The American Southwest is what road trips were meant for. Thanks to an abundance of natural wonders in a relatively small space, we pack in visits to six spectacular national parks during this eight-day trip. We'll spend plenty of time seeing the highlights but also take in some quieter spots along this classic road-trip route.
Location: Las Vegas
Our trip begins in the 'Neon City' of Las Vegas. We'll meet our Tour Leader and the group in the lobby of the OYO Hotel, before departing the bright lights immediately for the wild landscapes of the southwest. Our minibus will leave the OYO Hotel at 4pm, so in order to arrive at the hotel for this time, the latest your flight can arrive is 2pm. We will provide shuttle bus transfers to take you from the airport to the city (approximately 15 minutes), and you will receive a voucher containing instructions on how to take the transfer prior to departure. We will then travel together as a group and the drive will take approximately two hours (200 kilometres) to our hotel for the night in the Utah city of St George. With it's warm weather, historic downtown area and close proximity to Zion National Park, St George is the perfect place to rest for the night. Red sandstone rocks provide the backdrop to the city, and the Mormon influence can be seen in many of the buildings, notably the enormous St George Utah Temple. If flight times into Las Vegas prevent you from landing at 2pm, or if you want to experience this energetic city before your tour starts, we recommend booking an additional night's accommodation at the OYO Hotel so that you'll be there when the group arrives.
Accommodation: ,Ramada Inn St George
Meals: ,No Meals,
Location: Zion National Park
This morning we will take the one hour drive to Zion National Park, aiming to get there early to explore. The main area of the national park that we will visit is Zion Canyon, a 15 mile rift in the beautiful red and tan Navajo sandstone. We may take a walk along the Watchman's Trail, a moderate hike of approximately two hours that will take us past many of the park's famous geological formations, including the Towers of the Virgin and the Altar of Sacrifice. The very end of the walk brings us to a spectacular overlook of the Watchman, a red rock pinnacle that dominates the skyline. Photographic opportunities are plentiful, with a great contrast between the red of the rocks and the running rivers that we'll pass. There are so many walking possibilities in Zion, and your Tour Leader will outline the options to you from the easy to the strenuous. Angel's Landing is one of the most famous trails, a challenging hike of four hours that affords breathtaking views across the valley. For those of us who aren't hikers, the park's shuttle bus takes people along the valley floor with regular stops to get out, explore and jump back on the next vehicle. Quite simply, there is something in Zion for everyone. Later, we drive to Bryce Canyon, travelling via Buffalo and Mt Carmel Junction.
Accommodation: Ruby's Inn
Location: Bryce Canyon
Bryce is without doubt one of the natural highlights of this journey - a world of surreal multi-coloured sandstone forms that are steeped in the tales of the Paiute tribe. Legend has it that the sandstone 'hoodoo's' of Bryce are in fact the petrified followers of the Coyote God, turned to stone as they stood listening to his angry tirade. Looking out over these towering pillars that litter the floor of Bryce Canyon's great amphitheatre, you could almost believe that you're facing a crowd of people, all awaiting their judgement. This morning we see Bryce at its most radiant, in the golden hues of sunrise as we drive up to Sunrise Point to watch the dawn break across the landscape. This afternoon we will explore something of the myriad colours and shapes of this fairytale realm, hiking along the Navajo Loop, or taking in the grandeur of the Queen's Garden. Bryce was created as a national park in 1928 and is actually a part of the Grand Staircase that follows the rim along the Paunsaugunt Plateau. As you look out across the pink, orange and red spires it is easy to sympathise with Ebenezer Bryce, a Mormon farmer who is best remembered for the profound words, 'Well it's a hell of a place to lose a cow!'
