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Highlights of America's South West

Raft the Colorado River, hike in the Grand Canyon and explore hidden slot canyons on this three week self-drive holiday in America’s South West.

Tailor-made Classic 19 days

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Itinerary

Overview

  • Independent exploration of Zion & Bryce Canyon National Parks
  • Slot Canyoneering in Escalante National Monument
  • Guided Hike in Arches National Park
  • Two day white water rafting trip on the Colorado River
  • Guided tour of Monument Valley
  • Visit the Grand Canyon
This three week self-drive holiday takes in some of the absolute highlights of America’s South West. Starting and ending in flamboyant Las Vegas, you will spend most of your time in Utah exploring the wild and spectacular scenery. After leaving the bright lights of Vegas behind you, the first stop is Zion, which offers fantastic hiking, hanging gardens and waterfalls. For the more relaxed, a float down the river is a must. The trip continues to Bryce, famous for its orange and pink hues and the unique hoodoo rock formations.

More unique rock formations await you in Escalante, where you will explore the slot canyon. After the crowds in Zion and Bryce, you will have nature's play ground to yourselves whilst you experienced guide teaches you to rappel and navigate through these deep canyons. After these exertions, a gorgeous mountain lodge awaits you for some r & r. From here, you head to Moab for some more guided hiking followed by the highlight of the holiday; a 2 day white water rafting trip on the Colorado River, camping on the beach at night. It’s hard to beat this experience, but the petroglyphs you will see at Newspaper Rock, Monument Valley and watching the sun-setting over the Grand Canyon will all try.

Our seven year old junior product tester loved the rafting, hiking in the Grand Canyon and the water park in Las Vegas the best (as well as the milkshakes). We loved the far-reaching views, the slot canyoning, the hiking and the balance between independent and guided activities (and the micro-breweries)

Day-by-day

Itinerary in Brief


DAY 1: Arrive Las Vegas
DAY 2: Las Vegas
DAY 3 - 4: Zion National Park
DAY 5 - 6: Bryce Canyon National Park
DAY 7: Escalante Guided slot canyoneering
DAY 8: Boulder
DAY 9: Drive to Moab
DAY 10: Moab - Fiery Furnace Guided Hike
DAY 11 - 12: Rafting on the Colorado River
DAY 13: Moab
DAY 14: Monument Valley
DAY 15: Monument Valley Guided Tour
DAY 16: Grand Canyon
DAY 17: Grand Canyon
DAY 18: Las Vegas
DAy 19: Depart


Extended Itinerary

DAY 1: ARRIVE LAS VEGAS
After arriving in Las Vegas, you will pick up your hire car and drive to your hotel where we suggest you take it easy and recover from your flight.
Meals Included: n/a
Accommodation: Platinum
Driving Time (where relevant): 15 minutes

DAY 2: LAS VEGAS
Las Vegas is full of sights and given the right attitude, is a fun place to explore. Children are allowed to walk through casinos, but are not permitted to gamble, or stop and watch gambling. Activities families may enjoy include visiting a water park, watching the circus acts at Circus Circus and visiting the Adventure Dome theme park.
Meals Included: n/a
Accommodation: Platinum
Driving Time (where relevant): n/a

DAY 3: ZION NATIONAL PARK
This morning you may as well take advantage of the early mornings that the jet lag is giving you and get an early start. Your destination is Springdale, the gateway village for Zion National Park. You may want to head into the park in the afternoon for a hike, there are plenty to choose from, or you could choose a more relaxing float trip down the river, watching the turkey vultures soaring high above you as you meander down-stream.
Meals Included: n/a
Accommodation: Majestic View
Driving Time (where relevant): 2 1/2 hours

DAY 4: ZION NATIONAL PARK
Today is spent exploring Zion, we suggest going for one of the many self-guided hikes on offer. The visitor centre has plenty of information about the various walks on offer. Cars are not permitted on most of the roads within the park, so you will need to catch a shuttle bus which will drop you off at the various trailheads. Popular choices include the Angels Landing Hike (not recommended for younger children) Emerald Pools or the Narrows hike, which is up a river. (You can hire water-proof shoes for this or wear sturdy water-proof sandals) In the height of summer, these are popular walks and it will be hot, so we recommend an early start and taking plenty of water and food with you.
Meals Included: n/a
Accommodation: Majestic View
Driving Time (where relevant): n/a

DAY 5: BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
After a leisurely morning you will check out of your hotel to drive to Bryce. The scenic drive takes you through Zion, passing through some stunning landscapes; there will be plenty of opportunities for photo stops along the way.
Meals Included: n/a
Accommodation: BW Canyon
Driving Time (where relevant): 2 hours

DAY 6: BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
Today is free to explore Bryce Canyon. The stunning colours and unique ‘hoodoo’ rock formations are truly impressive. As ever with the popular national parks, an early start is highly recommended to beat the crowds. Most people explore by car and then go on one of the many hikes on offer. With a higher altitude than Zion and consequently slightly lower temperatures, this is a more comfortable place to hike. You may want to take a picnic and find a solitary spot from where you can take in the magnificent views.
In the evening, you might want to go to watch a rodeo at the entrance to the park. This is run mainly for tourists, but is still a fun activity for all the family.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Accommodation: BW Canyon
Driving Time (where relevant): n/a

DAY 7: ESCALANTE - SLOT CANYONEERING
Today we have a real treat in store for you. You will get up early and drive to the small and rarely visited town of Escalante to explore one of Utah’s geological phenomena; the slot canyon. The Escalante region has hundreds of slot canyons, many of which have not yet been visited, so you can guarantee that today will be a day away from other tourists and a chance to challenge yourselves whilst exploring the wilderness.
Your guide will assess your fitness and ability and you will then head off to the slot canyon that he feels is most appropriate for you. Travelling through landscape that was once inhabited by hundreds of dinosaurs (the area is of great interest to scientists and footprints and bones have been discovered here) you will finally arrived at your canyon. Your guide will teach you the basics of rappelling and canyoneering and you will then abseil down into your canyon. As you progress through the canyon, it will get deeper and narrower, requiring you to squeeze and slide through. After the hoards of tourists you will have encountered at Zion and Bryce, the silence of this place will be a welcome relief.
You will spend the best part of the day in the canyon and when you finally emerge, the wide-sweeping views and sense of accomplishment are quite over-whelming. You will hike back to the car and drive back to the base where you can enjoy a well-earned ice cream.
You can opt to stay in Escalante, but we recommend you get back in your car and drive 45 minutes to the tiny settlement of Boulder to enjoy a hearty dinner and then relax in this mountain lodge.
Meals Included: Breakfast & Lunch
Accommodation: Boulder Mountain Lodge
Driving Time (where relevant)): 1 hour Bryce to Escalante, 45 mins Escalante to Boulder

DAY 8: BOULDER
Today is a day at leisure. The lodge over-looks a nature reserve and has some lovely communal areas, so is the perfect place to sit back with a good book and enjoy the scenery. Volleyball, Frisbee and board games are on offer, or for the more sedentary, there is a hot tub. Each room has a TV & DVD player, with DVDs on loan from Reception, if the children want to relax in front of a movie. There are also some lovely local walks, including a hike to a waterfall . There are maps available at the lodge office.
Meals Included: n/a
Accommodation: Boulder Mountain Lodge
Driving Time (where relevant): n/a

DAY 9: DRIVE TO MOAB
Today you will drive along one of the area’s most scenic roads to reach the highway that will connect you to Moab. Driving through the mountains and then Capitol Reef National Park, the views are amazing. You might choose to stop off in Capitol Reef Park for a hike, or just detour to one of the many viewpoints along the way. There are some interesting petroglyphs to see which makes for a useful stop to stretch your legs. If you are not stopping off to hike, there is a great burger stop (try the chocolate milkshakes) in Hanksville. The drive from here to Moab becomes less interesting, but is fairly swift thanks to the highway that you will be joining. Once you reach Moab, you can have a swim at your hotel and then go for a meal in one of the many restaurants in the town.
Meals Included: Breakfast & Lunch
Accommodation: BW Canyonlands
Driving Time (where relevant): 3 1/2 hours

