Recently, a few videos of a bear family happily strolling by surfaced on the internet. That is Yellowstone for you. The true home of all the animals living there, we are mere guests at this incredible natural park. It is said that the first white man who explained about Yellowstone was declared a liar or delirious as the things he explained was completely unheard of and way too fantastic. Today, we can stay at this wondrous place, and experience nature at its best. Yellowstone’s most unique and distinguishing feature is the natural hot springs that periodically erupt in towering explosions of boiling water and steam, the technicolor hot springs and bubbling mud pits. It’s not only these hot springs that draw attention, anywhere in Yellowstone, along with wildlife, the vistas of the surrounding canyons, mountains and forests are also beyond description. Oh, while you are there, make sure to ask about the Thunderbirds of Yellowstone – the Native American legend.
The route to Yellowstone goes up Interstate 15, past the Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Mountains, before entering Idaho. At Idaho Falls, leave the freeway behind, and start making your way through rural parts of the state. About 10 miles (16 kilometres) from West Yellowstone you go over the Continental Divide and into Montana.
As you reach West Yellowstone, pop into a Cafe - the closest building to the park - for a cup of coffee, and to get sack lunches. Yellowstone is literally about 30 yards from the Cafe, and now make your way into the world's first national park, and possibly the most unique!
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, where we'll turn right, or south. 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.
At Madison Junction we will turn right, or south, and follow the Firehole River which runs through the thermal areas of Yellowstone northward. The Firehole is famous amongst anglers for its pristine beauty and selection of brown, brook and rainbow trout.
The first main thermal area today will be 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.
After the interesting first day, head to Al's Westward Ho, the motel right next to the Cafe. 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 (though we would strongly recommend just exploring the town).
It’s a busy day ahead. There is going to be a lot to see and do. First, head out of West Yellowstone towards Madison Junction, where the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers meet to form the Madision River. Turning left (north) we'll make for Norris Geyser Basin. Along the way 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.
Then stroll through the ever changing terraces at Mammoth, admiring the travertine creations and hot springs.
Leaving Mammoth, 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, 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 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 also 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. Then drop down to Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
The Yellowstone River has carved an impressive canyon through the rocks, over which two falls drop. 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. Check out the canyon and falls.
Other areas along the route time permitting, include Obsidian Cliff, Virginia Cascade and Undine Falls.
One of the beauties of Yellowstone is that you never know what is around the next corner. This means that extra time could be spent looking at grizzlies, or perhaps trying to spot an elusive wolf, or even being stuck behind a buffalo jam for a while.
After a fun-filled day it is time to return to West Yellowstone, once again as the evening is set, explore the town at your own pace, grab a dinner.
Today, you will be picked up from your motel for the ride through the southern part of Yellowstone to Grand Teton. On the way, once again go past the various geyser basins, and then climb over the Continental Divide twice, on the way to West Thumb.
As you drop down off the continental divide there are great views of Yellowstone Lake, the largest alpine lake in North America.
West Thumb is a delightful geyser basin, located right on the shores of the incredibly blue lake. We will stop to stroll around the boardwalk system that accesses the basin. An added bonus is that there are often elk at West Thumb.
The road between Yellowstone and Grand Teton is called the Rockefeller Parkway. It is only six miles and leads directly into the north entrance of Grand Teton. The main features of the park are the Grand Teton mountains and a number of beautiful lakes.
You will see historic Colter Bay, Signal Mountain, Jenny Lake, Jackson Lake, Mount Moran, and much more. We also know the best places to find moose, and we will do our best to locate one or more for you.
Then take a leisurely drive through Grand Teton National Park, before arriving in Jackson. Enjoy the a sack lunch picnic style.
Jackson is a quaint, touristy western town, and there will be a brief stop there. The route back to Salt Lake generally climbs up over Teton Pass, and into Idaho, meeting up with Interstate 15 again near Idaho Falls.
If there is time, we may take the more picturesque, scenic back roads, through very rural Wyoming and Idaho, and return to Utah that way.
After arriving at the Salt Lake airport, fly to Sin City. On landing in Vegas, meet and greet with our representative and get settled into your hotel on the famous Strip.
After checking in, start your own exploration of Sin City! Roll a dice at the mega casinos or simply just walk around, there is so much to see!
Leave the bright lights of Vegas and head down the route to the Grand Canyon that takes you past Lake Mead and Hoover Dam. A bridge has been built over the Colorado River, and this road bypasses Hoover Dam.
