Duration(in days): 21
See more ideas for: USA
Self-drive through the stunning National Parks of the Southwest in this 3 week holiday; from San Francisco to Salt Lake City. You’ll visit jaw-dropping canyons and glistening lakes, drive along spectacular mountain passes and have the chance to hike, bike and kayak as well as stargaze under the night skies.
After 3 nights in the fun city of San Francisco, you’ll collect your car and head up to Lake Tahoe, an outdoor adventure playground! Heading along the scenic Tioga Pass (summer months only) you’ll move on to Yosemite which is a must for visitors to the area. Marvel at the sequoias and the sheer cliff faces that entice climbers the world over before getting back behind the wheel to Death Valley, which leads on to Sin City itself, Las Vegas for a 2-night break with no driving required! Whether you relax or go wild it’s up to you, but after 2 nights you’ll be back in the car and heading to the Grand Canyon, an absolute must on any trip to the area. After the spectacular views, it’s over the border and into Utah to hit their pretty special National Parks, including Zion, Bryce and Capitol Reef. The final stop is at Moab, a fun town located between two gems – the Arches and the Canyonlands National Parks. Fly home from the state capital Salt Lake City with a camera full of photos and trip memories to last a lifetime!
Depart the UK from your chosen airport. You’ll land into San Francisco late afternoon. A private transfer will take you to your hotel where you’ll check in for 3 nights.
We’ve included a trip to Alcatraz and a 48-hour hop-on, hop-off bus ticket to get you started – you’ve got two full days to maximise and there is a lot to see.
Discover the fascinating history of the jail that was home to some of America’s most notorious criminals – Alcatraz. The ticket also includes several walking tours and a trolley tour in Sausalito, so make sure you head across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge to visit the historic waterfront town. The bus ticket has 20 stops around the city and is fully guided so provides a great way to learn about the city’s highlights!
Head out early to carry on your exploration of San Francisco. Utilise your hop-on hop-off bus ticket to get around; check out the shopping at Union Square, stop for a coffee break and some people watching in bohemian Haight-Ashbury, wander through the colourful Castro and stop to eat in the Mission – the San Francisco suburbs are fun to explore and will keep you busy all day.
Collect your car today before heading north east and up through Sacramento towards the Lake Tahoe region. The journey takes you through Sacramento, the Californian state capital, which is a great place to stop and re-charge over lunch before continuing on. Sacramento is popular with young families and has a great reputation for excellent, locally produced food and beer with micro-breweries and gastropubs popping up all over the city.
Arrive into Tahoe mid – late afternoon and check in to your hotel.
Glittering Lake Tahoe straddles the California/Nevada border – it’s a year round destination and surrounded by the stunning Sierra Nevada mountain range. The water is alive in the summer with sailing boats, stand up paddle-boarding, kayaking and fishing. There are plenty of hiking and biking trails, gondola rides and lakefront towns to explore, and the winter and early spring season brings snowy pistes and some awesome alpine resorts.
Take one of the most spectacular scenic routes in California today (seasonal – summer months only) as you head south from the shores of Lake Tahoe to the Tioga Pass and into Yosemite National Park. Stop along the way at the eerie remnants of the once booming mining community Bodie. Walk the silent streets and peer inside the carefully preserved shops and homes – don’t forget provisions though, there are no actual shops around!
Yosemite National Park was the first Park in California - waterfalls are a major attraction, with Yosemite Falls the highest in the US. You’ll find giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove, the Half Dome – an almost sheer cliff face that attracts climbers from the world over, and the imposing El Capitan, a granite monolith famous for rock climbing and base jumping.
Heading back along the Tioga Pass to Lee Vining, today’s route will take you south east towards the lowest, driest and hottest area in North America – Death Valley! The journey will include plenty of opportunities to stop so have your camera at the ready. Mammoth Lakes offers clear running mountain streams, high alpine meadows full of wildflowers and some natural hot springs. It’s a nature lover’s delight!
