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Epic American West


Hit the highlights of some big cities and sleep under the total darkness of an unpolluted night sky on this epic road trip through America’s West. On this 16-day adventure, you’ll start in San Francisco, enjoy three days of exploring Yosemite National Park and all its natural wonders then drive through the scenic Sierra Nevada. Cruise into glitzy Vegas for some nightlife and then get back to nature in Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and the Grand Canyon. Explore at your own pace and see a pretty epic sunset before heading on to Joshua Tree on Route 66. Head to LA – the city of stars – and drive to some of California’s best coastal spots. See Big Sur, Monterey and McWay Falls before ending it all back in San Fran.

16 days, from

$3,765

per person

GROUP SIZE

12 people max

ACTIVITY LEVEL

 
2
Trip code: SSYGC
Style: Basix
Theme: 18 to 35s

Details

Countries Visited:  United States Of America
Accommodation: Camping (with facilities) (10 nights), Hotel (3 nights), Hostel (multishare) (2 nights)
Transportation: Private vehicle

Group size: Minimum 1, Max 12

  • Discover Utah’s natural wonders at Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park – home to red-walled cliffs, towering hoodoos and vast horizons. 

  • Behold the beauty of Big Sur as you drive along California’s northern coastline, stopping to see the magical McWay Falls located on a beach that’s closed to public access.  

  • Cover Yosemite’s many trails over two full days and three nights dedicated to the park. You’ll be able to hike and explore until your heart (and camera) is content. 

  • Sleep under the stars in Monterey and along California’s Central Coast, getting close to Mother Nature as you join the communal camping experience.   

  • Appreciate the spectacle of Vegas as you explore this glitzy, neon-filled city at all hours of the day with plenty of time and flexibility to do as you please – night out, anyone? 

  • By travelling on this trip, you’ll directly support our Intrepid Foundation partner, the Grand Canyon Conservancy. Donations help them protect Grand Canyon National Park and support trail restoration, conservation of native plants and wildlife, and educational programs.

Itinerary

Show Full Itinerary

Day 1: San Francisco

Welcome to California! Your adventure begins in San Francisco – The City by the Bay that boasts a beautiful setting and a vibrant, multicultural heart. You’ll have a welcome meeting at 6 pm tonight, followed by an optional group dinner. If you arrive early, maybe check out the vintage stores along funky Haight Street, catch the tram down to the waterfront or take an adventure cruise on the bay past Alcatraz Island. Better yet, consider booking an Urban Adventures sightseeing tour like Bridge and the Beach, where you’ll see a different side of the Golden Gate from Baker Beach (see urbanadventures.com/destination/san-francisco-tours).

Day 2: Yosemite National Park

This morning, you’ll drive into the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to your destination – the magnificent Yosemite National Park. Passing by serene vistas, you’ll catch a glimpse of one of Yosemite’s most recognisable features – Half Dome. You'll spend three nights camping near Yosemite National Park so that there are two full days available to explore at your own pace.

Day 3: Yosemite National Park

Today is free to discover the wonders of the park. One of the most famous parks in the USA, Yosemite boasts colossal granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls and redwood forests that attract visitors worldwide. The leader will point you in the right direction from the village before leaving you to spend the day as you please. There are plenty of hikes available, each varying in steepness and difficulty. Maybe hike under the cooling breezes of Nevada Falls (4 to 5 hours) or to the serene Mirror Lake (45 minutes). Keep an eye out for squirrels and bears along the way. You might prefer to hire a bike and explore Yosemite Valley. You can also visit the park's museum, photo gallery, shops and restaurants, and in the heat of summer, a relaxing float down the Merced River is highly recommended.

Day 4: Yosemite National Park

With a second full day in the park, there’s an opportunity to explore a different side of Yosemite. Your leader will take you on a guided hike to Hetch Hetchy – an often overlooked, elevated valley in the park’s northwest corner. It has a floor elevation of 1150 m (or 3800 feet), and one of the main characteristics is its man-made reservoir, built in the early 20th century. The area attracts far fewer visitors than the more well-known Yosemite hiking points, and its remoteness makes it the ideal place to discover cascading waterfalls and beautiful wildflowers.

Day 5: Sierra Nevada / Keough Hot Springs

Depart Yosemite via the Tioga Pass this morning, stopping at Mono Lake on the way. The Sierra Nevadas are sandwiched between Central Valley and Death Valley – this is a scenic trip that will take you to the town of Bishop, where you’ll camp the night and visit some nearby natural hot springs. In town, maybe go to Erick Schat’s European-style bakery for a delicious treat, or stop in tomorrow for a coffee and cake on the way to the glitz of Vegas.

Day 6: Las Vegas

Drive to the original sin city this morning – Las Vegas, Nevada. Vegas may be known for its casinos and late-night antics, but there's plenty to do if gambling isn't your thing. Hit the shops, see a world-class stage show, feel your stomach drop on a rooftop roller-coaster or stroll along Freemont Street, soaking up this neon-filled desert city. If you plan to see a show, remember that tickets can sell out quickly for popular shows, so it’s best to book before your tour begins.

