Explore west coast USA’s cities and national parks on this San Francisco to Las Vegas road trip. Start in San Francisco, where you can taste freshly steamed dumplings in Chinatown before driving to Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Soak in the lakeside views and drive south to Yosemite, where spectacular hikes and scenic drives await. Explore the desert wilderness of Death Valley before finishing your trip in the bright lights of Las Vegas. Try your luck at the casino, ride the High Roller and soar over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter – this is the ultimate USA road trip.
This itinerary can be tailored to suit your requirements; please contact one of our consultants to start planning your dream trip.
Depart the UK from your chosen airport. On arrival in San Francisco, you’ll make your own way to the hotel and check in for three nights.
You’ll have two days to explore “the city by the bay”. Make sure you take the cable car down to visit the sea-lions at Pier 39 on Fisherman’s Wharf, before jumping on a boat over to Alcatraz Island where you can learn about the prison’s history. Spend your afternoons uncovering the rest of the city - why not browse City Lights Bookstore for a glimpse into Beat Poetry history before strolling into Chinatown for some dumplings? Or you could explore the Mission District with its colourful murals and famous burritos, before renting a bike and cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge for iconic views back over the city.
After collecting your hire car this morning, drive east into the Sierra Nevada Mountains where you’ll find Lake Tahoe, a blue gem high up in the hills. In the winter, this is California’s most popular ski resort but, in the summer, it is a great place to enjoy the lake.
A mass of shimmering blue-green water, Lake Tahoe is a highlight of any trip to Northern California. Why not spend your day here kayaking on the water? You can explore Emerald Bay, a beautiful section of the southern shore before having lunch at a beach bar and taking the cable car up the mountain for stunning views over the lake. It’s also a great spot to do some fishing or hiking – although a lot of visitors end up relaxing on the tiny beaches that hug the shoreline. Whatever you end up doing, we know you’ll love your time in Lake Tahoe.
This morning you’ll drive south to Yosemite National Park. You’ll probably approach from the east – driving past the bizarre Mono Lake, a soda lake full of strange salt formations. you’ll turn into the park and drive through to the western edge where you’ll check into your hotel for three nights.
Yosemite National Park is enormous so with two days to explore you’re never going to see all of it, which means you need to plan wisely. First stop will be the valley, where the visitor centre and a couple of hotels sit in the imposing shadow of El Capitan, a favourite of rock climbers from all over the world. Hike up to Nevada Falls to get a sense of the wonderful hiking that you can experience here. For the best views of Half Dome, drive to Glacier Point where you can take photos of the mountain and down into the lush valley you were previously exploring.
On your second day, you’ll have time to venture further away from the crowds – wander through the Tuolumne Meadows, hike a section of the Cloud’s Rest Trail, take a swim in Tenaya Lake or drive north to Hetch Hetchy Valley. Your time here will fly by and by the time you leave you’ll most likely be planning your next trip!
This is your “big drive day”. It may be long, but it is also full of stunning scenery and landscapes, so endless games of eye-spy shouldn’t be necessary! We suggest hitting the road nice and early, and the first part of this drive will certainly keep you fully enthralled. You’ll be travelling through Yosemite National Park, where there will be a lot of handy lay-by’s so you can pull in and take a moment to appreciate your surroundings.
Once you leave Yosemite and head towards Death Valley, your scenery will really start to change. The road cuts through the dusty landscape, with the Kings Canyon rugged mountain range on one side, and the dry open desert on the other, it really is quite spectacular.
Upon entering Death Valley we suggest you head to the visitor centre – find out when the sun sets and try to catch that if you can; the colours highlight the many moods of Death Valley and is not to be missed.
Spend the morning exploring Death Valley – admire the salt pan at Badwater Basin, soak in the views from Zabriske’s Point and look out for coyotes in the vast desert. In the afternoon, you’ll drive 2 hours east towards Las Vegas. A few miles outside you’ll spot the pyramid of the Luxor Hotel and the flashing lights of the strip – approaching by road means you can really appreciate how the buzzing city has sprung out of the desert.
The first couple of days here are yours to enjoy this decadent city at your leisure. Head to the casino for a game of blackjack, stroll along the strip to witness the Mirage volcano and Treasure Island pirate show or just relax by the pool at your hotel - a few days in Las Vegas will always fly by! Another highlight is the cuisine on offer around the strip. There are wonderful buffets and hotel restaurants out there – look in the right places and you’ll find some of the best food in the country.
On your final day, we’ve booked you a helicopter tour to the Grand Canyon. First, you’ll be driven across the Mojave Desert in a 4WD vehicle, reliving the journey taken by missionaries, cowboys and settlers. You’ll then drive through a Joshua Tree forest before arriving at the west rim of the Grand Canyon and boarding your helicopter. Once you take to the skies, you’ll soar over the gorge, with endless views over the red rock, before descending more than 1,200 metres to the canyon floor. The experience will help you appreciate the sheer scale of this majestic landscape.
Next, you’ll jump on a boat and sail along the Colorado River for 10 minutes before flying back up to the rim for a delicious barbecue dinner. Here you can also venture out onto the Skywalk, a glass-bottomed viewing platform that juts out over the canyon – if you want to add this, just ask! In the early evening, you’ll head back to Las Vegas for another night of frivolity and fun.
Today is your final day in Las Vegas, so take one final wander down the strip to see the Bellagio’s fountains before driving your car back to the airport to catch your flight back to the UK.
San Francisco sits on the edge of the Pacific Ocean giving it a changeable climate, where you can experience summer and winter in the same day. Coastal breezes keep the city cool and huge fog drifts can sweep over the Golden Gate Bridge during the summer meaning winter is usually more reliable with clear days and moderate temperatures. Yosemite has deep snowfall in the winter with many roads closed for the season while summer sees blue skies and lots of tourists. Visit before July if you want to see the waterfalls in their full glory from the snowmelt.
Nevada and Arizona are wonderful areas to visit at any time of year, but summer is the most popular thanks to warm sunny days and school holidays. Winter brings a sprinkling of snow over the Grand Canyon and can be a magical season, while spring and autumn bring occasional thunderstorms but dry and temperate weather.
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.