You’ll be staying in the Furnace Creek area so if you arrive in late afternoon be sure not to miss the Artist’s Drive, a scenic loop through multi-hued volcanic and sedimentary hills that is especially photogenic at this time of day.
Enjoy a morning at Badwater Basin exploring the Salt Flats or head to Zabriskie Point for one of the parks most spectacular look-out points at sunrise. Alternatively Dantes View offers a lookout more than 5000 feet above Death Valley; it’s breathtaking.
Arrive into Las Vegas later in the day for a couple of nights; dive headfirst into the bright lights and glitz of the casinos or take dinner and retire after a busy few days.
Today is a free day in Las Vegas, a city unlike any other! There are world class shows, dazzling casinos, fantastic restaurants and plenty of restaurants to choose from. Or, if you want to keep it low key you can relax and unwind by the pool or get pampered in one of the many spas.
Head to one of the greatest natural wonders of the world; Grand Canyon National Park. It is an immense sight, burnt orange in colour with steep canyon walls that are 6000 feet deep at its deepest point, and up to 18 miles across at its widest. You’ll be staying near the South Rim.
Onwards today to Utah, in a drive that will take you across the border at Lake Powell, a good half way point on the journey to stop and stretch your legs – the lake is set among deep canyons and spectacular scenery at the Glen Canyon National Park.
Zion is famous for hiking and wildlife, so be sure to head out early to make the most of your day. The Emerald Pools are a highlight and there are routes for all abilities. If you want to see the back country join a 4x4 trip with a local guide, or even a horse-riding excursion.
Why not arrange a morning hike before setting off for Bryce today? With trails to suit all abilities you’re sure to find something suitable.
The trip to Bryce Canyon National Park winds north east and the Canyon itself is generally around 18⁰F cooler so it will be cooler than Zion that’s for sure! Your first view of the park will be dramatic, as you wind through pine trees they will eventually break at the rim and you’ll be left with a breath-taking panorama of peaks and towers bathed in shades of orange.
The Bryce Canyon Amphitheatre is a must visit and the 4 viewing points along the rim offer some fantastic vistas – the best of which are at sunrise and sunset so an early morning trip is definitely recommended. Hiking and horse-riding are again very popular so be ready for a full day of exploration.
Bryce is also one of only three International Dark Skies parks; there is virtually no ambient light and from your accommodation you can see thousands of stars and hopefully even the Milky Way!
Torrey is the gateway to the hidden gem of Capitol Reef National Park – it is filled with cliffs, canyons, domes and bridges. There are some orchards that permit fruit picking at certain times of the year, and the Waterpocket District offers amazing views and hiking opportunities.
On the final stretch of your journey through America’s Southwest, today you will head to the town of Moab which offers easy access to two National Parks – the Arches and Canyonlands. The incredible red-rock landscapes have made it one of the most sought after areas to visit in the region, and the Arches contains the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches. The Canyonlands is also known as the ‘Island in the Sky’ and offers some lofty views, an absolute must see.
Activities include biking, 4x4 safaris, hiking, canyoneering, kayaking and rafting (this is a great entry point for the mighty Colorado River).
Take your pick of activities – once again sunrise and sunset offer the best views in general so make sure you get a full day in. Spend sunrise in one park and sunset in another – what a wonderful experience!
Drive up through Utah state to the capital, Salt Lake City today on your penultimate day on this wonderful self-drive. You’ve travelled through some of the best National Parks in the USA – now to spend your last night relaxing and reflecting over dinner before flying back to the UK tomorrow.
Head to the airport and drop your car before checking in for the flight back to London.
Your overnight flight will get you back into the UK the following morning.
This trip is seasonal. Whilst most resorts can be enjoyed year round, the route will need to be altered in the winter months due to the snow fall, which forces many of the mountain passes to close. The best time to enjoy this trip would be late May to late September/early October. Temperatures will be high during the summer months so care should be taken to ensure you travel with plenty of water!
This itinerary is purely a suggestion, and can be tailor-made to your requirements, so please contact us with your dates and requests and we’ll put together a bespoke quotation for you.
19 nights in a mixture of 3-4* hotels and lodges, including: