'The Land Before Time'

  • Don't let the name fool you. With its water-sculpted canyons, extinct volcanic craters, palm-shaded oases and salt flats, Death Valley is rich in natural beauty and endemic wildlife, and is often a highlight of the trip

  • Walk among 2,000-year-old trees as tall as skyscrapers in Sequoia National Park. Think of all the things they must have seen in that time

  • Due to popular demand from past travellers, spend time in California's Joshua Tree National Park. The park's rugged desert scenery, natural cactus gardens and lush oases mark the meeting place of the Mojave and Sonora deserts

  • You'll spend two nights in the spectacular Grand Canyon so there's enough time to explore properly. See the canyon up close on a variety of hikes or take a helicopter flight overhead

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.

  • Death Valley is extremely hot and dry (it's the hottest recorded place on Earth after all), so hiking at certain times of the year 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.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2018 to 31 December 2018. 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 Little Italy and North Beach districts 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
  • Sonoma - Jack London State Historic Park
  • Sonoma - Wine Tasting
  • Sonoma - Picnic lunch
Optional Activities
  • Sonoma - Jack London Cottage - USD4
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 4-5 hour hike to the top 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
  • 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.
Make the short drive to Lake Tahoe (approximately 2–3 hours). Enjoy free time for the rest of the day. If it's summer, perhaps using it to hike, swim, rent bikes or simply relax. An optional sunset sailing cruise on the lake is also available. In winter, your optional activities revolve around snow – strap on some snowshoes and go for a hike, take a sleigh ride, or try your hand at ice skating. In the evening, return to camp for dinner with the group.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Drive south to Death Valley (approximately 6 hours). On the way to Lone Pine perhaps stop at Manzanar National Historic Site, a former Japanese Internment Camp during WWII. Spend the night 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
  • Lone Pine - Museum of Western Film History - USD5
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Death Valley National Park
Optional Activities
  • Death Valley National Park - Hiking (seasonal) - Free
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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)
Included Activities
  • Las Vegas - Buffet Dinner
Optional Activities
  • Las Vegas - Helicopter Strip Tour - USD110
  • Las Vegas - Limo (per group) - USD300
  • Las Vegas - Big Apple Express roller coaster - USD15
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Spend a free day in Las Vegas seeing a show, further exploring the casinos on The Strip or riding the roller coasters at the Adventuredome theme park.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
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 your new fellow travellers.
Today, travel across the border into Utah and the spectacular landscapes of Zion National Park (approximately three hours). There's a variety of trails to choose from and you'll have plenty of opportunity to explore among the park's soaring cliffs and cascading waterfalls. 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 on the way to Zion's 'beach'. If you're feeling ambitious, perhaps enjoy the park's most famous challenge: Angels Landing. After a strenuous hike along the narrow ridge of the cliffs, you'll be rewarded with a 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 - Hiking - Free
  • Zion - Narrows Hiking Gear Rental - USD25
  • Zion - River Tubing (seasonal) - USD15
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Enjoy a full day of free time in Zion National Park. This is a great opportunity to tackle any trails you may not have yesterday. The Narrows is a good choice, if you're not up for the more challenging Angel's Landing. The Narrows is probably the most popular hike in the park, and one of the best slot canyon hikes on Earth. It can also be tailored to suit various levels of skill and experience.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
In the morning, drive to Bryce Canyon. Millions of years of wind and water erosion have formed the park's distinctive hoodoos – uniquely shaped rock spires rising out of the red desert. You will have ample time to explore the park's extensive network of hiking trails, from the easy Rim Trail, to the moderate Queen's Garden Trail or the strenuous Peek-a-boo Loop. Wherever you walk, you'll encounter unique landscapes and a kaleidoscope of desert colours.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
Optional Activities
  • Bryce Canyon National Park - Hiking - Free
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
In the morning make the six-hour drive to the spectacular Monument Valley. There may be time to visit the cliffs, canyons and domes of Capitol Reef National Park on the way.

Monument Valley is part of the biggest Indian reservation in the USA, home to more than 200,000 enrolled members of the Navajo Tribe. Explore the giant sandstone formations scattered across the desert, witnessing the ever-changing colour of the landscape. In the evening, travel by jeep through the Monument Valley with a Navajo guide. Join the locals for an authentic Navajo dinner around a campfire and listen to their traditional songs and stories.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Monument Valley Tribal Park Entry Fee
  • Monument Valley - Jeep Tour and Navajo Dinner
  • Capitol Reef National Park
Meals Included
  • Dinner
In the morning, make the 3–4 hour drive to the Grand Canyon, one of the largest canyon systems in the world. This a real highlight of the trip, so you'll be spending two nights here. Perhaps take a stroll along the South Rim Trail or hike to Skeleton Point. There's plenty to see and do during your time here.
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 - your leader will provide you with the details. Take a hike around the canyon or if you're feeling extra adventurous, opt for a helicopter flight over the area. In the evening, sit back and enjoy the sunset behind the red peaks.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
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.
In the morning, take the long drive to Joshua Tree National Park (approximately 7-8 hours). Sitting between the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, the park is home to striking rock formations, many species of cacti and varied desert wildlife such as coyotes, lizards and bighorn sheep. Spend the night in a nearby hotel.
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 (approximately three hours) drive to Los Angeles. On arrival in the afternoon, go on a half-day Urban Adventure sightseeing tour of LA with the group. The rest of the day is free to spend as you please. Perhaps take a stroll around the streets of Hollywood and Beverley Hills, or head to Venice Beach for a dose of sea, sand and eccentric boardwalk characters. It can get really busy at the beach, so watch out for skaters, bikes and skateboarders speeding past.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Los Angeles - Urban Adventure
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Your Las Vegas to Los Angeles adventure comes to an end this morning. There are no more activities planned and you're able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

5 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 3 dinners

Transport

Private vehicle

Accommodation

Hotel (13 nights), Motel (4 nights)

Included activities

  • San Francisco - Dinner Urban Adventure
  • Sonoma - Jack London State Historic Park
  • Sonoma - Wine Tasting
  • Sonoma - Picnic lunch
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Death Valley National Park
  • Las Vegas - Buffet Dinner
  • Zion National Park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Monument Valley Tribal Park Entry Fee
  • Monument Valley - Jeep Tour and Navajo Dinner
  • Capitol Reef National Park
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Los Angeles - Urban Adventure

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Important notes

1. A single supplement is available on this trip.

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 USA National Parks Explorer trips score an average of 4.91 out of 5 based on 23 reviews in the last year.

USA National Parks Explorer, July 2017

Christine Smith

USA National Parks Explorer, June 2017

Linda Howell