Four Jewels: Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Yosemite & Death Valley

Witness awe-inspiring nature, grand artifacts of geography, ancient flora and unique fauna as you immerse yourself in four of California’s most stunning National Parks.
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Program No. 4352RJ
9 days
Starts at
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9 days
8 nights
24 meals
8 B 8 L 8 D
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Sierra Nevada Mountains - Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park
Best Western Plus Fresno Airport Hotel

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration: 3:30-5:00 p.m. After you have your room assignment, take your luggage to your room. Then, join us at the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Remember to bring your name-tag (sent previously). Orientation: 5:30 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. This is a Road Scholar On The Road (OTR) program. OTR journeys take participants to multiple study sites in a region with a number of overnight stays. Lectures, talks, discussions, field trips, and on-board commentary amplify the program theme. Some journeys involve great distances and may take hours, others are much shorter. The Four Jewels program is a rigorous, moving adventure in which we will be on the road every day but one, with access to rooms at the beginning and end of each day. Transportation will be via private motorcoach unless specified otherwise. For several meals on this program, we will pre-order our preferred entrées. Please see the “Notes” section for details. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, enjoy a plated meal plus water, coffee, and tea; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

Sequoia National Park, General Sherman Tree
Sierra Nevada Mountains - Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park
Best Western Plus Fresno Airport Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach. The ride is approximately 55 miles covered in about 1 1/2 hours on a curvy mountain road. Walking on paved/dirt, uneven surfaces with slight inclines. General Sherman Tree trail has steps and is about 1 mile that goes down a paved path with about a 100 foot drop to the end of the trail.

Breakfast: At the hotel, enjoy a buffet featuring an assortment of hot and cold breakfast items plus coffee, tea, assorted juices, and water.

Morning: We will depart via private motorcoach to Sequoia National Park with our on-board instructor. Sequoia National Park was established in 1890 and, now, encompasses a vertical relief of nearly 13,000 feet with the highest point in the lower 48 states, Mt. Whitney. The park is south of and contiguous with Kings Canyon National Park. The coach will travel Highway 180 through the rich farmlands of the central valley into the oak woodland foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We will enter Sequoia National Park through the Big Stump Entrance and continue to the Giant Forest Museum. The road passes through pine forests and in and out of Sequoia National Park and Sequoia National Forest. The Giant Forest Museum has exhibits that will give you an introduction to the giant sequoias and the cultural history of the area. The Sentinel Tree stands in front of the museum with easy access via a paved path. There is a large network of paved and unpaved trails surrounding the museum with sequoias scattered throughout the pine forest. Sequoias live in a mixed conifer community with many other pines growing around each tree. The size of the trunks is what differentiates the sequoias from other pines but their bark is also an indicator that it is not like the rest.

Lunch: At a scenic spot, we will enjoy a box lunch including a bottled water..

Afternoon: After lunch, we will walk through the Giant Forest Grove to the General Sherman Tree and continue to learn about giant sequoia ecology. The trail is paved and descends 1 mile with some steps to the General Sherman Tree. The trees are estimated to be 2,300-2,700 years old. The General Sherman Tree is the largest currently living tree in the world at 275 feet tall and 36 feet in diameter. You may be surprised by the size of their cones which can fit in the palm of your hand and are scattered on the ground at the base of these large trees.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, enjoy a plated dinner including entrée, rolls and butter, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverages.

Evening: We will board the motorcoach to return to Fresno. The remainder of the evening is at leisure.

Kings Canyon National Park, Roaring Falls, Zumwalt Meadows
Sierra Nevada Mountains - Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park
Best Western Plus Fresno Airport Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 175 miles, approximately 4 hours. Walking up to 1 mile; smooth, flat terrain.

Breakfast: At the hotel, enjoy a buffet with assorted toast, fresh fruit, yogurt plus fruit juice, coffee, tea, milk, and water.

Morning: For our next field trip, we will ride to the Kings Canyon Visitor Center in Grant Grove Village for a self-directed exploration to view the exhibits. We’ll then ride to the General Grant Tree. Named for General Ulysses S. Grant, this giant sequoia is only second in trunk volume to the General Sherman. A relative of the coastal redwood — several of which rank among the tallest trees on Earth — giant sequoias can reach a height of well over 200 feet and can live several thousand years. The General Grant Tree is estimated to be close to 1,700 years old. During an expert-led exploration, we’ll learn about the ecology and natural history of these tree communities, as well as insights into related human history.

Lunch: At a scenic spot in the park, we’ll have boxed lunches.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll hike to Roaring River Falls. Created by snowmelt running through the canyon, the falls drop nearly 40 feet off a narrow ledge into the pool below. We’ll have expert commentary about natural history and storytelling from a local naturalist as we make our way to the falls. We’ll have excellent views of the Kings River and the surrounding granite cliffs, including Grand Sentinel (8,518 feet) and North Dome (8,717 feet).

