Map of Western USA Highlights including United States Of America

Uncover the best of the west, from LA to San Fran

Discover the captivating cities and natural attractions of the USA's west on an 18-day journey from lively Los Angeles to bayside San Francisco. Explore mother nature at its most diverse in Joshua Tree, Zion and Yosemite national parks, take a roadtrip stopping by Monumental Valley, Death Valley and the Grand Canyon, and join the high rollers and desert dwellers in Las Vegas. With a heap of outdoor excursions to choose from, some spectacular stretches of coastline and sensational city scenes, this is the ultimate round-up of the western USA's highlights.


Start
Santa Monica, United States
Finish
San Francisco, United States
Destination
United States
Style
Basix
Theme
Explorer
Code
SSRSC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

  • Experience the southwestern corner of the USA in depth, visiting the renowned national parks, lesser-known gems, as well as the vibrant hotspots of California and Nevada

  • Hike through beautiful Joshua Tree National Park among the park's desert cactus gardens and unusual rock formations, before hitting the road on a section of Route 66.

  • Fly like an eagle and treat yourself to a scenic helicopter flight over the winding gorges of the Grand Canyon – an optional experience you’ll never forget.

  • Learn about Navajo culture and history during an included Jeep tour of Monument Valley, where the landscape is as surreal as it is beautiful, before spending a night in a traditional hogan hut.

  • See the exquisite sandstone arches of the aptly named Arches National Park and witness spectacular desert colours during a sunset hike.

  • Discover another side to Yosemite’s Towering granite cliffs, redwood forests and epic night skies by hiking one of its best, lesser-known trails – Hetch Hetchy – with your expert guide.

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip involves either a partial or full camping experience, giving you access to more remote destinations at close proximity, and the joy of camping under the night skies and beside a campfire. This is a participatory trip – a fancy way of saying you’re not just along for the ride, but you are part of a team! 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, and 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 USD 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.

  • North America is a world of endless possibilities – that’s why our trips are designed so they fit together as (not quite endless) combinations. This means that 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). Visit intrepidtravel.com/north-america to check out our combination trips and other tours you can add on to this one to extend your journey.

  • The USA is a big country. Travel times between some destinations can be long. You'll be spending a fair amount of time in a van with other travellers, so conditions may feel a little cramped. This allows you to see some stunning scenery and is all part of the adventure - you might even make some long-term friends.

  • From the steep hiking trails of Yosemite to the towering hills of San Francisco, this trip can involve 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.

  • The desert areas of Utah can be very hot and dry, especially in summer. Although our private vehicles 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 use sun protection and drink plenty of water.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 Jan 2023 to 31 Dec 2023.
View the 2020 itinerary
Welcome to the USA! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting in the lobby today at 6 pm. It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know.

If you do arrive early, perhaps take a stroll down the Hollywood Walk of Fame, or spend some time learning about the lives of the rich and famous on a celebrity homes tour. After the welcome meeting, we’ll head beachside and visit Venice and Santa Monica beach for a stroll and some people watching. Day 1 is all about introductions, so why not spend some time getting to know your fellow travellers with an optional group dinner.
Accommodation
  • Hostel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
ROOMING: The group will be in 8 and 6 person dorms, with shared bathrooms. The hostel will do their best to separate the group by gender, but it's not guaranteed.

Today, you’ll head away from the coast and drive to Joshua Tree National Park. Sitting between the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, the park is famous for its spectacular desert plants – including the park’s namesake Joshua trees – along with cacti and Mojave yuccas. The area is also home to striking rock formations and mountain ranges, so you might like to head out on a scenic hike around the park or take a refreshing dip in the Colorado River. You’ll head to Lake Havasu City later on to your accommodation for the night, and check out London Bridge: a 280-metre structure rebuilt in Arizona in 1971 after being transported, piece by piece, from the banks of the Thames in London.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Joshua Tree National Park - Entrance Fee
Optional Activities
  • Colorado River - Swimming - Free
  • Joshua Tree National Park - Hiking - Free
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Drive for 6 hours to Grand Canyon National Park, along a section of the famous Route 66, stopping in at the eccentric town of Seligman. Once we arrive at the Grand Canyon National Park, be ready to visually delight in the natural beauty for hours. 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, and you’ll need it, to allow for a full day of exploration tomorrow.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Grand Canyon National Park
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today is a free day to explore the Grand Canyon, one of the largest canyon systems in the world. Stroll along the meandering South Rim Trail or hike your way down to Plateau Point. With eagles soaring overhead and chasms extending as far as the eye can see, it’s so important for you to experience its vast gorges from multiple viewpoints. If you're feeling adventurous, you can choose to take a scenic helicopter flight over the area (for an extra cost). In the early evening, relax at the canyon's edge and enjoy a spectacular sunset over one of the world's natural wonders.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Grand Canyon - Helicopter flight (45 mins) - USD350
  • Grand Canyon - Hiking - Free
  • Grand Canyon - IMAX movie - USD10
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Head out of the Grand Canyon and cross the western deserts of Arizona to Las Vegas, which takes around 4 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. This evening, gather together for another meeting at 6 pm where you’ll welcome some new travellers on the next stage of your USA adventure.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
As this is a combination trip, the travellers in your group and your group leader are likely to change today. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary so please attend, and this is also a great chance to meet the new group. It’s important that you attend the welcome meeting as your new group leader will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.
Today, leave Nevada and drive to Zion National Park. The park is home to stunning desert landscapes, sculpted sandstone formations, waterfalls and hanging gardens. There will be plenty of time on arrival to stretch your legs and have a good look around the park. The Emerald Pools trail, a two-hour stroll past a lush stream, is a good option for those who don't want anything too strenuous. If you are feeling adventurous and have a decent level of fitness (plus aren't afraid of heights), you might want to tackle the trail to Scout Lookout. This isn't for the faint of heart. However, the views from the top of the rock formation are spectacular. In the evening, set up camp for the night.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Zion National Park - Entrance Fee
Optional Activities
  • Zion National Park - Walks - Free
  • Zion National Park - River tubing (seasonal) - USD24
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
ANGELS LANDING HIKE:
For those who wish to hike to Angels Landing in Zion National Park, a permit awarded through a lottery system is now required. We recommend Scout Lookout as a suitable alternative which covers all but the final 0.5 miles/0.8 kms of the Angels Landing hike. However, if you would like to try for a permit, please visit https://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/angels-landing-hiking-permits.htm

