This route takes you from Los Angeles through the deserts of the wild west and to the region’s most fascinating ecosystems. Travel through the Sonoran Desert, the most species-rich desert in North America, before stopping to explore Grand Canyon National Park where you can learn about its history and culture. Continue your journey to Lake Powell, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Zion National Park to see the region’s unique rock formations. Go on to spend a couple of days in Las Vegas before hiking and wildlife-watching in Yosemite National Park, where you can see bobcats and black bears. End your journey in coastal San Francisco.

Key information

Destinations Destinations Western USA
Activity Activity Nature & Wildlife, Culture
Season Season January - December

Suggested itinerary

Mix with the Hollywood crowd

Mix with the Hollywood crowd

Day 1 in Los Angeles

Stroll along Hollywood Boulevard, spot your favourite TV and film stars on the Walk of Fame, and you can’t miss the hillside Hollywood sign. Kids can also get up close to their own entertainment stars in Disneyland.

Unwind in exclusive Palm Springs

Unwind in exclusive Palm Springs

Day 2–3 in Palm Springs

Set in possibly the most biologically diverse ecosystem in the Americas, Palm Springs is not only a winter playground for celebrities, but also a stylish place to relax in hot springs, spas and top-class golf courses at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains.

Explore unique rock formations in Sedona

Explore unique rock formations in Sedona

Day 4 in Sedona

On arrival to the unique geological area of Sedona, you will be welcomed by red-rock monoliths, with names such as Coffee Pot and Cathedral, protruding from the desert landscape. Climbing up the sandstone spires is fascinating, as are the popular hiking trails that weave between them.

Admire a five million year old canyon

Admire a five million year old canyon

Day 5 in Grand Canyon

Once in Grand Canyon National Park, there’s much more to do than stare into the world-famous chasm.

The Rim Trail offers different views from the top of the canyon on a mostly paved path. Though it’s 13 miles long (21km), hikers can utilize the park’s shuttle bus system in place of doing the whole hike. The Bright Angel Trail (12 miles round-trip, 19km) is one of the US national park system’s best-known trails. It heads to the bottom of the canyon, a marvellous experience for those with plenty of water and stamina. It is recommended that hikers do just a portion of the hike down Bright Angel and back up to the rim as there are many rescues each year for underprepared hikers who overestimate their abilities.

Don't miss

Visit a Navajo Indian reservation

Visit a Navajo Indian reservation

The Navajo is one of the eleven affiliated American Indian tribes that are deeply embedded in the history and culture of the Grand Canyon. Learn about its cultural and spiritual traditions at the Navajo Indian Reservation.

Drive through Monument Valley

Drive through Monument Valley

Day 6 in Monument Valley

Pass through the Painted Desert with its kaleidoscope of colours to reach Monument Valley on the Arizona-Utah border. Visitors are welcomed by a distinct desert scape of finger-like sandstone monoliths that reach 300m above the valley of sweeping arid wilderness — the epitome of the American West.

Walk across the Glen Canyon Dam

Walk across the Glen Canyon Dam

Day 7 in Lake Powell

The concrete Glen Canyon Dam would dominate the scenery if it was not for the commanding Colorado River and the bright blue waters of Lake Powell that lap against the tall red walls of the canyon. The extraordinary scenery is appreciated best from atop the dam, which is the second highest concrete arch-dam in America.

Experience unique geology in Bryce Canyon

Experience unique geology in Bryce Canyon

Day 8 in Bryce Canyon

Scooped into the side of a high-desert plateau, a deep natural amphitheater holds a small army of sandstone pillars at Utah’s smallest national park.

Known as hoodoos, these eroded formations glow with surreal colours at sunrise and sunset. For the most immersive experience, hike down one of the steep trails that drops from the Scenic Drive along the rim and winds through the formations. Many trails link up inside the amphitheater, making it easy to extend a short hike into a longer adventure.

Walk in the wilderness of Zion National Park

Walk in the wilderness of Zion National Park

Day 9 in Zion National Park

Sheer red rock cliffs flank Zion Canyon, a lush wonderland of gentle waterfalls, wild gardens and hidden pools. Carved over millennia by tributaries of the Virgin River, the canyon is the heart of the park.

Numerous trails twist to these riparian sights while others zigzag to sky-high viewpoints. It’s all so idyllic that the park drew more than 4.4 million visitors in 2019, making it the fourth most-visited national park in the US. To relieve congestion, the park service bans cars from the Scenic Drive, which runs the length of the canyon, from mid-February through much of December. To enter the canyon during these months, visitors must walk, bike or reserve a spot on the park shuttle ($1 per person; www.recreation.gov). You can escape the worst of the crowds on strenuous trails, including the thrilling climb to Angels Landing, but you’ll still want to start early to avoid the crush.