Day 7: Las Vegas

With another day in Las Vegas, you can continue to discover all things over-the-top. Food-focused travellers may want to check out one of the celebrity chef restaurants around town (Giada De Laurentiis, Gordon Ramsay and Wolfgang Puck all have places here). See the Eiffel Tower of the USA, check out the Bellagio Fountains or visit one of the wacky museums. If you didn’t head out last night, chat to your leader for the lowdown on sin city's best shows, clubs and restaurants and the option of hiring a limo for the night. You might as well go all out in Las Vegas, right?

Day 8: Zion National Park

This morning, you’ll drive from Vegas to Zion National Park – a nature preserve in Utah famous for its steep red cliffs and scenic drive that leads to forest trails along the Virgin River. When you arrive, you have free time to explore the park. Maybe you’d like to take on one of the popular hikes this afternoon – your leader is always on hand with the best recommendations. Tonight, you’ll be camping near the park so it’s a good opportunity to unplug, do a spot of star gazing and listen to the sounds of nature.

Day 9: Bryce Canyon National Park

This morning, you’ll head out on a scenic drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park – another reserve known for its crimson-coloured hoodoos (spire-shaped rock formations). Along the drive, you’ll explore the park’s popular road stops for the best overlooks. When you arrive, you have some free time, so maybe head out on a hike or explore at your own pace. Tonight, you’ll spend another night camping near the park.

Day 10: Grand Canyon National Park

This morning you’ll drive to Grand Cayon National Park – a must-see for any USA adventure! When you arrive, get ready to admire a natural wonder formed by over six million years of erosion by the Colorado River. When you think about the canyon’s dimensions – 450 km long, 630 km wide and 1600 m deep – it really does warrant the ‘grand’ title. You’ll spend two nights here, which allows for a full day of exploration tomorrow. Check out the park’s massive scale on a walk around the rim or, if you’re feeling more active, hike into the canyon itself to stretch your legs.

Day 11: Grand Canyon National Park

Today is a free day to explore the Grand Canyon and all its beauty. Stroll along the meandering South Rim Trail or hike your way down to Plateau Point. In the early evening, relax at the canyon's edge and enjoy a spectacular sunset over one the world's best natural wonders.

Day 12: Joshua Tree National Park

This morning, leave the canyon behind and travel along the famous Route 66, stopping in Seligman along the way – a quirky small town that features a vibrant slice of retro America. After wandering around the shops and old-school diners, continue your road trip to Joshua Tree. Sitting between the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, the Joshua Tree is famous for its spectacular desert plants, cacti and spiky trees, bizarre rock formations and a pretty good U2 album. After a wander through the park, you’ll head to Lake Havasu on the Colorado River (at the Arizona border) and check in to your hotel for the night. You might like to head out on a scenic hike around the town, learn the backstory of the city’s unique London Bridge, or even take a refreshing dip in the Colorado River.

Day 13: Los Angeles

Travel toward the buzz of the City of Angels today where there’s no shortage of sights to keep you occupied. Check in to your hostel and then take some time to stroll along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, experience the food markets of Downtown LA or head to one of the many theme parks in the area – the choice is yours! Tonight at 6 pm there will be a meeting to welcome any new travellers joining the trip.

Day 14: Central Coast

Head to Venice Beach this morning for your first taste of the sea breeze. Home to the iconic Muscle Beach gym – and known for the many walks of life that grace the boardwalk – you'll be free to explore this free-spirited slice of LA for yourself. Whether you stop by the Venice Beach skatepark, ride the Ferris wheel at Santa Monica Pier or try out a local eatery, there’s plenty on offer! Then, swap spaghetti junctions for seaside views as you drive north, stopping at coastal viewpoints to stretch your legs and snap some pictures. Pismo Beach will provide a picturesque final pit stop before you set up camp for the night.

Day 15: Monterey Area

Continuing north along the Pacific Coast Highway, today you’ll take in some of the finest natural scenery California has to offer. Big Sur doesn’t do things by halves, with this famous stretch of coastline sandwiched between soaring redwoods and endless ocean. Taking it slow to soak in the views (and maybe spot an elephant seal or two), there’ll also be a stop at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. An almost-flat hike will take you to a view of the magical McWay Falls – an 80-foot drop that flows directly into the Pacific during high tide. The seaside city of Monterey will then provide your camping ground for the night.

Day 16: San Francisco

Trading one all-American experience for another, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk awaits! Let your inner child run free on a variety of fairground rides or go the full nine yards and treat yourself to a funnel cake. Later, Half Moon Bay’s coastal charm will provide a moment of respite after the morning’s madness before you follow the road to your final stop at San Francisco. A guided tour of the vibrant city will help you get your bearings, and then it’s time to bid farewell to your fellow travellers as your adventure comes to an end, 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).