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Home » Destinations » United States of America » Explore! Walking the Western US National Parks
This walking trip takes you to some of the most stunning natural wonders that America has to offer. Marvel at the magnificent Grand Canyon, feel on top of the world at Angel’s Landing in Zion, hike amid the surreal hoodoos in Bryce and watch the sunset through Delicate Arch.
DAY 1 – Join trip Las Vegas
Our trip begins in Las Vegas, a name that conjures up images of flashing lights, wedding chapels, slot machines and limousines – you will find all of this and so much more in this decadent, sense assaulting metropolis.
DAY 2 – Drive Route 66 to Grand Canyon
You will meet with your Explore Leader after breakfast this morning for the initial tour briefing before we leave behind the bright lights of Vegas and drive towards the, aptly named, Grand Canyon. We will travel today along Historic Route 66, one of the most well known driving routes in the world and one of the original highways within the US Highway system. Well documented in songs and television programmes we will travel this historic route, stopping for lunch in the quirky Route 66 themed, Seligman before continuing on to the first of our National Parks, the Grand Canyon. Late afternoon we will first take in the grandeur of this magnificent fissure with a walk along the rim from the to Yavapai Point.
Today’s four and half kilometre hike is expected to take around one hour along a flat route.
DAY 3 – Full days hiking at the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon National Park is a sight to behold. A unique combination of geologic colour and eroded forms make this massive fissure in the ground one of the ‘must see’ sights of America. At 446 km long, up to 29 km wide in places and 1.8k m deep, the sheer size of the Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses. We have a full day to explore the routes and trails around the South Rim of the canyon. With routes ranging from easy to strenuous and regular buses to drop you at the various trail heads you will have the opportunity to choose the walk that most suites you.
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 evening, if you wish to see more of the canyon, there is the opportunity for an optional helicopter ride over the canyon or, if you prefer to keep your feet on the ground to visit the local IMAX theatre.
DAY 4 – Drive to Zion National Park via Page; hike Watchmans Trail
Leaving the south rim this morning we travel to Page, a small town in northern Arizona situated on the shores of magnificent Lake Powell. After a short break for lunch we will continue for our first short hike of the day at Horseshoe Bend. The trailhead is located just outside Page and overlooks one of the most spectacular views on the Colorado River. Created when the Colorado plateau uplifted ( a mere five million years ago) and the river became trapped in its bed, causing it to cut its way through the rock to seek a new natural level and forming a 270 degree horseshoe-shaped bend in the canyon.
After our short hike at Horseshoe Bend we continue to Springdale and Zion National Park. The main area of the national park that we will visit is Zion Canyon, a 24km rift in the beautiful red and tan coloured Navajo sandstone and the location for our hiking this afternoon and tomorrow. Our first visit into the park takes us 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.
Today’s two-and-a-half kilometre morning hike to Horsehoe bend is expected to take around one hour with 240 metres of ascent and descent. The afternoon hike in Zion is three-and-a-half kilometres, taking approximatley two hours with 170 metres of ascent and descent.
DAY 5 – Hike Angel’s Landing and/or Emerald Pools
Taking the shuttle bus from Springdale today we enter Zion for a full day of exceptional hiking. Zion National Park is the showcase of the west with, what are known as, the best hikes in Utah located inside. For those with a head for heights, the magnificent Angels Landing trail will offer you some of the best views across the whole of the Zion Canyon. Starting with 21 steep switch backs known as Walter’s Wiggles, the route takes you first to Scout Lookout – a point with some great views and a turnaround for those that tend not to want to continue the more strenuous ascent. From here the route takes narrow paths, with some steep drop offs and chains provided for portions of the last 800 metres to the 1,760 metres at the top. For those inclined to continue to the top, you are rewarded with some of the most spectacular views and a definite sense of achievement. The whole of the Zion Canyon and beyond opens up beneath you and you truly feel on top of the world.
Pending weather conditions, an alternative and beautiful trail is a moderate hike to the Emerald Pools – lower, middle and upper – that offer us waterfalls, misty trails, hanging gardens and winding paths along with a taste of the beauty that Zion National Park has to offer.
