Map of San Fran to LA: Ultimate National Parks including United States Of America

Explore the wild west coast on this 18-day adventure through California, Utah, Arizona and Nevada

Fall in love with the rugged and diverse American West on this 18-day adventure, from the granite peaks and pine forests of Yosemite National Park, the crystal clear water of Lake Tahoe, the sun-baked dunes and canyons of Death Valley, glitzy Las Vegas and peaceful Zion. Walk amid the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park, gaze in awe at the Grand Canyon, sit by a Navajo campfire in Monument Valley and see the unique vegetation of Joshua Tree National Park, all on the ultimate National Parks adventure.


Start
San Francisco, United States
Finish
Santa Monica, United States
Destination
United States
Style
Comfort
Code
SSKUC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

  • Beginning in the eccentric city of San Francisco, explore the sights of the bay on a sunset catamaran cruise, sailing around the infamous Alcatraz Island and beneath the legendary Golden Gate Bridge.

  • There's no better way to experience Lake Tahoe than by skimming over its clear blue water in a kayak or stand-up paddleboard.

  • Featuring sequoia forests, granite cliff faces and cascading waterfalls – get the most out of your Yosemite experience by spending three nights in the park, meaning two full days of exploration.

  • With undulating sand dunes, water-sculpted canyons, extinct volcanic craters and fields of wildflowers that blossom in the spring: Death Valley is a geological paradise.

  • From flashy Las Vegas continue to the red rocks of Zion National Park and the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon.

  • Admire the oasis of Emerald Pools during a hike past waterfalls and lush vegetation in Utah’s Zion National Park.

  • Ride a jeep through Utah's iconic Monument Valley, and then share stories and a meal by the campfire with members of Navajo Nation.

  • Be amazed by the size and beauty of the Colorado River’s Horseshoe Bend, then travel to the Grand Canyon where you’ll be left gobsmacked by its steep red-rock escarpments and gorges.

  • Explore a city that’s home to dreamers, fortune seekers, and celebrities in the City of Angels: Los Angeles.

Is this trip right for you?

  • Less time spent in a vehicle; more time to explore each destination. This trip has been carefully designed to give you the best experience of a region by reducing the number of one-night-only stops, giving you extra time in the places that matter.

  • Death Valley in the summer is extremely hot and dry. It does hold the record as the hottest place on earth after all. Hiking at this time of year isn't recommended. 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 come prepared with adequate clothing.

  • Some of the best scenery in Yosemite is found on hikes. So, while this trip doesn't require a high level of fitness, it’s essential to be at least moderately fit if you want to partake in all activities.

  • This trip includes time spent travelling in a vehicle with your group. Extra space can be tight, and conditions may feel a little cramped. It’s all part of the adventure and a great way to get to know your fellow travellers. Please read the itinerary carefully for travel time estimates.

  • If you wish to spend more time in San Francisco or Los Angeles, we'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 Jan 2023 to 31 Dec 2023.
View the 2022 itinerary
Welcome to San Francisco, a city with a storied history and plenty of eccentric characters. Your adventure begins at 3pm with an important welcome meeting at your accommodation, where you’ll meet your local leader and fellow travellers. After your meeting, get to know San Francisco Bay on a sunset catamaran cruise. Sail around the infamous Alcatraz Island and beneath the emblematic Golden Gate Bridge while keeping an eye out for the dolphins, pelicans, sea lions and occasional whale that can be found in these waters. Take in incredible views of the city’s skyline as you make your return – you’ll definitely be leaving your heart in San Francisco! The evening is free for your own discoveries – perhaps head to Chinatown and get your hands on some dim sum!
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • San Francisco - Sunset catamaran cruise
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
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. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.

