San Francisco to New York

San Francisco to New York

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Description

This all-encompassing journey takes you to America’s best sights. Beginning in San Francisco and ending across the river from New York, spend time at the country’s most magnificent national parks, walking among giant sequoia trees at Yosemite and marvelling at the vastness of the Grand Canyon. Travel to the Lone Star State to Remember the Alamo in San Antonio and delve into Santa Fe’s quirky art scene. Be overwhelmed by the neon lights of Vegas and southern hospitality in New Orleans. And get amongst the music in Nashville and Memphis. This action-packed adventure plays out like a greatest-hits mixtape of classic Americana. What makes this one of the best countries in the world? Come and see for yourself.

Trip Name
San Francisco to New York
Last Updated
2019-07-25
Days
22
Capacity
13
Highlights
  • The flexibility of this trip allows you to do what you want, when you want, without the restrictions of an overly packed itinerary
  • Enjoy a full day to explore Washington DC. There's lots to see and do in the US capital, and most of it is free. Visit the White House, Capitol Hill and the National Mall, and feel small next to the statue of Abraham Lincoln
  • The cities of Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans are notorious for their rich music and nightlife scenes. See live performances of blues, jazz, country and rock in celebrated musical venues
  • Towering granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls, redwood forests and epic night skies - Yosemite National Park feels like utopia. While other tour groups breeze through in a day, you'll spend two nights in the park, allowing for a full day of hiking and exploring
  • For many, Death Valley conjures up images of a flat and barren wasteland. Be surprised by the park's ethereal landscapes of sand dunes, water-sculpted canyons, extinct volcanic craters and, in the spring, fields of wildflowers
  • The iconic sandstone formations of Monument Valley have played backdrop to many a cowboy western. Learn about Navajo culture and history during a jeep tour of the park, before spending a unique night in a traditional hogan hut

