Direct flight to Salt Lake City, arriving later the same day. We stay at the three-star Red Lion Hotel with American style breakfast.
A walking tour of Salt Lake City will give you a fascinating insight into its unique history and culture. It dates back to 1847 with the arrival of the Church of the Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), the first settlers in the valley, who travelled far in their search for an isolated area where they could practise their religion. Our visit includes the splendid Temple Square, forty years in its construction and the Beehive House, one of the two official residences of the first Church leader, Brigham Young. Later today, a long but fascinating drive takes us south-east, travelling over the Wasatch Plateau into the remote Price and Green River basins. We stay for two nights at the three-star Moab Valley Inn in Moab with continental breakfast.
This morning, when the light is at its best, we'll visit one of our tour’s highlights, Arches National Park. Boasting the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches within a relatively small area, there are around two thousand colossal sandstone arches, soaring spires, monoliths and balanced rock formations, making the landscape utterly unique and a photographer’s paradise. This Mars-like topography, with its changing colours of oranges and deep reds, is sure to leave an indelible mark on the memory. Spend the afternoon at leisure – your options include a boat trip on the Colorado River or a 4x4 off-road tour.
Leaving Moab, we soon cross into Colorado and arrive at Mesa Verde National Park, the only one exclusively devoted to Native American archaeological remains. Marvel at the past dwellings of the Anasazi, an Ancestral Puebloan people who inhabited the area between AD 600 to AD 1300. Their intriguing mud-brick buildings are some of the best preserved in the country, thanks to the dry desert climate and the stunning cliffside location under massive folds of rock – a truly extraordinary sight. Tonight we stay at the three-star Durango Downtown Inn with an American-style breakfast.
We enjoy a real highlight this morning, as we take a ride on the Durango & Silverton Railroad, one of the USA’s best-loved heritage railways. Running on narrow-gauge tracks originally laid in the 1880s, the locomotives used today date from the 1920s and are completely coal-fired and steam-driven. As the railway slowly gains height, the scenery becomes ever more rugged, with the muted greys and pinks of the jagged peaks contrasting beautifully with the dense forests in the deep valleys below. Our wonderful vintage train follows the Animas River Valley through the San Juan National Forest, until it reaches the charming ex-mining community of Silverton. We re-board our coach headed for the small town of Montrose, where we stay at the three-star Holiday Inn Express with American breakfast.
This morning we visit one of the most spectacular canyons in the US, the Black Canyon, where its dark walls plunge more than 820 metres to the Gunnison River gorge below. Although others may be larger or wider, the Black Canyon is so narrow and deep that its floor only receives 33 minutes of sunlight a day. Continuing east through the magnificent Colorado Rockies, we finally arrive in Denver, the ‘Mile High City’, Colorado’s cosmopolitan capital. Our hotel for the night is the four-star Holiday Inn Denver Cherry Creek with an American-style breakfast.
Today we head into the spectacular vastness of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. Whereas much of the European alpine areas are managed in some way, the Rockies, being so vast, have remained as wilderness, so the scenery is just as beautifully pristine as it has always been. We continue to Wyoming's capital, Cheyenne, for our stay at the three-star Microtel Suites by Wyndham, with continental style breakfast.
After breakfast we leave Cheyenne and head north to South Dakota, where we will visit Mount Rushmore. The faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln look down over the Black Hills from stony heights to inspire and remind us that even the impossible is possible. You'll be fascinated by the story of the one man who designed and sculpted this incredible monument and the ingenious techniques used in its construction, all set in the glorious natural beauty of mountains, forests and emerald meadows. We arrive at Rapid City, capital of South Dakota, where we stay for two nights at the three-star Howard Johnson Hotel with a continental breakfast. The hotel is located within walking distance to the downtown area, which is easy to explore on foot.
Today we drive through scenic Custer State Park, home to abundant wildlife, including bighorn sheep, antelope, elk, coyote, prairie dogs, and ‘begging burros’, wild donkeys with a reputation for approaching passing vehicles to ‘ask’ for food. We’ll also visit the Crazy Horse Memorial, still in the process of being sculpted from the mountain cliffs – on a truly vast scale, it will be 172 metres high and 195 metres long when completed.
Heading east, we pass through legendary Deadwood, the historic gold rush town and a National Historic Landmark, with its wonderfully restored Main Street. Settled by illegal gold rushers in the 1870s, it attracted gunslingers, gamblers and outlaws, including Wild Bill Hickok, who was gunned down here during a poker game. One of the town’s most famous citizens, Calamity Jane, was immortalised in the film of the same name by Doris Day in the song, Deadwood Stage. Crossing back into the wide-open spaces of Wyoming, we’ll visit the remarkable Devils Tower National Monument. The remains of an ancient volcano rising mystically above the surrounding area, it has been a spiritual icon for many of the Plains tribes and is also instantly recognisable as the aliens’ landing ground in Steven Spielberg’s film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We stay the night in Sheridan at the three-star Best Western Sheridan Centre with American-style breakfast.
Today we cross into the vast grassy hills of Montana, site of the US Cavalry’s greatest defeat at the hands of Native American tribes. Commanded by the flamboyant Lt Col Custer, the famed US 7th Cavalry suffered huge losses against the combined forces of the Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, led by several major war leaders including Crazy Horse. Our local guide will take us through the dramatic events that led up to Custer’s Last Stand. We stay the night in Cody at the three-star Comfort Inn Cody with continental breakfast. In the evening, you may wish to experience the Cody Nite Rodeo, which runs on a nightly basis from June to August.
The town of Cody is named after ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody, US soldier, bison hunter, showman and one of the most colourful figures of the Old West. His career began at age 11 when he worked on the wagon trains, then at 15 he was the youngest rider on the Pony Express. He was also a Union soldier in the Civil War, a famed fighter against the Indians and most notably, the founder of the Wild West Show that ran for 30 years. He was probably the world’s first international showman, dining with heads of state, including Queen Victoria. We experience the Buffalo Bill Centre of the West. We then cross into Yellowstone National Park over the 2,590-metre-high Sylvan Pass. We stay for one night in West Yellowstone at the three-star Three Bear Lodge, with continental breakfast.
Wilderness is the theme of the day as we head into the park, the USA’s first and finest nature reserve. The breathtaking scenery is incredibly special – see the stunning Lower Falls, twice the height of Niagara; the awe-inspiring Yellowstone Grand Canyon; wonderful bubbling mud pools, steaming rivers and hot springs, including the most famous geyser of all, Old Faithful. There are opportunities to catch sight of the park’s strikingly diverse wildlife, such as herds of bison and elk, or if you’re lucky, grizzly bears. We continue our drive south into the spectacularly scenic Grand Teton National Park, Its mountainsides are carpeted with forests, whilst crystal-clear streams cascade down canyons into large, pristine lakes, in which the jagged peaks are magnificently mirrored on calm days. In summer, the area becomes a canvas of vibrant-coloured wildflowers. We stay in the famous resort of Jackson for 2 nights at the three-star 49er Inn & Suites, with continental breakfast.
Today we have the entire day to enjoy the wonderful town of Jackson. Perhaps try out a ‘float trip’ on the nearby Snake River.
We drive to Salt Lake City airport for our overnight flight home.
We arrive home full of memories of a unique tour.