Hike through beautiful Joshua Tree National Park among the park’s desert cactus gardens and unusual rock formations, before hitting the road on Route 66.. The Grand Canyon National Park takes time to discover – you’ll spend two nights in the park, unlike on most trips, so there’s a full day to explore properly and see the mighty canyon up close.. As well as the famous must-see attractions on this trip, visit some lesser-known but no less spectacular points, such as Capitol Reef and Arches national parks.. Camp beneath rock formations and sleep under the starry night sky in Zion National Park.
The United States may be known for the glamour of the big cities, but what about everything in between? Take a 12-day Lonely Planet Experience through the best of California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah, experiencing rugged desert landscapes, learning about first nation’s culture, and diving deep into some of its acclaimed national parks. See the bizarre flora of Joshua Tree, plummeting ridges of the Grand Canyon, hidden gardens of Zion, inspired desert scenery of Moab and majestic spires of Bryce Canyon with a likeminded group of adventurers. Setting off from Los Angeles and taking in the lights of Las Vegas, this jam-packed road trip is just the way to get straight into the action of a USA worth exploring.
Breakfast Included: 1 Lunches Included: Dinner Included: 1
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today, drive across the border into Nevada and back to Las Vegas, where your trip ends on arrival. No accommodation is provided for tonight, however, if you do wish to spend extra time in Las Vegas, we'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).