Seattle to Los Angeles
The west coast of the United States is home to rugged forests, panoramic coastlines and progressive cities, and this 28-day small group adventure will take you to the best of the best. From Seattle, weave through Mt Rainier National Park and Columbia River Gorge, get weird in Portland, stroll through the Redwood forests, follow the Wild Rivers Coast Food Trail and get lost in San Francisco. Discover Yosemite National Park and Death Valley, try your luck in Las Vegas and take a wild west road trip through Zion, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon and Joshua Tree national parks, ending up in the City of Angels, Los Angeles. With delicious food, insightful Navajo experiences, and more trees than you can poke a stick at, this Seattle to LA discovery has got all the bases covered.
Finish: Los Angeles
Ages: Over 15
Accommodation: Hotel (26 nights), Cabin (1 night)
Destination: Los Angeles
Welcome to Seattle! The Pacific Northwest is all about the outdoors, good food, better beer and all the arts and culture you could ever want. You'll meet your leader at 6 pm, but there's plenty to see if you happen to arrive early. Take a walk around the waterfront and the renowned Pike Place Market, which is nearby to the original Starbucks store. Otherwise, head to the popular Starbucks Reserve Roastery or go visit the towering Space Needle for views of the surrounding mountain ranges. After your important meeting, why not grab a feed and try a local beer at one of the many microbreweries in the city.
This morning, head out to Mount Rainier National Park – home to the highest mountain in both Washington and the entire Cascade Ranges. Rainier was the fifth national park to be created in the US and is popular with hikers, alpinists, climbers and tourists thanks to its varied landscape, from its ice-capped volcano namesake to subalpine meadows filled with wildflowers. Stop in at the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Centre to check out the trails and work out what hikes you’d like to tackle. You’ll have time to do a small amount of walking. Afterwards, head to your accommodation for the evening.
Leave Mount Rainier, and head to Columbia River Gorge. The Columbia River provides a natural border between the states of Washington and Oregon and is home to some stunning scenery of flowing rivers, verdant forests and cascading falls. Take some short walks in the surrounding countryside and then head to the Multonomah Falls – a beautiful cascading stream that can be viewed from below, or higher up on a pedestrian bridge lookout. Later in the afternoon, travel to the indisputable hipster capital of the west, Portland. You’ll take a late afternoon walking tour and get shown the ropes – from Pioneer Square to the renowned donut stores like Voodoo and Blue Star, and the absolute book-lover’s heaven at Powells, this progressive city has got you covered. Portland is yours to explore in the evening, so hit the breweries, check out the music and theatre scene or simply find a good spot to people-watch.
Jump on the saddle and get pedalling, as you’re off on a Food Carts of Portland bike tour. Portland is known for its varied cuisine, and today, you’ll cycle past some of the 60 pods (food cart collections) of the city, filled with over 600 food stalls! The focus of your tour is on locally owned businesses with a great story, so meet the vendors, hear their stories and get the chance to taste the delicious food on offer. This will cover your lunch for the day. Later in the afternoon, have some time to explore Portland at your own pace. Depending on the time of year, there might be a local ice hockey or basketball game on at the Moda Center – best to book in advance if this interests you.
Bid farewell to Portland and transfer to Silver Falls State Park. This park is home to the acclaimed South Falls, which has a direct plunge of 54 metres (177 feet) and is surrounded by plenty of walking trails to see this natural beauty from all angles, even from behind! It’s a sight to behold. Take some short hikes around the park before continuing on a drive through the Willamette Valley. Stop by a local vineyard for a tasting, then head to Newport on the Oregon coast. This evening, head to Rogue Brewery for an included dinner. You may have noticed a similar brewery in Portland; however, this is Rogue’s world headquarters, which looks out into Yaquina Bay.
This morning, visit Yaquina Head Lighthouse – the tallest on the Oregon coast. Walk up the circular stairs to the top of the lighthouse for panoramic views over the Pacific Ocean. Continue your drive south to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, where you’ll have time to walk through the expansive dunes which stretch for over 64 kilometres (40 miles) along the coast from Florence to Coos Bay. Afterwards, head to Bandon – a small coastal town with some incredible ocean vistas. Visit the Face Rock Scenic Viewpoint, to see the rock formation of a head jutting out of the ocean, and if you’re lucky, view the Circles in the Sand art installation on the beach from above. Bandon is also part of the Wild Rivers Coast Food Trail that you’ll be enjoying over the next few days, so start that off with an included visit and cheese tasting at the Face Rock Creamery.
