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Trip Location: San Francisco
It would be hard to improve on this spectacular itinerary combining visits and optional day walks in Arizona, California and Utah’s most spectacular National Parks with some optional walks into and around the Grand Canyon and time in the cities of San Francisco and Las Vegas. This is the best of Western USA visiting 4 States and 6 National Parks. During our 14 day trip we explore the trails of Yosemite to view immense glacier carved walls of soaring granite, such as Lembert Dome (2880m) and the famous Half Dome (2680m). We’ll ogle at the world’s biggest trees, the ancient Sequoias, before continuing to Mammoth with its hot springs. Following a short visit to Death Valley we journey deep into Utah and explore the ancient landscapes at Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park and view the deep blue waters of Lake Powell. This iconic trip is completed with two days at Grand Canyon National Park.
Upon arrival into San Francisco it is recommended that you clear customs and take the shuttle bus (approx US$20 per person) to the group hotel specified in your final tour voucher. You will meet with your group leader and other members of the group at 8am the following morning when the group briefing will take place. NB: If you wish to spend more time in San Francisco then we are able to book additional nights for you.
San Francisco is amongst one of the USA’s most cosmopolitan and atmospheric cities. Located on the bay its suburbs are linked by a series of expansive bridges, one of those being the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Trams run major routes along the foreshore and into the hilly heights in a city where quaint wooden houses contrast sharply with the sophistication of modern skyscrapers. In the morning we explore the city on foot (3-4 hours) and cable car, and explore its hidden wonders as well as all the famous sights, such as Union Square, Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf. Last but not least we enjoy amazing views from Coit Tower. You will be given a day pass for the cable car allowing you to explore the city in the afternoon on your own. In the afternoon we recommend a harbour cruise on the bay (boat tours are not included, various fees apply), a tour of Alcatraz (recommend booking in advance) or a ferry ride to Sausalito (optional). City tour: approx. 3-4 hours, 2-3 miles / 4-7 km, elevation difference: +/-100 m
This morning we depart San Francisco via the famous Golden Gate Bridge, providing the opportunity to walk across for those who wish to savour the views. We will then head for the amazing grove of giant Sequoia, the world's largest trees where we enjoy a leisurely walk amongst the giants. We continue onto the Yosemite Valley where we stay in tent cabins in the heart of Yosemite Valley at Half Dome Village, the hub of activity in the valley. The accommodation here is in rustic twin share tent cabins with beds and communal bathrooms. The benefit of this accommodation is the direct access to hiking trails for those who wish to hike Half Dome. Depending on availability of the tent cabins, some groups may be staying at nearby motel - Additional drive time would apply. Drive time approx 4-5 hrs, 250 miles / 400 km
Yosemite National Park which was established in 1890 in the Sierra Nevada, encompasses stunning mountain vistas and valleys housing meadows and forests (including groves of giant sequoias) surrounded by high cliffs and waterfalls. The forest of giant Sequoias, the world’s biggest trees and the soaring cliffs of Half Dome are just some of the highlights of the park. During our days in the park several options are offered. For those wanting to climb Half Dome (2680m) you can do so self-guided, as long as you have obtained the permits well in advance (permits must be obtained through Park's online lottery system in March*), or for others there is a more leisurely option to drive up to Glacier Point, the most impressive view point in the park. From here we can marvel at the valley as well as the impressive walls of Half Dome. There are three very different walks offered at this point each varying in difficulty; two of them descend down into the valley while the third traces the rim of the valley. In the evening we may also have the opportunity to look for wildlife such as bears and coyotes. Panorama Trail from Glacier Point (4-6 hrs, ca. 7 miles / 12 km, +200m/900m) Four Mile Trail (4-5 hrs, ca 6 miles / 10 km, -900m) Sentinel Dome & Taft Point Loop (ca 4 hrs, ca 6 miles / 10 km, +/- 200m) *Half Dome (8-10 hrs, ca 13 miles / 20 km, +/- 1500m) -- Please visit https://www.recreation.gov - "Cables on Half Dome" to obtain permits and reserve your self-guided hike. Tour operators are not allowed to reserve this for you and there are only 225 permits per day.
In the morning, we depart Yosemite National Park via Tioga Pass, crossing over the Sierra Nevada Mountains at 10,000 feet (3048 m). Time and weather permitting, we may hike and scramble to the top of Lembert Dome, offering expansive views over the Tuolumne Meadow. We then continue our journey down rutted dirt roads to Bodie State Park, a remote gold rush era town in the high desert and one of the most famous ghost towns in the West. The day will conclude with a short exploration of Mono Lake, one of the world’s oldest lakes, famous for its white Tufa towers formed by hot springs. Drive time: 180 miles / 280 km or 4 hrs Lembert Dome: 3 hrs, approx. 5 miles / 8 km, elevation difference: +/-300 m Note: Trips starting before the end of May or in late October may have to detour via Sonora Pass due to snow closure on Tioga Pass Road in Yosemite National Park. Tioga Pass generally opens Memorial Day, which is the last weekend in May. It closes with the first heavy snow of the year.
