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Explore the National Parks of the West

Duration: 13 nights, 14 days
Start City: Las Vegas, Nevada
End City: San Francisco, California
Group Size: 4-13 participants
Tour Type: Active sightseeing
Languages: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish


Day 1.

Arrival in Las Vegas

Arrival in Las Vegas, use the free hotel shuttle from the airport to the La Quinta (3-star), or similar, 1 night.

Day 2.

Snow Canyon & Dinosaur Prints

8 AM: Your tour leader will meet you in the hotel for the orientation meeting. Leaving Las Vegas we soon ascend to the Colorado Plateau through the Virgin River Gorge. Today we enjoy the spectacular scenery of Snow Canyon State Park, where we walk over petrified sand dunes. Then we are on to see the impressive collection of dinosaur footprints (entrance included). Our hotel is centrally located in St. George. Hotel Ramada, St. George (3-star), 2 nights
Drive time: 120 miles / 200 km or 2hrs

Day 3.

Zion National Parks

Zion National Park is an 800 m deep sandstone canyon carved by the Virgin River. The scenery is stunning. Zion is famous for the iconic hike to Angel’s Landing, and the many slot canyons. We have all day to explore this fabulous park. You have the option to enjoy a hike to Emerald Pools, where water cascades into shaded pools, or you can hike on your own to Angel’s Landing. Maybe you are interested in wading in the Narrows? There is free time in the charming town of Springdale.

Drive time: 90 miles / 150 km or 2 hrs

Day 4.

Explore Bryce Canyon National Park

Leaving early we soon reach Bryce Canyon NP. For many, Bryce is the most beautiful of the American National Parks. Hiking paths wind through radiant red and pink towers of stone, which contrast beautifully with blue skies and green pines. At sundown, be awed by an unforgettable color play on the formations. Those wanting can take a horseback ride through Bryce's rock formations (approx. $65, not included) or hike with the group on the Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trail. In summer, enjoy a Western Cowboy dinner show (not included). Hotel Bryce View Lodge, (3-star), 1 night

Drive time: 140 miles / 220 km or 2.5 hrs

Day 5

Antelope Canyon & Horseshoe Bend

Soon we reach Lake Powell. Here, the Colorado River created a giant lake with a 3000 k shoreline. Deep red sandstone walls reflect in the deep blue waters, offering unforgettable images. The area is famous for its rock formations. We recommend a tour to Antelope Canyon (not included, approx. $70); and a hike to Horseshoe Bend. Quality Inn (3-star), or similar, 1 night.
Drive time: 140 miles / 220 km or 2.5 hrs

Day 6

Monument Valley with Indians

It is a short drive to the famous Monument Valley. Giant red towers of stone rise out of the valley and offer fantastic photographic motifs. For decades, this area has been used as a backdrop for the cameras of Hollywood. We recommend an unforgettable Jeep tour through the valley led by the local Navajo Indians (starting at $70, not included), where secluded views of the panoramas of Ear of the Wind and Big Hogan await. In the afternoon, a two and a half hour trip returns us to the Grand Canyon via its eastern entrance. With luck, we arrive in time for a stunning sunset. Our hotel is at the entrance of the national park. Red Feather Lodge (3-star), or similar, 2 nights.
Drive time: 300 miles / 450 km or 4.5 hrs

Day 7

The Grand Canyon

We have all day to relax at the Grand Canyon! We explore the edge of the canyon, a dream location for photography. You can do a self-guided easy hike along the West Rim to the beautiful outlook, Hermit’s Rest. We recommend the amazing helicopter tours and/or the IMAX theater (to be paid locally, they are not included in the tour package) as well as watching the famous sunsets or renting bikes (not included) to explore the rim of this amazing sight.

Day 8

Route 66 and Las Vegas

In the early afternoon, we head back towards Las Vegas along the famous Route 66 (drive time 4-5 hours). Our hotel is centrally located. Golden Nugget Casino (3-star), or similar, 1 night.
Drive time: 265 miles / 430 km or 4-5 hrs

Day 9

Death Valley

The environment of Death Valley stands in stark contrast to the red deserts of Utah and the green mountains of Yosemite. Here, in Death Valley, the temperatures and weather conditions are extreme. In the summer temperatures often exceed 120°F. Death Valley is the lowest landmass in North America at 282 feet below sea level. We have time to explore its golden sand dunes, its myriad of brackish pools and springs as well as the fascinating rock erosion formations of Zabriskie Point. If temperatures allow, we will even hike to the Badlands. Then we drive along the 14,000-foot ridge of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Our hotel is located in the renowned ski resort of Mammoth Lakes. Sierra Lodge (3-star), or similar, 1 night.
Drive time: 330 miles / 530 km or 6 hrs

