Like almost all our tours, this is a small group trip. The vehicle used generally has between nine and 14 seats. Our guides are skilled in the geology, customs, traditions, history and people of the areas through which you travel – feel free to ask all and any questions!
The route to Yellowstone goes up Interstate 15, past the Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Mountains, before entering Idaho. At Idaho Falls you will leave the freeway behind, and start making your way through rural parts of the state. About 10 miles (16 kilometres) from West Yellowstone you go over the Continental Divide and into Montana.
When we get to West Yellowstone we will stop to get your sack lunches, before making our way into the world's first national park, and possibly the most unique!
The roads running through Yellowstone make up a massive figure of eight. The lower loop of the figure of eight comprises most of the thermal features that are to be seen in Yellowstone, including, of course, Old Faithful!
From West Yellowstone we'll follow the Madison River to Madison Junction, where we'll turn right, or south. Depending on the time of the year, this area is often teeming with wildlife. With any luck you will see bison, elk, Trumpeter Swans and other animals and birds. A special treat in the spring is the baby bison calves.
At Madison Junction we will turn right, or south, and follow the Firehole River which runs through the thermal areas of Yellowstone northward. The Firehole is famous amongst anglers for its pristine beauty and selection of brown, brook and rainbow trout.
The first main thermal area we will be visiting is the Lower Geyser Basin, and Fountain Paint Pots. There is a boardwalk system running around and through the Fountain Paint Pots area, and it is a great place to go for a stroll, if the bison haven't got there first! Apart from the paint pots, there is also a selection of other thermal features in the area, including a number of geysers, one or other of which almost always seems to be erupting.
The next stop is the Midway Geyser Basin, home to Grand Prismatic Spring - one of the largest anywhere in the world - as well as Excelsior Geyser, now dormant, but discharging thousands of gallons of water every minute.
It is a short drive to the Upper Geyser Basin, home of Old Faithful, the world's best known and most reliable gusher. There is also so much more to the area than just Old Faithful. Old Faithful Inn, a wonderful old building - recently renovated - is located there - and a system of boardwalks will take you around the various other geysers in the area.
We will take you to Yellowstone Studios and Cabins, where you will be staying in a self catering studio. After checking in you can explore the town, take a walk through the forest into Yellowstone, go to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center (a must see) or check out a movie at the IMAX.
There is going to be a lot to see and do. We'll head out of West Yellowstone towards Madison Junction, where the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers meet to form the Madison River. Turning left (north) we'll make for Norris Geyser Basin. Along the way we'll stop briefly at Gibbon Falls.
Although not as well known as the other geyser basins, Norris is the most thermally active part of Yellowstone. It is divided into two separate areas: Porcelain Basin and Back Basin.
The next stop is Mammoth Hot Springs, headquarters of the park, and home to a fascinating array of weird rock shapes, bright colors and sizzling hot springs. Elk are generally plentiful in this area, wandering around the old park buildings, and, if you're lucky, you might even see a whole herd.
You can stroll through the ever changing terraces at Mammoth, admiring the travertine creations and hot springs.
Leaving Mammoth we will travel towards Tower Roosevelt, which is where the road to the park's north east entrance, through the Lamar Valley, is. There is almost always wildlife to be seen in this area, even bears!
At Tower Junction we will branch off the main upper loop road, and head through the Lamar Valley, towards the north east entrance to Yellowstone. This is a particularly beautiful part of the park, and where the keen wolf watchers are generally to be found.
Everyone wants to see a bear in the wild at Yellowstone, and the trip from Tower Junction to Tower Falls is one of the best places to do so. The spring can be a great time to go looking for bears, as you have the opportunity of seeing mothers with their new born cubs. Tower Falls is an impressive water fall.
Assuming that it is open, the road from Tower Falls to Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone towers up into the sky as it crosses the Dunraven Pass at almost 9000 feet. We then drop down to Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
The Yellowstone River has carved an impressive canyon through the rocks, over which two falls drop. It is in this area that you can catch a glimpse of the yellowish tinge to the rocks, from which the Yellowstone River got its name, but at a different location. We will check out the canyon and falls.
