Camp beneath rock formations and sleep under the starry night sky in Zion National Park.. As well as the must-see attractions on this trip, visit some lesser-known but no less spectacular points, such as Capitol Reef and Arches national parks.. Learn about Navajo culture and history during an included Jeep tour of Monument Valley, where the landscape is as surreal as it is beautiful, before spending a night in a traditional hogan hut.. Soak up the scenery on a relaxing visit to a natural hot spring near Bishop – the perfect way to relax before an action-packed few days!
Take in the desert landscapes, indigenous cultures and natural wonder of Utah, Nevada and California, on a 14-day exploration of the wild (wild) west with Lonely Planet and Intrepid. Beginning in Las Vegas, leave Utah’s noisy neighbour behind to discover the tranquillity of the hidden gardens of Zion, the iconic Monument Valley, the inspired desert scenery of Moab and the majestic spires of Bryce Canyon. Meander your way through to San Francisco via the mountains of Sierra Nevada to the lakes of California, and on to one of the USA’s most famous National Parks – Yosemite. The spectacular scenery may change around you, but what won’t waver is the expert local advice you’ll receive and the mountains of experiences these three states have to offer.
Breakfast Included: Lunches Included: Dinner Included: 1
Welcome to Las Vegas! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting in the hotel lobby at 6 pm today. If you arrive early in the desert city, there's plenty to see and do, even if gambling isn't your thing. Hit the shops, feel your stomach drop on a rooftop roller-coaster or simply stroll along the extravagance of the Strip, walking through the casinos and past the desert palms. In the evening, perhaps feast in one of Vegas’ restaurants or buffets, check out one of the large array of stage shows on offer or party the night away in a Vegas nightclub.
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. Hit the shops, feel your stomach drop on a rooftop roller coaster or simply stroll along the Strip, soaking up the glitz and gaudiness. The arrival time depends on each group, and some fellow travellers may bid you farewell today. If you are staying in town for the evening, perhaps check out one of the many stage shows on offer or party the night away in a Vegas nightclub.
Today is as clear as the blue skies in the deserts of Nevada. There are no planned activities until another meeting in the hotel lobby today at 6 pm, where you may meet some new travellers on your wild west adventure. After your briefing, why not go check out one of the all-you-can-eat buffets on offer with your new and improved crew.
Sierra Nevada / Keough Hot Springs
Leave the bright lights of Vegas behind and drive into the Eastern Sierra Nevada toward the quaint town of Bishop. On arrival, check out the town or perhaps treat yourself to the crispy cookies or ‘bear claws’ at Erick Schat’s German bakery. Later this afternoon, join the group for a soothing soak in a natural hot spring – perfect for those wanting to relax before an action-packed few days in Yosemite. Tonight, you’ll camp under the stars in Bishop.
Yosemite National Park
Prepare for some spectacular mountain scenery as you depart from Bishop and head west to Yosemite National Park. This morning, stop at crystal clear lakes – including Mono and Tenaya – before continuing through the Tioga Pass (snow levels permitting) into the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Stop by Olmstead Point to marvel at Yosemite’s natural wonder, Half Dome, before arriving at one of the most famous parks in the USA. Yosemite's colossal granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls (depending on the season) and redwood forests attract visitors from all over the world. You'll spend three nights in the park, meaning you have two full days to explore. The total driving time today is approximately 5 hours.
Yosemite National Park
Start today with an orientation tour of the village before heading out for a free day of exploration. There are plenty of hikes available, each varying in steepness and difficulty. Hike The Mist Trail to Nevada Falls (2–5 hours) or to the serene Mirror Lake (45 minutes). Keep an eye out for squirrels and perhaps even a bear along the way. You might prefer to hire a bike and explore Yosemite Valley, visiting the park's museum, photo gallery, shops and restaurants along the way. In the heat of summer, a relaxing float down the Merced River followed by a few drinks at the park's cafe is just the trick.