After departing San Francisco we head east through California's historic gold country and then high into the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the magnificent Yosemite National Park. We begin with an easy trail walk to the Giant Sequoias before our two night stay at the historic Wawona Lodge. After enjoying the included welcome dinner at the lodge, you will be ready for Yosemite! If you have any special dietary and medical requirements, please can you advise sales prior to joining the tour as we must pass this information along to the hotel. Featured Accommodation: Wawona Lodge Wawona, a National Historic Landmark, rests upon verdant meadows and beside rushing streams. The tranquillity of this Victorian-style lodge in Yosemite makes it a favourite of those who prefer a relaxed environment and the gracious charm of a bygone era. All rooms are furnished with period pieces and antiques. There are no telephones or televisions, allowing you to completely escape and relax.
Yosemite National Park sits nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range of northern California. Here green forest meets granite walls measuring several thousand feet in height. Rock climbers come from all over the world to scale the rocks whilst hikers get to walk to the base of some of the largest waterfalls in the world. The Yosemite Valley beckons. Here we may bicycle, take a dip in the Merced River or wander the meadows. We get to hike on one of the many trails enabling us to leave the crowds behind. The famous sites situated along these trails include Yosemite Falls, Nevada Falls, Vernal Falls, Mirror Lake and Half Dome. The views are breathtaking from every vantage point - the granite formations of Half Dome, El Capitan and Cathedral Rocks are sure to be forever etched on our minds. In the evening we return to our historic lodge and have the chance to relax with a cocktail on the veranda.
From Yosemite we continue the journey to the vibrant forest and deep blue of beautiful Lake Tahoe, the second deepest lake in USA with a maximum depth of 1645 feet. Formed about 2 million years ago and shaped during the Ice Age, the lake is actually located right on the border of California and Nevada and sits on an altitude of 6225 feet above sea level. It is a major tourist recreational area in both summer and winter with one of its ski areas, Squaw Valley, playing host to the 1960 Winter Olympics. We stay in a hotel next to the lake and have the chance to enjoy an optional sunset cruise on a catamaran, which is sure to be an unforgettable experience.
From Lake Tahoe we delve deeper into the vast desert for some grand scenery. The Great Basin Desert actually extends right across to California, Oregon, Idaho and Utah. We cover some great distances today, but also get to see some fascinating and contrasting scenery on our road trip.
Our next destination, Yellowstone National Park, is the world's first national park and home to a large variety of wildlife including grizzly bear, wolf, bison and elk. This park is so large that its boundaries cross into three states. Most of it is in Wyoming, but parts of the reserve extend into Idaho and Montana. Yellowstone has one of the highest concentrations of geothermal activity on the planet. Herds of bison roam amongst the erupting geysers and steam rises from the various rivers running through the park. A fire in the 1980s ravaged much of the park, but it has recovered to the extent that it is now a living monument to nature's power of regeneration.
Another day to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the National Park. Featured Accommodation: Lake Yellowstone Lodge (departure dates to be confirmed) Situated on a site long known as a meeting place for Native Americans, trappers and mountain men, Lake Yellowstone Lodge was completed in 1891 and restored to its 1920s grandeur in 1990. Complete with ionic columns, extend gables and 15 false balconies, this majestic hotel sits on the shores of Yellowstone Lake and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The casually elegant restaurant features a delightfully extravagant menu. We usually stay in the comfortable twin-share cabins situated in the hotel grounds for a real authentic frontier feel. Featured Accommodation: Yellowstone Inn (departure dates to be confirmed) The Yellowstone Inn offers seasonal lodging located in the heart of western Yellowstone country, outside of Yellowstone National Park. The Inn is family owned and each of their 10 units are unique with a character and charm of their own featuring knotty pine interiors with unique cabin furniture, cable TV, coffee makers, microwaves, small refrigerators and air conditioning.
We continue our journey in Wyoming, and travel past Grand Teton National Park before reaching Jackson to enjoy a truly friendly and authentic western town experience. Once home to trappers and a hideout for outlaws and rustlers, Jackson is now the base for hikers to take on some lovely hiking trails as well as a town renowned for its cafes and western style saloons! With a permanent population of around 8,600 people and a far greater transient tourist population, it attracts many of the rich and famous and is a great base for exploring the Teton Mountains. Surrounded by beautiful scenery you can spend your day hiking, mountain biking, rafting and more! Meals: Paid locally Featured Accommodation: Trapper Inn Lexington Conveniently located in the heart of Jackson, The Lexington at Jackson Hole Hotel & Suites (formerly the Trapper Inn), is a family-owned hotel with deep roots in Jackson's historic Western community. Offering a perfect blend of Western hospitality and modern luxury, The Lexington provides a variety of well-appointed, spacious sleeping quarters and quality amenities. The warm and personable staff are always pleased to share local insights and will help you navigate the adventure, dining, shopping, sightseeing and wildlife viewing that makes Jackson Hole such a spectacular destination.
