This spectacular journey covers two of California’s most magical national parks, Yosemite and Sequoia, as well a road trip through the Owens Valley, an off the beaten path gem.
Days 1 & 2
Frank Lloyd Wright said “Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles” and if you spend some time here you’ll see what he meant. Often wrongly judged alongside other major world cities, LA is in a class of its own. It’s a wonderfully eclectic mix of neighborhoods, landscapes and cultures that feels in a state of perpetual change. From the laid back beachside towns of Manhattan Beach or Venice, the exclusive hillsides of Hollywood and Bel Air, to the rapidly changing Downtown, there is something for everyone here if you know where to find it. The contemporary art scene is exploding, world class museums abound and there are a host of exciting new restaurants. You might just find yourself being surprised.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon
Days 3, 4 & 5
Leaving LA, it’s a drive east towards the Sierra Nevada and Sequoia National Park. You’ll travel through California’s Central Valley, the agricultural heartland of the state, with mile after mile of orchards and nut plantations. As you near Sequoia the landscape changes, becoming greener as you climb into the foothills around Lake Kaweah. After picking up some supplies in the little town of Three Rivers, it’s a stunning drive along a winding road to your private cabin in the remote Mineral King section of Sequoia National Park. As you increase in elevation the scrub oak of the chaparral forest gives way to huge stands of cedar, pine, and fir. All spectacular but nothing compared to the majestic groves of giant sequoia that suddenly appear.
After breakfast the next day it’s time to meet your guide at the trailhead for a hike in this incredible sub-alpine valley. There are plenty of trails that wind up from the valley floor following the meadow-lined river before climbing into the forest. You’ll reach one of many turquoise alpine lakes in time for a picnic lunch and a cooling swim. Most of the little lakes are full of pretty brook trout, which rise easily to a well presented fly. That evening enjoy a home cooked meal in the lodge restaurant before finishing the day under stars around your cabin’s fire pit.
After the remoteness of Mineral King your journey will take you into the heart of Sequoia National Park. While there maybe a few more people, this is also home to the highest concentration of Giant Sequoias and after the switchback climb of General’s Highway it’s a serene sensation as you round a corner to be presented with the vast trees that the road winds between. Wandering the Giant Forest, home to five of the ten most massive trees on the planet, is a humbling experience. You’ll spend the evening in a rustic lodge surrounded by the forest and with views of distant granite peaks.
Your journey continue northwards the next morning into the breathtaking Kings Canyon. The road winds along the valley walls before it hits the South Fork of the Kings River and stops at ‘Roads End’. Literally the end of the road, from this point looking east across the towering peaks of the Sierra Nevada, it’s a 70 mile walk before you hit a road on the other side of the mountains. For the less adventurous there are plenty of short walks through meadows and to hidden waterfalls.
Heading back west you’ll descend from the Sierras back into the Central Valley for the drive to the southern edge of Yosemite National Park.
Days 6, 7 & 8
It’s hard to put the spectacular natural beauty of Yosemite into words. Even though its famous views are some of the most familiar in the United States., it doesn’t prepare you for standing at Tunnel View or peering into space from Glacier Point. Looking beyond the ‘must see’ sights, it doesn’t take much to escape the crowds and get a genuine feel for the awe-inspiring nature of Yosemite. With two strategically chosen hotels on either side of the park, you will be able to minimize driving time and maximize your enjoyment of this truly special place.
One day can be spent exploring the southern corner of the park, including Wawona and Glacier Point Road before dropping down into Yosemite Valley itself, with picture postcard views, stunning waterfalls and the historic Ahwahnee Hotel. From your base in the northwest corner of the park, you’ll have second day to experience the less travelled Tioga Road and Tuolumne Meadows.
We work with the most experienced naturalist guides in the park, and at least a day spent in their company will help you escape the crowds and gain a deeper understanding of the Yosemite ecosystem, its wildlife and history. We’ll carefully match a guide to your interests, whether that be a more adventurous hike or a laid-back picnic at a secret riverside spot.
Mammoth and Owens Valley
The route back south towards Los Angeles, down the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada, is a road trip in the truest sense of the word. If you don’t fancy a few hours behind the wheel then it is probably not for you, but if the thought of miles of open road, breathtaking scenery and offbeat little towns gets your blood pumping, it’s an absolute gem. You’ll leave Yosemite over the Tioga Pass (9,943 ft) and on your descent will be rewarded with spectacular views of Mono Lake. Be sure to stop at Tioga Gas Mart, surely the greatest petrol station in the world! Route 395 then travels south through the Owens Valley, high mountains to your right and the fringes of Death Valley to your left. There are plenty of great detours, such as the stunning Jenny Lake, and a night in Mammoth Mountain breaks the journey up well. Classic western towns like Bishop and Lone Pine are well worth a stop, as is the fascinating former Japanese internment camp at Manzanar. The approach to Los Angeles will bring you through Red Rock Canyon State Park and the fringes of the Mojave Desert.
Days 10 & 11
It’s back to LA to dust off the road poolside and enjoy city life before your flight home.
(this road trip can easily be adapted to include San Francisco as an entry/exit city)