Western Sampler self-drive tour of the American Southwest
Enjoy the best of the great American Southwest on this wonderful tour packed with excitement, stunning scenery and variety. Truly a sampler tour designed for visitors with limited time who nevertheless want to see and experience the national parks and cities of the region. A longer version of this tour is also available – please see our Western Trails (22 days/21 nights) self-drive tour. The Western Sampler operates between April and mid-September.
Day 1. Arrive Los Angeles. Day 2. Hollywood & Los Angeles. Day 3. Los Angeles. Day 4. Los Angeles to Needles CA. (approx 265 miles). Day 5. Needles to Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim). (approx. 225 miles) Day 6. Grand Canyon National Park to Lake Powell (approx 150 miles). Days 7. Lake Powell. Day 8. Lake Powell – Bryce Canyon – Zion National Park (approx. 235 miles). Day 9. Zion National Park to Las Vegas (approx.150 miles). Day 10. Las Vegas. Day 12. Mammoth Lakes to Yosemite National Park (approx. 120 miles). Day 13. El Portal to San Francisco (approx.200 miles). Day 14. San Francisco. Day 15. Depart San Francisco.
Day 1. Arrive Los Angeles. Upon arrival at Los Angeles International airport you can either collect your rental car and drive yourself to Hollywood approx (30 miles), or take a taxi to your hotel in Hollywood. Overnight: Best Western Hollywood Plaza Inn (Standard) or BVLD Hotel & Suites Hollywood (Superior).
Day 2. Hollywood & Los Angeles. Explore Hollywood – the Walk of Fame, Mann’s Chinese Theater, Universal Studios, the beaches of Santa Monica and Malibu. Or drive south to the world famous Anaheim attractions – Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure theme parks. You are likely to need a day at each park, so plan your time carefully – Just America will be pleased to quote for additional nights – please enquire at the time of booking. Overnight: Best Western Hollywood Plaza Inn (Standard) or BVLD Hotel & Suites (Superior).
Day 3. Los Angeles. Another day to explore Hollywood and Los Angeles. Overnight: Best Western Hollywood Plaza Inn (Standard) or BVLD Hotel & Suites Hollywood (Superior).
Day 4. Los Angeles to Needles CA. (approx 265 miles). Your journey today takes you east out of Los Angeles, through San Bernardino and through the Mojave Desert to the small town of Needles on the California/Arizona stateline overlooking the Colorado River. En route you can take a break at the Calico Ghost Town, near Barstow and enjoy the old west atmosphere of the town. Overnight: Best Western Colorado River Inn (Standard & Superior).
Day 5. Needles to Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim). (approx. 225 miles) Cross the Colorado River into Arizona this morning through the towns of Kingman and Williams on the way to the mighty Grand Canyon. Your journey takes you along Interstate 40 which is the modern replacement for the old Route 66. There are several places where you can divert off the Interstate and explore Route 66. Make sure you arrive at the Grand Canyon in time to do some sightseeing and to witness a Grand Canyon sunset – not to be missed! Your accommodation is in the national park, right at the heart of the Grand Canyon village – the ideal location to enjoy this fantastic natural attraction. Overnight: Grand Canyon National Park Lodges (Standard & Superior).
Day 6. Grand Canyon National Park to Lake Powell (approx 150 miles). We recommend that you rise early this morning and enjoy a sunrise over the Grand Canyon. There’s time too to take a helicopter or fixed-wing aeroplane excursion over the Canyon – Just America will be pleased to offer advice and to prebook your excursion. The drive to Lake Powell takes you along the east rim of the Canyon – with several scenic overlooks – and then through the small town of Cameron, to Lake Powell. The lake is huge – 192 miles long, approx. 650-feet deep and with a shoreline longer than the west coast of the USA! The lake was formed in the 1960’s by the building of the Glen Canyon Dam near the town of Page. The Colorado was tamed by the dam and the resulting lake is a spectacular sight as you arrive today. Try to arrive in time to take a cruise on the lake, or to enjoy the sunset over the colourful buttes and cliffs. Overnight: Courtyard By Marriott (Standard) or Lake Powell Resort, marina view room (Superior).
Day 7. Lake Powell. Relax today and enjoy Lake Powell and the hotel. Not to be missed is the opportunity to take a half-day raft trip on the Colorado River. This is a ‘float’ trip with no rapids or white-water, so you can enjoy the stunning scenery as you glide gently downstream to Lees Ferry. It is not unusual to see Condors, deer and eagles on this tour and stops are made to inspect Indian petroglyphs on the 1000′ high walls of the canyon. Other optional excursions – which can be prebooked by Just America – include scenic cruises on Lake Powell. Overnight: Courtyard By Marriott (Standard) or Lake Powell Resort, marina view room (Superior).
