United States Of America
Discover the captivating cities and astounding natural attractions of the USA's west on an adventure through California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. Experience the wonderful wilds of Joshua Tree, Zion and Yosemite national parks, explore Monumental Valley, Death Valley and the Grand Canyon, and join the high rollers in glittering Las Vegas. With thrilling outdoor experiences, spectacular stretches of coastline and sensational city explorations, this is the ultimate round-up of the western USA's highlights.
* Experience the south western corner of the USA in depth, visiting the iconic national parks, lesser known gems, as well as the glamorous capitals of California and Nevada
* Towering granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls, redwood forests and epic night skies - Yosemite National Park feels like utopia. While other tour groups breeze through in a day, you'll spend two nights in the park, allowing for a full day of hiking and exploring
* For many, Death Valley conjures up images of a flat and barren wasteland. Be surprised by the park's ethereal landscapes of sand dunes, water-sculpted canyons, extinct volcanic craters and, in the spring, fields of wildflowers
* From the stone hoodoos of Bryce Canyon to the hanging gardens of Zion National Park, see a diversity of landscapes all within a short drive of each other
* As well as the famous must-see attractions on this trip, visit some lesser-known but no less spectacular national parks, such as Dead Horse Point and Arches National Park
* The iconic sandstone formations of Monument Valley have played backdrop to many a cowboy western. Learn about Navajo culture and history during a jeep tour of the park, before spending a unique night in a traditional hogan hut
* Tightly hugging the spectacular California coast, Highway 1 is simply one of the most amazing drives in the world. This trip allows you to focus all your attention on the incredible views and let someone else do all the driving!
➕ Day 1 Los Angeles
Welcome to the USA! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting in the hotel lobby today at 6 pm. 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). 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 this trip spends little time in Los Angeles, we recommend you arrive a few days early to see the sights. The 'City of Angels' is world-renowned for the glamorous districts of Hollywood and Beverly Hills, not to mention the shopping on Rodeo Drive. From Venice Beach to Disneyland, it's a veritable smorgasbord for the senses. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). You might consider doing our one-day Urban Adventure sightseeing tour of Los Angeles (see urbanadventures.com).
➕ Day 2 San Diego
Today drive south for two-and-a-half hours to San Diego, close to California's border with Mexico. Sunny San Diego is a great city to get out and explore as it serves up year-round temperate weather. Perhaps relax along the golden beaches of Mission Bay, take a stroll through Balboa Park or feast on some delicious Mexican fare. In the evening, you may like to head down to the Pacific Beach district and sample some of the bars on Garnet Street.
➕ Day 3 Joshua Tree National Park
Today 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 Joshua trees, cacti and Mojave yuccas. The area is also home to striking rock formations and mountain ranges. You might like to head out on a scenic hike around the park or even take a refreshing dip in the Colorado River. Today's total driving time is around seven hours.
➕ Day 4 Grand Canyon National Park
Drive for six hours to Grand Canyon National Park. Words don't do justice to the Grand Canyon. 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, in order to allow a full day of exploration tomorrow.
➕ Day 5 Grand Canyon National Park
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. If you're feeling extra adventurous, you might even opt for a scenic helicopter flight over the area (at your own expense). In the early evening, relax at the canyon's edge and enjoy a spectacular sunset over one the world's natural wonders.
➕ Day 6 Las Vegas
Today we drive for about five hours to Las Vegas. This 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.
➕ Day 7 Zion National Park
Today leave Nevada and drive for around three hours to Zion National Park. The park is home to stunning desert landscapes, sculpted rock 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. Go for a hike in Zion Canyon, or if you are feeling adventurous (and aren't afraid of heights) tackle the famous Angel's Landing Trail. In the evening, set up camp for the night.
➕ Day 8 Bryce Canyon National Park
Drive for around two-and-a-half hours to Bryce Canyon. The canyon is famous for its 'hoodoos' - odd-shaped rock spires formed by centuries of erosion. 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.
➕ Day 9 Moab
Continue on your journey this morning through the impressive Utah landscape. Depending on time and the group's interest, perhaps make a stop at Capitol Reef National Park (additional cost) before heading to Moab. Close to the incredible Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, Moab is a small city in Utah that attracts hikers, mountain bikers and nature enthusiasts. Arches National Park is punctuated with spectacularly eroded sandstone formations, and contains the world's largest concentration of natural stone arches. Take a hike out to see famous sights such as Delicate Arch and Landscape Arch. The total driving time today is approximately five-and-a-half hours.
➕ Day 10 Moab
On your second day in Moab, discover the red plateaus, cliffs and canyons of nearby Deadhorse Point State Park. Enjoy incredible views from Deadhorse Point. 610 metres (2,000 feet) above the ground, cowboys used to the point to round up wild mustangs in the 19th century. You might like to take an optional float down the Colorado River, or even hire a mountain bike to explore the area.