Dinner: We will ride to a local restaurant and have a plated meal with entrée, rolls and butter, dessert, and nonalcoholic beverages; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We’ll remain at our dinner location for a living history program featuring John Muir (in the person of a talented reenactor). Muir (1838-1914) was born in Scotland and emigrated to the U.S. with his family in 1849. During his lifetime, he was a farmer, inventor, sheepherder, explorer, botanist, and writer, but is best known as America’s most famous and influential naturalist, conservationist, and founder of the Sierra Club. Considered one of the founders of the National Park System, Muir’s writings and efforts resulted in Congress creating Yosemite National Park. He was also involved in the creation of the Grand Canyon, Kings Canyon, Petrified Forest, and Mount Rainier National Parks. Returning to our hotel, prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

Wawona Hotel, Pioneer Village Center
Sierra Nevada Mountains - Yosemite National Park
Tenaya Lodge

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 130 miles, approximately 3 hours. Walking up to 1 mile; pavement and uneven, dirt terrain. No elevators at lodge.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll check out, board the motorcoach, and be on our way to Yosemite National Park. On our drive, we will pass through the cities of Fresno and Oakhurst.

Lunch: At the historic Wawona Hotel, enjoy a plated lunch with salad, bread and butter, entrée with side, and dessert. Coffee, tea, milk, and water included; other beverages are available for purchase. The Wawona Hotel, a National Historic Landmark, is surrounded by meadows and rushing streams. The tranquility of this Victorian-style hotel in Yosemite makes it a favorite of those who prefer a relaxed environment and the gracious charm of a bygone era.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll walk to the Pioneer Village History Center near the Wawona Hotel. This “village” is assembled from structures that were originally found in different locations throughout the park and moved in the 1950s and 1960s. Each building represents a different chapter in Yosemite’s story. Moving on, we’ll ride along Highway 41 into Yosemite Valley with a stop at Tunnel View for our first glimpse of El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall. Many artists painted the scene as they entered the newly formed park in the 1800s. It is one of the most recognized Yosemite scenes. We’ll continue our ride and expect to check in to our hotel late afternoon.

Dinner: In our private room at the Lodge, enjoy a plated meal with salad, entrée, rolls and butter, dessert, and beverages choices including fresh brewed coffee, assorted hot teas, and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At Leisure. There are many opportunities to enjoy the Lodge's grounds after dark on your own. The Group Leader will provide insights regarding possible activities. .

Full-Day Yosemite National Park Field Trip
Sierra Nevada Mountains - Yosemite National Park
Tenaya Lodge

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach. Walking up to 3 miles; varied terrain, paved and unpaved paths.

Breakfast: In the Lodge's main restaurant, the breakfast buffet will include an assortment of muffins and baked goods, scrambled eggs, breakfast meats and potatoes, seasonal fruit, French toast or pancakes, hot and cold cereals, plus milk, coffee, tea, juice, and water.

Morning: We will board the motorcoach and travel to the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center. We’ll view a 23-minute film, “Spirit of Yosemite,” and then have time for independent exploration to view exhibits that cover geology, flora, fauna, and human history in Yosemite. Yosemite is one of America’s most beautiful and best known of our national parks. Designated as the country’s third national park in October 1890, Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias have been preserved since 1864. For the first time in history, Congress set land aside for the preservation and recreation for all people and the national park concept was born. Next to the visitor center is the Yosemite Museum with a large collection of historical artifacts from Yosemite’s past. The building was built in 1925 — the first museum in the national park system. Explore the museum on your own which will provide insights into the history of Native Americans in the valley and the Yosemite area. The Indian Village of the Ahwahnee behind the museum sits atop what was once the largest village in the valley. People have been living in the valley for thousands of years but have been using the valley’s resources in different ways.

Lunch: At picnic tables near the visitor center, we’ll have bag lunches from the hotel restaurant.

Afternoon: Next, we will meet a naturalist in front of the visitor center and set out on a walking field trip into the valley. Along the trail, we will learn more about the local plants, animals, and cultural history from a local naturalist. The valley has gone through many phases as the people inhabiting the area have changed. The valley continues to adapt as millions of people visit here in the modern era.

Dinner: Lodge plated meal including fresh brewed coffee, assorted hot teas, and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

Tioga Pass, Tuolumne Meadow, Mono Basin, Film History Museum
Sierra Nevada Mountains - Owens Valley
Dow Hotel & Dow Villa Motel

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 235 miles, approximately 6 hours. Walking up to 1.5 miles; flat surfaces. No elevator at Dow Hotel & Dow Villa Motel. Note: Tioga Road (Hwy 120 through the park) closes due to snow, usually from November through late May or early June.

Breakfast: Lodge buffet.