Today's driving time is approximately 3 hours.
You’ll have a full day to explore what you missed yesterday in Zion. It would be the ideal time to head on a longer hike, potentially to admire the beauty of the flowing streams along The Narrows, or a steep climb to an incredible view at Observation Point. The national park can also be discovered via shuttle or an optional float trip, giving your feet a well-deserved rest. At night, don’t forget to look up at the dazzling night skies while camping and enjoy and try your luck at stargazing – quite perfectly combined with some s’mores around the campfire.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Zion - Narrows Hiking Gear Rental - USD25
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Drive through southern Utah to Monument Valley, so-named for the giant sandstone formations scattered across the desert. Passing by stunning lookouts and by Forrest Gump’s desert running scene, make sure to also check out the Navajo roadside stalls for some authentic goods, and if you’re lucky, some fried bread. The backdrop for countless Westerns, the valley is part of a massive Navajo reservation, and there’s no better way than heading out on an incredible guided jeep tour. Get your camera out and snap some photos of the spectacular landscape, which changes colour with the setting of the sun. Take in the stunning night skies and spend the night in a hogan, a traditional Navajo hut made of logs and earth.
Accommodation
  • Hogan (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Monument Valley - Jeep tour & overnight experience
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Special Information
Today's driving time today is approximately 3 hours.
Continue on your journey this morning through the impressive landscape of Utah. On the way north to Moab, you’re going to see some incredible scenery, including Goosenecks State Park overlook, Muley Point and Moki Dugway. Moab is a small city in Utah that attracts hikers, mountain bikers and nature enthusiasts to the incredible Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. Arches National Park is punctuated with spectacularly eroded sandstone formations and contains the world's largest concentration of natural stone arches. Take a group hike at sunset to see famous sights such as Delicate Arch.
Accommodation
  • Cabin (multishare) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Arches National Park - Sunset Hike to Delicate Arch
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
During the busy summer months some of the more popular optional activities in Moab can sell out. We recommend you discuss your interest in these activities with your leader as soon as possible so they can assist in arranging bookings.