Today you’ll head south into northern California, hugging the coastline on stretches of road and stopping at cranberry and blueberry fruit farms along the way. The Wild Coast Trail is a foodie gift that keeps on giving. Continue across the Oregon-California border and stop at Crescent Beach Overlook for a view of the Pacific, before ending the day with sunset on the beach and a night near the Redwood National Park. This area of the coast is home to some of the tallest and oldest trees in the world.
Take a full day to hike and explore the Redwood National and State Parks. Go looking for elk in Prairie Creek then walk through the incredible ridge-top redwoods at the Lady Bird Johnson Grove of Tall Trees. The scenes on Endor with the Ewoks in ‘Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi’ were filmed in this area, and you really will feel like you're on another planet. The brisk clean air, the filtered sunlight and the verdant tree canopies – this part of the world is truly a nature lover’s paradise.
Rise and shine early and depart Crescent City for a morning stop in Arcata. This hippie college town has a laidback vibe and is a perfect place for a coffee and a walk around the downtown main square. Continue your drive south to Mendocino, just in time to get yourself some lunch. Afterwards, take a walk around the Mendocino Headlands and the downtown area. Later in the afternoon, head to the unique Glass Beach in Fort Bragg – a colourful shore made from years of people dumping waste on the beach in the early 20th century. In 1967, the North Coast Water Quality Board closed the area and many clean-up programs have taken place, and now what is left is different coloured glassy beads on the shores that make this beach an attraction. Tonight, head to North Coast Brewing for dinner.
Make your way to the City by the Bay, San Francisco. With one of the most iconic bridges in the world, San Francisco is a photographer’s dream. Arrive in the late afternoon and stop by the Golden Gate for some photos and, depending on the season, understand what the fuss is about with the infamous San Francisco fog. In the evening, go out exploring the city with your group, and perhaps head into Chinatown for a meal. There are some great nightlife options in Union Hill and the Mission District, or better yet, book yourself in for a sunset cruise on the bay. There’s no shortage of things to do in this lively, eclectic city.
Spend a free morning exploring San Francisco. You might like to hire a bike and cycle your way along the bay towards the Golden Gate Bridge, or book yourself in for an Alcatraz experience – tickets for this usually sell out well in advance, so get in quick! In the afternoon, head to another meeting at 3 pm to meet some new travellers joining you on this stage of your west coast adventure, then head on an Urban Adventures tour through the hidden gems of Chinatown. Explore this renowned neighbourhood with a local who has all the insider knowledge on how its residents live, eat and drink, indulging in tea, treats and tastings.
This morning, explore the architectural landmarks of San Fran with a guided visit to the Palace of Fine Arts and the iconic Ferry Building – a historical monument home to an array of food stalls and eateries, then get your camera ready as you gaze upon the Golden Gate Bridge from the best view point in the city. After your guided tour, head across to Sausalito and stop for lunch (own expense) in Placerville – an old mining town with a notorious past, before continuing your drive to Lake Tahoe – the USA’s second-deepest lake and home to 116 km (72 miles) of scenic shoreline. This evening, (depending on the season) set sail on a sunset cruise around the stunning Emerald Bay and watch the orange hues glisten on the surface of the calm, cobalt waters.
Enjoy a day of leisure in Lake Tahoe, this natural adventure park has plenty going on all year-round which means there’ll be plenty of activities for you to choose from depending on the season. In summer, you can paddle on the clear, blue waters of the lake in a kayak or take a refreshing dip, and for the hiking enthusiasts – the surrounding hillside is perfect for scenic walks during the warmer months. During winter the area becomes a snow-covered playground where you can choose to take a sleigh ride or try your hand at ice skating. If you didn’t get chance to cruise around Emerald Bay yesterday, then (season dependent) try your hand at snowshoeing! An amazing way to explore the powdery white surrounds.
