Please be aware that local circumstances could require adjusting the schedule and/or program elements. In the event of changes, we will notify you as quickly as possible. We appreciate your understanding.
WINE SOCIAL: We'll gather in our private meeting room before dinner for a wine social to begin getting to know one another in a convivial atmosphere.Dinner: Enjoy a plated dinner in an elegant, inviting atmosphere. Meals feature traditional American and California cuisine.Evening: ORIENTATION: Back in our meeting room, we'll have introductions and then review the up-to-date schedule, discuss responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, any other administrative issues, and answer your questions.
PROGRAM OVERVIEW: Your group leader will provide an overview of the parks you’ll be exploring during this exciting new program. From mountain to desert, you’ll gain insights into the spectacular national parks of the West as we visit seven world-famous gems of American wilderness: Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Joshua Tree, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion national parks.Lodging: Hilton San Francisco Airport BayfrontMeals Included: Dinner
Yosemite is known for its majestic granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, giant Sequoia groves, and biological diversity. Two designated “Wild & Scenic Rivers” — the Tuolumne and Merced — begin in the park and flow west to the Central Valley. Yosemite Falls, one of the world's tallest, is actually made up of three separate falls: Upper Yosemite Falls (1,430 feet), the middle cascades (675 feet), and Lower Yosemite Falls (320 feet).
We’ll meet our local guide at Tunnel View, and travel on to Bridalveil Falls and Sentinel Bridge, learning about various aspects of natural and human history as we go.
At the conclusion of our first field trip, we'll take the motorcoach to check in at Yosemite Lodge, the property closest to Yosemite Falls. The main complex was redesigned with an emphasis on glass and wood detailing to blend harmoniously with its surroundings. Landscaping of indigenous trees, shrubs and wildflowers further reflect the natural beauty of Yosemite Valley.Dinner: The Yosemite Food Court offers an extensive buffet with various stations serving pastas and pizza, grilled items, salads, fruits, vegetarian and non-vegetarian entrées, desserts, and beverages.Evening: Free eveningLodging: Yosemite LodgeMeals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
PRESENTATION: We’ll be joined this evening by none other than “John Muir” who will share perspectives on his life and his love for this special Park.Dinner: Dinner in the Food Court, with its many options. Share your favorite highlights of the day with new friends.Evening: Free evening to pack up and get ready for a busy day ahead.Lodging: Yosemite LodgeMeals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
The transfer should take approximately 4 hours. We will arrive and check into our hotel in Fresno.
Dinner: We will enjoy dinner at the hotelEvening: PRESENTATION: A local expert will give you a great overview of Sequioa's history and a sneak peek preview of what is awaiting for you at the parks tomorrow!Lodging: Holiday Inn Express Fresno AirportMeals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
We’ll begin at the Kings Canyon Visitor Center in Grant Grove Village before walking to the General Grant Grove that preserves giant sequoias including the famous General Grant Tree, second largest in the world and estimated to be more than 1,600 years old. The trail is gently-graded and paved, looping one-third of a mile through the sequoia grove.
Our natural history specialist will guide us during our Kings Canyon exploration, delving into the history of the establishment of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, the re-establishment of fire in the parks and the logging history of the Giant Sequoias.
At the conclusion of the field trip, we’ll board the motorcoach and continue our journey of discovery en route to Joshua Tree National Park.Lunch: We’ll stop for lunch at the Hometown Buffet. While there's always something new to try at Hometown Buffet, you'll also find a delicious line-up of freshly prepared comfort foods. Or create your own salad…but don't forget to leave room for dessert!
Afternoon: TRANSFER: It’s a long drive from Kings Canyon National Park to Joshua Tree National Park, so for your comfort we have planned an overnight in Victorville, California, in the heart of the high desert. After checking into the hotel and having dinner and a good night's rest, we'll resume our journey to Joshua Tree tomorrow.Dinner: Dinner is in the Great American Grill at the hotel.Evening: FREE EVENING: Take a dip in the hotel pool, use the fitness room, try your hand at bowling or miniature golf in the entertainment center adjacent to hotel, or relax.Lodging: Hilton Garden InnMeals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Entering the Park at Joshua Tree Visitor Center, gain an overview of the Park as you travel along park roads. We’ll then walk along trails (paved or hard-packed sand) to see and learn about this special place shaped by forces such as strong winds, torrents of rain, and climatic extremes.
Our expert guide from the Desert Institute will lead us to specific stops based on the temperatures, but we hope to visit Keys View, the highest trail in the Park accessible by a paved road. Count on a brisk breeze (and bring your windbreaker). We'll walk along a paved quarter-mile loop with (weather permitting) scenic overlooks of valley, mountain and desert from its elevation of 5,185 feet.
Lunch: We’ll stop for a picnic lunch in Hidden Valley.Afternoon: FIELD TRIP: We'll continue the afternoon in Joshua Tree National Park, where we'll learn about the transition between the Mojave and Colorado deserts from our Desert Institute guide. Because the Park straddles the two deserts, an unusual variety of plants are found within its boundaries.
We will stop for walks along trails (locations to be determined by temperatures at the time). Our route may include the Cholla Cactus Garden, an easy quarter-mile sandy loop trail. Learn about the cholla cactus (commonly called teddy bear cholla...but don't be deceived...it certainly can sting) and other desert flora.