Other areas along the route that we may visit, time permitting, include Obsidian Cliff, Virginia Cascade and Undine Falls.
One of the beauties of Yellowstone is that you never know what is around the next corner. This means that extra time could be spent looking at grizzlies, or perhaps trying to spot an elusive wolf, or even being stuck behind a buffalo jam for a while. For these reasons, today's itinerary is very flexible, and one or more of the above stops may be left out, depending on other activities as the hours progress.
A sack lunch is once again provided today. After a fun-filled day it is time to return to West Yellowstone.
You are on your own for dinner and will spend the night in the same place.
You will be picked up from your motel for the ride through the southern part of Yellowstone to Grand Teton. On the way we will once again go past the various geyser basins, and then climb over the Continental Divide twice, on the way to West Thumb.
As we drop down off the continental divide there are great views of Yellowstone Lake, the largest alpine lake in North America.
West Thumb is a delightful geyser basin, located right on the shores of the incredibly blue lake. We will stop to stroll around the boardwalk system that accesses the basin. An added bonus is that there are often elk at West Thumb.
The road between Yellowstone and Grand Teton is called the Rockefeller Parkway. It is only six miles and leads directly into the north entrance of Grand Teton. The main features of the park are the Grand Teton mountains, and a number of beautiful lakes.
You will see historic Colter Bay, Signal Mountain, Jenny Lake, Jackson Lake, Mount Moran, and much more. We also know the best places to find moose, and we will do our best to locate one or more for you.
You will take a leisurely drive through Grand Teton National Park, before arriving in Jackson. A sack lunch is provided today, which you can enjoy somewhere on the road.
After arriving at the Salt Lake airport you will take a flight to Las Vegas. On Mondays and Fridays there is a possibility you may fly from Idaho Falls to Las Vegas. We will let you know ahead of time which one it will be.
We try and use an airline that does not charge a checked baggage fee. If this is not possible, you will need to pay the fee. Please note that if you book this tour within three weeks of the tour departure date, the price of this flight may increase. If it does, there may be a surcharge which we will let you know about beforehand.
On landing in Vegas you will be picked up and shuttled to your hotel, which will be at least a three star property, on the famous Strip. Please be aware that Vegas hotel prices are a lot higher on weekends, public holidays and when large conventions are on. This may result in a higher price being passed on to you, but we will once again let you know beforehand if this is the case.
After checking in, you are on your own to explore Sin City! You will find that you are surrounded by mega casinos and hotels, with so much to see and do! Today is an unescorted part of the tour. What this means is that you do not have a tour guide with you.
As of early 2013, all Las Vegas Strip hotels started charging a resort fee, including those that never used to. This resort fee is a way that they make extra money. We cannot pay this resort fee in advance for you, AND YOU WILL NEED TO PAY IT YOURSELF ON CHECK IN. Please take this into account when making your plans.
We'll leave the bright lights of Vegas in the rear view mirror as we depart town. The route to the Grand Canyon takes us past both Lake Mead and Hoover Dam. A bridge has been built over the Colorado River, and this road bypasses Hoover Dam. Because of this, some tours that go out to the Grand Canyon may no longer stop there for a photo opportunity.
Leaving Hoover Dam we travel through the desert, before arriving in the small Arizona town of Kingman, where we pick up the freeway towards the Grand Canyon. At Williams, Arizona, we head north for about 50 miles (80 kilometres), towards the South Rim.
Two meals are included today, and we'll be stopping to pick up the first one, a sack lunch, before entering the Grand Canyon at the south entrance. The first major stop is Mather Point, and after enjoying the views there, we may stop at Yavapai Point. We will then explore a part of the Grand Canyon that most people do not get to see. This is the Desert View Drive which leads to the Desert View Watchtower and the east entrance to the Grand Canyon.
There will be many photo opportunities along the road. You will see that the views are spectacular, with one of the highlights being the Watchtower itself, a unique building designed by the legendary architect, Mary Colter, using rocks brought up from the bottom of the Canyon. The inside of the tower is full of artwork by Hopi (Indian) artists.