This morning, head south to the world-famous Yosemite National Park. Featuring colossal granite cliff faces, cascading waterfalls (depending on the season) and redwood forests, the scenery in Yosemite attracts travellers from all over the globe. On arrival, wander through the jaw-dropping Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias, home to two-dozen of the largest known trees on earth. These colossal, ancient wonders are adapted for survival. They’re resistant to disease, thanks to a large content of tannin (a type of natural chemical) in the wood – and their thick asbestos-like bark means that they can withstand the hottest of forest-fires, making them almost indestructible. The resilient beauty of these redwood beasts makes them a phenomenal must-see on any Yosemite itinerary.
Enjoy a guided walk around the spectacular scenery of Yosemite National Park followed by a free day to explore. The breathtaking landscapes have made Yosemite a favourite among hikers for generations, and there are plenty of trekking routes on offer with varying degrees of difficulty. If you feel like breaking a sweat, the 5-hour hike to the top of Nevada Falls features plenty of switchbacks, and depending on the season, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the cascading waterfall beneath the giant Half Dome. Feel like taking it easy? No problem, there are plenty of gentle trails on offer, like the one-hour walk to the popular swimming spot, Mirror Lake, Keep an eye out for squirrels (and watch for bears!) along the way. If you’d prefer, you can hire a bike and cycle around Yosemite Valley, stopping by the park's museum, photo gallery, shops and restaurants on the way. In the heat of summer, a nice option is a float down the Merced River on a raft followed by a few drinks at the local cafe. This evening, if the weather is right, join the group for an included pizza picnic in the park! Alternatively, warm up with a local meal in the cosy indoors.
Today there’s a chance to explore a different side of the park as you join your leader on a guided hike to Hetch Hetchy Valley. Tucked away in the northwest corner of Yosemite, Hetch Hetchy is a wilderness of cascading waterfalls, towering cliff faces and beautiful wildflowers. Boasting one of the longest hiking seasons in the park, the ecologically diverse valley attracts a fraction of the visitors in comparison to other more well-known hiking spots in Yosemite – which means it’s an ideal area for those who have extra time to explore the park in depth.
This morning, stop and admire the glistening waters of Tenaya and Mono Lakes on the drive south to Death Valley (approximately 6 hours). On the way to Lone Pine, perhaps stop at Manzanar National Historic Site, a former military-style camp where more than 110,000 Japanese-American men, women and children were detained during WWII. Continue to Alabama Hills – where colourful undulating peaks roll in the foreground of the contrasting jagged, snowy Sierras – this beautiful landscape is just a stone’s throw away from where you’ll be spending the night in Lone Pine – not far from the entrance to Death Valley. On arrival, there's the option to visit the Museum of Western Film History, which celebrates the many movies that have been filmed in the area, such as Iron Man, Django Unchained, How the West Was Won, and True Grit.
This morning you'll explore the geologically rich Death Valley National Park. Don't let the name fool you, this park features huge sand dunes, canyons, sculpted rocks, valleys and volcanic craters. Death Valley is extremely hot and dry (the highest recorded temperature in the world was measured in local Furnace Creek at 56.6˚C in 1913) so remember to pack plenty of water and don't overexert yourself. For expansive views of the valley, you can hike to Dante's View, or perhaps visit the puckered, volcanic Ubehebe Crater. Continue your drive through Nevada to the glitzy desert city of Las Vegas – it may be a gamblers paradise, but if the tables aren't your thing there's still plenty to discover! Maybe wander along the Strip past impersonators, billboards and hotels to the choreographed Bellagio Fountain show, or perhaps head to a rooftop amusement park, hit the chain stores or lose all sense of time exploring the gaudy interiors of hotels like The Venetian, Caesars Palace and New York-New York. In the evening, why not join your travel buddies for an optional dinner!
From a western outpost in the desert, Las Vegas is now a gambling and entertainment metropolis. It’s a city of larger-than-life characters, but beyond the glitz, Vegas is home to diverse urban neighbourhoods and a thriving arts scene. You’ve got the day to explore at your own pace. Head to a meeting in the hotel lobby at 6 pm for a briefing of the next stage of your adventure, this time, with some new travellers joining you! Afterwards, perhaps try your luck on the casino floors, hit up Fremont Street, soak up the gaudiness of the strip or catch one of the many shows on offer.