Leaving Hoover Dam, travel through the desert, before arriving in the small Arizona town of Kingman, pick up the freeway towards the Grand Canyon. At Williams, Arizona, head north for about 50 miles (80 kilometres), towards the South Rim.
A tiny town called Tusayan borders the Grand Canyon, and the small local airport is just to the south of Tusayan. Stop there, if you wish to take an optional helicopter tour.
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.
If you choose not to do the helicopter tour, we can head into the Grand Canyon earlier, although this does depend on traffic and weather conditions.
At the Grand Canyon, checkout several of the main viewpoints, including Mather Point and Bright Angel. Your skilled guide will give you an overview of the layout of the South Rim, and then leave you on your own to explore for a while. You can stroll around the Canyon, take pictures, admire the views, buy souvenirs, or get something to eat.
Then, take the route out of the Grand Canyon that travels along the less visited east part of the South Rim. There are several photo opportunities along the road. On the way, we will stop at 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.
Then start dropping down from the South Rim, to the desert that is Navajo Nation land below. On the way, pass the Cameron Trading Post, one of the best purveyors of southwestern souvenirs and native American art and jewelry.
Climbing up to a plateau once again, start to approach Page, on the shores of Lake Powell. In the summer months, after checking in at your hotel, you can join our guide for a hike to Horseshoe Bend.
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.
The Colorado River flows from Lake Powell out of Glen Canyon Dam, towards Lee's Ferry, the official starting point of raft trips through the Grand Canyon. This morning you have the option of taking a float trip down the river. If you choose not to do so, you can sleep in, laze at the pool, or explore Page.
If you are taking the River float, then your adventure goes like this: Begins with an unusual ride down the two mile long Glen Canyon Dam access tunnel. At river level, with the dam soaring almost 600 feet above you, you will board a comfortable, motorized pontoon raft for your journey downstream.
For the next fifteen miles, you will experience one of the most dramatic stretches of river in the western United States. Your experienced guide will tell the story of the area’s soaring sandstone cliffs, crystal blue-green waters, abundant wildlife, exploration by Major John Wesley Powell (after whom Lake Powell is named) and others, and the river's modern role in the Southwest’s water and power delivery system.
A stop to view an impressive set of ancient petroglyphs will offer you a chance to stretch your legs while bearing witness to the area’s former inhabitance by ancient native cultures. If you choose, you may also refresh yourself by wading in the cold, clear river. The river portion of your trip ends at historic Lees Ferry, gateway to the Grand Canyon, from where you will be taken back to Page.
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 two hour 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 will likely take in are movie locations, 1000 foot monoliths, rug weaving, and, of course, the famous monuments are visited.
We leave Monument Valley, going through the small settlement of Kayenta, before heading west over the Navajo Reservation, to Page.
And after the busy day, enjoy a relaxing dinner.
Today its time to see he incredible 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 will drive over the Glen Canyon Dam Wall. A short distance up the road is a little known trail which leads to spectacular views over Lake Powell. Time permitting, we will drive up there to take a very brief look at the spectacular golden canyons partially submerged under the blue waters of Lake Powell.
The road to the small town of Kanab leads past Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Kanab itself has been the setting for many western movies. From Kanab we will travel along a picturesque Utah back road, through some tiny towns, before arriving at Bryce Canyon.
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.
At Bryce you have a choice of spending additional time in the park or heading out for an ATV (all terrain vehicle) ride, which takes about an hour. If you choose an ATV ride, you will first get a few pointers from an experienced guide, and then hop onto your ATV, to go chasing over 14 miles (22 kilometres) of dirt road through the Dixie National Forest surrounding Bryce Canyon. Please note that you will get dusty!
Please be aware that this ride is not available in the winter months. The ATV tour needs to be reserved ahead of time, preferably when you book the tour itself.
You will spend the night just outside Bryce Canyon at Bryce View Lodge.
We will take a particularly scenic Utah back road, following first the Sevier River and then the Virgin River, towards Zion National Park. 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.
We will enter Zion at the less used east entrance, and take in the striking rock formations, with trees actually growing in the rocks. You will see how massive sand dunes have solidified into rock over the millennia. After traveling through an amazing tunnel that was blasted into the Navajo sandstone almost a century ago, we descend down a precipitous switchback road, to discover the Great Arch of Zion, a gigantic work in progress.
From Zion we will wind our way to Interstate 15 and the main road back to Vegas, which goes through St. George.
Leaving St. George, we travel down the picturesque Virgin River Gorge. We will pass through Mesquite, a casino town on the Arizona Nevada border, before driving across the desert and back to the bright lights of Las Vegas.
For more information and advance booking, please contact us.