Itinerary in brief:
- 3 nights San Francisco
- 2 nights Lake Tahoe
- 2 nights Yosemite National Park
- 1 night Death Valley
- 2 nights Las Vegas
- 1 night Grand Canyon
- 2 nights Zion National Park
- 2 nights Bryce National Park
- 1 night Capitol Reef
- 2 nights Arches National Park, Moab
- 1 night Salt Lake City
Day 1: Depart UK for San Francisco
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.
Included: International flight, private transfer, hotel
Day 2: Explore San Francisco
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!
Included: Hotel, Alcatraz and 48hr hop-on hop-off bus tour combo ticket
Day 3: Free day in San Francisco
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.
Day 4: San Francisco to Lake Tahoe (Approx. 329kms, 3.5hrs)
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.
Included: SUV vehicle hire for 17 days, hotel
Day 5: Free day in Lake Tahoe
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.
Day 6: Lake Tahoe to Yosemite National Park (Approx. 323kms, 4.5 hrs)
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!
Day 7: Free day in Yosemite National Park
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.
Day 8: Yosemite National Park to Death Valley (Approx. 485kms, 5hrs)
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.
Day 9: Death Valley to Las Vegas (Approx. 195kms, 2hrs)
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.
Day 10: Free day in Las Vegas
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.
Day 11: Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon (Approx. 443kms, 4hrs)
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.
Day 12: Grand Canyon to Zion National Park (Approx. 398kms, 4.5hrs)
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.
Day 13: Free day at Zion 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.
Day 14: Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon (Approx 140kms, 1.5 – 2hrs)
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.
Day 15: Free day at Bryce Canyon National Park
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!
Day 16: Bryce Canyon National Park to Torrey (Approx. 180kms, 2-2.5hrs)
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.
Day 17: Torrey to Moab (Approx 270kms, 3hrs)
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).
Day 18: Free day in Moab
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!
Day 19: Moab to Salt Lake City (Approx. 375kms, 3.5hrs)
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.
Day 20: Depart Salt Lake City
Head to the airport and drop your car before checking in for the flight back to London.
Included: International flight
Day 21: Arrive UK
Your overnight flight will get you back into the UK the following morning.