Today, leave behind the neon and nightclubs behind, and travel to Zion National Park (approximately 3 hours). Warm up with a leader-led orientation or the park, and gentle walk to the lower end of the Emerald Pools, passing the sparkling waterfalls and streams along the way. Continue on a more difficult trail to the upper section, checking out another waterfall on the way to Zion's 'beach'. Enjoy some free time this afternoon to explore more of the park's hiking trails. If you're feeling ambitious, perhaps enjoy the park's most famous challenge: Angels Landing. After a hike along the thin ridge of the cliffs, you'll be rewarded with a sweeping panorama of the red desert. This isn't for the faint-hearted as the trails do get quite narrow.
Enjoy some free time in Zion National Park. This is a great opportunity to tackle any trails you may not have yesterday. The Narrows is a good choice, as it is probably the most popular hike in the park, and one of the best slot canyon hikes on Earth. Trek through a gorge surrounded by cliff faces 300 metres high, and after a while, cool off in a river along the way. The Narrows hike can be tailored to suit various levels of skill and experience, so there’s a trek for everyone!
In the morning, drive to Bryce Canyon. Millions of years of wind and water erosion have formed the park's distinctive hoodoos – uniquely shaped rock spires rising out of the desert. You will have heaps of time to explore the park's selection of hikes, from the easy Rim Trail, to the moderate Queen's Garden Trail or the strenuous Peek-a-boo Loop. Wherever you walk, you'll encounter the canyon’s colourful landscapes. The group leader will join you on a hike and for lunch in the Canyon. If you’re feeling adventurous, book in a horse-riding tour and experience the park in a different way. The accommodation tonight is not too far away, so you’ll be able to enjoy scenic views over the canyon into the night.
Today you’ll make the 6-hour drive to the spectacular Monument Valley. There will be time to visit the cliffs, canyons and domes of the lesser-known but no less picturesque Capitol Reef National Park on the way. Take Scenic Byway 12 and stop off at Kiva Koffeehouse for lunch and views over the Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument in southern Utah. Pass by more scenic lookouts at Goosenecks State Park and Moki Dugway before hitting Monument Valley. Once arrived, explore the giant sandstone formations scattered across the desert as far as the eye can see. In the evening, travel by jeep through the valley with a Navajo guide. Join the locals for an authentic Navajo dinner around a campfire and settle in for an evening of traditional songs and stories.
In the morning, make the 3.5-hour drive to the Grand Canyon, one of the largest canyon systems in the world. Photos really don't do this massive network of gorges, rivers and cliffs justice. This a real highlight of the trip, and you'll be spending two nights here in order to take it all in. Perhaps start with a stroll along the South Rim Trail, which gives great views over the park. While you can't hike to the Colorado River and back in one day, you can take a roughly 4-hour trail to Skeleton Point, which offers great views of the river. Ask the group leader for advice on which trails are right for you and your fitness level.
Today is as clear as an Arizona sky in summer. Explore at your own pace, but remember to always have a supply of water and high-energy snacks handy. Touch base with the group leader about optional activities available today – recommended is a helicopter flight over the gorges, providing a chance to see the entire park. If you'd rather get the bird’s eye view without leaving the ground, you can choose to watch a documentary on the canyon at the local IMAX theatre. Of course, there are myriad trails and treks to keep the active occupied. Bright Angel has wonderful views all along the trail and Ooh-Aah Point is a favourite shorter hike on the South Kaibab Trail, offering another viewpoint to the park. In the evening, sit back and enjoy the sunset behind the red peaks.
In the morning, take the drive to Joshua Tree National Park (approximately 7 hours). You’ll spend some time driving the famous Route 66 and have a quick stop by the eccentric community of Seligman. Sitting between the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, Joshua Tree is home to striking rock formations, many species of cacti and varied desert wildlife such as coyotes, lizards and bighorn sheep. Joshua Tree provides a considerable contrast to the wildlife and natural scenery you have seen recently.
