USA

Western National Parks USA

This is the Big One for outdoor active families! Taking in many of America’s top national parks you will travel from the mind-boggling man-made sights of Las Vegas through some mind-blowing natural sites to end in the Grand Daddy of all parks, Yellowstone. As well as hiking, riding and ‘slot canyoning’ you will enjoy a really fabulous three-day canoeing trip along the Green River. This entails camping overnight at beach locations on the riverbanks and stretching your legs on easy walks into the surrounding mountains. Both routes then converge at the Green River for your exciting rafting trip before continuing to Grand Teton and Yellowstone.

Please note there are two variations for days 4-7. One option is to head east through the mesmerising landscapes of Monument Valley to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Alternatively you can take a more westerly route through Antelope Canyon to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. Both routes then converge at the Green River for your exciting rafting trip.

Highlights

  Sunrise over the Grand Canyon
  The neon lights of Las Vegas
  Hike USA’s greatest national parks
  Green River rafting trip
  Grand Teton on horseback
  Yellowstone geysers and bears

17 days from £1,700 pp

Plus international flights from £600pp

A two-week holiday for a family of four to the USA will usually cost a minimum of around £6,000, plus flights and ESTAs, depending on the type of accommodation.

View pricing guide

Western National Parks USA day-to-day itinerary

Day 1 Las Vegas
Arrive in Las Vegas, that most iconic of American cities. Pick up your rental car and head downtown to enjoy an afternoon of excess in the city! Stroll the neon-lit Las Vegas strip, watch the acts at Circus Circus and take in an OTT illusion and magic show.


Days 2-3 Grand Canyon
Head east to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, even the youngest travellers will not fail to be impressed by its size and meandering switchback canyons.

You have two nights at the Grand Canyon. During the day you can either choose to drive along Desert View Drive with its numerous viewpoints or follow one of the trails into the canyon. There are a number of different options which you may want to choose depending on how hot it is. The South Kaibab trail which takes you down into the Canyon is excellent but there is not much shade so you would want to rise early for this. The 13 mile Rim trail is also superb with shuttle bus options at various points.

Alternatively take to the skies and splurge on an unforgettable helicopter ride. Whatever option you choose, do get up early one morning to watch a mesmerising sunrise over the Colorado River snaking its way through the canyon.

Option A – the Eastern Route (Monument Valley, Canyonlands & Arches)

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Day 4 Monument Valley
Head east to Monument Valley. This spectacular landscape has been made famous in numerous movies. Once you view the dramatic red mesas and sandstone buttes you will understand why. A budding photographer’s dream, the deep, bright colours of the rocks and cliffs are ever-changing from dawn to dusk.

This afternoon you can explore Monument Valley itself in your own vehicle by taking the two-hour, 17 mile Valley of the Gods Road that forms a scenic loop. The area is part of the Navajo Tribal Park and we can include a guided tour with a Navajo guide. They will point out the different rock formations from Navajo legends, described as ancient warriors frozen in time.


Days 5-6 Canyonlands National Park
Take a leisurely drive north towards Moab then spend the next few days exploring some of America’s most scenic national parks. Canyonlands is Utah’s answer to the Grand Canyon. It is carved out of the Colorado Plateau and is a landscape of mesas, deep-river gorges and, of course, canyons. The Island in the Sky area offers breath-taking viewpoints over the canyons below as well as several child-friendly hiking trails. View the famous Mesa Arch, Upheaval Dome and the steep switchbacks of Shafer Canyon.

If you are interested we can arrange a morning ride at the Hauer Ranch. This is a stunning property that has been used as a backdrop for a number of films because of its classic American west landscape. Sandstone formations, towering cliffs, broad vistas and the Colorado River set the stage for the quintessential cowboy movie.

Alternatively spend the day in the beautiful and little visited Manti-La Sal Forest with its deep sandstone canyons, mountaintops, meadows, lakes, and streams.


Day 7, Arches National Park
Bend over backwards to visit this national park – a real stunner with over 2,000 rock arches created by the force of nature. Many of the arches can be viewed from the car but we recommend donning hiking boots for a more up close and personal experience (start early to avoid the heat of the day).

One trail that is popular with families is the Professor Creek Trail, which is around 7 miles. The hike takes you through a canyon to an impressive waterfall and involves lots of water crossings (depending on water levels) which keeps the children interested.


Day 8, Vernal
Today you will take a leisurely drive north to Vernal. Stop along the way in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area where you can enjoy a picnic amidst the salt brush desert and dramatic red rock formations found here. Arrive in the small town of Vernal ready for an evening briefing about your exciting three-day rafting trip.

Please note the minimum age during the summer months for this particular route is 7yrs (12yrs at high water over Easter). However, there are other routes, including a one-day trip, with a minimum age of 4yrs – please discuss the options with us to source the best rafting trip for your family.


