See a side (or two or three) of California that many travellers never uncover on this nine-day quest through some of the state’s greatest national parks. Go from one kind of sensory-overload to another as you venture from the glitz of Las Vegas on to the glorious sights of Death Valley, Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, and the world-famous Yosemite National Park. You’ll do so much more than just take in the sights, with ample time to explore the other-worldly landscapes of Death Valley and Yosemite, as well as the chance to gaze upon the stars in Sequoia — the very thing that made the first full-time editor of National Geographic realize the importance of preserving national parks. The conclusion of your adventure will find you taking in iconic sights and sounds of the urban variety in San Francisco.
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There are no planned activities today until the evening welcome meeting, so check out the strip or get tickets to a show for this evening.
Leave the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas behind and travel to Death Valley National Park — the lowest, hottest, and driest place in North America. Marvel at the extremes of this landscape as you pass mountains, valleys, badlands, salt flats, dunes, and more.
Drive through the spectacular landscape of Death Valley. Take in the views of diverse geological features as far as the eye can see. Drive through Twenty Mule Team Canyon to see the different shades of the badlands. Continue to the Devils Golf Course, get out to see and hear the eroded rock salt, so craggy "only the devil could play golf on such rough links". Then descend into Badwater Basin, the lowest, hottest, driest point in North America that sits 282 feet below sea level.
Continue to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center to get out of the sun and get for a further look into this unique park. Once the heat of the day has passed, head to the most photographed spot in the park, Zabriskie Point for sunset.
Before leaving the park, make a final stop at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and Father Crowley Vista Point. Walk along the trail to see Rainbow Canyon to one side, Panamint Valley to the other, and if we're lucky, fighter jets practicing between the cliffs. Continue around the Sierra Nevadas to Sequoia National Park.
Enjoy a full day to explore. Walk through California's Sequoia National Park and learn about these impressive giant trees on the trail alongside a naturalist. Drive to Big Tree Trail for an afternoon hike and learn about how National Geographic deeded tracts of giant trees in the heart of the park to the National Parks Service for safekeeping. This evening, we return to the park for an evening of stargazing with an expert from the Sequoia Parks Conservancy (SPC).
Take a spectacular drive through the park with stops along the way from Grant Grove through Kings Canyon to Cedar Grove. Watch as the scenery changes from sequoias to one of the deepest canyons in the USA. Carved out over hundreds of thousands of year ago by glaciers and continuing to deepen with the help of the Kings River. Keep a keen eye out for the endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, and the incredible wildlife that calls this place home.
Travel north through the Sierras to the south entrance of Yosemite National Park stopping at the trailhead to Sentinel Dome. Climb the trail for breathtaking 360-degree views of the park and a picnic lunch. Feel on top of the world with views of Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, and the Valley floor below. Continue to Glacier Point for an even closer view of one of the most iconic sites in the park. Later watch Free Solo, a National Geographic film based on Alex Honnold and his quest to climb El Capitan without ropes or a safety net.
Join a Yosemite Conservancy naturalist-guide for a half day in Yosemite National Park. Learn about the human, natural, and geological history of the region from a local expert. Hike through the heart of Yosemite while highlighting flora, fauna, and discovering the historical significance of the park. Take in the iconic views and the hidden wonders made of granite and carved by glaciers. Enjoy the rest of the day on your own and choose to explore the majestic waterfalls, crystal clear lakes, lush green meadows, and walk among pristine groves in Yosemite. Keep an eye out for glacial erratics, rock climbers, and the diverse wildlife within the park. Opt to visit the Ansel Adams Studio or relax by the river with Half Dome as the backdrop.
Carved by glaciers, Yosemite National Park became the first protected state park in the US in 1864. It took until 1890 to gain National Park status, with the work of John Muir. Though 95% of the park is backcountry, there is still plenty to explore via hikes or the shuttle system. Spend the day hiking amongst Giant Sequoias, granite cliffs, and rushing waterfalls and understand why around 4 million people come to the park each year.
Drive through the Central Valley of California, stopping at a local farm stand to sample some of the region's best produce. Travel over the Bay Bridge on the way into one of America's most popular cities. Settle into the hotel before heading along the Embarcadero to Fisherman's Wharf for an optional sunset sail in the San Francisco Bay, past Alcatraz and underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.
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Trip Name: Natural Highlights of California
Duration: 9 Days
From Price: $3,099
Supplier Tour ID: NUCNG.B/259147
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