There may be time to squeeze in a sunrise hike at Joshua Tree before making the approximately 3-hour journey to Los Angeles. Visit the Original Farmers Market for lunch before spending an afternoon at Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach for a bit of people watching. Then you’re free to discover LA at your own pace. Stroll Rodeo Drive, amp up the culture with a trip to the Getty Centre or take a tour around the Beverly Hills mansions. You will have no problem finding a spot for dinner this evening – the cultural mishmash of LA provides excellent food wherever you are.
There are no more activities planned today. If you're planning to stay in LA for a little while longer, why not take an Urban Adventure tour like Sips of Old Hollywood. Stroll along the Walk of Fame and soak up the atmosphere at iconic bars, lounges, speakeasies, and mobster hangouts. Find out more at urbanadventures.com/destination/los-angeles-tours.
- Joshua Tree National Park - Entrance Fee
Clarion Hotel Seattle International Airport
3000 South 176th Street
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Fairfield Inn & Suites LAX
525 N Sepulveda Blvd, El Segundo
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Phone: +1 4242905000
We recommend that you undertake regular aerobic exercise in the weeks before you travel, particularly if you are not in the habit of regular exercise. Walking, jogging, swimming or riding a bike are all good ways to increase your aerobic fitness, which will allow you to enjoy the trip to its fullest.
Many of the National Parks that we visit have hiking opportunities where walks of up to 4 hours can be an option for you. There are often easier options. Throughout the trip there are more adventurous optional activities that require some consideration regarding your physical abilities to complete the activity.
1. A single supplement is available on this trip.
Your leader will provide basic information about the sights and cities you'll be visiting but please note that our leaders are not 'tour guides' in the traditional sense. They are adventure travel specialists and are there to organise your trip, arrange activities and help with questions or problems you may have while on your tour. Your leader will provide you with all the important information you need to embark on your own explorations.
They are also responsible for driving the van and navigating across the country. The allowable driving times for drivers is strictly controlled in North America. This ensures our drivers are well rested and are not over-tired from too many hours on the roads.
While your group will have a minivan for all included activities on the trip, please note that the services of the van and the driver may not be available for your use during free time, or after you have arrived for the day. If you need a special trip into town you may need to arrange transport or a taxi.
We endeavour to provide the services of an experienced leader however, situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
It's strictly forbidden for non-qualified rangers to present any information about some National Parks in North America, therefore we adopt a system (as requested by the park rangers) where our leader will encourage travellers to visit the information centres in the National Parks for details about the site.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trips. We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, flight tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage. Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests or relax and take it easy. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns. For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY: While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
DRINKING SAFETY: Please note that in the US the legal drinking age is 21 and in some parts of Canada it is 19. When out drinking in bars please be responsible and take the same precautions you would at home. Don't accept drinks from strangers, and don't let your drink out of your sight. It is always a good idea to go out with a group and stick together.
Our vans in the USA are equipped with free WiFi however a fair use policy applies. It is limited to 5 users at one time, and is suitable for updating your Facebook status or sending an email home - not for streaming video or radio. Please be considerate of your use so that there is enough to go around. Most hotels have WiFi access although on occasion you may need to pay extra for it.
North American electrical outlets operate at a lower voltage than much of the rest of the world. This means that your devices may take longer to charge than you are used to, or may say that they are not charging, even though they are. You may also notice that some hotels have powerboards or multiple appliances plugged into one socket. Because of the lower voltage, this is not the safety issue that it may be in other parts of the world. You can also recharge batteries on the van, although obviously this will need to be shared between everyone. You will need to bring a 12 volt/cigarette lighter adapter to plug your USB charger into.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time.
Entrance requirements to the USA have changed in recent years so please read the following instructions carefully, even if you have travelled to the USA before.
PLEASE NOTE: Also please note, all travellers from Visa Waiver Program countries must obtain an electronic travel authorization prior to their flight from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) website: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov
Apply for ESTA no later than 72 HOURS (we recommend 1 week prior to travel) before departing for the United States. Real-time approvals will no longer be available and arriving at the airport without a previously approved ESTA will likely result in being denied boarding.