Itinerary

We've allowed plenty of room for freedom and flexibility in our trips. In fact, flexibility is one of the ingredients that makes each of our trips so exciting. This style of travel offers us some unexpected circumstances at times, for example, bad weather and road conditions, technical defects of transportation, inconveniences caused by local operators and authorities, and other circumstances beyond our control. Changes in the program may be required to make the best of the unique situations that we encounter. Overnight stops and driving distances each day may vary to best suit the needs of the group. Our described itineraries are to be used as a general guide only. 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 only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability. 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 leader know you are interested 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 leaders 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 - San Francisco
Welcome to the chilled-out City by the Bay. Make your own way to the hotel, where your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. After the meeting, the evening is yours to explore. As this is the only day spent in San Francisco, we recommend arriving a few days early to see the sights. San Fran is a vibrant city with a multicultural heart and offers plenty to do and see. The iconic Golden Gate bridge, the Painted Lady Victorian houses (featured in the opening credits of beloved American sitcom, Full House) and perhaps the most famous former prison, Alcatraz, are just a few of San Francisco’s instantly recognisable attractions. You might consider doing one of the one-day sight-seeing tours of San Francisco offered by our sister company, Urban Adventures.
Day 2 - Yosemite National Park
Drive about 3 hours east into the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Yosemite National Park. Famous for its towering giant sequoia trees (some of the largest trees in the world), plunging waterfalls and colossal granite cliffs, Yosemite is a treat to explore any time of the year. There’s natural wonders everywhere you look, such as the cascading Yosemite Falls (dropping a total of 739 metres/2,425 feet), Glacier Point (which offers breath-taking panoramic views of Yosemite Valley), and two of the parks most magnificent granite monoliths, Half Dome and El Capitan. You’re free to get active and explore the national park however you like upon arrival. You might want to lace up your hiking boots and explore the 1,200 kilometres/800 miles of hiking trials that weaves throughout the glacier-carved surrounds. Those after more of a thrill may prefer to rent a raft and take to the Merced River.
Day 3 - Yosemite National Park
Today is a free day to get out and discover some more of the park. With so many miles of trails leading you to Yosemite’s best attraction, you might choose to spend your day hiking. Your tour leader can offer advice on the steepness, length and difficulty of available trails. The Nevada Falls loop is a popular choice and allows you to climb nature’s giant staircase through gorgeous forest to two incredible waterfalls. This hike is of moderate difficulty and generally takes 4 to 5 hours. For a more leisurely walk, the hike to Mirror Lake takes you past postcard-worthy views of lush forest, Zigzag Valley and Mount Hood. Don’t be surprised if the lake is noticeably smaller (or completely absent) in late summer, however, when the water dries up and is replaced with grass and sandy areas, earning Mirror Lake the nickname, ‘Mirror Meadow’. Alternatively, you might prefer to hire a bike and explore Yosemite Valley, visiting the parks photo gallery, shops and restaurants along the way. After a day of exploration, a few drinks at the park’s cafe is just the trick.
Day 4 - Sierra Nevada
Leave Yosemite behind and drive into the eastern Sierra Nevada towards the quaint town of Bishop. If it’s open (usually from June to September), the drive goes over the stunning 3,050 metre/10,000 foot Tioga Pass via Tioga Road (highway 120). It’s about 4 or 5 hours of travel, but the views more than make up for it - spectacular mountain scenery, crystal clear lakes (including Tenaya and Mono) and breathtaking vistas are in store for us today. You’ll make numerous stops along Tioga to admire the views and take some photos, before continuing on to Bishop, where you’ll camp for the night.
Day 5 - Las Vegas
Travel east through Death Valley to Las Vegas (about 6 hours). Despite its ominous name, Death Valley is home to some incredible geological phenomena. Huge rolling sand dunes, sculpted rocks, winding canyons, sun-cracked salt flats, isolated valleys and volcanic craters can all be found here. Death Valley is also one of the hottest places on the planet, with temperatures rising to 56°C in the summer. If it’s not too hot, stop at Death Valley National Park to marvel at the otherworldly scenery and perhaps take a walk on the stunning salt flats. Then it’s on to Sin City. Las Vegas may be the gambling capital of the world, but if that isn't your thing there's a lot more to do in town. Shop, check out a world class show, or simply marvel at the over-the-top hotels, where it’s possible to ride a gondola (at the Venetian), take a photo in front of a scale model of the Eiffel Tower (Paris Hotel) and see an erupting volcano (at the Mirage). Whatever you do, make sure to spend some time simply soaking up the neon lights and craziness of gaudy and glitzy Strip.
Day 6 - Las Vegas
You have another free day to explore the entertainment capital of the world. Use this opportunity to have a crack at black jack, find a swimming pool to relax by, or dine at a renowned restaurant (Wolfgang Puck and David Chang are just two famous chefs who have restaurants here). For something different, why not learn about Vegas’s underworld past at the Mob Museum or check out some long-gone neon signs that helped make Vegas, well, Vegas, at the Neon Museum. Many A-list musicians, like Elton John and Cher, have done residencies in Vegas. In the evening, why not check out a concert (you’ll likely need to book in advance, so make sure to check the calendar before you come) or put the city’s famous slogan, ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ to the test and party the night away at one of its many hotspots.