Day 8. Lake Powell – Bryce Canyon – Zion National Park (approx. 235 miles). This morning’s drive takes you into Utah past the colourful Vermillion Cliffs of Southern Utah to Bryce Canyon National Park. You should have time for a lunch break and a stroll along the rim of Bryce Canyon to enjoy the amazing scenery. In the afternoon continue on to Zion National Park arriving in time to explore the stunning beauty of this lovely national park. Overnight: Majestic View Lodge, (Standard) or Zion Lodge, (Superior).
Day 9. Zion National Park to Las Vegas (approx.150 miles). Linger a while in Zion this morning before taking to the road for the three hour drive to Las Vegas. Alternatively, you could take the scenic – but longer – route to Las Vegas and drive through the Valley of Fire and along the shores of Lake Mead. Overnight: Excalibur Hotel & Casino (Standard); Signature @ MGM, or Park MGM Hotel (Superior).
Day 10. Las Vegas. A free day to explore the many attractions of Las Vegas. Apart from the many stunning casinos and shows, there is lots to do for all the family. Take a short drive out of town and visit the impressive Hoover Dam. Take a picnic to the shores of Lake Mead. Enjoy one of the wonderful escorted jeep tours offered by Pink Jeep of Las Vegas (details on request). Overnight: Excalibur Hotel & Casino (Standard); Signature @ MGM or Park MGM Hotel (Superior).
Day 11. Las Vegas to Mammoth Lakes (approx. 350 miles). An early start today as you cross the Nevada desert, pass through Death Valley National Park and climb into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and your overnight base – Mammoth Lakes. Try to arrive in time to take a stroll along the shores of one of the lakes in this beautiful Sierra resort with pine forests, lakes and mountains. Overnight: Alpenhof Lodge , Standard & Superior.
Day 12. Mammoth Lakes to Yosemite National Park (approx. 120 miles). Shortly after leaving the town of Mammoth Lakes this morning, you cross the mountains through Tioga Pass* and enter the pristine wilderness of Yosemite National Park. Don’t be tempted to rush through the park in search of its mighty waterfalls and giant redwoods, the eastern section of the park is too often ignored by visitors and it is definitely worth exploring before you arrive at the busier ‘Valley’ area. Yosemite Valley is where you will find most of the park’s icons – Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls, Half Dome etc. Overnight: Yosemite View Lodge (El Portal) Standard & Superior
Day 13. El Portal to San Francisco (approx.200 miles). Time to linger in Yosemite this morning before taking the four hour drive across California’s Central Valley to the city by the bay – San Francisco! Overnight: Hotel Holiday Inn Golden Gateway (Standard) or Galleria Park Hotel, (Superior).
Day 14. San Francisco. Enjoy the final day of your tour with a relaxing day exploring the many sights and attractions of San Francisco. We recommend an Open-Top double-decker sightseeing tour of the city which takes in all of the city’s sights and allows you to hop-on/hop-off at any of the 20 stops throughout the city. A visit to Alcatraz, the infamous former prison, is a ‘must’ and due to strict limits on visitor numbers should be booked in advance – contact Just America for details. Overnight: Hotel Holiday Inn Golden Gateway (Standard) or Galleria Park Hotel, (Superior).
Day 15. Depart San Francisco. Time for some last minute sightseeing and shopping today before you depart for the airport, return your rental car and check in for your onward or homebound flight to the UK.
Standard Hotels Superior Hotels Price per adult
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* 14 nights hotel accommodation including local taxes.
* Maps, guides and itinerary.
Not included: Flights, car rental, travel insurance, meals, petrol, optional excursions, national park admissions and personal expenses.
Children under 12 years free when sharing a room with 2 adults and using existing bedding at hotels, max. 2 children per room.
Location No.nights Standard Hotels Superior Hotels Hollywood (Los Angeles) 3 Best Western Hollywood Plaza Inn The BLVD Hotel & Suites Needles 1 Best Western Colorado River Inn
(inc. full bkfst)
Best Western Colorado River Inn
(inc. full bkfst)
Grand Canyon National Park 1 Maswik Lodge Yavapai East Lodge Page / Lake Powell 2 Courtyard By Marriott (Page) Lake Powell Resort (Marina view room) Zion National Park area 1 Majestic View Lodge Zion National Park Lodge Las Vegas 2 Excalibur Hotel & Casino Park MGM Hotel Mammoth Lakes* 1 Alpenhof Lodge (inc.Cont.bkfst)* Alpenhof Lodge (inc Cont.bkfst)* Yosemite National Park area 1 Yosemite View Lodge (Mtn view room) Yosemite View Lodge (Riverview room) San Francisco 2 Holiday Inn Golden Gateway Galleria Park Hotel * Will be substituted for Best Western Hill House, Bakersfield for early & late season departures due to the unpredictable weather conditions and possible closure of Tioga Pass (east entrance to Yosemite) between late September and May. In 2017 the pass did not open until mid-June!