Many countries now operate under a visa waiver program (meaning a visa isn't required) however you still need to obtain an authorisation which confirms that you have been approved to travel. This authorisation must be obtained in advance of travel. See https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-visit/visa-waiver-program.html
Many citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries can travel to the USA without a visa for a 90 day stay, if they meet certain requirements. Travellers from all Visa Waiver Program countries must present a machine-readable, biometric passport (which meets US requirements) at the port of entry to enter without a visa, otherwise a US visa is required. You can get further information from the US Department of State website:
All ESTA registration applications or renewals require a US$14.00 fee paid by credit or debit card. You should apply for your visa waiver authorisation at least 1 week prior to travel to avoid any last minute delays. You will require your passport details and your address in the US (you can use the starting point hotel/hostel address).
Please note that if there is any discrepancy between the name on your ESTA, your passport, your tickets and even your frequent flyer membership, you may be detained at Immigration and subject to a secondary inspection which could take a few hours. If you have recently changed your name, please check that your details have been updated everywhere.
If you are from a country eligible for the visa waiver program but are a dual citizen of Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan, or if you have travelled to Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan or Yemen since 1 March 2011, you will no longer be eligible for the visa waiver program and will instead need to apply for a non-immigrant visa. Please see the Department of State website for more information: http://travel.state.gov//content/travel/en.html
Why we love it
Treat yourself to a world-class food and beer scene in the progressive city of Portland. Head to one of the many microbreweries and embark on a cycling adventure through its renowned food truck pods.
Walk among some of the world's oldest and tallest trees in the lush Redwood National Park in northern California.
Featuring sequoia forests, granite cliff faces and cascading waterfalls – get the most out of your Yosemite experience by spending three nights in the park, meaning two full days of exploration.
Admire the oasis of Emerald Pools during a hike past waterfalls and lush vegetation in Utah’s Zion National Park.
Ride a jeep through Utah's iconic Monument Valley, and then share stories and a meal by the campfire with members of Navajo Nation.
Is this trip right for you
The regions visited on this trip can experience extremes in weather and temperature. Please be prepared for all weather conditions, especially if travelling outside of the July/August summer months. Bryce Canyon is deceptively unpredictable and can drop in temperature to the point of snow flurries, while Zion National Park down the road is generally hot and sunny. Bring layers of warm clothing and sun protection and ensure you drink plenty of water.
The USA is a big country. Distances between destinations may be longer than what you're used to, especially if you're coming from Europe. There are some long days of driving, so expect to spend a lot of time in the van. Conditions can feel a little cramped, but the passing scenery and your new friends in the van will keep you occupied.
Homelessness in the USA, particularly in greater San Francisco, is a widespread problem. Please note you will likely encounter some of San Francisco’s homeless community when travelling through the city. It is important, just like in any city, to stay alert and respectful of people around, especially at night.
Less time spent in a vehicle; more time to explore each destination. This trip has been carefully designed to give you the best experience of a region by reducing the number of one-night-only stops, giving you extra time in the places that matter.
This trip includes time spent travelling in a vehicle with your group. Extra space can be tight, and conditions may feel a little cramped. It’s all part of the adventure and a great way to get to know your fellow travellers. Please read the itinerary carefully for travel time estimates.
Death Valley in the summer is extremely hot and dry. It does hold the record as the hottest place on earth after all. Hiking at this time of year isn't recommended. Although our private vehicles do have air conditioning, it has to work pretty hard to keep a full group cool. Expect to feel hot during summer and cold at other times of the year, especially at night. Please consider the season and research the weather conditions to determine the best time to travel for you. Remember to come prepared with adequate clothing.
Some of the best scenery in this trip is found on hikes. So, while this trip doesn't require a high level of fitness, it’s essential to be at least moderately fit if you want to partake in all activities.
All travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid Travel reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
Medical prescriptions written outside of the US and Canada aren't accepted at pharmacies. Therefore, we recommend you bring along your personal medications in the necessary quantities for your trip.