Day 7 - Grand Canyon
While the lights of Las Vegas might be dazzling, your eyes are in for a real treat today as they'll fall on the incredible Grand Canyon. Leave Vegas and drive along a section of famous Route 66 to one of the world’s seven wonders (approximately 5 hours). You’ll have two nights here to help you’ll fully take in this amazing sight. There are plenty of things to see and do during your time here, so be prepared for busy and active days. Peer over the rim and stand in awe as you watch the setting sun ignite the multi-coloured rock walls. For the next two nights you’ll camp out in one of the world’s most magnificent settings, surrounded by the smell of pine and cedar and enveloped by a stunning canopy of stars at night.
Day 8 - Grand Canyon
Take time today to explore at your own pace. Maybe rise early for an incredible sunrise, then soar like a California Condor over the canyon with a scenic helicopter flight (not included). If you feel like getting active, then descend through pine trees into the heart of the immense abyss, hiking from red rock to white powder. Discover this stunning gorge – 1.5 kilometres deep and formed by over six million years of erosion from the Colorado River – by strolling around the edges, or hiking along the South Kaibab trail or to Plateau Point. Or perhaps join rangers to learn about the park’s geological story, watch an IMAX film to discover the canyon from a different perspective, or simply relax with a book and a backdrop like no other. Whatever you choose, you’ll find that the canyon depths are nothing short of mind-blowing.
Day 9 - Monument Valley
You’re in for another scenic ride today. Cruise the backdrop of classic Western cinema into the heart of the Navajo Nation (about 4 hours). The reservation here is the largest in the US and home to more than 200,000 Indians of the Navajo tribe. It is also home to Monument Valley, a striking landscape named after it’s towering sandstone formations. As the sun changes angle as it rises and falls throughout the day, the landscape constantly changes colour and it's near impossible to take a bad photo. When you arrive, you can go on an optional Jeep tour with a Navajo guide, who will provide an insight into their culture as you drive past flaming red cliffs and sweeping sand dunes and visit traditional Navajo homes. In the evening, you have the choice of joining the locals for an authentic Navajo dinner around a campfire, and be regaled with traditional songs and stories in the process (both of these optional activities have a fee).
Day 10 - Mesa Verde National Park
Step back in time today and gain an insight into human history in North America with a visit to one of the best and largest archaeological sites in the country, Mesa Verde National Park (travel time is about 3.5 hours). Although the desert-scapes and cactus-spiked mesas might seem pretty uninhabitable, this part of the American south-west has actually been settled for thousands of years. The park protects over 4,000 known archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloans, who made the area their home from AD 550 to AD 1300. Explore a cliff dwelling on a short walk and descend a ladder into a kiva (a round, subterranean ceremonial structure), or (for a small fee) join a ranger-led walk. The ranger will help you access the more difficult sites like ‘Cliff Palace’ or ‘Balcony House’, and help you learn more about this ancient site.
Day 11 - Santa Fe
Travel north to Santa Fe (about 6.5 hours), a city whose artistic, musical and culinary offerings are greater than its size suggests. Upon arrival, enjoy free time to explore its quality museums, galleries and other artistic offerings. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is a great place to start. Spend time checking out her brand of American modernism and some of her New Mexico landscapes, or perhaps explore the diversity of the world’s folk artists and cultures at the Museum of International Folk Art. Santa Fe itself is a living museum, owing much of its old-world look to its Pueblo-style architecture. Stroll the crooked streets of the historic district to view a range of adobe landmarks, including San Miguel Chapel, which has the distinction of being the oldest church in continental United States.
Day 12 - Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Head south and unearth a world hidden beneath the stark, barren desert after leaving Texas behind for New Mexico (approximately 5 hours). When you arrive, head deep underground for a world-class cave experience in Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Marvel at the massive, ornate formations that burst from the cavern’s edges in the 8.2 acre ‘Big Room’ and beyond. One of the largest caverns in the world, Carlsbad Cavern is still only partially explored, with 119 caves recorded so far. There are yet more wonders outside the cave – take a seat outside the park at sunset and watch hundreds of thousands of bats spiralling out in a swarming column in search of food. Please note that as the bats migrate south in October for the winter, this is a seasonal sight and is best viewed in July and August. You’ll spend the night in a campground near the town of Carlsbad.
Day 13 - San Antonio
Be prepared for a long day of travel as you journey south-west across the Lone Star State to San Antonio (about 9 hours). This is the perfect chance to soak up the scenery, do some reading or simply catch up on some shut eye. When you arrive in San Antonio, you’ll soon discover a city rich in history with strong cultural ties to Mexico. Texas’s second largest city is also home to the states’ most historic landmark, the Alamo. This site – an 18th-century Spanish mission – was the famous battleground for Texan independence, where fabled frontiersmen, like Davy Crockett, fought. Don’t miss the chance to Remember the Alamo, then head to the city’s famous River Walk to sample the impressive cocktail scene and seek out some of the city's amazing food trucks.
