Like almost all our tours, this is a small group trip. The vehicle used generally has between nine and 14 seats. Our guides are skilled in the geology, customs, traditions, history and people of the areas through which you travel – feel free to ask all and any questions!
We will travel north up Interstate 15, leaving Las Vegas and its bright lights behind. You may be surprised to learn that Las Vegas is actually in the middle of a desert, which we come to as soon as we depart town.
After passing through the small casino town of Mesquite, on the Nevada Arizona border, we cross into the desolate Arizona Strip, before heading up the Virgin River Gorge and into Utah. Much of the route is scenic, and we may stop briefly in the Gorge to take pictures. There will be a comfort stop at either the small southern Utah town of St. George, or the even smaller one of Hurricane.
The Interstate is left behind just outside St. George, at the turn off to the small town of Hurricane, as we travel through really picturesque scenery, and a number of tiny towns, on the way to Zion National Park.
You can now extend your tour by spending a night or two in Springdale, which is literally right outside Zion. There is a free shuttle system that will take you into the park. You can order this Zion extension when you check out, although we do not recommend extending at Zion unless the shuttle is running, which is generally from the middle of March to the third week of October. If you extend at Zion, you will carry on with the rest of the tour the next day.
The trip continues as normal for those who are not extending at Zion.
We tour through Zion on the way to Bryce Canyon, taking a leisurely drive through the park, stopping frequently to take photographs and enjoy the scenery. Zion's story is one of rock and water, with plenty of both to be seen. The relatively soft and porous Navajo Sandstone is often layered over impregnable Kayenta Shale, and the interaction of this rock with the water has created myriad amazing shapes and patterns.
The road goes past the Great Arch of Zion, which is a natural photo stop, before proceeding up a series of switchbacks and through an incredible tunnel that has been blasted into the rocks. On the other side of the tunnel we will come across striking rock formations, with trees actually growing in the rocks, and will see how massive sand dunes have been cemented into rock over the millennia. With any luck we may view some big horn sheep on the way.
We'll leave the park at the less traveled east exit, which most visitors don't even get to see.
As we traveled through Zion we climbed up to the top of a plateau, and we'll now drop down a little, through the pygmy forests of southern Utah, prior to climbing up again to Bryce. The road to Bryce is a particularly scenic one, through picturesque, rural countryside, first next to the Virgin River, and then alongside the Sevier River.
Bryce Canyon is situated at altitude, at over 8000 feet (almost 2500 metres), and it can be cold, even though Vegas and Zion are hot. Please check the weather forecast before you leave and bring appropriate clothing.
Many who have seen both Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon tell us that Bryce is far more spectacular. You will marvel at the weirdly shaped hoodoos, in an amazing array of colorful hues. Bryce is not really a canyon, but a large amphitheater carved out of a variety of rock types. You will be taken to the three main overlooks, and will have time to walk around and explore these.
Feel free to spend an extra night or two just outside Bryce Canyon, at Bryce View Lodge. Please order this option when you check out, and note that it is subject to availability. If you do choose to extend at Bryce Canyon, you will continue with the regular tour after your extension.
There is a free shuttle that runs from a location that is a couple of hundred yards from Bryce View Lodge, into the park and around much of Bryce. Please be aware that this is a seasonal shuttle, which generally runs from the end of April to the end of September, although this is subject to change. We do not recommend extending at Bryce if the free shuttle is not running, as it will be difficult to get around.
You will carry on with the scheduled tour if you do not want to stay a little longer at Bryce.
It's time to leave Bryce, and travel to Page, on the shores of Lake Powell. The road goes through the small southern Utah town of Kanab - the scene of many western movies - before passing alongside the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
Lake Powell comes into view from time to time as we approach Page, and, if we have time, we will take a little known trail to an overlook, to admire the views of the spectacular golden canyons partially submerged beneath the blue waters.
Time permitting once again, we will stop at the Glen Canyon Dam Wall to peer over the sides down to the canyon far below.
In the summer months, after checking in at your hotel, we invite you to join our guide for a hike to Horseshoe Bend. When there is less daylight we may do Horseshoe Bend some other time.
Horseshoe Bend is one of the west's best kept secrets. The hike there is about 20 minutes each way, up and down a hill, and at times the ground below is made up of loose sand. The views of the Colorado River far below, seen through the precipitous canyon walls, are spectacular.
You are on your own for dinner. Remember that tomorrow morning there is a free breakfast included in the tour price.
You will be touring Antelope Canyon, in a specially converted off road vehicle, led by a Navajo guide.
