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Hit the hotspots of the Pacific Northwest and California before finishing up in Las Vegas, where the landscape has dried up but hopefully your luck won't. Start in Seattle and make your way through Washington state, exploring its lush national parks, old-growth forests and glacier-capped mountains. Check out the hipster haven of Portland and indulge in microbrews and artisanal cheese as you head south through Oregon. Take a walk through California's Redwood forests, home to some of the world's oldest trees, hike through the climbing mecca of Yosemite, marvel at the infamous Death Valley and end up in, of course, Vegas baby.
Day 1: Seattle
Welcome to Seattle! The Pacific Northwest is all about the outdoors, good food, better beer and all the arts and culture you could ever want. You'll meet your leader at 6 pm, but there's plenty to see if you happen to arrive early. Take a walk around the waterfront and the renowned Pike Place Market, which is nearby to the original Starbucks store. Otherwise, head to the popular Starbucks Reserve Roastery or go visit the towering Space Needle for views of the surrounding mountain ranges. After your important meeting, why not grab a feed and try a local beer at one of the many microbreweries in the city.
Day 2: Mt Rainier National Park
This morning, head out to Mount Rainier National Park – home to the highest mountain in both Washington and the entire Cascade Ranges. Rainier was the fifth national park to be created in the US and is popular with hikers, alpinists, climbers and tourists thanks to its varied landscape, from its ice-capped volcano namesake to subalpine meadows filled with wildflowers. Stop in at the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Centre to check out the trails and work out what hikes you’d like to tackle. You’ll have time to do a small amount of walking. Afterwards, head to your accommodation for the evening.
Day 3: Columbia River Gorge / Portland
Leave Mount Rainier, and head to Columbia River Gorge. The Columbia River provides a natural border between the states of Washington and Oregon and is home to some stunning scenery of flowing rivers, verdant forests and cascading falls. Take some short walks in the surrounding countryside and then head to the Multonomah Falls – a beautiful cascading stream that can be viewed from below, or higher up on a pedestrian bridge lookout. Later in the afternoon, travel to the indisputable hipster capital of the west, Portland. You’ll take a late afternoon walking tour and get shown the ropes – from Pioneer Square to the renowned donut stores like Voodoo and Blue Star, and the absolute book-lover’s heaven at Powells, this progressive city has got you covered. Portland is yours to explore in the evening, so hit the breweries, check out the music and theatre scene or simply find a good spot to people-watch.
Day 4: Portland
Jump on the saddle and get pedalling, as you’re off on a Food Carts of Portland bike tour. Portland is known for its varied cuisine, and today, you’ll cycle past some of the 60 pods (food cart collections) of the city, filled with over 600 food stalls! The focus of your tour is on locally owned businesses with a great story, so meet the vendors, hear their stories and get the chance to taste the delicious food on offer. This will cover your lunch for the day. Later in the afternoon, have some time to explore Portland at your own pace. Depending on the time of year, there might be a local ice hockey or basketball game on at the Moda Center – best to book in advance if this interests you.
Day 5: Silver Falls State Park / Newport
Bid farewell to Portland and transfer to Silver Falls State Park. This park is home to the acclaimed South Falls, which has a direct plunge of 54 metres (177 feet) and is surrounded by plenty of walking trails to see this natural beauty from all angles, even from behind! It’s a sight to behold. Take some short hikes around the park before continuing on a drive through the Willamette Valley. Stop by a local vineyard for a tasting, then head to Newport on the Oregon coast. This evening, head to Rogue Brewery for an included dinner. You may have noticed a similar brewery in Portland; however, this is Rogue’s world headquarters, which looks out into Yaquina Bay.
Day 6: Oregon Dunes / Bandon
This morning, visit Yaquina Head Lighthouse – the tallest on the Oregon coast. Walk up the circular stairs to the top of the lighthouse for panoramic views over the Pacific Ocean. Continue your drive south to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, where you’ll have time to walk through the expansive dunes which stretch for over 64 kilometres (40 miles) along the coast from Florence to Coos Bay. Afterwards, head to Bandon – a small coastal town with some incredible ocean vistas. Visit the Face Rock Scenic Viewpoint, to see the rock formation of a head jutting out of the ocean, and if you’re lucky, view the Circles in the Sand art installation on the beach from above. Bandon is also part of the Wild Rivers Coast Food Trail that you’ll be enjoying over the next few days, so start that off with an included visit and cheese tasting at the Face Rock Creamery.