DEHYDRATION & SUN PROTECTION:
The most likely medical incidents to occur on our trips are dehydration, over exposure to the sun, and twisted ankles from walking on uneven ground. While hiking please ensure you drink enough water to remain hydrated as some hikes don't have refill stations for your water bottles. The sun (especially in desert areas in the West) can be harsh, particularly in the warmer months. Ensure you apply adequate sun protection cream and wear a hat. Travelling with sunburn can be uncomfortable.
Food and dietary requirements
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
On our lodging tours we eat in local restaurants where passengers pay individually for each of their meals and drinks. Average hotel breakfasts cost from US$6-$12, lunches from US$8-$15 and dinners from US$13-$30; this does not include alcoholic beverages. Wine costs approximately US$5 per glass and beer US$4 per bottle.
Most group leaders will offer their tour members the choice to operate a ‘lunch only’ food kitty that has proven to be a popular alternative to three daily restaurant meals. Leaders will more fully explain this option and the whole group will have to agree to implement this system. Please make sure we are aware of any special meal requirements before travelling.
It can be difficult to exchange money while on the road so we suggest that you bring some cash in US dollars, or exchange/withdraw money at the airport when you arrive, or at least before you start the trip.
Your individual budget will depend on your personal plans. Think about how much you want to spend on souvenirs, shopping, entertainment, food, drinks, excursions and attractions that aren't included in your trip (eg. helicopter flights etc). Please bear in mind that North America has endless things to do and see. Not all possible optional activities are listed in our Trip Notes.
The cheapest and most convenient way to acquire money is via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) which are plentiful throughout all cities and towns, and even at roadside stops. This allows you to draw funds from your personal account at a superior exchange rate. Bank fees for these withdrawals can be either a flat rate or a percentage of the amount withdrawn. Check with your bank for information on their international fees.
Don't forget your PIN and make sure you know the telephone number for cancelling your card if it's stolen. Keep this in a safe place. When using your debit card, check your receipts and keep them to compare against your statement when you get home.
Occasionally banks will also allow cash advances on your credit card, but it's not recommended to rely on this method only. We recommend that you carry some cash for situations when ATMs can't be accessed.
When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document).
If you're happy with the service you receive, providing a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. Please note we recommend that any tips are given directly to the intended recipient by a member of your group as our group leaders are prohibited from collecting cash for tips.
The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants: We suggest 18% to 22% of your bill.
Bars: Recommended US$1 for each drink ordered to ensure you are served again.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest US$5-20 per day for local guides. Ask your leader for suggestions as to what is appropriate for a given activity.
Your Group Leader: You should also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. Your leader works long and hard for you. He or she may well become your friend during the trip but they do need to pay their bills. If the leader's performance meets or exceeds your expectation they will gladly accept a tip from you. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however you should plan to tip your leader US$7-10 per person per day.
Another charge not normally listed in North American costs is the state and federal taxes, keep this in mind when your bill comes out slightly higher than the original price listed.
Tipping in North America can be confusing. If you'd like some more detail about when and how much to tip, see http://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/tipping-guide-united-states/
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. Please make sure you have access to an extra US$500 for emergencies (e.g. severe weather, natural disasters, civil unrest) or other events that result in unavoidable changes to the itinerary (e.g. transport strikes or cancellations, airport closures). Sometimes these things necessitate last minute changes to enable our trips to continue to run, and as a result there may be some extra costs involved.
The recommended amounts are listed in USD for the relatability of universal travellers, however the local currency is needed in the countries you are visiting.
What to take
LUGGAGE RESTRICTIONS: All luggage is carried in trailers or inside the vehicle so please don't bring more than one medium sized bag, backpack or suitcase (20kg maximum) per person. Your suitcase/rucksack may get some rough handling, so make sure it's a tough one. A small daypack and camera may also be carried inside the vehicle.