Day 14 - East Texas/Louisiana
Join the truckers along Highway 10 for the drive towards Louisiana (about 7 hours). Today is flexible as we try to get us as close to New Orleans as possible. We will likely camp somewhere in East Texas. Depending on how much ground we cover, we might also set up camp near Sam Houston Jones State Park or the town of Lafayette in Louisiana.
Day 15 - New Orleans
Today you’ll continue across the state of Louisiana until you reach the Big Easy aka New Orleans. This jazz-infused city has an undeniable allure. An eclectic mix of French, Spanish, Haitian and Cuban influences manifests in the city's architecture, cuisine and of course, its thriving music scene. Take a stroll down Bourbon Street in the heart of the French Quarter with all the other tourists to see what it’s all about, then explore the rest of the city. You might choose to ride the St. Charles streetcar to the Garden District to stroll the pretty streets, taking in its sprawling willows and stately Victorian homes. Alternatively, head to Frenchmen Street for music. In the evening, don’t miss the chance to sample some of the city’s famous Creole cuisine. Tonight, we trade in the campsite for a comfortable hotel in the French Quarter.
Day 16 - New Orleans
Enjoy a free day today. Do like the locals and pick up a bag of pillowy beignets for breakfast (delicious sweet donuts covered in powdered sugar) then head out and further explore laid-back NOLA. If you’re looking for a culture-fix, perhaps head to Royal Street. This quintessential New Orleans street – think picturesque historic buildings with iron lace balconies – houses an excellent mix of galleries, antique shops and restaurants with beautiful courtyards. For some shopping, the French Market is a great place to comb for local goodies, or alternatively, you could take a walk around Preservation Hall for a history in jazz. In the evening, ask your tour leader about an optional Mississippi River dinner cruise and jazz show.
Day 17 - Memphis
Travel about 6.5 hours north today and get into the groove in Memphis. The ‘home of the blues’, Memphis is a paradise for music lovers. You might choose to visit the legendary Sun Studios, where Elvis, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis all recorded albums. Make a pilgrimage to Graceland to tour the King’s former home, including the famous Jungle Room, and pay your respects at his tomb. Or for a different type of history, visit the National Civil Rights Museum at the former Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated on April 4, 1968. The day is yours to spend how you wish. In the evening, why not stroll Beale Street and check out some live music, perhaps at a venue made famous by legends such as W.C. Handy, Howlin’ Wolf or B.B. King.
Day 18 - Nashville
Travel from the home of the blues to the land of country as you make your way east to Nashville, Tennessee (about 4 hours). After settling into the campgrounds, the day is yours to explore. You might choose to immerse yourself in the city’s country music roots and stroll through music history at the Country Music Hall of Fame, check out the Grand Ole Opry concert hall or make your way to Music Row, where more than 50 recording studios and around 200 music publishing houses are located. You could also take a walk around the pristine gardens of Centennial Park. In the evening, the Wildhorse Saloon is a great spot to experience authentic southern food and live music. The Bluebird Cafe is another legendary choice. Otherwise, there’s a wide selection of honky-tonk bars to choose from.
Day 19 - Appalachian Mountains
Today you’ll leave the city for the great outdoors. Cross into the state of Virginia and journey towards the jagged Blue Ridge Mountains of the Appalachian Mountain range (about 6 hours). Named after its distinctive dark blue hue, Blue Ridge is considered one of the most scenic sections of the Appalachians. Stop and set up camp just north of Blue Ridge at Shenandoah National Park, yet another iconic part of the American landscape filled with cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas and tranquil wooded hollows. Keep an eye (and ear) out for deer and songbirds as you camp in this gorgeous setting tonight.
Day 20 - Washington DC
It’s a long drive to Washington DC today, but you’ll be traveling along the incredibly scenic Sky-line Drive to get there. Travel through deep woods, past majestic mountains and spectacular vis-tas as you make the 8 to 9 hour drive. Stop to stretch your legs under impressive oak trees and admire the gorgeous views along the way. Don’t worry about not having too much time to ex-plore Washington today, as you’ll have a full free day here tomorrow.
Day 21 - Washington DC
Today is a free today to explore DC’s monuments, museums and a certain white building. The city is overflowing with iconic sites such as the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, MLK Monument, FDR and Jefferson Memorials, Capitol Building, and of course, the White House. DC also has nearly 100 world-class museums – the National Air and Space Museum, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, and the Newseum are just a few. Strap on some comfy shoes and spend the day exploring DC’s wealth of history.
Day 22 - New York (Newark)
Leave Washington DC behind this morning, driving along the Delaware River before stopping in the City of Brotherly Love. There’s time to see a couple of Philadelphia’s main sights, then continue on to Newark, New Jersey, where your trip comes to an end. As Manhattan is a short train ride away from Newark, we recommend staying on for a few more days to explore all New York has to offer.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type

Accommodation

Camping (with facilities) (16 nts),Hotel (5 nts)

Transport

Private vehicle

Map