Day 7: Redwood National Park
Today you’ll head south into northern California, hugging the coastline on stretches of road and stopping at cranberry and blueberry fruit farms along the way. The Wild Coast Trail is a foodie gift that keeps on giving. Continue across the Oregon-California border and stop at Crescent Beach Overlook for a view of the Pacific, before ending the day with sunset on the beach and a night near the Redwood National Park. This area of the coast is home to some of the tallest and oldest trees in the world.
Day 8: Redwood National Park
Take a full day to hike and explore the Redwood National and State Parks. Go looking for elk in Prairie Creek then walk through the incredible ridge-top redwoods at the Lady Bird Johnson Grove of Tall Trees. The scenes on Endor with the Ewoks in ‘Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi’ were filmed in this area, and you really will feel like you're on another planet. The brisk clean air, the filtered sunlight and the verdant tree canopies – this part of the world is truly a nature lover’s paradise.
Day 9: Mendocino, Northern California
Rise and shine early and depart Crescent City for a morning stop in Arcata. This hippie college town has a laidback vibe and is a perfect place for a coffee and a walk around the downtown main square. Continue your drive south to Mendocino, just in time to get yourself some lunch. Afterwards, take a walk around the Mendocino Headlands and the downtown area. Later in the afternoon, head to the unique Glass Beach in Fort Bragg – a colourful shore made from years of people dumping waste on the beach in the early 20th century. In 1967, the North Coast Water Quality Board closed the area and many clean-up programs have taken place, and now what is left is different coloured glassy beads on the shores that make this beach an attraction. Tonight, head to North Coast Brewing for dinner.
Day 10: San Francisco
Make your way to the City by the Bay, San Francisco. With one of the most iconic bridges in the world, San Francisco is a photographer’s dream. Arrive in the late afternoon and stop by the Golden Gate for some photos and, depending on the season, understand what the fuss is about with the infamous San Francisco fog. In the evening, go out exploring the city with your group, and perhaps head into Chinatown for a meal. There are some great nightlife options in Union Hill and the Mission District, or better yet, book yourself in for a sunset cruise on the bay. There’s no shortage of things to do in this lively, eclectic city.
Day 11: San Francisco
Spend a free morning exploring San Francisco. You might like to hire a bike and cycle your way along the bay towards the Golden Gate Bridge, or book yourself in for an Alcatraz experience – tickets for this usually sell out well in advance, so get in quick! In the afternoon, head to another meeting at 3 pm to meet some new travellers joining you on this stage of your west coast adventure, then head on an Urban Adventures tour through the hidden gems of Chinatown. Explore this renowned neighbourhood with a local who has all the insider knowledge on how its residents live, eat and drink, indulging in tea, treats and tastings.
Day 12: Lake Tahoe
This morning, explore the architectural landmarks of San Fran with a guided visit to the Palace of Fine Arts and the iconic Ferry Building – a historical monument home to an array of food stalls and eateries, then get your camera ready as you gaze upon the Golden Gate Bridge from the best view point in the city. After your guided tour, head across to Sausalito and stop for lunch (own expense) in Placerville – an old mining town with a notorious past, before continuing your drive to Lake Tahoe – the USA’s second-deepest lake and home to 116 km (72 miles) of scenic shoreline. This evening, (depending on the season) set sail on a sunset cruise around the stunning Emerald Bay and watch the orange hues glisten on the surface of the calm, cobalt waters.
Day 13: Lake Tahoe
Enjoy a day of leisure in Lake Tahoe, this natural adventure park has plenty going on all year-round which means there’ll be plenty of activities for you to choose from depending on the season. In summer, you can paddle on the clear, blue waters of the lake in a kayak or take a refreshing dip, and for the hiking enthusiasts – the surrounding hillside is perfect for scenic walks during the warmer months. During winter the area becomes a snow-covered playground where you can choose to take a sleigh ride or try your hand at ice skating. If you didn’t get chance to cruise around Emerald Bay yesterday, then (season dependent) try your hand at snowshoeing! An amazing way to explore the powdery white surrounds.
Day 14: Yosemite National Park
This morning, head south to the world-famous Yosemite National Park. Featuring colossal granite cliff faces, cascading waterfalls (depending on the season) and redwood forests, the scenery in Yosemite attracts travellers from all over the globe. On arrival, wander through the jaw-dropping Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias, home to two-dozen of the largest known trees on earth. These colossal, ancient wonders are adapted for survival. They’re resistant to disease, thanks to a large content of tannin (a type of natural chemical) in the wood – and their thick asbestos-like bark means that they can withstand the hottest of forest-fires, making them almost indestructible. The resilient beauty of these redwood beasts makes them a phenomenal must-see on any Yosemite itinerary.