Day 10

Explore Mono Lake, and Tuolumne Meadows, looking for bears

In the morning, we encounter Mono Lake, one of the oldest lakes on Earth, known for its bizarre white limestone “tufa tower” formation. Over the breathtaking Tioga Pass and the sheer cliffs of the Sierra Nevada ridge, we reach 10,000 feet. Our hotel is in the heart of Yosemite Valley, the rustic Curry Village Tent cabins, where we will spend one night (communal bathrooms). The evening is reserved for wildlife watching, and enjoying an amazing sunset in Yosemite Valley. With a little luck we will see deer, coyote and bear. Curry Village Tent Cabins (1-star), or similar, 1 night.
Drive time: 120 miles / 200 km or 2 hrs

Day 11

Explore Yosemite’s Glacier Point

Today we discover Yosemite National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site. In the morning, we drive we explore Glacier Point, the most impressive viewpoint of the national park. Big tour buses are not allowed to drive here, but our smaller van is allowed. From here we have a perfect view of the Half Dome. Our hotel is in the historic gold-mining town of Sonora. Heritage Inn (3-star), or similar, 2 nights.
Drive time: 100 miles / 160 km or 2-3 hrs
Panorama Trail: 4-6 hrs, 11 km, elevation difference +215/-915m
Sentinel Dome & Taft Point Loop: 4 hrs, ca. 6 miles / 10 km, elevation difference: +/-215 m

Day 12

Giant Sequoias of Calaveras Big Tree State Park, ghost town of Columbia State Park, wine tasting

A full day to enjoy the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. We spend the morning hiking among a hidden grove of Giant Sequoia, at the Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Few tourists are found here and we enjoy solitude among the giant trees. Then we continue to Columbia State Park to enjoy a living history museum dedicated to the ghost town and gold rush area. In the afternoon we have time to enjoy wine tasting (not included) and shopping. Why not stop in at the hotel where Mark Twain stayed?
Drive Time approx.. 125 miles / 200 km – 2 hours
Walks: 5 miles / 8 km, +/- 100m

Day 13

Explore San Francisco

We move on to our final destination, San Francisco, the famous city on the Pacific Ocean. We explore the city by cable car and on foot, finding many hidden treasures throughout this fabulous metropolis. We will visit Union Square, Chinatwon and also Coit Tower. You have time to explore Fisherman’s Wharf as well. Hotel Whitcomb (3-star), or similar, 1 night. Drive time: 120 miles / 200 km or 2.5 hrs

Day 14

Tour Over Departure

Departure is on your own. An airport shuttle costs approximately $15 and is not included.

Half board (breakfasts and picnic lunches) 11 nights in tourist class hotels of 3* and two nights in fixed tent cabins in Yosemite Valley (communal bathrooms) 12 picnic lunches (L) (self-made) 13 breakfasts (B) *Guided, easy to medium hikes of 3-6 hours - shorter walks or longer hikes can be offered for those wanting to increase or decrease the walks *Opportunities for fantastic optional trips: helicopter flights over the Grand Canyon, horseback riding through Bryce Canyon, Jeep tours in Monument Valley, walking tour of Alcatraz and Antelope Canyon *A chance to hike into the Grand Canyon *A chance to trek to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite *2 days in San Francisco with guided city tour *Ample time to explore each national park in depth *Famous and hidden natural wonders *Mostly centrally located hotels in the parks or at the entrance to the parks *Balanced mix of nature, cities, and world famous sights *Small Group tours with a maximum of 14 pax *Small group size allows tour director to address individual desires of each group *Expertly trained, dedicated, local tour directors
*All other meals *Airport transfers *Tips of $90-130 per person for the tour manager depending on his / her performance *Alcoholic beverages *All meals not listed (all dinners) *Optional excursions *Porterage *Half Dome hikes require a permit. These permits must to be reserved by the client individually via the Internet at www.recreation.gov and cost approx. $15 per person. Guides cannot reserve these hikes in advance. *Not all optional activities are possible every day. The group may have to decide on which programs to compromise or choose.

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Each passenger is allowed to bring one luggage with a maximum weight of 23 kg, plus one carry-on item with the weight of 10 kg. We recommend you bring sturdy rolling duffel bags. Hard-shelled luggage will be scratched due to the rough road surfaces in the country side.

Worn-in hiking boots (over the ankle with cleated sole, tennis shoes are NOT acceptable on our hikes!!!)
Hiking socks (we recommend a combination of liner socks with wool socks)
Sports sandals (these are sandals that will stay on your feet while swimming in creeks, lakes, or oceans)
A daypack (for rain shell, sweater, 1-2 liters of water & food)
2 one-liter water bottles
Lip balm with UV
Bathing costume / pareo / beach towel
Insect repellent (preferably also a spray to spray clothing)
Personal first aid and blister kit
Hiking shorts
Long hiking pants
Rain jacket and pants, breathable material
T-shirts or shirts
Fleece jacket or sweater (jumper)
On camping tours, bring your own sleeping bag (and pillow if you desire)
Spring and autumn tours: fleece hat and fleece gloves
Headlamp and batteries
Pocket knife
Walking poles

We recommend you dress in layers, as that allows you to properly adapt to the varying temperatures of the trip. We might experience crisp mornings followed by warm to hot days. Layering helps to adapt to these temperature changes.

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