Today’s nine kilometre hike to Angels Landing is expected to take around five hours with 440 metres of ascent and descent.
DAY 6 – Drive to Bryce Canyon; hiking in the National Park
Departing from Springdale this morning we continue through Utah to Bryce Canyon. Not actually a true canyon, but a series of natural amphitheatres, Bryce is distinctive due to its geological structures known as ‘hoodoos’. These unusual structures are formed by a combination of frost and water erosion of sedimentary rocks and result in an ‘other worldly’ landscape of pinnacles, spires and wonderful rich colours that are not seen in such abundance in any other area. Our hiking this afternoon takes us down amongst these wonderful formations on an assortment of trails which interlock and cross over giving you the opportunity to make your walk as long or short as you like.
DAY 7 – Sunrise at Bryce Canyon; drive to Moab; hike Devils Garden
This morning you have the option to return to Bryce Canyon for a walk at sunrise. Given the nature and colour of the hoodoos in Bryce, one of the most stunning times to see them is when the sun exaggerates the golds, oranges and reds of the stones. Our journey then takes us on to Moab, the adventure capital of Utah and home to both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Arches National Park has over 2,000 natural stone arches as well as soaring pinnacles, giant balanced rocks and winding hiking trails. This afternoon we make our first visit to Arches with a hike into Devil’s Garden to view one of the world’s longest natural arches, Landscape Arch. As we continue along this primative trail across fins of sandstone, we are afforded unparaleled views into this maze of rock slabs.
Today’s seven-and-a-half kilometre hike is expected to take around three hours with 120 metres of ascent and descent.
DAY 8 – Hike Fisher Towers; Sunset at Delicate Arch
We take a moderate hike this morning to the Fisher Towers site, a short drive outside Moab. These rock pinnacles are isolated remnants of a 225 million year old floodplain deposit located in western Colorado. When the Colorado plateau lifted the salt deposits underlying the region buckled and collapsed and subsequent erosion caused the formation valleys and cliff escarpments. Now these rock pinnacles soar above the red and purple hued canyons below and are a favourite spot for hikers in the area. Mid-day is left free to to discover more of the townsite around lunch time.
Set in slick rock country, Moab attracts thrill seekers from around the globe. Late this afternoon we will once again visit Arches and take a hike to the most iconic area of the park, Delicate Arch. 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.
Today’s seven kilometre morning hike to Fisher Towers is expected to take around four hours with 550 metres of ascent and descent. The afternoon hike to Delicate Arch is five kilometres, taking approximatley two hours with 170 metres of ascent and descent.
DAY 9 – Morning hike in Canyonlands, drive Salt Lake City
This morning we visit the last of our National Parks on this trip, Canyonlands. 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. Our hikes this morning take us 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 before hiking on to the Grand View Point, aptly named for its beautiful panoramic views of the region. After a picnic lunch we return to our vehicle and drive to Salt Lake City. The capital and most populated city in Utah is bordered by the waters of the Great Salt Lake and the snow – capped peaks of the Wasatch Range. It is home to the headquarters of the Mormon Church at Temple Square where you will find the majestic 19th Century Salt Lake Temple and the neo-Gothic Assembly Hall.
Today’s four-and-a-half kilometer hike is expected to take around two-and-a- half hours along a flat route.
DAY 10 – Trip ends Salt Lake City
Trip ends in Salt Lake City this morning, transfer to airport.
For the camping itineraries, all camping equipment is provided except a sleeping bag. Like many adventures of this type, much of the team spirit and camaraderie is developed through mucking in and helping out with basic camp responsibilities. This will include the setting up and taking down of your tent, the loading and unloading of the trailer, meal preparation, washing and clearing up. There are communal toilet and shower blocks, some of the campsite will have laundry facilities.
Be prepared for some early starts and some long days – there is an enormous amount to see!
Please note, prices listed are guide prices only and are based on 2 people sharing and don’t include any additional supplements. Holiday prices are fluid and dynamic and may be changed at a moment’s notice, prior to booking, at which point they are confirmed. Please call the team free on 0800 707 6229 for more departure dates available and a quote.
Please call us free on 0800 707 6229 for pricing and availability
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