Upon arrival into San Francisco it is recommended that you clear customs and take the shuttle bus (approx US$15 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 and 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 National Park. The accommodation here is in rustic twin share tent cabins with beds and communal bathrooms and is located at the start of the trails. 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)
4 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
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
Today we enjoy Lake Powell which was created through the damming of the Colorado River. Here dark blue waters reflect sheer red stone towers in an amazing colour show offering unforgettable impressions. We have all 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$45), a rafting trip on the Colorado River (allow US$90) or for a sunset boat tour on Lake Powell (allow US$45). Otherwise, the pink beaches are always a pleasure to relax along the shore line or to take a swim in the lake.
In the morning, we head for Bryce Canyon. For many visitors Bryce Canyon ranks among the most beautiful places in the United States. We have all day to enjoy this amazing park that is filled with hiking trails winding through towering red and pink stone. The color contrast between the red rocks, green pines, and blue sky delight every photographer and nature lover. Those wanting to explore the formations on horseback can do so (not included, approx. $65).
Driving time (approx. 3 hrs) and hike (Fairlyland Loop 4-5 hrs, ca. 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.
Drive time: approx. 120 m / 190 km or 2 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
Zion National Park is famous for its 800 m sheer sandstone walls towering into the sky. Today, we hike to the Emerald Pools, where waterfalls cascade into an oasis of natural ponds. We then drive the final leg of our adventure into Las Vegas.
Drive time: approx. 140 miles / 220 km or 2.5 hr
Emerald Pools: 2-3 hrs, approx. 3 miles / 5 km, elevation difference: +/-200 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.
PLEASE NOTE: DUE TO OVERCROWDING IN THE NATIONAL PARKS PARKING IS AT TIMES IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND. IN THIS CASE THE TOUR DIRECTOR MAY DECIDE TO LEAVE THE GROUP AT THE ENTRANCE AND TRY TO FIND PARKING. IN THIS CASE SOME HIKES WOULD BE SELF GUIDED.