Day 15: Yosemite National Park
Enjoy a guided walk around the spectacular scenery of Yosemite National Park followed by a free day to explore. The breathtaking landscapes have made Yosemite a favourite among hikers for generations, and there are plenty of trekking routes on offer with varying degrees of difficulty. If you feel like breaking a sweat, the 5-hour hike to the top of Nevada Falls features plenty of switchbacks, and depending on the season, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the cascading waterfall beneath the giant Half Dome. Feel like taking it easy? No problem, there are plenty of gentle trails on offer, like the one-hour walk to the popular swimming spot, Mirror Lake, Keep an eye out for squirrels (and watch for bears!) along the way. If you’d prefer, you can hire a bike and cycle around Yosemite Valley, stopping by the park's museum, photo gallery, shops and restaurants on the way. In the heat of summer, a nice option is a float down the Merced River on a raft followed by a few drinks at the local cafe. This evening, if the weather is right, join the group for an included pizza picnic in the park! Alternatively, warm up with a local meal in the cosy indoors.
Day 16: 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 17: Eastern Sierra/Lone Pine
This morning, stop and admire the glistening waters of Tenaya and Mono Lakes on the drive south to Death Valley (approximately 6 hours). On the way to Lone Pine, perhaps stop at Manzanar National Historic Site, a former military-style camp where more than 110,000 Japanese-American men, women and children were detained during WWII. Continue to Alabama Hills – where colourful undulating peaks roll in the foreground of the contrasting jagged, snowy Sierras – this beautiful landscape is just a stone’s throw away from where you’ll be spending the night in Lone Pine – not far from the entrance to Death Valley. On arrival, there's the option to visit the Museum of Western Film History, which celebrates the many movies that have been filmed in the area, such as Iron Man, Django Unchained, How the West Was Won, and True Grit.
Day 18: Death Valley / Las Vegas
This morning you'll explore the geologically rich Death Valley National Park. Don't let the name fool you, this park features huge sand dunes, canyons, sculpted rocks, valleys and volcanic craters. Death Valley is extremely hot and dry (the highest recorded temperature in the world was measured in local Furnace Creek at 56.6˚C in 1913) so remember to pack plenty of water and don't overexert yourself. For expansive views of the valley, you can hike to Dante's View, or perhaps visit the puckered, volcanic Ubehebe Crater. Continue your drive through Nevada to the glitzy desert city of Las Vegas – it may be a gamblers paradise, but if the tables aren't your thing there's still plenty to discover! Maybe wander along the Strip past impersonators, billboards and hotels to the choreographed Bellagio Fountain show, or perhaps head to a rooftop amusement park, hit the chain stores or lose all sense of time exploring the gaudy interiors of hotels like The Venetian, Caesars Palace and New York-New York. In the evening, why not join your travel buddies for an optional dinner!
Day 19: Las Vegas
There are no activities planned after breakfast this morning – perhaps indulge in an unforgettable helicopter trip from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon – the trip includes champagne, beverages and a light snack, all served above the Colorado River. Or maybe you’d like to learn more about the history and evolution of gaming in Vegas on an Urban Adventure – join an expert local guide and get the lowdown on some of the most iconic casino games, pick up some insider tips and then learn how to play them yourself. From poker to pokies – you never know, you might hit big! Find out more at urbanadventures.com.
- Mt Rainier National Park
- Walking tour of Portland
- Columbia River Gorge visit
- Portland - Food Carts of Portland bike tour
- Silver Falls State Park - Entrance Fee
- Newport - Rogue Brewery dinner
- Willamette Valley - wine tasting and vineyard visit
- Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
- Newport - Yaquina Head Lighthouse
- Bandon - Face Rock Creamery visit
- Redwood National Park
- Mendocino Headlands walking tour
- Fort Bragg - Glass Beach
- San Francisco - Chinatown Discovery Urban Adventure
- Lake Tahoe - Emerald Bay sunset cruise (summer only)
- Lake Tahoe - Snowshoeing (winter only)
- Yosemite National Park - Entrance Fee
- Yosemite - Pizza Picnic Dinner
- Death Valley National Park
7 Breakfast(s) Included
1 Lunch(es) Included
2 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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