El Capitan

15 day escorted tour itinerary

National Parks and Lodges Tour

  • Canada & USA
  • USA

America's most beautiful and iconic National Parks

From the 2000 natural sandstone arches in Arches National Park, mysterious Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park and towering cliffs in Zion National Park. This small group escorted tour highlights some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes in the United States, including Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park and the famed Grand Canyon. Witness some of the abundant wildlife throughout this tour including bison, wolves, elk and bears. You will also meet a Navajo guide to gain an insight into Monument Valley, the ancestral homeland and cultural centre of this tribe and tour Salt Lake City by a local Mormon.

Our Experts Recommend:
  • Visit the infamous Alcatraz prison
  • Try and hug a giant Sequoia tree
  • Ride a scenic ferry across Jenny Lake
  • Photograph Bryce Canyons hoodoos
  • Watch bison and black bears in Yellowstone
  • Witness sunrise or sunset in the Grand Canyon

Sample Itinerary Summary

We can tailor any part of this itinerary or create a new one just for you.

Duration
15 days
Options
Group basis, Escorted
Included
  • International flights
  • 14 nights accommodation
  • Scenic ferry across Jenny Lake
  • Navajo guided back roads tour of Monument Valley
  • Service of a professional Tour Leader and Navajo Guide
  • Private air conditioned transportation with WiFi
Not included
  • Meals
  • Optional excursions and activities
  • Tips for the guide and driver

Itinerary Breakdown

Welcome to the 'City by the Bay'; in sunny California. San Francisco is a city the locals are fiercely proud of and for good reason. There is plenty to keep you entertained but the best introduction is to jump on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour or book one of our 'Urban Adventures'; around the city. If you want to visit Alcatraz today, we recommend booking your ticket in advance, as spaces are limited. Hit the shops in Union Square or grab some delicious seafood at Fisherman's Wharf before your welcome meeting at 18:00 hrs.

Overnight Accommodation

  • The Buchanan Hotel or similar

After departing San Francisco, you head east through California's historic gold country then high into the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the magnificent Yosemite National Park. You begin with an easy trail walk to the Giant Sequoia Trees before your two-night stay at your Yosemite Lodge.

Points of Interest

Overnight Accommodation

  • Tenaya Lodge or similar

Yosemite National Park sits nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range of northern California. Here green forest meets granite walls measuring several thousand feet in height. Rock climbers come from all over the world to scale the rocks whilst hikers get to walk to the base of waterfalls, lakes and awe-inspiring viewpoints. The Yosemite Valley beckons, where you can bicycle, take a dip in the Merced River or wander the lush meadows. Hiking in Yosemite is special and anyone who visits the park must hit one of the many trails. The famous sites situated along these trails include Yosemite Falls, Nevada Falls, Vernal Falls, Mirror Lake and Half Dome. The views are breathtaking from every vantage point and the granite formations of Half Dome, El Capitan and Cathedral Rocks are sure to be forever etched on your minds. In the evening, you return to your historic lodge where you can relax with a cocktail and delicious meal.

Points of Interest

Overnight Accommodation

  • Tenaya Lodge or similar

One of the hottest, driest and lowest places on earth, Death Valley National Park is blessed with some of the most extreme and beautiful landscapes. Sculpted by erosion, richly tinted mudstone hills and canyons await exploration, with sand dunes and salt pans making for some exceptional photos. You cover a long distance today but you will see some fascinating and contrasting scenery on your journey.

Points of Interest

Overnight Accommodation

  • Oasis at Death Valley or similar

Make your way back to Utah and onto the soaring red and white cliffs of Zion, one of the most spectacular destinations in the USA park system. Zion Canyon was named by the early Mormon settlers of Utah who thought of it as their 'promised land'. Some of the best hiking in this desert terrain of Southwest USA can be found here, in and around the fertile Virgin River as it meanders below massive, cathedral-like sandstone walls. Once you arrive, enjoy a hike along the narrows of the Virgin River.