Enjoy Las Vegas's legendary nightlife

Enjoy Las Vegas's legendary nightlife

Day 10–11 in Las Vegas

Spend a day or two discovering the grandeur of Las Vegas and its famously flamboyant attractions. Stroll along the Strip, visit casinos, enjoy a Broadway-type, and relax at one of the popular restaurants and bars with city-scape views, such as Top of the World at The Stratosphere or Skybar at the Waldorf Astoria.

Get active in resort town Mammoth Lakes

Get active in resort town Mammoth Lakes

Day 12 in Mammoth Lakes

Journey through Death Valley and ascend the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the alpine resort of Mammoth Lakes, famous for its skiing and hiking trails. It was a successful gold mining town in the 19th century and you can take a tour of the ruins, mining equipment, and mine shafts.

Admire the wildlife and waterfalls of Yosemite

Admire the wildlife and waterfalls of Yosemite

Day 13–14 in Yosemite National Park

The most popular national park in California, Yosemite includes the world-renowned Yosemite Valley, which is beneath notable granite peaks including Half Dome and El Capitan – famous among rock climbers for their stunning views and difficult climbs.

Head to the 7,214ft Glacier Point for views over Yosemite Valley, or head inside the granite Geology Hut for vistas of Half Dome. Come at sunrise or sunset, when the giant granite peaks turn a rosy pink. There’s more than just towering peaks in Yosemite. Mariposa Grove showcases giant sequoia trees, while Yosemite Falls is North America’s highest waterfall at 2,425 feet (739 metres). It is possible to hike up to the upper fall’s crest, but be aware that the water’s spray can be very cold.

Walk the hills of San Francisco

Walk the hills of San Francisco

Day 15–16 in San Francisco

Crammed into less than 50 square miles and with a population of less than a million, small San Francisco packs a mighty punch. Its patchwork of different neighbourhoods -- Mission District, Haight-Ashbury, Chinatown and many more -- all offer a different side to the city, while the big attractions -- Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman's Wharf -- are all worth the visit.

This is also a city of culture. There are Michelin-starred restaurants. There are pop-up diners and incredible food trucks. There is a world-class music scene and plenty of outdoor adventures, from whale-watching at Land's End to hiking in Mount Diablo. Just watch out for the earth tremors -- San Francisco's proximity to the San Andreas faultline means it experiences several hundred tremors a year.

Don't miss

Enjoy the coastline of San Fran

Enjoy the coastline of San Fran

Take a stroll along Fisherman’s Wharf, explore the Marina District before experiencing the lively city at night. Stop at the spectacular Golden Gate bridge that connects San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean to enjoy a classic view of the skyline. Perhaps even take a boat to the infamous Alcatraz.

Other itineraries you might like

Denali Unexplored

Basecamp hiking in Denali National Park

4 daysFrom $2,199
Destinations Anchorage, Denali National Park, Great Kobuk Sand Dunes
Tour Type Small group tour
Activity Family, Adventure, Backpacking, Hiking & Trekking, Active, Camping, Nature & Wildlife, Photography, Birdwatching, National Parks, Solo Travel

Alaska Multisport Adventure

Prince William Sound, Chugach and Denali National Park

9 daysFrom $4,395
Destinations Anchorage, Chugach National Forest, Denali National Park, Prince William Sound and Kenai Fjords National Park
Tour Type Small group tour
Activity Family, Adventure, Backpacking, Hiking & Trekking, Water Sports, Kayaking, Active, Camping, Nature & Wildlife, Photography, Birdwatching, National Parks, Solo Travel

Twin Lakes Paddle

Explore the magic of Lake Clark's Twin Lakes

7 daysFrom $3,750
Destinations Anchorage, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve
Tour Type Small group tour
Activity Family, Adventure, Backpacking, Hiking & Trekking, Water Sports, Kayaking, Active, Camping, Nature & Wildlife, Photography, Birdwatching, National Parks, Solo Travel

Why Horizon Guides?

Impartial guidebooks

Impartial guidebooks

Our travel guides are written by the leading experts in their destinations. We never take payment for positive coverage so you can count on us for impartial travel advice.

Expert itineraries

Expert itineraries

Suggested itineraries and routes to help you scratch beneath the surface, avoid the tourist traps, and plan an authentic, responsible and enjoyable journey.

Specialist advice

Specialist advice

Get friendly, expert travel advice and custom itineraries from some of the world’s best tour operators, with no spam, pressure or commitment to book.