This 7 day self-drive itinerary explores the ever popular west coast of the USA, taking you through quirky San Francisco, the spectacular Yosemite National Park and down the strip of exciting Las Vegas. Explore the prison of Alcatraz, admire the California Black Oak Trees in Yosemite, enjoy spectacular landscapes as you drive through Death Valley before ending your trip with 2 nights of fun in the party capital of Las Vegas!
Your week long USA West Coast Express adventure starts in the eclectic city of San Francisco, home to the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Union Square, you will have 2 nights to explore the city before heading into the beautiful and striking scenery of Yosemite National Park where you will spend a night, there are many great hikes to enjoy in this region as well as cycling trails or other activites such as rock climbing!
You have one night in Death Valley before ending in the loud and outrageous city of Las Vegas where you will spend 2 nights, we can even arrange a trip to the Grand Canyon from here to finish the trip with a bang!
On arrival, you'll be transferred by a shuttle bus to your hotel, where you will spend the next 2 nights exploring San Francisco.
Flight time permitting, we recommend spending the afternoon exploring Union Square and Mission Street. It’s easy to walk around these areas, and they are perfect for a spot of shopping or sitting outside a café or bar and partaking in a bit of people watching. Soak in the atmosphere, enjoy the food, and get a feel for one of the USA’s best cities.
You have the whole day to see as much as possible, so we recommend heading out early and filling up on pancakes; grab breakfast in one of the many cafes before ticking off the must-dos on your list – you’ve got one full day in San Fran so use it wisely!
For us, that’s heading down to Fisherman’s Wharf and taking the ferry over to Alcatraz Island and discovering the infamous abandoned prison. Pre-booking is a must as it is such a popular excursion. Our other highlights, to name but a few, include hiring bicycles at Fisherman’s Wharf and cycling to (and across) the bold and majestic Golden Gate Bridge, taking a ride on a traditional tram, drinking in that hippie-vibe in the Haight Ashbury, dining in the Castro, venturing into the SoMa district (South of the Market) for arts, shopping and nightlife, or visiting one of the many museums and galleries.
If you still have some energy and enthusiasm left after a fun filled day, San Francisco has a diverse nightlife, offering up old school bars, stylish lounges, and an array of dining options. There really is something for everyone, so you certainly won’t be disappointed.
Your road-trip starts here! Today, pick up your car hire to start your self-drive. After negotiating your way out of San Francisco (GPS recommended here!) you will travel over the Oakland Bay Bridge and out towards Yosemite National Park.
You will get to experience some beautiful countryside and changing scenery, especially once you enter the National Park. Make time to stop and admire the massive Ponderosa Pines and California Black Oak trees. This drive is really fun and the perfect distance.
Once you are all checked in for your one night stay, we recommend a quick visit to the visitor’s centre in Yosemite Village, where they will give you great advice on the best trails and areas to visit, and will supply you with a lot of useful information so you can make the most of your time in the National Park. If hiking isn’t your thing, why not try your hand at rock climbing or hiring a bicycle and riding along the bike trails?
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!
In the evening relax and re-charge as you prepare for the next chapter of your adventure.
After a good night sleep, you have a couple of options for today. Our preference is to spend the morning in Death Valley, where you can pay a visit to the National Park Visitors Centre and find a good walking trail in the local area. You’ll still have plenty of time to get to Sin City, drop off your car and hit the ground running.
Alternatively, you can head off early – it takes around 2 hours to reach Sin City. If you can’t wait to get to the bright lights don’t worry – it’s non-stop 24 hours a day here!
Today you have the whole day to play with, and Vegas has a lot to offer. If you are after some R & R, why not spend a relaxing morning at the hotel pool, the perfect place to unwind, read a book, and have a quick dip.
Las Vegas is a sensory overload – it’s hot, exciting, loud, and colourful, and most of all a lot of fun! Take it for what it is and enjoy the whirlwind; most hotels on ‘The Strip’ have their own casino and some are even linked by undercover walkways.
If you don’t want to spend all of your time gambling, there is plenty else to distract you! Enjoy the fairground rides (a great roller-coaster at the New York New York), take in a show or check out who is in residence (previously Elton John, Celine Dion, Prince), and enjoy the wide variety of restaurants, clubs and bars.
If the Grand Canyon is on your bucket list, we can arrange a day trip out to the Canyon for a full day of exploration, including a stop at the infamous Hoover Dam, various look-out spots around the Canyon, and a visit to the Grand Canyon National Geographic Visitors Center. If a full day tour is a bit long, how about a spectacular helicopter trip over the Canyon? Seeing the Grand Canyon from above really is a fantastic experience, and something you’ll never forget! (Grand Canyon tours are optional and can be added upon request).
All good things have to come to an end, and unfortunately this adventure isn’t an exception. You’ve had the opportunity to explore a wonderfully bohemian city, drive through stunning landscapes, enjoy hiking through wonderful scenery, and finish on a high in the desert - now it’s time to be collected from your hotel by an airport shuttle bus to meet your onward flight.
This route is great for Spring – Autumn (May to October) although beware that July and August in the desert will be extremely hot! Outside of these dates many roads in the National Parks are closed and snowfall hinders access on some of the higher passes. Snow chains are a must.
National Holidays also mean lots of domestic travel within the USA which means that National Park properties get busy way ahead of time; pre-booking a few months ahead is essential if you want to secure a prime location.
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.