This morning we drive to Death Valley National Park where more than 3.3 million acres of spectacular desert scenery, rare desert wildlife, complex geology, undisturbed wilderness and sites of historical interest abound. This area is known for extreme weather conditions and temperatures, and is one of the hottest places on earth. In summer, temperatures can reach 50° Celsius. Additionally, being in a rift valley, Death Valley is also the lowest location in the Western Hemisphere at 100 m below sea level. We explore the golden sand dunes which contrast with the stark brown and black hillsides, Badwater with its poisonous springs, the Devil’s Golf Course formed by salt deposits and the colourful formations at Zabriske Point. If time and weather permit, there is also an optional walk through the Badlands. Badlands: 2-3 hrs, ca. 3 miles/ 5 km, elevation difference: +/- 200m Drive time: 240 miles / 400 km or approx. 4 hr
In the morning, we travel via Route 66 through the hot deserts of Nevada and into the world famous Grand Canyon. The opportunity for a breathtaking helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon (not included, flights start at approx. $180) will be available. Our hotel is located close to the entrance of the park. Drive time approx 5 hours, 320 miles / 500 km
We have all day to spend at this amazing sight. The Grand Canyon is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site and although plenty of tourists visit the area, few hit the trails. If you prefer, you can hike into the canyon to Plateau Point or walk along the West Rim, where incredible views await. There will be time to enjoy an unforgettable sunset. *Note: Hikes in Grand Canyon National Park are self-guided due to permit regulations. Kaibab Ridge: 3-4 hrs, approx. 3 miles/ 5 km, elevation difference: +/-300 m Plateau Point: 8-12 hrs, approx. 12 miles/ 20 km, elevation difference: +/-1150 m Hike along the rim: up to 4 hrs, up to 8 miles/ 13 km, elevation difference: +/-50 m
In the morning, we depart via the east entrance, stopping to see the sights of the East Rim, and head for the world famous Monument Valley of the Navajo tribe. Here giant rock domes and mesas rise out of the valley into the blue sky, offering impressive photo opportunities. For decades, the area has been used by Hollywood as a favorite movie backdrop. We highly recommend an unforgettable Jeep tour with the Navajos through the valley (not included, approx. $70) to hidden beauty spots such as “Ear of the Wind” and “Big Hogan”. From here, after a short drive, we reach Lake Powell, where we spend the night in Page, AZ. Drive time: approx. 300 miles / 450 km or 5 hrs
After an early breakfast, we depart towards Page and the Lake Powell area. On our way we will stop to walk the short trail to famous Horseshoe Bend. After taking in the stunning views we continue to the next highlight. Lake Powell was created through the damming of the Colorado River. Here dark blue waters reflect sheer red stone towers in an amazing colour, offering unforgettable impressions. We have most of the day to explore the area with a range of optional activities such as a jeep tour to Antelope Canyon, “the” classic slot canyon (allow US$70). Antelope Canyon is known for its incredible rock formations, colours and lights and is one of the most photographed slot canyons in the world. In the late afternoon we drive to our next destination, Bryce Canyon. Overnight Bryce View Lodge or similar. Drive time approx 3 hours, 150miles / 240km
For many visitors Bryce Canyon ranks among the most beautiful in the USA. A full day has been reserved to explore the surreal formations that characterise the park where erosion has shaped colourful Clarion limestones, sandstones and mudstones into thousands of spines, fins, pinnacles and mazes. Hiking trails wind through red and pink stone towers glowing in the sunlight. The colour contrast between the red rocks, green of the pines and blue of the sky delight every photographer and nature lover. The hike today is Queens Garden. Additional walks are available. Also for those wanting to explore the formations on horseback can do so (approximately $65, not included). Overnight: Bryce View Lodge or similar. Queens Garden / Peek-A-Loop: 5 hrs, approx 8 miles / 13 km, Elevation difference: +/- 300m
In the morning, we drive to the spectacular Zion National Park where you may take a hike to Angel’s Landing (self-guided), a huge sandstone dome that rises over the narrow valley of the Virgin River offering unforgettable views. If you wish, you can hike all the way to the top. Time permitting, we may rent river boots and wade through the famous Narrows of the Virgin River. We then drive on to our next destination, St George near Snow Canyon State Park. Drive time: approx. 120 m / 190 km or 2.5 hrs Angel’s Landing: 4-5 hrs, approx. 5 miles / 8 km, elevation difference: +/-450 m Narrows: 1-2 hrs, approx. 2-3 miles / 3-5 km, elevation difference: +/-0 m
Today, we hike over beautiful slick rock, past a lava tube and across moqui marbles. Then we marvel at the remarkable dinosaur footprints. We then drive the final leg of our adventure into Las Vegas. Overnight: La Quinta or similar. Drive time: approx. 100 miles / 160 km or 2 hr Lava Tube Loop: 2-3 hrs, approx. 3 miles / 5 km, elevation difference: +/-100 m
Departure is at your leisure and the trip concludes upon check out from the hotel before 12 noon. There is a complimentary shuttle from the hotel that you may sign up for at the front desk. Please let us know if you would like to spend additional days in this vibrant city.
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