DAY 10: MOAB - FIERY FURNACE GUIDED HIKE
This morning you will get up early to go and meet your guide, who will take you for a guided hike in the fiery furnace in the spectacular Arches National Park. This hike is only available as a guided option and takes you away from the crowds of tourist to hidden arches and a unique landscape. Your experienced guide will explain the geology to you and walk you through this fascinating rocky labyrinth.
The rest of the afternoon, you may want to explore the park in more detail before going for your pre-rafting trip briefing. On the way back, you might want to stop off at the Moab Brewery for dinner and to pick up some beers to take rafting with you.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Accommodation: BW Canyonlands
Driving Time (where relevant)): 15 minutes

DAY 11: WHITE WATER RAFTING ON THE COLORADO RIVER
You will meet with your guide and leave your car before being driven two hours to the launch site on the Colorado River. The boats will then be loaded up and you will head off down-stream. Today is a lazy day on the river as you adjust to the relaxed pace, floating through stark and dramatic desert landscapes. There will be opportunities to explore on foot when your guide will take you on a hike, as well as stopping for lunch where you'll create your own deli masterpiece.
You will reach camp by early evening and enjoy a generous, delicious dinner prepared fresh by your guides. Once you have pitched your tent, you will have time to relax, play games and watch the stars coming out.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Accommodation: Camping
Driving Time (where relevant): n/a

DAY 12: WHITE WATER RAFTING ON THE COLORADO RIVER
You will wake with anticipation of the rapids downstream. After a healthy breakfast the guides take time to teach you how to enjoy the big rapids safely. Then the fun really begins. Here are the incredible rapids you have been waiting for: Little Hummer, Funnel Falls, Last Chance Rapid, and of course, the infamous Skull Rapid. Lunch is a fresh buffet on the riverbank.
There will be chance to swim and enjoy the river as you float out of Westwater Canyon. The ride back to Moab will be filled with stories of the hole in 'Sock-It-To-Me' and the beautiful sunset the night before. The van returns you to Moab around 6-6:30 PM
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Accommodation: BW Canyonlands
Transport (where relevant): n/a

DAY 13: MOAB
Today is a day at leisure in Moab. You may want to relax around the pool in your hotel, or take the time to explore downtown Moab. Later on, you could drive to Canyonlands National Park for some amazing views and gorgeous walking trails.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Accommodation: BW Canyonlands
Driving Time (where relevant): n/a

DAY 14: MONUMENT VALLEY
Today you drive south of Moab to Monument Valley, made famous by the famous Western Cowboy Movies. The drive takes about 4 hours, but we suggest a diversion along the way to Newspaper Rock where you can see some amazing petroglyphs.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Accommodation: Gouldings Lodge
Driving Time (where relevant): 4 hours

DAY 15: MONUMENT VALLEY - GUIDED TOUR
This morning you will have a half day off-road tour of Monument Valley, following in the footsteps of John Wayne. Your Native American guide will take you on a drive showing you the iconic scenery seen in classic Westerns and more modern offerings. The scenery is stunning and the experience is a unique opportunity to gain an insight into the Native American culture.
After your tour, you might want to have a swim in the hotel’s pool, sit and admire the views form your balcony or rent a DVD and watch one of the great classic Westerns!
Meals Included: n/a
Accommodation: Gouldings Lodge
Driving Time (where relevant): n/a

DAY 16: GRAND CANYON
Today you will drive to one of the seven natural wonders of the world: The Grand Canyon. Entering the National Park via the East Gate, you will drive west along Desert View Drive, with plenty of opportunities to stop and admire the magnificent views as you go. Even the most cynical of children can’t fail to be impressed by the sight of the Colorado River snaking its way through the canyon a mile below you.
After checking into your hotel, you may want to relax and enjoy the pool after a long day driving.
Meals Included: n/a
Accommodation: Holiday Inn Express
Driving Time (where relevant): 4 hours

