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Discover the captivating cities and natural attractions of the USA's west on a n18-day Lonely Planet Experience from lively Los Angeles to bayside San Francisco. Explore mother nature at its most diverse in Joshua Tree, Zion and Yosemite national parks, take a roadtrip stopping by Monumental Valley, Death Valley and the Grand Canyon, and join the high rollers and desert dwellers in Las Vegas. With a heap of outdoor excursions to choose from, some spectacular stretches of coastline and sensational city scenes, this is the ultimate round-up of the western USA's highlights.
Day 1: Los Angeles
Welcome to the USA! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting in the lobby today at 6 pm. If you do arrive early, perhaps take a stroll down the Hollywood Walk of Fame, or spend some time learning about the lives of the rich and famous on a celebrity homes tour. After the welcome meeting, we’ll head beachside and visit Venice and Santa Monica beach for a stroll and some people watching. Day 1 is all about introductions, so why not spend some time getting to know your fellow travellers with an optional group dinner.
Day 2: Joshua Tree National Park
Today, you’ll 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 the park’s namesake Joshua trees – along with cacti and Mojave yuccas. The area is also home to striking rock formations and mountain ranges, so you might like to head out on a scenic hike around the park or take a refreshing dip in the Colorado River. You’ll head to Lake Havasu City later on to your accommodation for the night, and check out London Bridge: a 280-metre structure rebuilt in Arizona in 1971 after being transported, piece by piece, from the banks of the Thames in London.
Day 3: Grand Canyon National Park
Drive for 6 hours to Grand Canyon National Park, along a section of the famous Route 66, stopping in at the eccentric town of Seligman. Once we arrive at the Grand Canyon National Park, be ready to visually delight in the natural beauty for hours. 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, and you’ll need it, to allow for a full day of exploration tomorrow.
Day 4: 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. With eagles soaring overhead and chasms extending as far as the eye can see, it’s so important for you to experience its vast gorges from multiple viewpoints. If you're feeling adventurous, you can choose to take a scenic helicopter flight over the area (for an extra cost). In the early evening, relax at the canyon's edge and enjoy a spectacular sunset over one of the world's natural wonders.
Day 5: Las Vegas
Head out of the Grand Canyon and cross the western deserts of Arizona to Las Vegas, which takes around 4 hours. Las Vegas 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. This evening, gather together for another meeting at 6 pm where you’ll welcome some new travellers on the next stage of your USA adventure.
Day 6: Zion National Park
Today, leave Nevada and drive for around 3 hours to Zion National Park. The park is home to stunning desert landscapes, sculpted sandstone 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. The Emerald Pools trail, a two-hour stroll past a lush stream, is a good option for those who don't want anything too strenuous. If you are feeling adventurous and have a decent level of fitness (plus aren't afraid of heights), you might want to tackle the famous Angels Landing trail. Taking around six hours and following a path with sheer drops on either side, this isn't for the faint of heart. However, the views from the top of the rock formation are spectacular. In the evening, set up camp for the night.
Day 7: Zion National Park
You’ll have a full day to explore what you missed yesterday in Zion. It would be the ideal time to head on a longer hike, potentially to admire the beauty of the flowing streams along The Narrows, or a steep climb to an incredible view at Observation Point. The national park can also be discovered via shuttle or an optional float trip, giving your feet a well-deserved rest. At night, don’t forget to look up at the dazzling night skies while camping and enjoy and try your luck at stargazing – quite perfectly combined with some s’mores around the campfire.
Day 8: Monument Valley
Drive through southern Utah to Monument Valley, so-named for the giant sandstone formations scattered across the desert. Passing by stunning lookouts and by Forrest Gump’s desert running scene, make sure to also check out the Navajo roadside stalls for some authentic goods, and if you’re lucky, some fried bread. The backdrop for countless Westerns, the valley is part of a massive Navajo reservation, and there’s no better way than heading out on an incredible guided jeep tour. Get your camera out and snap some photos of the spectacular landscape, which changes colour with the setting of the sun. Take in the stunning night skies and spend the night in a hogan, a traditional Navajo hut made of logs and earth. Total driving time today is approximately 3 hours.
Day 9: Moab
Continue on your journey this morning through the impressive landscape of Utah. On the way north to Moab, you’re going to see some incredible scenery, including Goosenecks State Park overlook, Muley Point and Moki Dugway. Moab is a small city in Utah that attracts hikers, mountain bikers and nature enthusiasts to the incredible Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. Arches National Park is punctuated with spectacularly eroded sandstone formations and contains the world's largest concentration of natural stone arches. Take a group hike at sunset to see famous sights such as Delicate Arch.
Day 10: Moab
Experience Moab for a second day, filled with towering rock formations, winding trails and never-ending horizons. Hopefully there will be time to take a group hike in the Arches in the morning before the day gets too hot, however the afternoon is yours to explore. Perhaps book yourself into a raft float trip down the Colorado River, or test your balance with some stand-up paddleboarding. If you need to give your weary muscles a rest, a Slickrock Hummer tour might be your thing – though keep in mind it’s not exactly a smooth journey. At nightfall, maybe head into town and hit the local brewery.
