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LA to San Fran: Ultimate National Parks

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LA to San Fran: Ultimate National Parks

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Description

On this 17-day trip, you’ll explore the ultimate national parks in the USA – starting from the home of movie stars in Los Angeles and ending in artsy San Francisco. Walk through Joshua Tree National Park, the epic Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Snow Canyon State Park, glitzy Las Vegas, Death Valley, Yosemite National Park, the coastal parks of California and some bustling city hubs with so much to see and do you’ll get dizzy (in a good way). See giant sequoias, colossal sand dunes, granite cliffs, and chilled-out beaches and enjoy all the local insights with a local leader who knows all the best spots to eat, drink and explore your way through the country.

Trip Name
LA to San Fran: Ultimate National Parks
Last Updated
2024-04-19
Days
17
Capacity
12
Highlights
  • Hike through sequoia forests, granite cliff faces and cascading waterfalls in Yosemite National Park – one of the best places for hiking, walking and wildlife spotting. 
  • Enjoy a full day exploring California’s coastal parks near Monterey, kick back on the gorgeous white sands of secrets coves and end with an evening of wine tastings at dinner at a local winery. 
  • Witness the Grand Canyon’s steep red-rock escarpments and gorges. Learn about Indigenous history and geology with a naturalist guide from the Grand Canyon Conservancy. 
  • Ride a jeep through Utah's iconic Monument Valley, and then share stories and a meal by the campfire with members of the Navajo Nation. 
  • At Lower Antelope Canyon, descend into the mystical interior with a Navajo guide. Learn the local history and discover the iconic sandstone walls shaped by years and years of water and wind.
  • Discover Zion National Park on a guided hike – then immerse yourself in the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas.

Itinerary

ITINERARY CHANGES Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It's important that you review this information prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays, political unrest or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in-country. Your group leader or local representative will keep you up to date with any such changes once your trip is underway. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance fees only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and maybe on a join-in basis. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your group leader or local representative know you are interested at the Welcome Meeting and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high-risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and group leader or local representative are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