At the conclusion of the field trip, we’ll drive to Twentynine Palms, California. Local lore says it was so called by gold miners because of 29 palm trees surrounding an oasis. We’ll check in to our hotel.Dinner: We'll head out to dinner at the 29 Palms Inn, an outstanding restaurant noted for its fruits and vegetables picked fresh from the Inn’s own garden.Evening: EVENING PROGRAM: We'll step out into the high desert to explore the universe surrounding us and have an expert-led look at the astronomy of the desert night sky using sight, binoculars, and telescopes (provided).Lodging: Hotel 29 Palms Inn & SuitesMeals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
EXCURSION: We’ll stop briefly to walk across Navajo Steel Arch Bridge that spans the 500-foot walls of Marble Canyon. The views will take your breath away as you gaze down at the river below and the towering 800-foot walls of the surrounding Vermilion Cliffs.
We head into Utah for the beauty of "Color Country" en route to Bryce Canyon National Park where we pick up our next instructional lecturer. We'll be staying at a hotel just outside the Park and will check in upon arrival.Dinner: Dinner is in the dining room of our Inn just outside the Park.Evening: EVENING PROGRAM: Our study leader will discuss the unique geology of Bryce Canyon National Park. As the National Park Service notes, “What is Bryce Canyon? Words confound when nothing comparable exists. A cave without a ceiling? A forest of stone? Even 'canyon' is misleading since Bryce is carved by freeze-thaw cycles, not a river.”Lodging: Best Western Bryce Canyon Grand HotelMeals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
We continue hiking down into the canyon along the so-called Queen’s Trail. If you use your imagination, the many hoodoos may look like a garden, presided over by the “Queen Victoria” hoodoo that gives the trail its name. Those who prefer a less strenuous outing can view Bryce from above, walking the rim.Lunch: We'll have box lunches in the canyon.Afternoon: FIELD TRIP: Continue after lunch to view and learn more about the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon. We’ll explore Rainbow Point, where the Park stretches out before you back to the north, and the expansive view of Yovimpa Point to really appreciate the sequence of rock layers called the Grand Staircase. Different sections or steps in the Grand Staircase are named for the dominant color of rock. You’ll come away with a better understanding of the geologic forces in Bryce’s landscapes and an enhanced appreciation of its almost surreal beauty.Dinner: We’ll eat out at a popular “barn” and grill for a delicious Western dinner accompanied by cowboy music.Evening: EVENING PROGRAM: Our western entertainment will continue into the
evening.Lodging: Best Western Bryce Canyon Grand HotelMeals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
After lunch, we take go to the Zion Human History Museum for a short multi-media presentation providing an overview of the Park. Aftewards, we’ll make a short hike along the Emerald Pools trails to see the pools themselves — named for their green tint from algae — that characterize this delightful, secluded oasis.
Travel then to the Zion Park Inn to check in before dinner.Dinner: At the entrance to the Park in Springdale, we'll have dinner at Switchback. They feature artfully prepared dishes with enticing flavors of the American West, France and Italy!Evening: EVENING PROGRAM: An expert will capture the essence of Zion National Park in a presentation that will include it's extraordinary geology, and may include elements of its Anasazi history, the building of the Zion Tunnel and the plants and animals resident there, as determined by your questions and interests.Lodging: Best Western Zion Park InnMeals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
We’ll hike along the Virgin River, an easy 2 mile round trip hike on paved trails, to the spectacular Zion Narrows gorge for views of the towering, vertical rock sides of the canyon. The Narrows were carved by the river in ancient times and are today characterized by soaring walls, sandstone grottos, natural springs, and hanging gardens.
Adventure awaits you as the hike ends at the entrance of the Narrows, and you have the option to hike up the river a few hundred yards to get a feel for being inside a slot canyon. The only way up is "IN" the river! You can choose to either embark on this quite difficult hike (as you can't see the river bottom and are walking on slippery rocks and boulders), or to explore the rest of the river. A little rest time is of course an option as well.Lunch: Enjoy a box lunch in the beauty of the Park.Afternoon: FREE TIME: The afternoon is free for you to explore the Park on your own. You may want to revisit the Park visitor centers and bookstores that offer a wealth of interpretive resources. The Zion shuttle makes your exploration simple to and from the hotel.
View "Treasure of the Gods" in Zion's IMAX Theater— an original giant-screen motion picture by Academy Award Winning Director Keith Merrill. Experience the myth, magic, and drama of Zion Canyon’s history and legends, with scenes from southwest National Parks and Native American lands.Dinner: Dinner will be in a local favorite restaurant in Springdale.Evening: EVENING PROGRAM: Our expert from the Southwest Wildlife Foundation will
amaze you with his "Birds of Prey" presentation with live birds.
Lodging: Best Western Zion Park InnMeals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
ARRIVAL IN LAS VEGAS: We'll arrive by 10:30 AM local time. Our drop off point will be the McCarran Airport in Las Vegas. If you are planning to fly out of Las Vegas, be sure to book your flight departing AFTER 12:30 PM.
We trust you have enjoyed this exciting new "Exploring North America" learning adventure and will join us for other rewarding Road Scholar programs in the future. Best wishes for all your journeys!
Meals Included: Breakfast