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, a tour of Alcatraz (recommend booking in advance) or a ferry ride to Sausalito (optional).
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
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 cayotes.
Panorama Trail from Glacier Pt (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.
Today we will continue on to Tuolumne Meadows - the alpine area with its lush grasses and wild flowers will contrast greatly with the arid conditions in Arizona and Utah's Mational Parks. Weather permitting we hike to the top of Lembert Dome (2880m), where we enjoy expansive views over Tuolumne Meadow. Road conditions permitting, we continue in our private vehicle to the highest auto-route across the Sierra Tioga Pass (3031m) offering amazing views from the top. The scenic interests continue into the afternoon with the stunning Mono Lake at the edge of the Great Basin Desert & Panum Crater before heading to our night's accommodation in Mammoth.*
Lembert Dome Hike: 3 hrs, ca 5 miles / 8 km, elevation difference: +/- 300m
Drive time approx 4 hours
In May and October, we will likely detour via Sonora Pass as there may be road closures due to snow.
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. Its uniqueness is derived from the fact that it is the lowest, hottest & driest location in North America with a substantial area of the park lying 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 approx 4 hours
Drive to the Grand Canyon via Route 66 through the hot deserts of Nevada where there is plenty of time to soak up the magnificence of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our hotel is located close to the entrance of the park.
Drive time approx 5 hours
We have all day to spend at this amazing site. The Grand Canyon is one of the great wonders of the world 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 follow the leader along the West Rim, where incredible views can be enjoyed. There is time to enjoy another unforgettable sunset. Walking options include the Kaibab Ridge (3-4 hrs, ca. 3 miles/ 5 km, elevation difference: +/- 300m), Plateau Point (8-12 hrs, ca. 12 miles/ 20 km, elevation difference: +/- 1150m), and the Hike along the rim (up to 4 hrs, up to 8 miles / 13 km, elevation difference: +/- 50m). You may choose to take an optional helicopter ride to view the Grand Canyon at your own expense (approx US$200-$300, depending on duration).
*Note that hikes in Grand Canyon National Park are self-guided due to permit regulations.
We journey on by road through the Painted Desert (approx 3-4 hours) to the world famous Monument Valley of the Navajo tribe. Here, giant rock domes and mesas rise out of the valley into the blue sky and offer the opportunity for excellent pictures. For decades, the area has been used by Hollywood as a favourite movie backdrop. We highly recommend an unforgettable jeep tour with the Navajos through the valley (allow approx US$70) to the hidden beauty spots such as 'Ear of the Wind' and 'Big Hogan'. We then continue on towards Lake Powell and our hotel.
Drive time approx 5 hours
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 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$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.
For many visitors Bryce Canyon ranks among the most beautiful in the USA. A full day has been reserved to explore the surreal formations of the that characterise the park where erosion has shaped colourful Clarion limestones, sandstones and mudstones into thousands of spines, fins, pinnacles and mazes. Collectively these are referred to as the "hoodoos" and it should be said that photography enthusiasts will be revelling by the compositions that prevail! The walk today is the Fairlyland Loop (4-5 hrs, ca. 8 miles/ 13 km, elevation difference: +/- 300m). Additional walks are available.
Drive time approx 3 hours
Zion National Park (approx 2 hours drive from Bryce NP) is located at the junction of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin and Mojave desert provinces. It is known for its soaring red cliff walls of deep red sandstone that have been sculptured by the Virgin River and that soar as high as 800 metres. Today we take the opportunity to explore this dramatic landscape of canyons, domes and soaring cliffs and a walk to Angel's Landing, a huge sandstone dome rising over the narrow valley of the Virgin River adds a further dimension to our day. Our walking options today include Angel's Landing - 4-5 hrs, ca. 5 miles / 8 km, Elevation difference: +/- 450m) and Narrows (1-2 hrs, ca. 2-3 miles / 3-5 km, Elevation difference: +/- 0m).
Drive time approx 2 hours
We'll visit the Emerald Pools where waterfalls cascade into an oasis of pools before leaving the wilderness and driving on to the desert city of Las Vegas where there is time for exploration of this lively city before settling into our hotel. Emerald Pools is a 2- 3 hour hike.
Drive time approx 2.5 hours
Trip departs in Las Vegas upon check out from the hotel before 12 noon. There is a courtesy transfer from the hotel to the airport every hour for those wishing to go to the airport.