Antelope Canyon is one of the most striking slot canyons known to man. A slot canyon is a narrow canyon sliced through a mesa by the forces of nature. Some canyons measure less than a yard across at the top, but drop a hundred feet or more from the rim to the bottom. Slots are cut and scoured by water and wind, with the striations of the sandstone becoming almost incandescent.
From within you will see a palette of colors transmuted by light filtering down from above and bouncing from wall to wall. Antelope Canyon can only be visited using the services of an authorized Navajo Nation guide.
Leaving Page we head east, across the Navajo Reservation. Every now and again you will see small Indian dwellings scattered across the harsh landscape.
As we approach the tiny Navajo town of Kayenta, the mesas and buttes for which the area is so well known start coming into view. Soon you can just about picture yourself in a scene from an old Western movie as we travel towards Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, as it is officially known.
Up next is a tour of Monument Valley, conducted by a Navajo guide, in an off road vehicle. Visitors love to see the buttes, mesas and other sandstone formations that are so prevalent in the Monument Valley area. Monument Valley is actually not really a valley at all, but a relatively flat plain surrounded by red cliffs, with the buttes, as well as the remnants of ancient volcanoes, towering from the earth.
For fans of old western movies, Monument Valley is the epicenter of the west, with many great cowboys and Indians films having been shot in the area. The familiar rock shapes can be seen from many miles away, with the really great scenery to be seen on the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, which straddles the Utah/Arizona border.
Amongst the sites that your tour may take in are movie locations, 1000 foot monoliths, rug weaving, and, of course, the famous monuments are visited.
There are some great viewpoints here, but the main area of interest is to be found down an easy stroll, to an overlook of some ancient cliff dwellings. Note that the trail slopes slightly downhill getting there, and is a little uphill on the way back. The total distance is about one mile (1.6 km) round trip. If you choose not to go, you can explore the interesting Visitor Centre and souvenir area.
At the end of the trail you will be able to gaze across the canyon to the Betatakin cliff dwellings, which were built in the middle of the 13th century. The alcove in which these were built is one of the biggest to be found anywhere. These dwellings were at one time home to the Ancestral Puebloan People, predecessors of today's Native Americans.
We will now travel along a dirt road to the Shonto Trading Post. Shonto is only visited during the summer months, and also only when the dirt road is in good condition, with no prospect of rain or flooding. When we do not stop at Shonto, we will go straight from Navajo National Monument to Page.
This is an authentic, Navajo owned trading post, unlike the large commercial ones you will find around the southwest. You will meet and talk to Navajo people at the trading post, and also be able to look at and buy handcraft that is made by people living on the Reservation. The rugs are particularly attractive, and are a traditional Navajo item.
The road from Page to the Grand Canyon drops down from a high plateau to the Navajo Nation land below. On the way we will pause to take in the views at a place where local Navajos sell their wares. After driving through the desert we pass the Cameron Trading Post, one of the best purveyors of southwestern souvenirs and native American art and jewelry. If there is time we may stop here briefly, before climbing up to the Coconino Plateau.
The first major stop is the Desert View Watchtower, a unique building designed by the legendary architect, Mary Colter, using rocks brought up from the bottom of the Canyon. The inside of the tower is full of artwork by Hopi (Indian) artists. Some of the best views of the canyon are right here.
We will take a leisurely drive from the east entrance over to Bright Angel Lodge, where the hotels, shops and restaurants are. On the way there will be several stops at some of the vantage points. At Bright Angel Lodge you can stroll around the Canyon, take pictures, admire the views, buy souvenirs, or get something to eat.
Day 3 - Grand Canyon helicopter tour - About half an hour
A tiny town called Tusayan borders the Grand Canyon, and the small local airport is just to the south of Tusayan. We will stop there to allow those of you who want to take an optional helicopter tour to do so.
Although expensive, a helicopter is a great way to see as much of the Grand Canyon as possible, in a short period of time. You fly over the deepest and widest parts of the Grand Canyon, through the Dragon Corridor, and on to the North Rim, where you can view the geological differences between the two rims. On the way back to the South Rim you will take in breathtaking views of temples, shrines and other rock formations. The tour must be ordered ahead of time, preferably when you order the main tour itself.
There are times when adverse weather conditions prevent the tour from taking place. Should this happen, you will get a full refund. If you choose not to do the helicopter tour, you will have the opportunity to explore Tusayan, and do some more shopping or eating.
We head south out of the Grand Canyon, and at the small town of Williams we pick up the freeway west, until we get to the town of Kingman, in the middle of the desert. After a comfort stop we will travel north, towards Hoover Dam.
A new bridge was built over the Colorado River in October 2010, bypassing Hoover Dam. Because of this some tours will not stop to take pictures of the dam. If this is important to you, please check with us first to see what the chances are of your tour visiting Hoover Dam.