Morning: After checking out, we will board the motorcoach and set out for Lone Pine via the scenic Tioga Road, the park’s trans-Sierra Nevada crossing. We’ll stop at Olmstead Point for a scenic overlook and a walk at Tuolumne Meadows located in the heart of Yosemite’s high country. Tioga Pass Road offers a 39-mile scenic drive between Crane Flat and Tuolumne Meadows through forests, meadows, lakes, and granite domes. The road is one of the few roads that pass over the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the eastern side into Owens Valley. It started as a dirt road in 1915 and was slowly paved and widened over the years. It was fully completed by the 1960s with the rise in car sales and families taking road trips to the national parks. Olmsted Point looks down on Yosemite Valley from the east and from a very different angle. Tenaya Lake is a magnificent High Sierra lake surrounded by granite domes, lodgepole forests, and Yosemite’s vast wilderness. Tuolumne Meadows is a large, open sub-alpine meadow graced by the winding Tuolumne River and surrounded by majestic peaks and domes. Our Group Leader will provide commentary.

Lunch: At the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area Visitors Center, we’ll have bag lunches.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll drive on to Lone Pine and check into the Dow Hotel. This charming hotel was built in the early 1920s and hosted many early Hollywood stars who were filming in the Alabama Hills including John Wayne, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers.

Dinner: We’ll walk across the street to a restaurant in Lone Pine and have a plated meal featuring previously-selected entrées with beverages choices of soft drink, coffee, tea, water.

Evening: We’ll walk from the restaurant to the Lone Pine Film History Museum and learn about the Hollywood history of this tiny dwelling in the California desert. The small museum houses a collection of memorabilia from Hollywood “westerns” that were filmed in the Alabama Hills. We will watch one of those movies. Returning to the hotel, prepare for check-out and transfer tomorrow.

Manzanar Historic Site, Alabama Hills
Owens Valley - Death Valley National Park
Stovepipe Wells Resort

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 80 miles, approximately 2 hours. Walking up to 1/2 mile; flat terrain.

Breakfast: At a restaurant across the street from the hotel, we’ll have a plated meal with beverage choices of juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll take our luggage to the motorcoach and ride to the Manzanar National Historic Site Interpretive Center. We’ll view a short documentary, “Remembering Manzanar.” A park ranger will lead us as we ride through the best preserved site where more than 10,000 Japanese-Americans were incarcerated behind barbed war during World War II. We’ll hear stories of the 120,000 Japanese-Americans who were relocated to ten different sites by the War Relocation Authority in 1942.

Lunch: In the Manzanar Mess Hall, we’ll have a catered lunch with beverage choices of tea and water.

Afternoon: Our day will continue with an expert-led ride through the Alabama Hills, an area of granite boulders that is part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. They are considered their own range due to features which contrast sharply with the rest of the Sierra Nevada, containing Mount Whitney; the highest summit in the continental United States with a peak of just over 14,500 feet. The Alabama Hills are featured in numerous movies. An expert from the film museum will lead our exploration and tell us about movies made here. We will ride from the Panamint Mountains on the way to Death Valley National Park. We will check into Stovepipe Wells Village Hotel, an oasis in the desolate landscape of Death Valley National Park.

Dinner: At Stovepipe Wells, we’ll a buffet meal with beverage choices of coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

Zabriskie Point, Badwater, Death Valley Visitor Center
Owens Valley - Death Valley National Park
Stovepipe Wells Resort

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 100 miles, approximately 3 hours. Walking up to 1/2 mile; mostly flat terrain.

Breakfast: At Stovepipe Wells, the breakfast buffet offers choices such as eggs, breakfast meats, cereals, yogurt, milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We’ll set out from the hotel on a full-day, expert-led field trip in Death Valley. Located in the northwest corner of the Mojave Desert, this is lowest point in North America, Its name derives from the extreme heat and limited rain that make it one of the most desolate places on the continent. The diverse landscape ranges from sand dunes and salt-flats to canyons and mountains. We’ll learn about the area’s geology, cultural and natural history. We will make stops at Zabriskie Point, Badwater Basin, and the Furnace Creek Visitor Center to see exhibits.

Lunch: At a Furnace Creek Restaurant, we’ll have a buffet meal with a variety of fountain drinks.

Afternoon: Our field trip to sites in Death Valley will continue.

Dinner: At Stovepipe Wells, we’ll have a meal featuring the entrées we selected previously. Share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out, transfer, and departure tomorrow.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Program Concludes
Los Angeles Airport Area

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 250 miles, approximately 4 hours to Los Angeles International Airport. Walking up to 1/2 mile; sandy surfaces, mild inclines on sand dunes.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll board the motorcoach and set out for our last field trip to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. These graceful desert dunes are among the best known in Death Valley National Park. They are beautifully rippled from the always blowing wind. While the highest dune rises less than 150 feet, they cover a broad expanse. They may be most famous as the location of dune scenes in the Star Wars series. We’ll return to the hotel and check out, then be on our way back to Los Angeles, travelling though Trona, Ridgecrest, and Mojave.

Lunch: At a local restaurant in Ridgecrest, we’ll have a plated meal featuring the entrées we selected previously with beverage choices of soft drink, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Our journey will end at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel. There will be an additional stop at the LAX airport. This concludes our program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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