Day 1 - Los Angeles
Welcome to Los Angeles, California! Spend an afternoon exploring the home of movie stars – stroll Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach or Rodeo Drive for a bit of people-watching or amp up the culture with a trip to the Getty Centre or a tour of the Beverly Hills mansions. You’re free to explore LA until 6 pm when your group will come together for a welcome meeting at your hotel in Venice. Jump on a leader-led walking tour along the quirky and beautiful Venice canals, and then consider an optional group dinner at one of the many famous restaurants to get to know each other.
Day 2 - Joshua Tree National Park / Twentynine Palms
Depart LA after breakfast and take the scenic drive to Palm Springs, famous for its mid-century modern architecture and desert resorts. Ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tram to the top of Mt. Jacinto for a refreshingly cool picnic lunch with expansive views over Chino Canyon and Palm Springs. In the afternoon continue to Twentynine Palms to check in to your hotel and relax for a bit. Then rejoin your leader for an exploration of Joshua Tree National Park in the late afternoon. Sitting between the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, Joshua Tree is home to striking rock formations, many species of cacti and varied desert wildlife such as coyotes, lizards and bighorn sheep. This evening is free to relax – maybe sit down for dinner with your group and prepare for the days of exploration ahead.
Day 3 - Route 66 / Grand Canyon National Park
This morning, enjoy breakfast and then head on a Route 66 road trip. You’ll spend some time driving the famous Route 66 from California through Nevada and into Arizona, stopping by the eccentric community of Seligman for lunch. There’s even a historic retro diner where you can get an authentic taste of Americana culture and history. Arrive at Grand Canyon National Park in the afternoon, check in to your hotel and then head out for a sunset walk along the rim of the canyon. This perspective offers epic views of the massive network of gorges, rivers and cliffs throughout the park. 
Day 4 - Grand Canyon National Park
Today, a naturalist guide from the Grand Canyon Conservancy will join your group for a guided tour and hike (approximately 3 hours) on a section of the Bright Angel Trail. Your guide will teach the group about the park’s history, geology and the Indigenous connections – of both past and present – to the land. Expect to see sweeping views, ancient rocks, tell-tale fossils, diverse plant life and even some curious critters along the way. This afternoon is as clear as an Arizona sky. Explore at your own pace and remember to always have a steady water supply and high-energy snacks on hand. Your group leader can brief you on optional activities available
Day 5 - Monument Valley / Kayenta
This morning is a perfect chance to get up early and catch the sunrise. Depart Grand Canyon via the eastern entrance, stopping at the Desert View Watchtower. When you reach the town of Cameron, visit the Navajo trading post and take some free time for lunch before continuing to Monument Valley tribal park. Here, you’ll meet a Navajo guide for a sunset jeep tour through the valley – a journey into the spectacular backcountry, where you can explore the natural and historic landmarks, sprawling rock arches and bridges and petroglyph rock art. Witness a vibrant cultural demonstration and then join the locals for a dinner of Navajo tacos around the campfire. Settle in for an evening full of Native American dancing, flute playing, drumming, chanting and storytelling. Afterward, continue to the nearby town of Kayenta and check in to your hotel.
Day 6 - Antelope Canyon / Bryce Canyon
Get ready for another day full of incredible desert scenery. After breakfast, you’ll hit the road again, passing through the little city of Page, set on the shores of Lake Powell. You’ll join a Navajo guide as you descend into mystical Lower Antelope Canyon via series of stairways. The towering red walls curve and twist above, making for a great photo opportunity. Learn some local history and fascinating stories about the canyon itself, then continue your journey. Stop for a short hike to view Horseshoe Bend, named for the loop of water that rims the enormous sandstone structure. Enjoy a picnic lunch with your group before continuing into Utah. Drive along scenic roads and onto your destination – Bryce Canyon National Park. Spend the night near the park and rest up for an early start tomorrow.
Day 7 - Bryce Canyon National Park / Zion National Park
You’ll wake up early today to catch the best light for your journey into Bryce Canyon National Park, famous for its orange hoodoos – uniquely shaped rock spires rising out of the desert, formed by millions of years of erosion. Drive the park road, stopping at some scenic overlooks, and arrive at a gorgeous spot where your leader will take the group on a walk to the hoodoos. Recharge with some free time for lunch, then continue to Zion National Park, where you'll explore Zion Canyon. If the group is up for it, take a hike at sunset and watch the nightly display of colour to end a beautiful day. Spend the night nearby in Springdale.
Day 8 - Zion National Park
After breakfast, visit Zion National Park with your leader. Based on the group's interests and abilities, you might hike the Emerald Pools or Watchman trail. There may also be an option to take on a challenge like The Narrows, which is probably the most popular hike in the park and one of the best slot canyon hikes on Earth! Trek through a gorge surrounded by cliff faces 300 metres high and cool off in a river along the way. This evening is yours to rest, relax and recharge.
Day 9 - Las Vegas