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).
This morning, take in some of San Fran’s most famous sights during a scenic driving tour. Pass by the painted ladies, a row of grandiose Victorian houses, and get your camera ready as you gaze upon the Golden Gate Bridge from the best viewpoint in the city. In the afternoon, make the drive to Lake Tahoe, the USA’s second-deepest lake and home to 116 km (72 miles) of scenic shoreline. This evening, we’ll enjoy a delicious group dinner at a local restaurant in Lake Tahoe.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • San Francisco - Driving tour & Golden Gate Bridge
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Today, you’ll get a chance to take to the water in Lake Tahoe with a stand-up paddle board experience or kayak. Skim along the glassy water as you take in the views of the surrounding wilderness from a whole new perspective. Once back on dry land, the rest of the day is yours to enjoy at leisure. This natural adventure park has plenty going on year-round which means there’ll be a plethora of activities for you to choose from, depending on the season. In summer, you can take a refreshing dip in the clear, blue waters of the lake, or for the hiking enthusiasts – the surrounding hillside is perfect for scenic walks during the warmer months. During winter the area becomes a snow-covered playground where you can choose to take a sleigh ride or try your hand at ice skating.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Lake Tahoe - Kayaking/watersports
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning, head south to the world-famous Yosemite National Park. Featuring colossal granite cliff faces, cascading waterfalls (depending on the season) and redwood forests, the scenery in Yosemite attracts travellers from all over the globe. On arrival, wander through the jaw-dropping Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias, home to two-dozen of the largest known trees on earth. These colossal, ancient wonders are adapted for survival – they’re resistant to disease, thanks to a large content of tannin (a type of natural chemical) in the wood – and their thick asbestos-like bark means that they can withstand the hottest of forest-fires, making them almost indestructible. The resilient beauty of these redwood beasts makes them a phenomenal must-see on any Yosemite itinerary.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Yosemite National Park - Entrance Fee
  • Yosemite National Park - Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Enjoy a guided walk around the spectacular scenery of Yosemite National Park followed by a free day to explore. The breathtaking landscapes have made Yosemite a favourite among hikers for generations, and there are plenty of trekking routes on offer with varying degrees of difficulty. If you feel like breaking a sweat, the 5-hour hike to the top of Nevada Falls features plenty of switchbacks and, depending on the season, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the cascading waterfall beneath the giant Half Dome. Feel like taking it easy? No problem, there are plenty of gentle trails on offer. Keep an eye out for squirrels (and watch for bears!) along the way. If you’d prefer, you can 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, a nice option is a float down the Merced River on a raft followed by a few drinks at the local cafe. This evening, if the weather is right, join the group for an included pizza picnic in the park! Alternatively, warm up with a local meal in the cosy indoors.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Yosemite - Pizza Picnic Dinner
  • Yosemite National Park - Leader-led hike
Optional Activities
  • Yosemite - Cycling in Yosemite Valley - USD12
  • Yosemite National Park - Hiking - Free
  • Yosemite - Raft Rental (seasonal) - USD30
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Today there’s a chance to explore a different side of the park as you join your leader on a guided hike through the awe-inspiring Yosemite Valley. Strewn with dramatic waterfalls, gigantic granite outcrops and lush meadows, this is one of the most spectacular spots in the country. Learn about the ecologically diverse landscape as you explore with your leader, who will recommend independent walks in the area you can take on this afternoon.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning, stop and admire the glistening waters of Tenaya and Mono Lakes on the drive south through the Sierras. On the way to Lone Pine, perhaps stop at Manzanar National Historic Site, a former military-style camp where more than 110,000 Japanese-American men, women and children were detained during WWII. Continue to Alabama Hills – where colourful undulating peaks roll in the foreground of the contrasting jagged, snowy Sierras – this beautiful landscape is just a stone’s throw away from where you’ll be spending the night in Lone Pine – not far from the entrance to Death Valley. On arrival, 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.
Special Information
Today’s driving time is approximately 6 hours.