DAY 17: GRAND CANYON
Today is yours to explore the Grand Canyon. There are several walking trails that you can follow, or you might decide to hire bicycles. There are many ranger led activities on offer, from talks to more interactive programmes. Children may enjoy the opportunity to take part in activities and then be sworn in as junior rangers. If you fancy venturing below the rim, we can arrange a guided hike for you, although be warned that temperatures in the summer months do not make for comfortable hiking weather.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Accommodation: Holiday Inn Express
Driving Time (where relevant): n/a

DAY 18: LAS VEGAS
Today you will return to Las Vegas. The drive takes about 4 – 5 hours. You can stop off to admire Hoover Dam along the way – it is an interesting place to stop and stretch your legs. Once you have arrived in Las Vegas, you may decide to relax by the pool, or head to one of the malls for some last minute shopping.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Accommodation: Platinum
Driving Time (where relevant): 4 - 5 hours

DAY 19: DEPART
Today is your departure day. You will need to drop your car off at the airport before catching your flight home.
Meals Included: n/a
Accommodation: n/a
Driving Time (where relevant): 15 minutes

Accommodation


Guide price is based on recommended accommodations. Alternative accommodations and upgrades are available. Please get in touch or click on 'alternatives' below for alternatives and upgrade options.

Our rating

9/10

Price guide

Price rating 4

- Excellent family choice
- Walking distance from the strip
- Sophisticated, smart and safe
- Roof terrace & pool

Our rating

8/10

Price guide

Price rating 3

- Gorgeous views
- Tasteful decor
- Balcony / Patio for every room
- Pool
- Family friendly

Our rating

7/10

Price guide

Price rating 4

- Convenient location
- Swimming pool & hot tub
- Breakfast included

Our rating

8/10

Price guide

Price rating 4

- Tranquil lodge
- Stunning views
- Uncommercial
- Hot Tub

Our rating

8/10

Price guide

Price rating 4

- Beautiful river views
- Spacious cabin accommodation
- Good sized pool

Gouldings Lodge

Monument Valley

Our rating

6/10

Price guide

Price rating 4

- Swimming pool
- Great views
- Family friendly

Our rating

6/10

Price guide

Price rating 3

- Swimming pool
- Complimentary breakfast
- Clean, comfortable rooms

Our rating

9/10

Price guide

Price rating 4

- Excellent family choice
- Walking distance from the strip
- Sophisticated, smart and safe
- Roof terrace & pool

Details

Getting there

This holiday begins and ends in Las Vegas. There are daily direct flights from the UK to Las Vegas, please get in touch if you would like us to book your flights for you.

When is best?

Utah & Arizona enjoy a four season climate, although experience more extremes than in the UK. Winters can be cold with plenty of snow. Summer temperatures can be high (reaching the high 30’s in places) and the humidity means that there can be thunderstorms, especially in July & August.

Spring and autumn have milder temperatures, making it an ideal time for keen hikers to visit. We suggest that if you want to spend any time hiking in the Grand Canyon, then you are better saving your visit for these seasons.
The National Parks tend to be busier around the public holidays and school holidays (June / July)

Is it for me?

This trip is suitable for families with children aged 10+ The age limit is mainly due to the white rafting trip. If you have younger children, please contact us so that we can offer an alternative river trip. There is a reasonable amount of driving in this holiday. We have road tested this trip ourselves with a child and found the distances manageable. The driving is fairly easy and often through scenic landscapes, but you will sometimes covering up to 5 hours in a day.

The slot canyoning does not require previous experience, but you do need to be up for a physical challenge and your children need to be able to listen to instructions. There is a hiking alternative that we can suggest if a less technical day is preferred.

If you like the sound of this itinerary, but would prefer something shorter, please take a look at our alternatives for the region, or get in touch to customise.

