The glamour of Los Angeles and Las Vegas await you on this route through the southwest, but so too do some of the best national parks in the world. You’ll start off in the former two cities, but you’ll end up in the wild of the Grand Canyon and Yosemite—exploring the amber sunsets and boundless nature these parks have to offer—and back on the placid Californian coast to round it all off.
Grand Canyon National Park
Kings Canyon National Park
Yosemite National Park
1. Los Angeles
Your trip begins in the second largest city in the United States, and its most cinematic. Los Angeles brims with movie stars, musicians, and every character imaginable, all in a city comprised of a number of wildly disparate and colourful neighbourhoods that extend beyond the Hollywood panache. The inviting beaches of Santa Monica and Malibu, the hidden gems of Koreatown and Little Tokyo, or the luxury of Beverly Hills await you in the city of stars.
Located in northwestern Arizona, the city of Kingman is an essential stopover for you as you travel “Route 66”. It is known for its old-school charm, featuring a host of early 20th-century buildings and well-preserved classic motels, as well as a host of excellent restaurants, cafes and bars. The Route 66 Museum is essential for anybody interested in the Mother Road, depicting the historical evolution of its construction across the years.
3. Grand Canyon National Park
Put simply, your stop at the Grand Canyon National Park will be the highlight of your tour. See why nature and animal lovers, scientists, geologists and archaeologists continue to be mesmerised by the imposing beauty and splendour of this park. Your touring options are endless: a drive along the incredibly scenic South Rim, a two-day mule trip down to the bottom of the canyon, helicopter or hot-air balloon tours—take your pick.
Page is the gateway to Lake Powell and the mammoth Glen Canyon Dam that forms it. With boat trips, water sports, horseback riding, and enough hiking trails to keep you busy for days, an outdoor paradise awaits you here. Take a relaxing boat trip on the lake to see the Rainbow Bridge National Monument, the largest natural bridge in the world.
As more than a stopover to the world-famous Zion National Park, Springdale is a perfect location to breathe in Utah’s fresh air. This southwestern town hovers at an elevation of 3,937 feet, towered over by the awe-inspiring cliffs of Zion, and offers an array of art galleries, buzzing cafes and bustling streets lined with excellent restaurants.
6. Las Vegas
No matter how much you hear about Las Vegas, nothing can quite prepare you for the fabulously over-the-top mega-resorts and the dazzling neon lights of America’s fastest growing metropolis. This desert oasis also has plenty of history and off-the-beaten-track experiences to discover, especially if you wander off The Strip and into the Fremont Street Experience in the old downtown area.
Your next stop is in one of California’s many rustic towns: Ridgecrest. Begin at the excellent Maturango Museum, with exhibitions that cover the region’s history, culture, geology and archaeology, before booking a petroglyph tour of Coso Rock Art National Historic Landmark. This enormous area of desert includes Big Petroglyph and Little Petroglyph Canyon, which between them hold over 250,000 pre-Columbian rock carvings.
8. Kings Canyon National Park
The Kings Canyon National Park is a pristine stretch of wilderness in California's Sierra Nevada mountains, and stands out as another wonderful national park. This stunning landscape is dominated by the impressive Kings Canyon, a wide glacial valley featuring towering cliffs, a meandering river, lush rolling meadows and countless waterfalls. Giant sequoia trees, the Cedar Grove, and the scenic Zumwalt Meadow prepare you for Yosemite.
9. Yosemite National Park
Another highlight on your trip: the inimitable Yosemite National Park. Marvel at the towering granite cliffs and domes, the jaw-dropping waterfalls, the beautiful Tuolumne and Merced rivers, forests of massive sequoia trees and picturesque mountain meadows. While the park as whole has plenty to offer, most visitors focus their attention on the famed Yosemite Valley given its unrivalled natural beauty and spectacular wildlife.
10. San Francisco
Leave your inhibitions behind, grab your walking shoes, and sport your most outrageous outfit in preparation for the foggy and fabulous city of San Francisco. Grab your walking shoes, too: your trip is likely to include some cardio building jaunts up some dramatically steep inclines to hilltop viewpoints offering magnificent views of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Prison and Coit Tower.
11. Monterey Peninsula
Extending out into the magnificent Pacific Ocean on the central California coast, Monterey Peninsula comprises the cities of Monterey, Carmel, and Pacific Grove as well as the upmarket resort town of Pebble Beach. These locations have created an idyllic balance between laidback and glamorous, natural and urban—a perfect spot to cool down after your natural escapades.
12. Pismo Beach
A classic beach town, Pismo Beach is laden with long stretches of powdered white-sand beaches, a picturesque wooden pier, and a hefty amount of sun, sea, and surf. This charming town offers visitors a fantastic selection of exciting attractions, including the indispensable Monarch Butterfly Grove, where thousands of black and orange monarchs migrate during the winter months.
13. Santa Barbara
Your final destination on the tour may be only 100 miles from Los Angeles, but its ambience could not be more different. Santa Barbara is filled with pristine beaches, renowned wineries, and a relaxed atmosphere that affords you the kind of equable atmosphere you would expect in a Californian coastal town. Don’t miss the Spanish Mission Church, El Presidio State Historic Park, Butterfly Beach and Santa Ynez wine tasting.
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