FALL & SPRING departures
During the months from November to June the Tioga Pass can sometimes be closed due to snow. During these months we will need to find an alternative route as the pass will be closed not allowing us to travel through the Eastern Sierras. The alternative route will be to go around the West Side of the mountains through Fresno visiting Death Valley on the way to Las Vegas.
This morning you'll explore the geologically rich Death Valley National Park. Don't let the name fool you, this park features huge sand dunes, canyons, sculpted rocks, valleys and volcanic craters. Death Valley is extremely hot and dry (the highest recorded temperature in the world was measured in local Furnace Creek at 56.6˚C in 1913) so remember to pack plenty of water and don't overexert yourself. Stop along the way at Zabriskie Point, Badwater Basin and the Mesquite Dunes, where you’ll have the chance to stretch your legs with some short walks. Arrive to the glitzy desert city of Las Vegas – it may be a gamblers paradise but if the tables aren't your thing there's still plenty to discover. Maybe wander along the Strip – past impersonators, billboards and hotels to the choreographed Bellagio Fountain show, or perhaps head to a rooftop amusement park, hit the chain stores or lose all sense of time exploring the gaudy interiors of hotels like The Venetian, Caesars Palace and New York-New York. In the evening, why not join your travel buddies for an optional dinner!
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Death Valley National Park
Optional Activities
  • Death Valley National Park - Hiking (seasonal) - Free
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Welcome to Las Vegas, Nevada. From a western outpost in the desert, Las Vegas is now a gambling and entertainment metropolis. It’s a city of larger-than-life characters, but beyond the glitz, Vegas is home to diverse urban neighbourhoods and a thriving arts scene. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting in the hotel lobby at 6 pm. As there's a great deal to do in Las Vegas, we recommend you arrive a day or two early to make the most of this city. Try your luck on the casino floors, hit up Fremont Street, soak up the gaudiness of the strip or catch one of the many shows on offer.
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 welcome meeting at 6pm to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and meet travellers joining you. It’s important that you attend the meeting as your new leader will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.
Today, leave behind the neon and nightclubs behind, and travel to Zion National Park (approximately 3 hours). Warm up with a leader-led orientation or the park, and gentle walk to the lower end of the Emerald Pools, passing the sparkling waterfalls and streams along the way. Continue on a more difficult trail to the upper section, checking out another waterfall on the way to Zion's 'beach'. After a picnic lunch, enjoy some free time this afternoon to explore more of the park's hiking trails. If you're feeling ambitious, perhaps enjoy the strenuous hike to Scout Lookout.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Lunch
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
Enjoy some 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, as it is probably the most popular hike in the park, and one of the best slot canyon hikes on Earth. Trek through a gorge surrounded by cliff faces 300 metres high, and after a while, cool off in a river along the way. The Narrows hike can be tailored to suit various levels of skill and experience, so there’s a trek for everyone!
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Zion National Park - Entrance Fee
Optional Activities
  • Zion National Park - Walks - Free
  • Zion - Narrows Hiking Gear Rental - USD25
  • Zion National Park - River tubing (seasonal) - USD24
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information