The fight from Vegas to Salt Lake is included in the tour price, and takes about an hour. After you land at the Salt Lake airport a shuttle will take you to your downtown hotel. Unless they are sold out, we use the Crystal Inn, where there is a good, free, hot breakfast buffet tomorrow morning.
You will take a shuttle through northern Utah, into Idaho, and eventually Montana, before arriving in West Yellowstone. There are stops at several towns along the way. The vehicle is generally a mini bus.
Please note that today is an unescorted part of the tour. What this means is that although you obviously have a bus driver with you at all times, there is no tour guide providing a running commentary the way there is when you are in Yellowstone.
When you reach West Yellowstone, you will be taken to Yellowstone Motel, where you will be staying. After checking in you can explore the town, take a walk through the forest into Yellowstone, go to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center (a must see) or check out a movie at the IMAX.
There is going to be a lot to see and do. We'll head out of West Yellowstone towards Madison Junction, where the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers meet to form the Madison River. Turning left (north) we'll make for Norris Geyser Basin. Along the way we'll stop briefly at Gibbon Falls.
Although not as well known as the other geyser basins, Norris is the most thermally active part of Yellowstone. It is divided into two separate areas: Porcelain Basin and Back Basin.
The next stop is Mammoth Hot Springs, headquarters of the park, and home to a fascinating array of weird rock shapes, bright colors and sizzling hot springs. Elk are generally plentiful in this area, wandering around the old park buildings, and, if you're lucky, you might even see a whole herd.
You can stroll through the ever changing terraces at Mammoth, admiring the travertine creations and hot springs.
Leaving Mammoth we will travel towards Tower Roosevelt, which is where the road to the park's north east entrance, through the Lamar Valley, is. There is almost always wildlife to be seen in this area, even bears!
At Tower Junction we will branch off the main upper loop road, and head through the Lamar Valley, towards the north east entrance to Yellowstone. This is a particularly beautiful part of the park, and where the keen wolf watchers are generally to be found.
Everyone wants to see a bear in the wild at Yellowstone, and the trip from Tower Junction to Tower Falls is one of the best places to do so. The spring can be a great time to go looking for bears, as you have the opportunity of seeing mothers with their new born cubs. Tower Falls is an impressive water fall.
Assuming that it is open, the road from Tower Falls to Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone towers up into the sky as it crosses the Dunraven Pass at almost 9000 feet. We then drop down to Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is normally visited on our Lower Yellowstone Loop tour, and not this tour. Depending on the number of people on this tour who have not seen it, and how late it is, we may take the opportunity of checking out the area. The Yellowstone River has carved an impressive canyon through the rocks, over which two falls drop. The Lower Falls is over twice the size of Niagara Falls! It is in this area that you can catch a glimpse of the yellowish tinge to the rocks, from which the Yellowstone River got its name, but at a different location. We'll check out the canyon and falls from a number of different locations. You get so close to the Upper Falls that you almost feel like you can reach out and touch the thundering water. Don't!
If there is time, other areas along the route that we may visit include Obsidian Cliff, Virginia Cascade and Undine Falls.
After a long, fun-filled day, it is time to return to West Yellowstone.
You are on your own for dinner and will spend the night in the same place.
The roads running through Yellowstone make up a massive figure of eight. The lower loop of the figure of eight comprises most of the thermal features that are to be seen in Yellowstone, including, of course, Old Faithful!
From West Yellowstone we'll follow the Madison River to Madison Junction. At Madison Junction we will turn right, or south, and travel along the Firehole River which runs through Yellowstone's thermal areas. The Firehole is famous amongst anglers for its pristine beauty and selection of brown, brook and rainbow trout. Depending on the time of the year, this area is often teeming with wildlife. With any luck you will see bison, elk, Trumpeter Swans and other animals and birds. A special treat in the spring is the baby bison calves.
The first main thermal area we will be visiting is the Lower Geyser Basin, and Fountain Paint Pots. There is a boardwalk system running around and through the Fountain Paint Pots area, and it is a great place to go for a stroll, if the bison haven't got there first! Apart from the paint pots, there is also a selection of other thermal features in the area, including a number of geysers, one or other of which almost always seems to be erupting.
The next stop is the Midway Geyser Basin, home to Grand Prismatic Spring - one of the largest anywhere in the world - as well as Excelsior Geyser, now dormant, but discharging thousands of gallons of water every minute.
