The American Grandeurs Self Drive enables you to explore the US’ distinctive southwest region, taking in the states of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah. On your journey you can hike in grand national parks, dine on local cuisine in fascinating cities and meet the locals in the charming small towns you pass through on the way.
Our 15 day self drive covers plenty of ground, ensuring you get the most from your visit. Denver, one of the country’s most progressive and interesting cities, will be your starting point. Built high in the mountains it offers superb food and culture along with easy access to the Rocky Mountains – the first destination on your journey.
You’ll experience real wilderness in national parks like Yellowstone, Bryce Canyon and Monument Valley as you explore the area. All offer unique settings, from vast rock canyons to soaring peaks and ancient forests.
In New Mexico you can learn about the fascinating Pueblo culture, visiting Mesa Verde, where homes were carved into cliffs in the 13th century and the remarkable settlement of Taos Pueblo – the oldest continually inhabited place in North America. This journey will open the door to a lesser seen side of the country, with a focus on places often overlooked on traditional tourist itineraries.
- Visit some of America's greatest national parks; including Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Monument Valley
- Experience the grandeur of America’s southwestern cities in Denver and Salt Lake City
- Learn all about the ancient Pueblo culture in New Mexico
- Visit idiosyncratic small towns like Jackson, Wyoming and Durango, Colorado
Start your Journey
Arrive in Denver
Land at Denver International Airport and collect your rental car before heading on to your hotel in the city’s Downtown.
You’ll have the rest of the day to explore your surroundings at your leisure. The Denver Art Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of Native American art, while the Colorado Railroad Museum offers a stunning insight into the importance of the train in the old west. In the evening head down to the Lodo Historical District for some great restaurants and brewpubs.
Denver – Rocky Mountain National Park – Steamboat Springs
Waking early, you’ll head for the Rocky Mountain National Park, a place of soaring peaks, thundering waterfalls and extraordinary natural beauty which is just a short drive from Denver. You’ll spend the morning and afternoon hiking trails and exploring the park before taking a four hour drive on to the pretty ski resort of Steamboat Springs in the Yampa Valley. In the spring and summer, the resort comes alive with wildflowers. You’ll find some great restaurants and bars to enjoy in the evening as well.
Steamboat Springs – Dinosaur National Monument – Flaming Gorge – Rock Springs
Leaving Steamboat Springs on the road to Rock Springs, you’ll pass the Dinosaur National Monument. This region was once a prime stomping ground for these vast creatures. At Dinosaur Quarry you’ll see a vast number of skeletons embedded into the rock, as well as reconstructed dinosaur bones. It’s a remarkable place for anyone with even a passing interest in palaeontology.
Flaming Gorge will be your next stop. This vast reservoir is walled behind the Flaming Gorge Dam, a hugely impressive structure. An observation platform just off Highway 191 provides astonishing views. Later that evening you’ll arrive into Rock Springs, Wyoming, an old frontier town that retains much of its 19th century charm.
Rock Springs - Jackson
Depart Rock Springs bound for the town of Jackson, Wyoming along the lonely Wind River Gorge. This is a landscape of sagebrush and wild grass that will instantly be familiar to those with a love for westerns. Driving through the area is a unique experience, as you’re following the path of the 19th century pioneers.
You’ll arrive into Jackson in the early evening and check into your hotel. Located in the Jackson Hole valley, Jackson is a town of clapboard saloons, general stores and cowboy outfitters. It’s a great place to kick back and get chatting with the locals.
Jackson – Grand Teton - Yellowstone
Today you’ll pass through two of America’s most iconic national parks, Grand Teton and Yellowstone. Grand Teton boasts a majestic mountain range and some fabulous hiking. Trek up to Snake River Outlook for a spectacular view once photographed by Ansel Adams.
Yellowstone, just a little way up the road, is famous for its vast canyons, deep forests and stately geysers. The most famous of all is Old Faithful, named for the regularity with which it blasts thousands of litres of boiling water into the air. It’s a must see.
You’ll spend the night in your hotel just outside the park.
Yellowstone – Salt Lake City
From Yellowstone you’ll cross Idaho en route to Salt Lake City, state capitol of Utah and the headquarters of Mormonism. As well as the majestic Indian Rocks State Park, there are plenty of small towns you can stop off at along the way, including charming Idaho Falls and Pocatello.
Arriving into Salt Lake City you’ll check in to your hotel before heading out to explore. Founded by Mormon pioneers in 1847, the city is a unique place in North America. You’ll definitely want to check out the vast Mormon Temple, which towers over downtown.