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 desert. You will have heaps of time to explore the park's selection of hikes, 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 the canyon’s colourful landscapes. The group leader will join you on a hike and for lunch in the Canyon. The accommodation tonight is not too far away, so you’ll be able to enjoy scenic views over the canyon into the night.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Bryce Canyon National Park - Entrance Fee
Optional Activities
  • Bryce Canyon National Park - Hiking - Free
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Today you’ll make the 6-hour drive to the spectacular Monument Valley, passing through the little city of Page, set on the shores of Lake Powell. If you’ve never been to Monument Valley before, you’ll surely still recognise it. The iconic landscape of red-toned spires, buttes and mesas has been the set of countless, films, TV shows and photographs – and the real deal is even more impressive than what’s seen on screen. Once you’ve arrived to Monument Valley, you’ll have the chance to explore the giant sandstone formations scattered across the desert as far as the eye can see. In the evening, travel by jeep through the valley with a Navajo guide. Join the locals for an authentic Navajo dinner around a campfire and settle in for an evening of traditional songs and stories.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Monument Valley Tribal Park Entry Fee
  • Monument Valley - Jeep Tour and Navajo Dinner
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
In the morning, pay a visit to Horseshoe Bend, named for its loop of water surrounding an enormous sandstone escarpment. After some time to admire this famous sight, make the 3.5-hour drive to the Grand Canyon, one of the largest canyon systems in the world. Photos really don't do this massive network of gorges, rivers and cliffs justice. This a real highlight of the trip, and you'll be spending two nights here in order to take it all in. After a picnic lunch, you may like to take a stroll along the South Rim Trail, offering up epic views over the park. Ask the group leader for advice on which trails are right for you and your fitness level.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Horseshoe Bend
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Today is as clear as an Arizona sky in summer. Explore at your own pace, but remember to always have a supply of water and high-energy snacks handy. Touch base with the group leader about optional activities available today – recommended is a helicopter flight over the gorges, providing a chance to see the entire park. If you'd rather get the bird’s eye view without leaving the ground, you can choose to watch a documentary on the canyon at the local IMAX theatre. Of course, there are myriad trails and treks to keep the active occupied. Bright Angel has wonderful views all along the trail and Ooh-Aah Point is a favourite shorter hike on the South Kaibab Trail, offering another viewpoint to the park. 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) - USD350
  • Grand Canyon - Hiking - Free
  • Grand Canyon - IMAX movie - USD10
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
In the morning, take the drive to Joshua Tree National Park (approximately 7 hours). You’ll spend some time driving the famous Route 66 and have a quick stop by the eccentric community of Seligman. Sitting between the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, Joshua Tree is home to striking rock formations, many species of cacti and varied desert wildlife such as coyotes, lizards and bighorn sheep. Joshua Tree provides a considerable contrast to the wildlife and natural scenery you have seen recently.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Joshua Tree National Park - Entrance Fee
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
There may be time to squeeze in a sunrise hike at Joshua Tree before making the approximately 3-hour journey to Los Angeles. Spend an afternoon at Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach for a bit of people watching and the chance to pick up some lunch. Then you’re free to discover LA at your own pace. Stroll Rodeo Drive, amp up the culture with a trip to the Getty Centre or take a tour around the Beverly Hills mansions. You will have no problem finding a spot for dinner this evening – the cultural mishmash of LA provides excellent food wherever you are.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Your hotel tonight is located in Santa Monica just west of downtown Los Angeles.
There are no more activities planned today.  If you're planning to stay in LA for a little while longer, we'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

10 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 dinners

Transport

Private vehicle

Accommodation

Hotel (14 nights), Lodge (3 nights)

Included activities

  • San Francisco - Sunset catamaran cruise
  • San Francisco - Driving tour & Golden Gate Bridge
  • Lake Tahoe - Kayaking/watersports
  • Yosemite National Park - Entrance Fee
  • Yosemite National Park - Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias
  • Yosemite - Pizza Picnic Dinner
  • Yosemite National Park - Leader-led hike
  • Death Valley National Park
  • Zion National Park - Entrance Fee
  • Bryce Canyon National Park - Entrance Fee
  • Monument Valley Tribal Park Entry Fee
  • Monument Valley - Jeep Tour and Navajo Dinner
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Horseshoe Bend
  • Joshua Tree National Park - Entrance Fee

Dates & availability

Trip departures are unavailable.

There are currently no scheduled departures on our San Fran to LA: Ultimate National Parks trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.

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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 3:00 PM on Day 1 in San Francisco. This trip ends on Day 10 in Los Angeles.
2. A single supplement is available if you’d prefer not to share a room on this trip. The single supplement applies to all nights of your trip and is subject to availability. Please speak to your booking agent for further information.
3. Please note that the legal drinking age in the US is 21 and in some parts of Canada it's 19.
4. During the months from November to June the Tioga Pass can sometimes be closed due to snow. During these months we will need to find an alternative route of the pass is closed which means we will be unable to pass through the Eastern Sierras. The alternative route will be to go around the West Side of the mountains through Fresno visiting Death Valley on the way to Las Vegas.

Essential trip information

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