Our next destination is the capital of Utah - Salt Lake City. With a city population of 186,000 and a metropolitan population of 1.13 million, it is the largest city in the state. Founded in 1847 by Brigham Young and his Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) followers, it is still the base for the religion although less than half the population in the city today are Mormons. At the centre of town is Temple Square and we have the afternoon free to explore the city's beautifully landscaped grounds, the granite Salt Lake Temple with its six spires and the domed Tabernacle, home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Besides occasional free concerts, there are also nearby shopping centres and tasty local restaurants
Next up is more spectacular scenery amid the magnificent splendour of Arches National Park, located just a few miles outside Moab and our base for the next two days. These stunning red sandstone arches have been created by millions of years of wind whipping down the west slope of the Rocky Mountains. Here we have the opportunity to hike to many of these incredible arches, which are known by descriptive names such as Landscape Arch and the famous Delicate Arch.
Alternatively, why not tackle the terrain high above on a guided hummer tour or take a float trip down the Colorado River. In contrast, Canyonlands National Park is a little known place where the mighty Colorado and Green Rivers meet, carving this amazing landscape popular with mountain bikers and white water rafters. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you explore all it offers from natural bridges to towering cliffs and bottomless canyons.
In the heart of the Navajo Nation in Arizona, Monument Valley is sacred land to those who call it home. The red sandstone monoliths and spectacular sunsets and sunrises have been the backdrop to countless 'westerns' featuring cowboys riding off into the desert. We explore the incredible array of rock formations on an included guided backroads tour and learn the magic and myth of the rich Native American culture. The Navajo Tribal Lands of Monument Valley is a true photographer's paradise. There is also ample time to relax and view the valley's surreal sunset.
We arrive at Grand Canyon National Park for our two night lodge stay. Carved over several millennia, this massive wonder of nature is 445 kilometres (277 miles) long, up to 29 kilometres (18 miles) wide and over 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) deep. Located on the less traveled North Rim, enjoy time exploring the natural beauty of the Canyon at your own pace before retiring to the lodge to relax and taking in the expansive views of the Canyon below, not to mention the glorious sunrise!
Another day to enjoy the stunning Grand Canyon. Featured Accommodation: Grand Canyon Lodge This historic property is the only lodging available on the North Rim of the National Park. Located at Bright Angel Point, the lodge was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987. Here you can enjoy the quiet serenity of the North Rim while enjoying comfortable authenticity of western log cabins. In the evening The Rough Rider Saloon and Lodge Dining Room offers a wide range of beverages, appetizers and hearty 'home cooked' meals.
We make our way back to Utah and onto Zion, our last national park, and one of the most spectacular destinations in the US. Zion Canyon was named by the early Mormon settlers of Utah who thought of it as their 'promised land'. Some of the best hiking in this desert terrain of southwest USA can be found here in and around the fertile Virgin River as it meanders below massive, cathedral-like, sandstone walls. With two nights here, we will have plenty of time to explore. Featured Accommodation: Zion Lodge The Zion National Park Lodge offers the only in-park accommodation around and lies in the middle of a venerable hiker's paradise. Designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood in the 1920s, the lodge was restored back to its original classic design in 1990. Most rooms have two queen-size beds, full bathrooms, a private porch or balcony and flat-screen television with satellite. They are clean, comfortable and within walking distance to trails and the main lodge. Red Rock Grill, Zion Lodge's recently renovated dining room, boasts spectacular views of the magnificent surroundings.
We have a full day to further explore the delights of Zion National Park. There are various hikes to choose from, ranging from easy to strenuous ones. We warm up our legs by taking some of the short hikes from the valley floor to view the Lower Emerald pool and then continue on to the sparkling Upper Emerald pools, passing a waterfall along the way to discover Zion's 'beach'. We can also cool off from the summer sun by exploring the Riverside Walk section of the Virgin River. If you are feeling ambitious, enjoy the park's more challenging option and ascend 760 metres (2500 feet) to experience unbeatable panoramic views from the top of Angels Landing. After a beautiful but strenuous hike along the knife-edge ridgeline you will be rewarded with one of the most breathtaking and powerful panoramas you will ever experience. If weather conditions permit, you may choose to hike deep into the Zion Narrows. Of course, horse riding is available if you'd prefer a seat with a view!
Visit the Valley of Fire State Park - Nevada's largest state park before we leave nature behind and head into Las Vegas, Nevada, and all of its neon splendour. Las Vegas is the fastest growing city in United States and the entertainment capital of North America - home to pirates and pyramids, weddings and waterfalls. If it is gambling you want, you have come to the right place! Nowhere else in the world will you find as many casinos, clubs and all-you-can-eat buffets. Why not hit the strip tonight for a farewell party? This tour ends in Las Vegas at approximately 17:00 hrs. We can book you post-tour accommodation if required. For Land Only clients that are planning to fly tonight, please do not book a flight that departs before 21:00 hrs as we cannot guarantee that you will make the flight on time.