What customers are saying after travelling with Tourdust

Average Rating

based on 611 reviews

(4.94/5)

  • Service rating : Ben and Jayne were superb from start to finish. Ben's personal experience of the places we planned to visit was invaluable and he was able to recommend really great accommodation and activities that were perfect for our family of 5.
    Product : Our bespoke USA Road Trip was the best family holiday we've ever had. Amazing scenery, thrilling activities, excellent accommodation and amazing memories. Not only that but Tourdust put all this together for us at relatively short notice - thank you guys|

    Ben feefo reviewer verified review for Highlights of America's South West on 01 September 2015

  • Following on from our conversation yesterday - I just wanted to reiterate how delighted we were - and what a huge success the holiday was. It was a bit of a monumental trip for us - and it is not easy travelling with the various ages of the children - but it went very well. The advice and recommendations were great - the hotels were all as you described, and in the right place etc (although as I said I would not have stayed in Yosemite Lodge)
    The journey was well paced, the satnav guide was invaluable (although I used the free version - even so I would not have known about it without you mentioning it and it was a godsend)
    It was great. And you were incredibly patient with my endless badgering and questions - for which many thanks.

    The rafting in particular was fantastic. The guides actually forgot our tents - which was quite funny - Kit clearly felt a thin nylon tent was protection against mountain lions, but once we established that the tent made no difference - he was fine. The food rafting was delicious - although I have to say spectacularly wasteful. 35 pancakes for 6 people for breakfast??? With bacon, fruit, eggs etc etc as well? The children were appalled at how much was thrown away - but I guess that is a the company's thing..

    The only thing it would have been good to have been tipped off in the notes about was how much nicer the food is in Yosemite village - rather than the dreary depressing hotel canteen. Maybe other guests would try the dining room - but there was such a long wait for a table - we didn't bother. The buses are very good - and the food options are much better in the village - which we didn't realise until the second night - the guide told us actually. I would definitely put that in the notes for other guests - we didn't try the formal dining room - so maybe that is good - but bypass the canteen.

    We loved the arches park - having never heard of it - it was mind blowing. And the wonderful platinum hotel in Las Vegas was fabulous. Great location, gorgeous rooms, esp after the motel style dark rooms in Moab and Gouldings.
    I had been toying with the idea of sitting in a launderette in Monument Valley - but figured the Navajo prices would be astronomical. Imagine my delight to find I had not one but TWO washing machines and dryers - complete with washing powder - in the hotel/apartments in Las Vegas. Perfect. We left LV with completely clean clothes, ready for the rest of the holiday. A small but very delightful point!

    It was all great. Thank you so much for your efforts, and patience, you definitely gave us a holiday perfectly tailored to US - fitting the older children in really well, and pacing everything so perfectly. I will be in touch again!!

    MissingKathryn Maitland reviewing Highlights of America's South West on 06 October 2014

  • Everything worked perfectly! We all found our trekking experience to be the best part of our adventures in Morocco. We were particularly pleased with our guide, Hussain; he did a brilliant job. He is thoughtful, knowledgable, and sweet. He represents you well.

    MissingJacob Moffat reviewing Atlas Valleys & Villages Comfort Treks on 09 March 2017

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Alternative Itineraries

Our itineraries are carefully designed by our experienced travel designers based on years of experience and customer feedback. For a custom itinerary tailored to you, please enquire giving as much detail as possible on your brief.

A 2 week adventurous road trip in America's South West, designed especially with the under 10's in mind.

Tailor-made Classic 15 days

Families from $1,173 pp plus flights

'From Price' is the average price per person for ground arrangements for a family of four (two adults + two children under 12).

Flights are typically an additional $1,304 per person economy class from London

A family road trip taking in some of Western USA's biggest hitters: The Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Yosemite & San Francisco.

Tailor-made Classic 2 weeks

Families from $1,368 pp plus flights

'From Price' is the average price per person for ground arrangements for a family of four (two adults + two children under 12).

Flights are typically an additional $1,382 per person economy class from London

Cycle the Golden Gate Bridge, raft the Colorado River, see the Grand Canyon & enjoy the bright lights of Las Vegas.

Tailor-made Classic 2 weeks

Families from $1,502 pp plus flights

'From Price' is the average price per person for ground arrangements for a family of four (two adults + two children under 12).

Flights are typically an additional $1,304 per person economy class from London

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