Tour prices:The prices shown in the price panels are for the accommodation elements only, they do not include flights or car rental (unless indicated). This enables you to choose the airline and car of your choice and add them to the accommodation package to create your holiday. Our reservations staff will be pleased to help you with flight availability, to suggest which is the best airline for your itinerary and to advise you of any special offers the airlines may have introduced.
Hotels:Hotels featured in our self-drive and independent tours are chosen for their location, value for money and facilities. Whenever possible we offer a choice of Standard or Superior hotels. There is no recognised 'star' system throughout North America for classifying hotels, motels and resorts. The hotel ratings for our tours are subjective and are provided to give you an understanding as to the level of facility. They are either the hotel's official categorisation as per the Official Hotel & Resort Guide, or Just America's. Standards vary from location to location, therefore ratings in the remote areas can differ from those in the cities. Standard hotels would be those classified as Moderate, and Superior hotels would be First Class, in the Official Hotel and Resort Guide. National Park accommodations are more rustic and are chosen almost entirely because of their location. It should not be assumed that because an hotel is listed as Superior that it has certain amenities. Often a hotel is classified as Superior due to its position, views or room standard, it does not always follow that a superior hotel will have a swimming pool, hair-dryers, golf course, room service etc. We will try to provide information on individual hotels on request although the internet is usually the quickest and most accurate source of information. Hotel rooms in North America usually have one or two double beds. Triple and Quad rooms have two double beds. Very few hotels in North America have three or four beds. It is sometimes possible to have a rollaway bed which can be requested, but cannot be guaranteed. Occasionally hotels are chosen purely for their location - i.e. half-way between two points of interest - and may be included as a one night stop to break up an otherwise long journey. Such hotels may not have the full facilities normally associated with a Standard or Superior hotel, but sometimes we don't have any other choice. Where possible hotels providing free car parking have been included, however in some locations, such as city centres, the hotels may make a charge.
Note:Hotels are not usually ready to accept guests until after 3 or 4 pm, so please try not to check in before mid-afternoon. Check out time is usually before 11 am or 12 noon. It is sometimes possible to arrange late check out, or the storage of luggage, but this is at the discretion of the hotel.
Tour notes and itineraries:On several of our tours the tour notes and itineraries are provided at the first hotel. On other tours this information is forwarded with the travel documents approximately 14 days prior to departure. We will endeavour to provide the best information we can to help you, but it is not our policy to provide mile by mile detailed route guides, the frequent changes to local road conditions, layouts etc., makes this impossible. We do provide maps, guides to the major attractions en route, and directions to hotels whenever possible. These are independent self-drive holidays and you will be required to read a map and locate attractions and hotels. Sat.Nav. is available from the car rental companies - at a charge - and you may find this useful, however all technology is prone to failure so we always recommend that you keep the maps handy.
Tailor-made holidays:We will be pleased to discuss your own ideas and itineraries and help you plan your holiday. If you would like to email, fax or mail an outline of your tour with dates, number of people, ages of children etc., to us we will be happy to advise you. We request that you include your daytime telephone number on all correspondence. Where you have chosen the route and we have designed a tailor-made holiday for you, it may not be possible to provide you with a detailed tour itinerary. We suggest that you read up about the area you are planning to visit well in advance, preferably before you book the holiday. Insight Guides cover almost every region of North America and are about the best on the market. Just America can also provide a some tourist information subject to availability, but we do not have detailed route information to cover every area of the Continent. You might find the internet to be the best source of free, up-to-date information.
National Park Passes:Both the US and Canada charge entrance fees for their national parks, and if you are visiting a number of parks, this cost can add up to a significant amount. We recommend that you purchase a Parks Pass at the first national park you visit. For the US the pass currently costs $80 for up to four adults (children under 16 are free). In Canada a family pass currently costs $136.40. Both passes provide unlimited visits to that country's parks for 12 months. The passes can only be used in the country of purchase. Full details available at www.nps.gov (for USA) and www.pc.gc.ca/index_e.asp
* Tioga Pass is often impassable due to heavy snow during the winter months. Tours departing between mid-September and mid-April will be re-routed from Las Vegas via Bakersfield (instead of Mammoth Lakes) and will not cross Death Valley or Tioga Pass. Overnight accommodation on day 11 will be at Bakersfield (Las Vegas to Bakersfield approx. 267 miles).
Just America specialises in tailor-making holidays and we will be pleased to design this or any of our tours to your specifications. We can provide details, prices and make reservations for optional sightseeing excursions mentioned in the itinerary.
All mileages are approximate. Hotels are subject to availability at the time of booking.