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!
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 2 - 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.
You will spend the night in Las Vegas at a three star hotel on the Strip, right where all the action is! Upgrades are available. Please let us know if there is not at least one person in each room who is at least 21. Most Vegas hotels require this.
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.
If you want to, you are welcome to extend your stay in Las Vegas by as many nights as you choose! This option can be ordered on check out. Please bear in mind that weekends, holidays and convention period nights are more expensive. The way that it works is that you would spend as many extra nights in Vegas as you want, and then continue the tour the following day.
The tour route heads in a generally westerly direction, as we leave the bright lights of Sin City behind.
You may be surprised to learn that Las Vegas is actually in the middle of a desert, which we come to as soon as we depart town. After climbing up and down a small mountain and traveling through the desert, we arrive at the town of Pahrump, where brothels are legal! From there we carry on to Shoshone, which is located at the south east entrance of Death Valley.
Death Valley is the lowest, hottest and driest part of North America. We will be visiting Badwater, which is about 280 feet below sea level. On the way we will stop to take pictures, and may even check out some long abandoned buildings. At Furnace Creek we will detour to Zabriskie Point, to take in the beautiful rock formations, and after strolling up to the top we will drive back towards Furnace Creek, where the elevation once again drops to sea level and below.
We will stop at Furnace Creek for a while, at the Visitor Center and gift shop, to allow you to do some shopping and perhaps buy a snack. From there the tour makes for Stovepipe Wells Village, passing Devils Cornfields and an impressive cluster of sand dunes along the way.
The road out of Death Valley heading west climbs up enormously, and on most trips we will turn off the air conditioning in the vehicle, to help prevent the vehicle from over heating. Expect to be hot for half an hour or so! On the way up the mountain we pass signs every couple of miles, advising that radiator water is just up the hill!
The route to Mammoth Lakes is scenic and we will stop to take photographs and get refreshments along the way. After dropping down from the mountains surrounding Death Valley the road follows the Sierra Nevada mountains north, past Mount Whitney, at 14 505 feet (4 421 metres) high, the highest peak in the contiguous United States. We will spend the night at Mammoth Lakes, a quaint little town close to Mammoth Mountain Ski area.
There are times of the year when special events are held there, and if the town is full we will overnight in Bishop.
We hope to have an early start this morning, to enable you to get to San Francisco before it gets dark. The scenery is once again picturesque as we climb up into the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and to the east entrance of Yosemite, on the Tioga Pass. After being below sea level in Death Valley you are now at almost 10 000 feet (almost 3000 metres)! The change in temperature is very noticeable. There can be as much as a 75 degree (24 degrees Celsius) temperature difference between Death Valley and the eastern part of Yosemite!
It is only about an hour to the top of the Tioga Pass, and the rest of the time you see mentioned above is spent touring Yosemite.
Just as is the case with the Grand Canyon and Zion, the east entrance to Yosemite is only seen by a handful of the huge numbers of people who visit Yosemite. The scenery is spectacular, and we will take a leisurely drive down to the Yosemite Valley far below, stopping frequently to admire the views and take photographs.
For many the highlight of the trip is El Capitan, the towering rock mountain. If you look carefully you can often see climbers attached to the sheer granite walls. On the valley floor you will have the opportunity to see Yosemite Falls, the highest waterfall in North America, as well as get yourself a bite to eat and perhaps buy some souvenirs.
Please be aware that the Tioga Pass, which is the east entrance to Yosemite, is closed because of snow from winter through sometime in the spring. When this happens, the tour will spend a little less time in Death Valley and instead enter Yosemite at the south entrance. This route is a little longer.
Please also be aware that it is possible, but unlikely, that there will be snow restrictions on the road from the south entrance to Yosemite Valley. If that is the case, however, we will once again spend additional time in Death Valley, bypass Yosemite, and go from Death Valley to San Francisco. The night will probably be spent in the vicinity of Fresno.
You can extend your stay in Yosemite. Instead of leaving Yosemite now and continuing your tour, you can spend as many extra nights in the park as you like. When you order the tour, you will see an option to add extra time in Yosemite. Simply add as many additional nights as you want to stay there. Our preferred property is Yosemite Lodge. Please be aware that lodging here sometimes sells out more than a year ahead of time! If that is the case we may be able to offer you lodging elsewhere. We will always let you know what the situation is before processing your order.
You will be at liberty to explore Yosemite on your own for the extra time that you choose. Please note that there will not be a tour guide with you for the extra period. The extended stay is subject to lodging availability in the park. We will check this once the order has been placed.
The rest of the group will continue with the regular tour. If you extend, you will be picked up after your extended stay. The tour carries on as detailed below for those who are not spending a night or two in Yosemite.
We will leave Yosemite by the west entrance, driving through some more of the park on the way out.
In time the countryside gives way to urban sprawl, before San Francisco comes into view. You will get great views of the city and the ocean as we cross the Bay Bridge and go over Yuerba Buena Island, towards Fisherman's Wharf.
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.
Three nights' accommodation are included: One night at the Quality Inn in Page, or similar; one night in Vegas at a minimum three star hotel on the famous Strip (please let us know if there is not at least one person in each room who is 21 or older as most Vegas hotels require this); one night at Mammoth Lakes at a minimum three star property. If there is a special event on at Mammoth we will stay at Bishop instead. If the night in Vegas falls over a weekend, convention or holiday period, a higher price may apply.
Vehicles are mini buses or executive vans, which are vans with individual, high back, reclining seats, with the possible exception of the route between Yosemite and San Francisco, where a large coach operated by a supplier may be used.
All times are approximate. We are not responsible for the consequences of any delays, and this itinerary may change without notice.
Prices are based on double occupancy. Single, triple and quad occupancy options are available, and will be seen at checkout. There are no taxes.
After ordering this tour please wait to receive a confirmation email from us before making any plans that are dependent on this tour.
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.
Pick ups in Las Vegas take place on the Strip. If you are staying elsewhere please take a bus or taxi and you will be reimbursed a maximum of $10 against the receipt.
This tour drops off in the Fisherman's Wharf area.
The off road tours at Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon are included.
The meals provided are: One extended continental breakfast, one sack lunch, 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.
Portions of this tour may be subcontracted to other reputable vendors.
Please note that in the winter months snow or other bad weather may result in tour itineraries being changed without notice, or even tours being canceled in extreme weather. Should a cancellation occur the only amount we will refund is the cost of the portion of the tour that is canceled, or a refund of the entire tour price if the tour itself is canceled.
Yosemite's east entrance only opens when the snow has been cleared. Until this happens, this tour will spend a little less time in Death Valley, overnight in Fresno, and enter Yosemite by the south entrance.
In the unlikely event of snow restrictions being in effect, in the winter, from Yosemite's south entrance, additional time will be spent in Death Valley. Yosemite will be bypassed, and the tour will go from Death Valley to San Francisco.
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 booking may be cancelled any time up until 45 days prior to the start of the tour, and you will get a full refund. After that time, we will not accept a cancellation and you will have to pay for the tour in full. Please consider purchasing trip insurance as our cancellation policy is strictly enforced. Half the cost of the tour will be charged to your card 45 days prior to the start of the tour, and the balance will be charged 10 days prior to the start of the tour.