➕ Day 11 Monument Valley
Today drive through southern Utah to Monument Valley. Monument Valley is so-named for the giant sandstone formations scattered across the desert. The backdrop for countless westerns, the valley is part of the biggest Indian reservation in the US and home to more than 200,000 Navajo Indians. Head out on a guided jeep tour of the valley. Get your camera out and snap some photos of the spectacular landscape, which changes colour with the movement of the sun. Spend the night in a hogan, a traditional Navajo hut made of logs and earth. Total driving time today is approximately three hours.
➕ Day 12 Lake Powell
Drive through the unspoiled landscapes of the northern Arizona desert plateau to Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. This enormous manmade lake was created from the building of the Glen Canyon Dam along the Colorado River. Explore hidden coves and canyons, take a dip in the fresh water or laze on the lake's sunny shores. You could even paddle around in a kayak. Total driving time today is around three-and-a-half hours.
➕ Day 13 Las Vegas
Today drive across the border into Nevada and back to Las Vegas. The drive should take around five hours in total. Tonight, you might like to celebrate the end of your Utah adventure in style, with an optional limo tour of the city or spend the night enjoying the lights of Las Vegas.
➕ Day 14 Las Vegas
You'll have another day to further enjoy the delights of Las Vegas. Use the opportunity to find a swimming pool to relax by, have a crack at black jack, check out a show or just soak up the craziness that is Vegas. You may also choose to go on an optional adventure on the infamous Las Vegas Roller Coaster.
➕ Day 15 Death Valley
Today is a long day of driving (approximately six hours). You'll cover more than 550 kilometres through Death Valley and across the Eastern Sierra. Death Valley is one of the hottest places on the planet, with temperatures rising to 56degC in the summer. The park features huge sand dunes, sculpted rocks, isolated valleys and volcanic craters. The canyon and mountain walls change colour with the changing light. Elevations fluctuate from 85 metres below sea level near Badwater Basin (the lowest point in the United States) to 3,756 metres at Telescope Peak. Stop at the visitor centre and, if it's not too hot, take a walk on the stunning salt flats.
➕ Day 16 Yosemite National Park
Driving west, travel through the Tioga Pass (snow levels permitting) into the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Your destination is Yosemite National Park. One of the most famous parks in the USA, Yosemite's colossal granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls and redwood forests attract visitors from all over the world. You'll spend two nights in the park in order to have a full day of exploration tomorrow. The total driving time today is approximately five hours, or longer if the Tioga Pass is closed.
➕ Day 17 Yosemite National Park
Today is a free day to get out and discover the park. There are plenty of hikes available, each varying in steepness and difficulty. Hike under the cooling breezes of Nevada Falls (4-5 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. Visit 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.
➕ Day 18 San Francisco
Leave Yosemite behind today and drive west for about four hours to San Francisco. In the evening, perhaps head out with the group to sample some dumplings in Chinatown or pasta in North Beach.
➕ Day 19 San Francisco
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 a cruise on the bay to see the impressive Golden Gate Bridge.
➕ Day 20 Central Coast
We leave the city this morning and drive south down the coast to Monterey (approximately 3.5 hours). You'll spend the afternoon in the Monterey area, which is home to a National Marine sanctuary ' an incredibly deep ecosystem just metres off shore. Mammals, seabirds, fish, invertebrates and plants all thrive in a remarkably productive coastal environment. Maybe see it up close up with a kayak around the bay, or head further out to try and spot some whales. On dry land, you can wander down atmospheric Cannery Row, a favourite hangout spot for sea lions. This evening you'll set up camp here along the beautiful California Coast.
➕ Day 21 Santa Barbara Area
Today, cruise southbound along Highway 101 for approximately 4 hours. There will be restroom breaks along the way before stopping for lunch on San Simeon Beach. After lunch, head north and check out the elephant seals near Piedras Blancas. This special spot is visited by over 25,000 elephant seals every year! From here, head up to Ragged Point for a short walk overlooking the cliffs. Time permitting, we may also stop at one of the small seaside communities, such as Cambria or Morro Bay, before driving past classic Californian hotspots like San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach on the way Santa Barbara (approx. 2.5 hours).
➕ Day 22 Los Angeles
Spend some time in Santa Barbara this morning, one of the prettiest towns in California. The relaxed atmosphere, Mediterranean-style architecture and an exceptional year-round climate have long made it a millionaire's residence of choice. It's attracting a younger, 'hipper', crowd these days too thanks to its new "Funk Zone", a 12-block area of converted warehouses with new restaurants, pop-up shops, galleries and craft breweries. A walk along the long beach, gazing out at Stearns Wharf, and then a sip of one of the famous local wines is the perfect way to round out your time here. Then it's on to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood with a drive down to LA. The adventure down the California coast ends on arrival in the City of Angels. There much to see and do here, so maybe stay a couple of days longer to explore.
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