It is a short drive to the Upper Geyser Basin, home of Old Faithful, the world's best known and most reliable gusher. There is also so much more to the area than just Old Faithful. Old Faithful Inn, a wonderful old building - recently renovated - is located there - and a system of boardwalks will take you around the various other geysers in the area.
Yellowstone Lake is off to the east as we make the trip up to Fishing Bridge. From there we head through the Hayden Valley, following the Yellowstone River, up to Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. On the way we will pass Mud Volcano.
The Hayden Valley is known for its wildlife, particularly large herds of bison at certain times of the year. It is also an excellent location to look for grizzly bears, especially in the spring and early summer when they may be preying on newborn bison and elk cubs.
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is an unexpected treat amongst the thermal wonders. The Yellowstone River has carved an impressive canyon through the rocks, over which two falls drop. The Lower Falls is over twice the size of Niagara Falls! It is in this area that you can catch a glimpse of the yellowish tinge to the rocks, from which the Yellowstone River got its name, but at a different location. We'll check out the canyon and falls from a number of different locations. You get so close to the Upper Falls that you almost feel like you can reach out and touch the thundering water. Don't!
It is now time to go back to West Yellowstone.
Please make your own plans for dinner. The night is spent at the same place as previously.
You can now extend your stay in West Yellowstone. Instead of returning to Salt Lake City, you can stay as many extra nights in the Yellowstone area as you choose. Simply order that option on check out. After spending extra time in West Yellowstone, you will then travel back to Salt Lake.
If you don't stay longer in Yellowstone, you will continue with the regular tour.
The ride back to Salt Lake City is on a shuttle which makes several stops along the way. You will drive through Montana, before crossing into Idaho, and then eventually on to Utah. Please note that today is an unescorted part of the tour. What this means is that although you obviously have a bus driver with you at all times, there is no tour guide providing a running commentary the way there was when you were in Yellowstone.
The shuttle drops off either at the Salt Lake City airport or at a central downtown location. Please let us know if we can help you book your Salt Lake City lodging tonight.
We regret that no cancellations or changes will be accepted, and no refunds will be given.
Payment And Cancellation Details: CANCELLATIONS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED FOR THIS TOUR. Changes will also not be accepted, and refunds will not be given. Please consider purchasing trip insurance as our cancellation policy is strictly enforced. The payment schedule is as follows: This tour has at least one air leg. The cost of the flights, plus half of the remaining balance will be charged any time from when you make the booking. The final balance will be charged 30 or fewer days from the tour date, at our discretion.
The credit/debit card used must be in your name and must be present, so we can take an imprint. Please contact us if this is not possible. Please ensure you have the card you used with you. If the card is not in your name please let us know ahead of time, as our credit card authorization process will need to be completed.
A purported or attempted cancellation will result in the entire amount being due, and being charged to your card immediately.
The name on your credit card statement will be USA Park Tours.
The days and dates this tour runs can be seen in the calendar at the top right of this page.
The entry fees to all parks are included.
Six nights' lodging are included: Two nights at the Quality Inn in Page or similar; one night at the downtown Crystal Inn in Salt Lake City; three nights at Yellowstone Self Catering Lodging. If lodging there is sold out, you will stay at a moderate category motel in West Yellowstone.
Vehicles are mini buses or executive vans, which are vans with individual, high back, reclining seats.
If you extend your stay at Zion, on some days the tour will start at the Las Vegas airport, from where you will take a shuttle to St. George. At St. George you will take a pre-paid taxi to Zion. There will be a short wait from the shuttle drop off time to the time the taxi departs. At the end of your extension in Zion, one of our small group vehicles will pick you up to continue your tour.
The upper loop tour may be an afternoon tour.
All times are approximate. We are not responsible for the consequences of any delays, and this itinerary may change without notice.
Prices are based on double occupancy. Single, triple and quad rates are also available, and can be seen on check out. There are no taxes.
After ordering this tour please wait to receive a confirmation email from us before making any plans that are dependent on this tour.
The price includes the services of a guide/driver and transportation.
A minimum of two people may be required for a tour to depart. That is not two in your group, but a total of two.
Pick ups in Las Vegas take place on the Strip. If you are staying elsewhere please take a bus or taxi and you will be reimbursed a maximum of $10 against the receipt. The tour drops off at the Salt Lake City airport and at a central downtown Salt Lake location.
The off road tours at Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon are included.
Three continental breakfasts are included, as are two sack lunches.
Portions of this tour may be subcontracted to other reputable vendors.
Please note that in the winter months snow or other bad weather may result in tour itineraries being changed without notice, or even tours being canceled in extreme weather. Should a cancellation occur the only amount we will refund is the cost of the portion of the tour that is canceled, or a refund of the entire tour price if the tour itself is canceled.