We will make our way down from the high Coconino plateau to the Navajo Reservation below. Every now and again you will see small Indian dwellings scattered across the harsh landscape. The route takes us through the reservation town of Tuba City, with Navajo land to the west and the Hopi Reservation to the east.
As we approach the tiny Navajo settlement of Kayenta, the mesas and buttes for which the area is so well known start coming into view. Soon you can just about picture yourself in a scene from an old Western movie as we travel towards Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, as it is officially known.
Up next is a tour of Monument Valley, conducted by a Navajo guide, in an off road vehicle. Visitors love to see the buttes, mesas and other sandstone formations that are so prevalent in the Monument Valley area. Monument Valley is actually not really a valley at all, but a relatively flat plain surrounded by red cliffs, with the buttes, as well as the remnants of ancient volcanoes, towering from the earth.
For fans of old western movies, Monument Valley is the epicenter of the west, with many great cowboys and Indians films having been shot in the area. The familiar rock shapes can be seen from many miles away, with the really great scenery to be seen on the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, which straddles the Utah/Arizona border.
Amongst the sites that your tour may take in are movie locations, 1000 foot monoliths, rug weaving, and, of course, the famous monuments are visited.
We leave Monument Valley, going through the small settlement of Kayenta, before heading west over the Navajo Reservation, to Page.
On our way out of Monument Valley we'll stop to pick up a meal for the road. This is included in the tour price, as is the breakfast at your motel tomorrow morning. Your guide will drop you off at your motel in Page.
First up today is an optional hike to Horseshoe Bend. Horseshoe Bend is one of the west's best kept secrets. The hike there is about 20 minutes each way, up and down a hill, and at times the ground below is made up of loose sand. The views of the Colorado River far below, seen through the precipitous canyon walls, are spectacular.
Please note that in the winter months it may sometimes not be possible to visit Horseshoe Bend, because of the lack of daylight. There is no problem outside the winter.
You will be touring Antelope Canyon, in a specially converted off road vehicle, led by a Navajo guide.
Antelope Canyon is one of the most striking slot canyons known to man. A slot canyon is a narrow canyon sliced through a mesa by the forces of nature. Some canyons measure less than a yard across at the top, but drop a hundred feet or more from the rim to the bottom. Slots are cut and scoured by water and wind, with the striations of the sandstone becoming almost incandescent.
From within you will see a palette of colors transmuted by light filtering down from above and bouncing from wall to wall. Antelope Canyon can only be visited using the services of an authorized Navajo Nation guide.
Leaving Page we will drive over the Glen Canyon Dam Wall. A short distance up the road is a little known trail which leads to spectacular views over Lake Powell. Time permitting, we will drive up there to take a very brief look at the spectacular golden canyons partially submerged under the blue waters of Lake Powell.
The road to the small town of Kanab leads past Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Kanab itself has been the setting for many western movies. From Kanab we will travel along a picturesque Utah back road, through some tiny towns, before arriving at Bryce Canyon.
Many who have seen both Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon tell us that Bryce is far more spectacular. You will marvel at the weirdly shaped hoodoos, in an amazing array of colorful hues. Bryce is not really a canyon, but a large amphitheater carved out of a variety of rock types. You will be taken to the three main overlooks, and will have time to walk around and explore these.
Feel free to spend an extra night or two just outside Bryce Canyon, at Bryce View Lodge. Please order this option when you check out, and note that it is subject to availability. If you do choose to extend at Bryce Canyon, you will continue with the regular tour after your extension.
There is a free shuttle that runs from a location that is a couple of hundred yards from Bryce View Lodge, into the park and around much of Bryce. Please be aware that this is a seasonal shuttle, which generally runs from the end of April to the end of September, although this is subject to change. We do not recommend extending at Bryce if the free shuttle is not running, as it will be difficult to get around.
You will carry on with the scheduled tour if you do not want to stay a little longer at Bryce.
Day 5 - Bryce Canyon through Zion - 88 mi / 141.59 km - About 2 3/4 hours
We will take a particularly scenic Utah back road, following first the Sevier River and then the Virgin River, towards Zion National Park. Zion's story is one of rock and water, with plenty of both to be seen. The relatively soft and porous Navajo Sandstone is often layered over impregnable Kayenta Shale, and the interaction of this rock with the water has created myriad amazing shapes and patterns.