Days 9-11 Rafting the Green River
The Green River cuts a swathe through Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, passing through some of North America’s most dramatic mountain scenery. The most spectacular section is in Dinosaur National Monument. Here the river runs between impressive red rock cliffs, curves around remote rocky beaches and takes you deep into a landscape that is difficult to access except by boat.

You will be travelling by raft and canoe, with a mixture of white-water rafting and gentle floating. Paddle – and scream – your way through such aptly-named rapids as Disaster Falls, Hell’s Half Mile and Whirlpool Canyon. Stop along the way to hike up into the mountains for spectacular views over the surrounding landscape and the river below. Try your hand at fishing and spot mountain sheep scurrying between the Douglas Fir on the ledges of the canyon rim above.

At night you will camp out on the beach, dining around the camp-fire. The area is very rarely visited and aside from your group of fellow paddlers, there is seldom anyone else around. This is a beautiful way to explore America’s natural beauty and a lovely change of both pace and setting as you switch the road for the river.

In the afternoon of Day 11 you will arrive back into Vernal and spend the night here. If you can summon up the energy, head off on a dinosaur spotting hunt through the town, known as the capital of Utah’s ‘Dinosaurland’.


Days 12-13 Grand Teton National Park
This fabulous national park is a wonderful contrast to all the sandstone scenery you have travelled through. Swap rock arches and desert for glacial lakes and craggy, alpine peaks.

Take an afternoon horse-ride beneath the towering peaks or a guided bike ride across either the ‘Paved Pathway’ or the sagebrush flats (child bikes, trailers and tag-alongs available). Enjoy a stunning sunset as the pink light of dusk hits the peaks and spot the wildlife the park is renowned for, including bison, bear and pronghorn.


Days 14-16, Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is America’s oldest, a grand flagship for national parks. It is vast, nearly 3,500 square miles of absolute wilderness in an area of high volcanic activity. Here you find geysers spouting steam, dramatic canyons, lush forests, brightly coloured hot springs and bubbling geothermal pools. There is also prolific wildlife, including bears, coyotes, bison, moose, eagles and bighorn sheep. A road traverses the park in a giant figure of eight, allowing you easy access to all the main highlights. That said, please be aware that this road is very popular in peak season so escaping into the backcountry is highly recommended.

There is a huge variety of activities for families – not just hiking. Kids will gasp in awe at the boiling mud pools, hissing steam vents and brightly coloured hot springs, as well as the exploding geysers – eruptions guaranteed! Easily accessible walkways are manageable for even the youngest of visitors. Hop on a horse, hire a bike or if you are missing the water, take a canoe or kayak out on Yellowstone Lake. Younger ones will enjoy white water rafting Yellowstone River whilst older ones can tackle the rapids of Snake River. Spot both black and grizzly bear, wolves and elk along the way.

However, we strongly recommend donning those hiking boots and following some of the 900 trails during your time here. Go beyond Old Faithful and take the easy 4-mile boardwalk trail, a constant series of geysers and hot springs a useful distraction for reluctant walkers. Even the youngest hiker will manage the 1 mile round trip to Wraith Falls and older ones might like to climb Mount Washburn (475m). This offers far-reaching views from the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone to the Tetons. Consider booking a private hiking guide for at least one day, which will allow you access to more remote and quieter sections of the park.

Note that the accommodation in Yellowstone books up a long way in advance so we may need to hunt around a bit for availability.


Day 17 Depart
Return your rental car to the nearest airport to connect with your flight home.


Option B – the Western Route (Antelope Canyon, Zion & Bryce Canyon)

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Day 4 Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon is located within the Navajo Nation’s Tribal Reservation – part of Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park. A photographer’s dream, this ‘slot canyon’ is renowned for its photogenic wave-like winding walls. Here, shafts of sunshine create a mesmerising, surreal effect on the red-hued sandstone rock sculptures.

Independent exploration is not permitted so we recommend a Navajo guided tour. This enables you to not only learn about the geology and rock art of the area but also listen to Native American stories, regaled in a stunning natural environment.


Days 5-6 Zion National Park
Time to get those hiking boots on kids! Zion National Park does not permit self-drive on most of the roads so why not take advantage of the shuttle bus service which will drop you off at the numerous trailheads. This means you can enjoy the yellow and red sandstone canyons, lush hanging gardens tumbling from the cliff walls and the sparkling rivers and waterfalls at their best.

There are paved trails accessible to buggies and toddlers but families with older children might like to take on the Zion Narrows Hike. This is up a river – cue endless opportunities for cooling off by splashing parents at will. Biking options include the easy Pa’rus Trail through Zion Canyon. Early starts are essential – it can get super hot here so take advantage of the numerous opportunities to swim (or tube) in the Virginia River.