Points of Interest

Overnight Accommodation

  • Majestic View Lodge or similar

With an early morning rise you have half a day to spend as you wish, perhaps spend some time hiking the wonderful park trails. Warm up your legs by taking some of the short hikes from the valley floor to view the Lower Emerald Pool and then continue onto the sparkling Upper Emerald Pools, passing a beautiful waterfall along the way. Cool off from the summer sun by exploring the Riverside Walk section of the Virgin River. Zion is also home to epic red rock vistas, tiny grottoes, hanging gardens and meadows of mesa-top wildflowers - it is a wonderful place to spend a couple of days. Leaving Zion National Park you climb in elevation to almost 2438 metres (8296 feet.) and traverse a high plateau to Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce Canyon is a fascinating natural amphitheatre of pink, orange and white sandstone spires, known locally as hoodoos. There are a variety of scenic overlooks and trails that range from easy to moderate in difficulty. The Navajo or Peek-a-Boo Loop Trails will enable you to hike right in among these unique rock formations. Some may prefer to hike on the Queen's Garden Trail or remain on the rim and photograph the ever-changing shadows and hues as the sun makes its way across the wide-open sky.

Points of Interest

Overnight Accommodation

  • Majestic View Lodge or similar

Head to the Grand Canyon, for the ultimate desert showstopper. This incredible spectacle is difficult to comprehend, stretching for almost 300 miles and plunging to depths of over 6000 feet, there is plenty of rock to go round. Aside from the views, you will also discover plenty of opportunities to get active with hiking trails. Snaking through the canyon floor is the mighty Colorado River, which runs 1450 miles (2330 km) through seven US states and two Mexican states. It is a fact that only 5% of all travellers who visit the Grand Canyon actually hike beneath the rim trails. If you are able, it gives you a very different perspective and idea of its vastness when you hit the snaking trails into the belly of the canyon. One thing you will not want to miss is sunset or sunrise as the canyon colours change. You have the lucky privilege of spending two nights on the Grand Canyon North Rim in a historic lodge. Please note: As you are staying on the North Rim, unfortunately you will not have the opportunity for a helicopter flight over the canyon.

Points of Interest

Overnight Accommodation

  • Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon or similar

In the heart of the Navajo Nation in Arizona, Monument Valley is sacred land to those who call it home. The red sandstone monoliths and spectacular sunsets and sunrises have been the backdrop to countless Westerns and the best way to experience this special place is on a Navajo guided back roads tour, where you will be taken to parts of the park that you can only reach by jeep. Listen to traditional stories and learn more about the history of the Navajo Nation. As you come across geological wonders, petroglyph drawings of animals and pottery crafted by local people, you will soon realise why this place is so special to all who visit. There is also ample time to relax and view the valley's surreal sunset.

Points of Interest

Overnight Accommodation

  • Goulding's Lodge or similar

Today you are treated with yet more spectacular scenery amid the magnificent splendour of Arches National Park. Your base will be in Moab, the perfect place for restaurants and activity providers and your home for the next two days. These stunning red sandstone arches have been created over millions of years by the whipping wind down the west slope of the Rocky Mountains. Here you have the opportunity to hike to many of these incredible arches, some of which are known as Landscape Arch and the famous Delicate Arch, the latter being the most iconic and more photographed of the arches in the park. Alternatively, why not tackle the terrain high above on a guided `hummer'; tour or take a float trip down the Colorado River. Arches National Park is a photographer's playground with many a sandstone edifice providing the foreground against a clear blue or flame red sky. With hardly any light pollution there's plenty to see after dark too.

Points of Interest

Overnight Accommodation

  • Red Cliffs Lodge or similar

Your next destination is the capital of Utah, Salt Lake City. With a city population of 186,000 and a metropolitan population of 1.13 million, it is the largest city in the state. Founded in 1847 by Brigham Young and his Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) followers, Salt Lake City is still the base for the religion although less than half the population in the city today are Mormons. Enjoy a city tour with a local Mormon guide and see the city from a local's perspective

Points of Interest

Overnight Accommodation

  • Little America Hotel or similar

Arrive in Yellowstone National Park, the world's very first national park and home to a large variety of wildlife including grizzly bear, wolves, bison and elk. This park is so large that its boundaries cross into three states; most of the park sits in Wyoming, but parts of the reserve extend into Idaho and Montana. Yellowstone has one of the highest concentrations of geothermal activity on the planet, where you can witness bubbling mud pots; steaming vents and the famous Old Faithful Geyser erupt. Herds of Bison roam among the erupting geysers and steam rises from the various rivers running through the park. A fire in the 1980s destroyed much of the park, but it has recovered to the extent that it is now a living monument to nature's power of regeneration. From lush mountain meadows and vast freshwater lakes to sensuous pine forests and flower-strewn hillsides, lovers of infinite wilderness will be in their absolute element in Yellowstone National Park.