Accommodation: Ruby's Inn
Today we drive west to Moab, taking State Highway 24 directly through the most remote and undervisited of Utah's 'Big Five' National Parks: Capitol Reef. The red rock park encompasses a landscape of coloured sandstone cliffs, twisting canyons, monoliths and spires. We'll stop en route to take in some of the parks many awe-inspiring viewpoints before continuing to Moab. This evening we plan to make a sunset visit to Arches National Park. It's a two hour walk to Delicate Arch, probably one of the most iconic arches in the American southwest. At 20 metres tall and freestanding, this natural rock archway is a perfect spot to watch the sun set on this magnificent landscape. After sunset, the lack of light and air pollution in the area should afford us a dazzling display of stars. After our walk we then head back to Moab for the evening.
Accommodation: Big Horn Lodge
Arches National Park is home to the world's largest concentration of natural sandstone arches. With over 2000 arches, giant sandstone fins, balancing rocks and towering spires, the park provides a unique setting for this morning discovery. We may take in the Devil's Garden, a three-hour hike that takes us through a landscape littered with arches, including one of the world's longest - Landscape Arch. Time-allowing we may also take a more gentle walk around The Windows Loop (approximately 1.5 hours), before leaving the park. In the afternoon we visit Arches' neighbouring park, and the last of Utah's Big Five National Parks, Canyonlands. The park is a wilderness of countless canyons and buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries, which also divide the park into four districts: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze and the rivers themselves. We plan to head into the Island in the Sky district, where we will take an easy trail to the spectacular Mesa Arch, a natural rock arch on the edge of a cliff that gives us panoramic views of the region. We'll drive back to Moab this evening.
Accommodation: Big Horn Lodge
Location: Monument Valley
Today we drive to the town of Page via the Navajo Reservation, the biggest in the country, founded in 1888 to provide a protected region for the Navajo people. The Navajo Nation constitutes the largest tribe left in the United States, the last survivors of a people who were decimated by the arrival of the white man and his quest for land and gold. Monument Valley lies within the heart of this vast tribal area and in spite of its familiarity through the exposure by Hollywood, nothing can truly prepare you for the sheer grandeur and spectacle of this incredible setting. Isolated monoliths, sandstone pinnacles and towering spires rocket skywards, as much as 1000m above the desert floor. As the only way to experience Monument Valley's dramatic backcountry, we offer you the chance to take an optional guided jeep tour of the valley with a Navajo guide, affording a closer exploration of this compelling land before we head on to our night stop in Page. As we continue through native lands towards Page, the warm embrace of the late afternoon colours alters the landscape's appearance as the sun dips towards the horizon. Time-permitting, we aim to experience the final dip of the sun at the famous Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River.
Accommodation: Quality Inn
Location: Grand Canyon
This morning we have the option to visit the famous Antelope Canyon, a beautiful peach-gold coloured canyon formed by the force of flash floods coming from the plains above, or otherwise spend time at the enormous Lake Powell, with its scenic azure waters. Later, we'll continue our journey towards the southern rim of the Grand Canyon, arriving this afternoon. Once described by Theodore Roosevelt as 'the one great sight every American should see', the canyon extends some 445 kilometres from east to west, from the western edge of the Navajo Reservation, to the Nevada border around Lake Mead. Reaching a depth of 1600m the canyon's floor is littered with some of the oldest rocks on the planet and as we take in the views from Desert View, we gaze out across a land that has taken over 2 billion years to create.
Accommodation: Red Feather Lodge
Location: Las Vegas
This morning has been left free to make the most of this natural wonder at your own pace. You may wish to hike various parts of the rim trail (easy to moderate walking), taking you along the top edge of the canyon with some stunning view points; or perhaps the Bright Angel Trail, a steeper walk that takes you further down below the rim of the canyon and into the abyss itself. There are a multitude of different walking options available, all of which will offer you some spectacular scenery of this amazing landscape. In the late afternoon we leave the Grand Canyon behind us and return to the big city, Las Vegas. We will arrive late, around 8pm.
Accommodation: La Quinta Inn - Las Vegas
Location: Las Vegas
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Las Vegas. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Las Vegas at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to depart from Las Vegas International Airport (LAS), which is a 15 minute drive away.
You will have the option to book your own flights independently with the operator.
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