Today's driving time is approximately 3 hours.
Experience Moab for a second day, filled with towering rock formations, winding trails and never-ending horizons. Hopefully there will be time to take a group hike in the Arches in the morning before the day gets too hot, however the afternoon is yours to explore. Perhaps book yourself into a raft float trip down the Colorado River, or test your balance with some stand-up paddleboarding. If you need to give your weary muscles a rest, a Slickrock Hummer tour might be your thing – though keep in mind it’s not exactly a smooth journey. At nightfall, maybe head into town and hit the local brewery.
Accommodation
  • Cabin (multishare) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Dead Horse Point State Park
  • Arches National Park - Delicate Arch sunrise hike
Optional Activities
  • Moab - Raft Float Trip on Colorado River - USD72
  • Moab - Slickrock Hummer tour - USD100
  • Arches National Park - Landscape Arch hike - Free
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Bryce Canyon National Park is next on the list. On the way, you’ll stop and admire the golden sandstone of Capitol Reef, and refuel at the unique Kiva Koffeehouse, which overlooks the expanse of the Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument. Once arrived, there is a chance to hike a section of Bryce Canyon: from the easy Rim Trail, to the moderate Queen's Garden Trail or the strenuous Peek-a-boo Loop. The canyon is famous for its 'hoodoos' – odd-shaped rock spires formed by centuries of erosion. Wherever you walk, there are unique landscapes and a kaleidoscope of desert colours, especially at sunset. If you're keen to live out a Wild West fantasy, chat to the group leader about a horse-riding optional activity.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Capitol Reef National Park
Optional Activities
  • Bryce Canyon National Park - Hiking - Free
  • Bryce Canyon - Horseback Riding - USD60
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Today's driving time is approximately 5 hours.
Today, drive across the border into Nevada and back to Las Vegas. For some of your travel companions, their time on tour ends on arrival, so say your farewells as you continue on your western adventure and explore more of Las Vegas! If you haven’t already, why not hit the shops, stroll along the Strip or check out the Bellagio.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Enjoy a full free day to bask in the bright lights of Vegas! This evening, gather together for another meeting at 6 pm where you’ll welcome some new travellers on the next stage of your USA adventure, then perhaps party the night away in a Vegas nightclub with your new friends.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Las Vegas - Big Apple Express roller coaster - USD15
  • Las Vegas - Mob Museum - USD27
  • Las Vegas - Monorail - USD5
  • Las Vegas - Fremont Street Experience - Free
  • Las Vegas - Bellagio Fountains - Free
  • Las Vegas - Eiffel Tower - USD22
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
As this is a combination trip, the travellers in your group and your group leader are likely to change today. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary so please attend, and this is also a great chance to meet the new group. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.
Leave the bright lights of Vegas behind and drive into the Eastern Sierra Nevada toward the quaint town of Bishop. On arrival, check out the town or perhaps treat yourself to the crispy cookies or ‘bear claws’ at Erick Schat’s German bakery. Later this afternoon, join the group for a soothing soak in a natural hot spring – perfect for those wanting to relax before an action-packed few days in Yosemite. Tonight, you’ll camp under the stars in Bishop.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Prepare for some spectacular mountain scenery as you depart from Bishop and head west to Yosemite National Park. This morning, stop at crystal clear lakes – including Mono and Tenaya – before continuing through the Tioga Pass (snow levels permitting) into the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Stop by Olmstead Point to marvel at Yosemite’s natural wonder, Half Dome, before arriving at one of the most famous parks in the USA. Yosemite's colossal granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls (depending on the season) and redwood forests attract visitors from all over the world. You'll spend three nights in the park, meaning you have two full days to explore. The total driving time today is approximately 5 hours.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Yosemite National Park - Entrance Fee
  • Visit to Mono Lake
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Start today with an orientation tour of the village before heading out for a free day of exploration. There are plenty of hikes available, each varying in steepness and difficulty. Hike The Mist Trail to Nevada Falls (2–5 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, visiting 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.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (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.
Today there’s a chance to explore a different side of the park as you join your leader on a guided hike to Hetch Hetchy Valley. Tucked away in the northwest corner of Yosemite, Hetch Hetchy is a wilderness of cascading waterfalls, towering cliff faces and beautiful wildflowers. Boasting one of the longest hiking seasons in the park, the ecologically diverse valley attracts a fraction of the visitors in comparison to other more well-known hiking spots in Yosemite – which means it’s an ideal area for those who have extra time to explore the park in depth.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Yosemite National Park - Hiking - Free
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Leave Yosemite behind today and drive west to San Francisco (approximately 4 hours). 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 an Adventure Cat Bay Cruise. The trip finishes on arrival into San Francisco after a stop to check out the Golden Gate Bridge, and no accommodation is provided tonight. 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. If you do wish to spend extra time in San Francisco, we'll be happy to help you book additional accommodation (subject to availability).
Optional Activities
  • San Francisco - Sunset catamaran cruise - USD45
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 joining a one-day sightseeing tour of San Francisco through urbanadventures.com.

Meals

1 breakfast, 1 dinner

Transport

Private vehicle

Accommodation

Camping (with facilities) (9 nights), Hotel (4 nights), Multishare Cabin (2 nights), hogan (1 night), Hostel (1 night)

Included activities

  • Joshua Tree National Park - Entrance Fee
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Zion National Park - Entrance Fee
  • Monument Valley - Jeep tour & overnight experience
  • Arches National Park - Sunset Hike to Delicate Arch
  • Dead Horse Point State Park
  • Arches National Park - Delicate Arch sunrise hike
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Capitol Reef National Park
  • Yosemite National Park - Entrance Fee
  • Visit to Mono Lake

Dates & availability

Trip departures are unavailable.

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

Prices may go up, so secure your trip today!
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Important notes

Travellers on Intrepid trips that start on or before 31 December 2022 are required to produce proof of full vaccination against COVID-19. Learn more about Intrepid’s COVID-19 policy.

1. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6:00pm on Day 1 in Los Angeles and finishes on arrival into San Francisco at approximately 5pm on Day 18.
2. The group will be in 8 and 6 person dorms in Los Angeles, with shared bathrooms. The hostel will do their best to separate the group by gender, but it's not guaranteed.
3. A Single Supplement to have your own room is available on this trip however excludes night 1 (Los Angeles), night 8 (Monument Valley) and nights 9 & 10 (Moab) where you will be in shared accommodation. 
4. A sleeping bag is required for this trip.
5. Please note that the legal drinking age in the US is 21 and in some parts of Canada it's 19.

Essential trip information

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