Discover the huge diversity of the US’s landscapes with explorations of three national parks in just 10 days. Start with the lush beauty and waterfalls of Yosemite, cross the red earth and rock formations of Arches National Park, and end with the jaw-dropping vistas of Rocky Mountain National Park.. Bookending this adventure through the country’s wilderness are two of America’s most hip and progressive cities – San Francisco and Denver.. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains and pine trees, Lake Tahoe is idyllic. Shake off the driving dust with a late afternoon dip in the alpine blue waters or relax on a sunset cruise. Drive along the majestic Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the States, and stare in awe at the sweeping views of Rocky Mountain National Park in all directions. Hike though outstanding landscapes and see elk, pikas, marmots, ptarmigans and bighorn sheep
Roads that wind through forests of wooden giants, slip through narrow mountain passes, and stretch endlessly onto the horizon. Highways that cross ancient salt plains, snake through red rock landscapes of towering arches, and summit the peaks that divide continents. America is simply made for driving. With bookends in hip San Francisco and Denver, journey through California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado, and find the diverse wilderness that lies at the core of this great continent. Experience Yosemite’s glistening falls, Lake Tahoe’s incredibly crisp air and water, and the daunting peaks of the Rockies – this is true American Beauty.
Breakfast Included: Lunches Included: Dinner Included:
Welcome to the USA! With spectacular coastline, iconic sights, and a humming cultural mix across its unique neighbourhoods, San Francisco is the perfect chilled-out place to start this American adventure. Your trip begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm today – double check with reception to confirm the time and place. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have these on hand. There are no activities planned today so you can arrive at anytime before then. If you can't arrange a flight that arrives on time, you may wish to arrive a day early. We’ll happily book you additional accommodation (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception.
As there’s so much to do in San Fran, and little time spent here on this trip, we recommend arriving a few days early. You can catch a tram to visit the waterfront, feast like a king in Chinatown, peruse zany artwork in SoMa, or do a one-day sightseeing tour of San Francisco with Urban Adventures, such as ‘Temples, Tea and Beatniks’. Tonight maybe kick off the trip by gathering your group for a bowl of famous clam chowder at Fisherman’s Wharf.
Yosemite National Park
Leave the city behind and head east into the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Today you’ll be trading skyscrapers for giant sequoias at the incredible Yosemite National Park (approximately 4.5 hours). Pass scenery that will have you itching to get on your hiking boots and go exploring. With so many options, you're bound to find a walk or hike that suits your steepness and difficulty preference. Choose to take a short walk through the valley for views of towering granite cliffs, or take a more vigorous hike to higher elevations – such as a trek under the cooling breezes of Nevada Falls (4-5 hours) or to the serenity of Mirror Lake (45 minutes).
Yosemite National Park
Explore the vast wilderness of Yosemite National Park at your own pace today. With such amazing scenery surrounding you it certainly pays to keep your camera on hand at all times! Visit the park's museum, photo gallery, shops and restaurants, pick another a hike and be amazed at the cascading waterfalls, or perhaps cycle through the valley. Tunnel View and Tuolumne Meadows will leave your jaw on the floor. In summer you can take it easy and soak up the stunning vistas as you float down the Merced River, with a finishing drink at the park’s café doing just the trick.
Hit the road to Lake Tahoe, exiting the park along the Tioga Pass (if it’s open). This is a stunning stretch of road that twists and turns through the Sierra Nevadas, opening up to panoramic mountain, lake and canyon views. Heading up to an elevation of 9,945 feet, it’s California’s highest pass for cars. Continue north along a road known for its great views, with the drive to Lake Tahoe taking around six to seven hours. You’ll arrive at your lakeside campground in the afternoon, and enjoy the rest of the day free to hike, swim, or simply relax. Lake Tahoe straddles the state border between Nevada and California and is surrounded by towering peaks. The stunningly blue colour of the lake water is unforgettable and, as Mark Twain said, the air is “very pure and fine…it is the same the angels breathe”. As the sun sets, you can choose to cruise across the lake for incredible twilight views. In the evening, return to camp for dinner with the group.
Head out onto the highway and take the kind of long, open roads that you see in the movies. You’ll cross most of the state of Nevada, headed for the town of Ely. Today is mostly a driving day, with the journey taking approximately 6-7 hours. To get to Ely, we take Highway 50, known as 'The Loneliest Road in America' due to the lack of towns and of civilisation along the way. Originally used for the Pony Express, this is a stunning drive where the tarmac continues straight to the horizon, surrounded by wide-open spaces of high desert plains and scatterings of low rocky hills.
Today is another road trip day, crossing the remainder of the state of Nevada and entering Utah. Today's drive is approximately 6 hours. Travel down the interstate through a narrow valley to reach Moab. Close to the incredible Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, Moab is a small city in Utah that attracts hikers, mountain bikers and nature enthusiasts.
Explore the scarlet desert scenery of Moab, a rocky playground of giant sandstone formations, canyon mazes, and thousands of natural arches. Head out to Arches National Park and see a landscape punctuated with spectacularly eroded sandstone formations. This geological marvel contains the world's largest concentration of natural stone arches, over 2,000 of them. Take a hike and marvel at the changing colours of famous sights like Delicate Arch and Landscape Arch. Depending on time, this afternoon you may choose to take a Hummer tour of the area, explore the shops and galleries of the town, or cool off at the pool. Late this afternoon, perhap visit Dead Horse Point for incredible views of the canyon country of southeastern Utah. Up at 610 metres (2,000 feet) above the ground, cowboys used the point to round up wild mustangs in the 19th century.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Colorado is home to 25 different scenic byways, 11 of which are recognised by the United States Department of Transportation for one or more of six “intrinsic qualities”: archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic. What does that mean? That the roads from Moab to Rocky Mountain National Park are by no means ordinary and that the journey, while long (approximately 8 hours), will definitely be memorable. From Utah cross into Colorado, passing the Dinosaur Diamond route, home to the fossils and footprints of prehistoric creatures, and Grand Mesa, which crosses the world’s largest flattop mountain. Continue along the top of the Rockies, then fork off northeast towards Trail Ridge Road and the sky-scraping expanses of Rocky Mountains National Park. With majestic peaks in every direction and some of the most incredible outdoor adventures on the planet, it’s no wonder more than three million people flock to the park each year.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Travel the mighty Trail Ridge Road along the Continental Divide through some truly spectacular scenery. As the road meanders upwards to the tundra's highest point at 3,700 meters, the Trail Ridge Road offers you thrilling views, wildlife sightings and spectacular alpine wildflower exhibitions, all from the comfort of your vehicle. There will be plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs and appreciate the outstanding landscapes. With around 355 miles of hiking trails, you'll also enjoy the opportunity to hike along picturesque streams, watch elk grazing in the grassland and climb steep mountain terrain. The snowy peaks and mountain lakes of this superb national park will leave you falling head over heels for this incredible area of the USA.
Farewell the Rocky Mountains and drive the short distance to Denver, the capital of Colorado (approximately 2 hours). Follow the road up and down and enter the progressive town of Denver, which will feel like a real metropolis after the wilderness and frontier-like towns of the past week. This trip finishes on arrival and there in no accommodation included tonight. Perhaps choose to stay on and explore the city’s innovative art, nightlife, food and shopping scenes – we’ll be happy to help you book additional accommodation (subject to availability).