As well as your underwear, toothbrush and other items you always need to pack for travel, below are some items that you specifically need for this trip. ESSENTIAL: - Reusable water bottle. We recommend at least a 1.5 litre capacity. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. Tap water in the US and Canada is safe to drink and there are many places to fill up along the way, so please save plastic by bringing your own water bottle. - Sun protection - hat, sunscreen, sunglasses - Clothing you can layer. You may encounter a wide variety of temperatures en route due to altitude and unforeseen weather conditions - so be prepared! Make sure to pack a warm fleece and a waterproof jacket. We suggest you check the expected temperatures en route and bring clothing that you can layer. - Closed-in shoes. If you are planning on doing any hiking during your trip we highly recommend that you take a pair of comfortable, closed-in walking shoes. Closed-in shoes will help to protect your feet from cuts and scratches when walking through bush/grass-lands, and will also act as a barrier protection in rare cases against bites or stings from dangerous animals in this environment. RECOMMENDED: - Power adaptor - Insect repellent - Spare camera battery. You should have access to electricity to charge your battery most nights, but it is always a good idea to carry a spare. - Personal medical kit. Your guide will carry a large kit but we recommend you carry items such as mild pain killers, electrolytes, anti-diarrhoeal, antibacterial gel, wet wipes, bandaids/plasters etc. OPTIONAL: - Travel pillow if you like to sleep during long drives - Reusable coffee cup such as a travel mug or KeepCup if you are a coffee drinker. Not only is it much better for the environment, but many places in the US and Canada also give a discount for bringing your own cup. - Ear plugs to guard against a snoring room-mate - A good book, a journal or an Ipod for the long drives. - Swimwear - Head torch
Climate and seasonal
The following national holidays are observed in the US, which can affect our itinerary as traffic can be extreme, and shops, restaurants and attractions can be closed:
- New Year's Day
- Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Washington's Birthday
- Memorial Day
- Independence Day
- Labor Day
- Columbus Day
- Veterans Day
- Thanksgiving Day
- Christmas Day
A couple of rules
Everyone has the right to feel safe when they travel. We don’t tolerate any form of violence (verbal or physical) or sexual harassment, either between customers or involving our leaders, partners or local people. Sexual relationships between a tour leader and a customer are strictly forbidden.
Use or possession of illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. If you choose to consume alcohol while travelling, we encourage responsible drinking, and expect that you’ll abide by the local laws regarding alcohol consumption.
The sex tourism industry is known to exploit vulnerable people and have negative consequences on communities, including undermining the development of sustainable tourism. For this reason, patronising sex workers will not be tolerated on our trips.
By travelling with us you are agreeing to adhere to these rules. Your group leader has the right to remove any member of the group for breaking any of these rules, with no right of refund.
If you feel that someone is behaving inappropriately while travelling with us, please inform your tour leader or local guide immediately. Alternatively, contact us on the emergency contact number detailed in the Problems and Emergency Contact section of this Essential Trip Information.
After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please contact our operations base on 1-800-786-8735 (toll free in the USA and Canada) or +1 707 523 1800 (office hours).
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
POLICE AND AMBULANCE
In case of an emergency, local authorities can be contacted by calling 911 – this is the toll free phone number for the police, fire department and the ambulance in the USA and Canada. In case of doubt, call the operator on 0.
BOOKING ENQUIRIES / ISSUES
For general enquiries or questions about your booking, please contact your agent or adventure specialist, or visit us at:
CRISES AND EMERGENCIES
In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency please contact our local ground representative on the number below (remember to drop the +xx country code if you are calling from within the country):
+1 707 483 9460
Our Responsible Travel Policy outlines our commitment to preserving the environment, supporting local communities, protecting the vulnerable and giving back to the places we travel. All our trip leaders, suppliers and staff are trained on these principles, and are core to us delivering sustainable, experience-rich travel.
Explore the different parts of our Responsible Travel Policy by visiting:
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
Throughout the trip we request that our lodgings prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Essential Trip Information. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It is important that you print and review a final copy prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in country. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary seasonally to ensure our travellers have the best experience. Your tour leader will keep you up to date with any changes once on tour.
A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and may be on a join-in basis. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your leader know you are interested and they can assist.
Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
Please note that day-by-day meals are indicative only. You will receive the same number of meals, but they may not happen exactly on the days indicated. Your leader may change the days that meals are provided to best suit the needs of the group and the timing of the activities on your trip.
Hotel (26 nights),Cabin (1 night)
More from United States Of America
28 Days from$10,930
FINISH: Los Angeles