We will enter Zion at the less used east entrance, and take in the striking rock formations, with trees actually growing in the rocks. You will see how massive sand dunes have solidified into rock over the millennia. After traveling through an amazing tunnel that was blasted into the Navajo sandstone almost a century ago, we descend down a precipitous switchback road, to discover the Great Arch of Zion, a gigantic work in progress.
You can now extend your tour by spending a night or two in Springdale, which is literally right outside Zion. There is a free shuttle system that will take you into the park. You can order this Zion extension when you check out, although we do not recommend extending at Zion unless the shuttle is running, which is generally from the middle of March to the third week of October. If you extend at Zion, you will carry on with the rest of the tour the next day.
The trip continues as normal for those who are not extending at Zion.
Leaving St. George, we travel down the picturesque Virgin River Gorge. We will pass through Mesquite, a casino town on the Arizona Nevada border, before driving across the desert and back to the bright lights of Las Vegas.
Please let us know if we can book a hotel room for you in Vegas at the end of the tour. We can generally get better rates than you.
Thanks for joining us. We hope to see you again some time in the future!
The days and dates this tour runs can be seen in the calendar at the top right of this page.
The entry fees to all parks are included.
The Navajo led off road tours at Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon are included.
Lodging: Two nights at a self catering studio at Yellowstone Studios and Cabins in West Yellowstone. If lodging there is sold out, you will stay at a moderate category motel in West Yellowstone. One night at a minimum three star property on the famous Vegas Strip. Upgrades are available. Please let us know if there is not at least one person 21 or older in each room as most Vegas hotels require this. One night at the Quality Inn or similar in Page.
Prices are based on double occupancy. Single, triple and quad occupancy rates are also available and will be seen at checkout. There are no taxes.
The price includes the services of a guide/driver and transportation.
The meals provided are: One extended continental breakfast, four sack lunches, one take out evening meal that may be pizza, or a combo meal from a fast food outlet. If we do not provide any meal, an $8 per meal refund will be given.
The upper loop tour may be an afternoon tour.
This tour picks up in the downtown Salt Lake City area and drops off on the Las Vegas Strip.
All times are approximate. We are not responsible for the consequences of any delays, and this itinerary may change without notice.
Portions of this tour may be sub-contracted to other reputable vendors.
After ordering this tour please wait to receive a confirmation email from us before making any plans that are dependent on this tour.
Vehicles are mini buses or executive vans, which are vans with individual, high back seats.
If there are fewer than six people on the tour we reserve the right to have a shuttle take you from Salt Lake City to Idaho Falls on the first day, where our guide will pick you up. If this happens, the tour will start at the airport. The same may apply in reverse on the third day, if there are fewer than six people. Our guide will take you from Jackson to Rexburg on the third day, where the shuttle will transport you to Salt Lake City.
At the start and perhaps very end, of the season, seasonal road closures and weather in Yellowstone may prevent this tour being run as scheduled. In particular, the road from Old Faithful to Grand Teton generally opens in mid May. If that road is not open when you do your tour, more time will be spent in parts of Yellowstone, and Grand Teton will be omitted. In addition, Dunraven Pass (between Tower Falls and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone) also generally opens in mid May. Finally, general road maintenance in Yellowstone may affect the way this tour operates.
A minimum of two people may be required for a tour to depart. That is not two in your group, but a total of two.
If you extend your stay at Zion, at the end of your extension, on some days you may travel by pre-paid taxi to St. George, where you will take a shuttle to the Las Vegas airport, where the tour will end. There will be a short wait from the taxi drop off to the time the shuttle departs.
Payment And Cancellation Details: This tour has an air leg. An amount equivalent to the cost of the flight will be charged to your card at the time we make the air booking. Half the remaining balance will be charged 45 days from the tour date, and the other half will be charged 10 or fewer days from the tour date. Once the air leg has been booked we will not under any circumstances accept a cancellation. Please consider purchasing trip insurance as our cancellation policy is strictly enforced, irrespective of the reason for canceling.