Day 7 Bryce Canyon National Park
‘Who do canyons? We do!’. The colourful ‘hoodoo’ rock spires, high desert floor and layered plateau of Bryce Canyon provide a healthy contrast to the canyons and forested mountains of Zion. Being at a higher altitude, slightly slower temperatures create a more child-friendly hiking environment too. Alternatively, the kids might enjoy the 18-mile Bryce Canyon scenic drive with its numerous lookouts and picnic spots…

In the summer evenings, there is the chance to watch the bucking broncos and wranglers entertain you at a country rodeo near the entrance to the park.  Yes, we know it’s touristy but why not embrace the inner cowboy in you – yee-haw!


Day 8, Vernal
Today you will take a leisurely drive north to Vernal. Stop along the way in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area where you can enjoy a picnic amidst the salt brush desert and dramatic red rock formations found here. Arrive in the small town of Vernal ready for an evening briefing about your exciting three-day rafting trip.

Please note the minimum age during the summer months for this particular route is 7yrs (12yrs at high water over Easter). However, there are other routes, including a one-day trip, with a minimum age of 4yrs – please discuss the options with us to source the best rafting trip for your family.


Days 9-11 Rafting the Green River
The Green River cuts a swathe through Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, passing through some of North America’s most dramatic mountain scenery. The most spectacular section is in Dinosaur National Monument. Here the river runs between impressive red rock cliffs, curves around remote rocky beaches and takes you deep into a landscape that is difficult to access except by boat.

You will be travelling by raft and canoe, with a mixture of white-water rafting and gentle floating. Paddle – and scream – your way through such aptly-named rapids as Disaster Falls, Hell’s Half Mile and Whirlpool Canyon. Stop along the way to hike up into the mountains for spectacular views over the surrounding landscape and the river below. Try your hand at fishing and spot mountain sheep scurrying between the Douglas Fir on the ledges of the canyon rim above.

At night you will camp out on the beach, sitting around the camp-fire. The area is very little visited and aside from your group of fellow paddlers, there is seldom anyone else around. This is a beautiful way to explore America’s natural beauty and a lovely change of both pace and setting as you switch the road for the river.

In the afternoon of Day 11 you will arrive back into Vernal and spend the night here. If you can summon up the energy, head off on a dinosaur spotting hunt through the town, known as the capital of Utah’s ‘Dinosaurland’.


Days 12-13 Grand Teton National Park
This fabulous national park is a wonderful contrast to all the sandstone scenery you have travelled through. Swap rock arches and desert for glacial lakes and craggy, alpine peaks.

Take an afternoon horse-ride beneath the towering peaks or a guided bike ride across either the ‘Paved Pathway’ or the sagebrush flats (child bikes, trailers and tag-alongs available). Enjoy a stunning sunset as the pink light of dusk hits the peaks and spot the wildlife the park is renowned for, including bison, bear and pronghorn.


Days 14-16, Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is America’s oldest, a grand flagship for national parks. It is vast, nearly 3,500 square miles of absolute wilderness in an area of high volcanic activity. Here you find geysers spouting steam, dramatic canyons, lush forests, brightly coloured hot springs and bubbling geothermal pools. There is also prolific wildlife, including bears, coyotes, bison, moose, eagles and bighorn sheep. A road traverses the park in a giant figure of eight, allowing you easy access to all the main highlights. That said, please be aware that this road is very popular in peak season so escaping into back country is highly recommended.

There is a huge variety of activities for families – not just hiking. Kids will gasp in awe at the boiling mud pools, hissing steam vents and brightly coloured hot springs, as well as the exploding geysers – eruptions guaranteed! Easily accessible walkways are manageable for even the youngest of visitors. Hop on a horse, hire a bike or if you are missing the water, take a canoe or kayak out on Yellowstone Lake. Younger ones will enjoy white water rafting Yellowstone River whilst older ones can tackle the rapids of Snake River. Spot both black and grizzly bear, wolves and elk along the way.

However, we strongly recommend donning those hiking boots and following some of the 900 trails during your time here. Go beyond Old Faithful and take the easy 4-mile boardwalk trail, a constant series of geysers and hot springs a useful distraction for reluctant walkers. Even the youngest hiker will manage the 1 mile round trip to Wraith Falls and older ones might like to climb Mount Washburn (475m). This offers far-reaching views from the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone to the Tetons. Consider booking a private hiking guide for at least one day, which will allow you access to more remote and quieter sections of the park.

Note that the accommodation in Yellowstone books up a long way in advance so we may need to hunt around a bit for availability.


Day 17 Depart
Return your rental car to the nearest airport to connect with your flight home.

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Call us and we will be happy to provide you with a free-of-charge no obligation itinerary and quotation designed for you.

01728 752751

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