Day 11: Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is next on the list. On the way, you’ll stop and admire the golden sandstone of Capitol Reef, and refuel at the unique Kiva Koffeehouse, which overlooks the expanse of the Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument. Once arrived, there is a chance to hike a section of Bryce Canyon: from the easy Rim Trail, to the moderate Queen's Garden Trail or the strenuous Peek-a-boo Loop. The canyon is famous for its 'hoodoos' – odd-shaped rock spires formed by centuries of erosion. Wherever you walk, there are unique landscapes and a kaleidoscope of desert colours, especially at sunset. If you're keen to live out a Wild West fantasy, chat to the group leader about a horse-riding optional activity.
Day 12: Las Vegas
Today, drive across the border into Nevada and back to Las Vegas. For some of your travel companions, their time on tour ends on arrival, so say your farewells as you continue on your western adventure and explore more of Las Vegas! If you haven’t already, why not hit the shops, stroll along the Strip or check out the Bellagio.
Day 13: Las Vegas
Enjoy a full free day to bask in the bright lights of Vegas! This evening, gather together for another meeting at 6 pm where you’ll welcome some new travellers on the next stage of your USA adventure, then perhaps party the night away in a Vegas nightclub with your new friends.
Day 14: Sierra Nevada / Keough Hot Springs
Leave the bright lights of Vegas behind and drive into the Eastern Sierra Nevada toward the quaint town of Bishop. On arrival, check out the town or perhaps treat yourself to the crispy cookies or ‘bear claws’ at Erick Schat’s German bakery. Later this afternoon, join the group for a soothing soak in a natural hot spring – perfect for those wanting to relax before an action-packed few days in Yosemite. Tonight, you’ll camp under the stars in Bishop.
Day 15: Yosemite National Park
Prepare for some spectacular mountain scenery as you depart from Bishop and head west to Yosemite National Park. This morning, stop at crystal clear lakes – including Mono and Tenaya – before continuing through the Tioga Pass (snow levels permitting) into the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Stop by Olmstead Point to marvel at Yosemite’s natural wonder, Half Dome, before arriving at one of the most famous parks in the USA. Yosemite's colossal granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls (depending on the season) and redwood forests attract visitors from all over the world. You'll spend three nights in the park, meaning you have two full days to explore. The total driving time today is approximately 5 hours.
Day 16: Yosemite National Park
Start today with an orientation tour of the village before heading out for a free day of exploration. There are plenty of hikes available, each varying in steepness and difficulty. Hike The Mist Trail to Nevada Falls (2–5 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, visiting 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 17: Yosemite National Park
Today there’s a chance to explore a different side of the park as you join your leader on a guided hike to Hetch Hetchy Valley. Tucked away in the northwest corner of Yosemite, Hetch Hetchy is a wilderness of cascading waterfalls, towering cliff faces and beautiful wildflowers. Boasting one of the longest hiking seasons in the park, the ecologically diverse valley attracts a fraction of the visitors in comparison to other more well-known hiking spots in Yosemite – which means it’s an ideal area for those who have extra time to explore the park in depth.
Day 18: San Francisco
Leave Yosemite behind today and drive west to San Francisco (approximately 4 hours). 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 an Adventure Cat Bay Cruise. The trip finishes on arrival into San Francisco after a stop to check out the Golden Gate Bridge, and no accommodation is provided tonight. As there's a great deal to do in San Francisco, we recommend you stay a couple of extra days to make the most of the city. If you do wish to spend extra time in San Francisco, we'll be happy to help you book additional accommodation (subject to availability).
- Joshua Tree National Park - Entrance Fee
- Grand Canyon National Park - Entrance Fee
- Zion National Park - Entrance Fee
- Monument Valley - Jeep tour & overnight experience
- Delicate Arch sunset hike
- Dead Horse Point State Park
- Arches National Park
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Capitol Reef National Park
- Yosemite National Park - Entrance Fee
- Visit to Mono Lake
1 Breakfast(s) Included
1 Dinner(s) Included
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The trip was both both educational and exciting. I very much enjoyed the sights and culture.
The itinerary was just as I expected! The guide was very good as were the accomodations
Intrepid did such a great job. I never had to worry about where I was supposed to be and it felt so good not to worry about a thing but just to enjoy myself. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about culture and history.
Taiwan people very friendly. Accommodation were centrally located and easily accessible. Did extra activities then in brochure which was greatly.
Larus our tour guide did an excellent job and was very attentive to our needs. He is very knowledgeable and has a great sense of humor.
Our guide Tarang chandola was exceptional. Courteous, knowledgeable, organized, polite, professional and went above and beyond taking care of our needs and requests offen anticipating what that might be. He made sure we all had the best possible time and offered suggestions to meet the needs of everyone on the tour. This made the trip even more enjoyable.
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