Salt Lake City – Bryce Canyon
Have breakfast then hit the road. Your destination today is Bryce Canyon, an otherworldly landscape of spires known as “hoodoos” set in a series of bowls carved out of the surrounding sandstone. These structures have been formed by the action of frost and erosion over millennia. It’s an incredible spot for hiking, as the view changes as you move across the park. In the evening you’ll retire to your hotel for dinner and a nightcap. Be sure to step outside for some stargazing – you're a long way from the city lights here.
Today you’ll enjoy a full day of hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park. Alternately, you can make the one hour drive to Zion National Park. This phenomenal scene of red rock canyons, thick forest and powerful rivers is one of the most impressive of all of America's national parks. There are some spectacular trails on offer here, taking in waterfalls, rivers and clifftops.
Bryce Canyon – Lake Powell/ Page
From Bryce Canyon you’ll drive the 190km east to Lake Powell, stopping at Kanab, Utah on the way. Kanab is famous for its canyons, the best known of which is the Wave. Here the sandstone has formed into undulating contours. It’s extremely delicate, so only 20 permits to walk it are issued per day. Should you arrive too late, nearby White Pockets offers an enchanting vision with no permit needed.
Crossing the border into Arizona you’ll reach the town of Page near Lake Powell. Take a drive out to Horseshoe Bend for an iconic view.
Lake Powell/ Page – Monument Valley - Cortez
You’ll rise early today for one of the longest drives of your trip (490 km). Leaving Page, you’ll drive on to the Cameron Trading Post, a famous store, restaurant and motel complex specialising in Native American handicrafts. You’ll then pass through the Hopi Reservation, where Pueblo style villages cluster at commanding positions on the mesas.
A little way along the road you’ll find yourself in the Painted Desert, named by 16th century Spanish explorer Francisco Vázquez de Coronado for the bright colours created by the different rocks and minerals. Driving on to Monument Valley you can marvel at the iconic bluffs made famous by countless movies. There are some superb hiking trails in the area where you can explore the hidden areas of the park.
Cortez – Mesa Verde – Durango
From Cortez you’ll begin the drive to Mesa Verde National Park, a former stronghold of the Ancient Puebloan culture. Here you’ll find clusters of homes built into the side of hills, providing defence against invading forces. The largest complex, Cliff City, is a breathtaking sight. It was built from circa 1190-1260 AD and abandoned 40 years later – likely due to major droughts. There are several sites dotted around the park, most within a short distance, so you can spend the morning and afternoon exploring.
In the late afternoon you’ll drive on to Durango, an old gold mining town on the New Mexico border.
Durango – Taos
After a wander along Durango’s beautifully preserved main street, perhaps picking up some gifts in the local boutiques, it’s time to hit the road for Taos, New Mexico.
On the way you’ll pass the pretty town of Pagosa Springs, which is home to the world’s deepest hot spring. Stop for a restorative dip or continue on. Taos is a celebrated artist’s colony, known for its distinctive adobe style housing. There are more than 80 galleries in town showcasing everything from Native American art to cutting edge modernism. There’s a vibrant atmosphere to the place and you’re sure to enjoy exploring here.
Taos – Santa Fe – Taos
Rise early and take a drive out to Taos Pueblo, the oldest continually inhabited settlement in the US. People have lived here for well over 1,000 years. The setting is particularly beautiful, with the soaring backdrop of Pueblo Peak.
From Taos Pueblo you’ll drive to the charming Spanish colonial city of Santa Fe, where you’ll find some great restaurants and shops.
Taos – Denver
Today you’ll make the journey from Taos back to Denver, a distance of around 500 km. On the way you’ll pass through some of Colorado’s most dramatic mountainous terrain, as well as numerous small towns offering the kind of diner experience you can only get in the US.
Arriving into Denver, you’ll check into your hotel before enjoying a last wander around the Downtown area. You’ll find plenty of fine restaurants in the neighbourhood where you can celebrate the final night of your journey.
Today you’ll check out of your hotel and drive to Denver International Airport for your onward flight.
- International flights and airfare taxes
- Cost of accommodation (double room based on two people sharing) for a total of 14 nights (alternative but similar accommodation may be used at certain times of the year)
- Board basis: Room Only
- Car hire and insurance
- Visa arrangements and fees
- Travel insurance
- Personal expenses, such as beverages, telephone calls, laundry, camera fees, spa and business facilities in the hotel
- Attractions and excursions
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