Points of Interest

Overnight Accommodation

  • Shoshone Lodge and Guest Ranch cabins or similar

You continue your journey in Wyoming, travelling through Grand Teton National Park where you will enjoy an included scenic ferry across Jenny Lake and the chance to hike up to Inspiration Point past waterfalls to a viewpoint that will take your breath away. Please note if you intend to hike in the Grand Tetons on this day, you will not have access to a shower in Jackson unless you reserve additional hotel accommodation.

It's recommended to spend a few extra nights to experience this truly authentic Western town. Once home to trappers and a hideout for outlaws and rustlers, Jackson is now the base for hikers to take on some lovely hiking trails, as well as a town renowned for its cafes and Western style saloons! With a permanent population of around 8,600 people and a far greater transient tourist population, it attracts many of the rich and famous and is a great base for exploring the nearby wilderness.

This tour ends at approximately 17:00 hrs.

Points of Interest

  • San Francisco

    Itinerary Highlights

    • Visit infamous Alcatraz prison
    • Ride a cable car
    • Taste fresh, clam chowder in Fisherman's Wharf
    • Hire a bike and cycle over the Golden Gate Bridge
    • Take a sunset cruise around the bay
  • Yosemite National Park

    Itinerary Highlights

    • Try and hug a giant Sequoia tree
    • Hire a bicycle and journey around Yosemite Valley
    • Walk the short trail out to Mirror Lake
    • Take a dip in the Merced River
    • Photograph Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and El Capitan
  • Death Valley National Park

    Itinerary Highlights

    • Visit Mesquite sand dunes
    • Walk out on the Salt Flats at Badwater Basin
    • Watch the sunset from Zabriskie Point
    • See the multi coloured hues of Artists Palette
    • Stargaze in the largest Dark Sky National Park
  • Zion National Park

    Itinerary Highlights

    • Hike along the Virgin River
    • View Lower and Upper Emerald Pools
    • Visit Kolob Canyons
    • Explore Zion's most popular hikes 'The Narrows'
    • Enjoy the sunset along the Pa'rus Trail
  • Bryce Canyon National Park

    Itinerary Highlights

    • Witness the natural amphitheatre of sandstone spires
    • Hike the Navajo or Peek-a-Boo Loop trail
    • Watch the hoodoos change colour at sunset
    • Join a park ranger at dark for unparalleled views of the night sky
    • Get up early and head to Sunrise Point
  • Grand Canyon National Park

    Itinerary Highlights

    • Take a North Rim Mule ride
    • Witness the incredible views from Bright Angel Point
    • Head to the highest overlook, Point Imperial
    • Look out over Cape Royal for panoramic views of the canyon
    • Watch the sunset from the North Rim Lodge patio
  • Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

    Itinerary Highlights

    • Listen to traditional stories and history from a Navajo guide
    • Explore ancient Anasazi structures
    • View impressive petroglyphs rock art
    • Photograph Owachomo, a natural bridge
    • Watch the sunrise or sunset from Goulding's Lodge
  • Arches National Park

    Itinerary Highlights

    • Take an optional hummer tour of Hells Canyon
    • Hike to Landscape Arch for a spectacular ribbon of rock
    • View prehistoric rock art at Courthouse Wash
    • Visit the impressive 'Windows' section of the park
    • Float down the Colorado River
  • Salt Lake City

    Itinerary Highlights

    • Enjoy a city tour with local Mormon guide
    • Visit Capitol Hill, used in movies to depict the US Capitol
    • Learn about the world famous Mormon Tabernacle
    • Visit Pioneer Heritage State Park
    • See Temple Square
  • Yellowstone National Park

    Itinerary Highlights

    • Look for wildlife, such as bison, bears, wolves and moose
    • Watch boiling hot springs at Yellowstone Lake
    • Tour Upper Geyser Basin
    • Witness the impressive Old Faithful Geyser erupt
    • Experience the 'Old West' at Tower-Roosevelt
  • Grand Teton National Park

    Itinerary Highlights

    • Ride a scenic ferry across Jenny Lake
    • Take in the views at Snake River overlook
    • Photograph Mount Moran's reflection at Oxbow Bend
    • Look out for moose, elk, river otters and even bears
    • Walk the String Lake Loop