You’ll leave Zion National Park today and hit the road again for the last time. Check out Snow Canyon State Park along the way, where many American movies have been filmed, and then continue to Las Vegas, Nevada. Once a western outpost in the desert, Las Vegas is now a gambling and entertainment metropolis. It’s a city of larger-than-life characters, but beyond the glitz and glamour, Vegas is home to diverse urban neighbourhoods and a thriving arts scene. Your leader will take you through local favourites – from Fremont Street to dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 10 - Las Vegas
Today is free to explore Las Vegas. The city 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. There will be a meeting at 6 pm tonight to welcome any new travellers to the trip. After the welcome meeting, perhaps feast on an 'all you can eat' buffet or check out one of the many shows on offer – book in advance if you can, to get the best deals – or party the night away in a Vegas nightclub.
Day 11 - Las Vegas to Fresno
This morning, depart Las Vegas and begin your road trip. This is a long driving day and a great opportunity to experience the dramatic change in landscape from the desert to the mountains of California. You'll have plenty of stops to stretch your legs and take photos. The first stop is Death Valley National Park. Don't let the name fool you – this park features huge sand dunes, canyons, sculpted rocks, valleys and volcanic craters. Death Valley is extremely hot and dry (the highest recorded temperature in the world was measured in local Furnace Creek at 56.6 degrees Celsius in 1913), so remember to drink plenty of water and don't overexert yourself. Stop along the way at Zabriskie Point, Badwater Basin and the Mesquite Dunes, where you’ll have the chance to explore with some short walks. Continue around the Sierras to the south, where things get much greener. You’ll spend the night in Fresno, where you’ll have dinner at a local restaurant with your group.
Day 12 - Yosemite National Park
This morning, head north to the world-famous Yosemite National Park – featuring colossal granite cliff faces, cascading waterfalls (depending on the season), and sequoia forests, the scenery in Yosemite attracts travellers from all over the globe. When you arrive, wander through the jaw-dropping Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, home to some of the largest known trees on Earth. These colossal, ancient wonders are adapted for survival – they’re resistant to disease, thanks to a large content of tannin in the wood, and their thick asbestos-like bark means that they can withstand the hottest of forest fires, making them almost indestructible. Make the scenic drive into Yosemite Valley and explore sites like Yosemite Falls and the visitor center, before settling in at a local restaurant in Yosemite Valley for a fun pizza dinner and a cold beer (if you fancy).
Day 13 - Yosemite National Park
Enjoy a full day to explore the spectacular scenery of Yosemite National Park. The breathtaking landscapes have made Yosemite a favourite among hikers for generations, and there are plenty of trekking routes on offer with varying degrees of difficulty. Your leader will choose a hike based on the group’s ability and desires. If you feel like breaking a sweat, the hike to Vernal Falls features plenty of switchbacks and depending on the season, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the cascading waterfall beneath the giant Half Dome. Feel like taking it easy? No problem, there are plenty of gentle trails on offer, too. Keep an eye out for squirrels (and watch for bears!) along the way. Make the winding trip up to Glacier Point for incredible views over the valley, Yosemite Falls and Half Dome – don't forget your cameras today, as this is one of the best places in the park to get amazing photos.
Day 14 - Monterey
After breakfast this morning, depart Yosemite for coastal California and the haven of Monterey. Your leader will take the group on an orientation walk when you arrive to get your bearings. The rest of the day is free to explore at your own pace – maybe head to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a popular spot for tourists and locals alike. Tonight, maybe get a recommendation from your leader on one of the best dinner spots in the area or just kick back on the beach and watch the sunset.
Day 15 - California Coast / Monterey
Today you’ll head out on a full-day exploration of the glittering coast and the surrounding villages and parks with your group. Make the most of the scenic parks along California Highway 1 and check out Sea Lion Point. Check out the gorgeous local beaches in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, explore tidepools and relax on the white sands, surrounded by turquoise waters and cliffs. Head out on an easy coastal hike for epic views over the ocean, then cap off the day with a visit to a local winery in the Carmel Valley for a wine tasting and dinner with views of the surrounding vineyard.
Day 16 - San Francisco
This morning after breakfast, you’ll follow the coast to Santa Cruz, stopping at the famous pier for some free time to grab lunch, sit on the beach and enjoy the vibes. Visit Half Moon Bay for a short beach walk and then carry on to San Fran. When you arrive, head out on a tour of the city and then check in to your hotel for the night. At sunset, you’ll hit the water for an incredible catamaran cruise around the bay, with views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island – this is the perfect farewell to a sun kissed Californian adventure. If you like, head out with your fellow travellers for one last dinner.
Day 17 - San Francisco
With no activities planned today, your adventure ends this morning. If you’d like to stay longer, just speak to your booking agent.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
12-05-202428-05-2024AUD $ 10,213-
02-06-202418-06-2024AUD $ 10,727-
14-07-202430-07-2024AUD $ 12,975-
01-09-202417-09-2024AUD $ 13,105-
15-09-202401-10-2024AUD $ 13,105-
29-09-202415-10-2024AUD $ 12,620-
13-10-202429-10-2024AUD $ 12,495-

Accommodation

Hotel (14 nights),Lodge (2 nights)

Transport

Private vehicle

Map