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Death Valley, Yosemite and the Great Parks of California

Survey the dramatic landscapes of four of California's national parks as nature testifies to its size, beauty, and diversity. Discover the vast desert region of Death Valley National Park—home to both the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level and the world's highest recorded temperature at 134 degrees Fahrenheit. Admire the iconic waterfalls, deep valleys, grand meadows, and extensive wilderness of Yosemite. And marvel at the celebrated groves of sequoia giants at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.


NOTE: This program information is current as of 6/7/2023.

Program Highlights

  • Experience the diverse wonders of four West Coast national parks accompanied by an Orbridge Expedition Leader.
  • Observe terrestrial spectacles in Death Valley National Park—known for its extremes and for being the largest national park south of Alaska. 
  • Visit Badwater Basin, an otherworldly landscape of crinkly salt flats, and enjoy pristine views of thousands of stars in the nighttime sky.
  • Honor and preserve the memory of thousands of Japanese Americans who faced internment during World War II at Manzanar National Historic Site.
  • Delight in exploration of Yosemite National Park, a varied landscape supporting more than 400 species of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.
  • Spend time at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks that are teeming with endless natural features, including General Sherman—a giant sequoia tree soaring 275 feet into the blue Sierra sky.
  • What's included: 7 nights accommodations in inspiring hotels and lodges; 7 breakfasts and 4 dinners, plus special welcome reception; full guiding services of an Orbridge Expedition Leader as well as local expert guides; all activities as described in the 8-day itinerary; admission and park fees; private deluxe motor coach with air conditioning and comfortable seating; luggage porterage; gratuities to Orbridge Expedition Leader, local guides, drivers, porters, and wait staff for included meals; and airport transfers for guests arriving and departing during the suggested times.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Las Vegas, NV 
Upon arriving in Las Vegas, meet with your fellow travel companions and Orbridge Expedition Leader. At the hotel, settle in and enjoy a welcome reception with the group. 
Overnight: The Westin Las Vegas Hotel and Spa (R)

Day 2: Las Vegas / Death Valley National Park 
Today head for Death Valley, famous for being the hottest, driest, and lowest national park. Many visitors expect to encounter a completely arid, shadeless expanse devoid of life. But this park of more than three million acres is a realm of surprise and contrast. During a full day of sightseeing, discover sculptural canyons, mountain-sized sand dunes, and abundant wildlife. From the snow that frosts the park's towering peaks to its lush wildflower meadows, there is much to see and explore in this beautiful, but challenging, landscape.

Head 282 feet below sea level to the surreal terrain of Badwater Basin, the lowest place in North America. Rain and minerals dissolved from rocks drain to this lower elevation, and as the water evaporates, minerals concentrate until only the salts remain. A short boardwalk leads you out to the salt flats and to Badwater Pool, a small body of water fed by a spring with aquatic insects and the Badwater snail. Visiting Badwater Basin provides a unique experience and a landscape that appears to stretch on forever. 

Later, gather for dinner. 
Overnight: The Inn at Death Valley (B,D)

Day 3: Death Valley National Park 
Delight in additional geologic and scenic treasures of Death Valley National Park. This may include the most popular scenic drive in the park—a nine-mile paved road through eroded, colorful desert hills. The rainbow hills of Artists Drive were formed by volcanic deposits of different compositions. 

Additional potential highlights are discovering the immense area of rock salt eroded by wind and rain into jagged spires at Devils Golf Course, or taking in the famous view known as Zabriskie Point. Other options abound, including marveling at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, the largest dune field in the park. Here, polygon-cracked clay of an ancient lakebed forms the floor and mesquite trees have created large hummocks that provide stable habitats for wildlife. You might also step back in time at Keane Wonder Mine, one of the best examples of a historical gold mining operation in the park. 
Overnight: The Inn at Death Valley (B,D)

Day 4: Death Valley National Park  / Mammoth Lakes
Depart Death Valley for a scenic drive to Mammoth Lakes, a charming town in California's Sierra Nevada mountains. On the way, see the Manzanar National Historic Site to learn about the experience of more than 10,000 Japanese Americans who spent all or part of World War II there. Hear their stories and learn about the legacy of an important chapter in America's history. 

Mammoth Lakes is a gateway to majestic seasonal landforms and attractions. Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve was established to preserve the spectacular "tufa towers." These are calcium-carbonate spires and knobs formed by the interaction of freshwater springs and alkaline lake water. The tufa formations are notable for their unusual shapes and abundance. Extensively studied by scientists, they have aided in understanding the climate history of this region. The reserve also protects the lake surface, wetlands, and other sensitive habitat for the millions of birds that feed and rest at Mono Lake each year.
Overnight: The Village Lodge at Mammoth (B)

Day 5: Mammoth Lakes / Yosemite National Park 
Today, exit Mammoth Lakes and head towards the waterfalls, granite monoliths, and ancient sequoias of Yosemite National Park. Along the way, drive over the spectacular Tioga Pass (weather conditions permitting). This eastern access to Yosemite provides photo opportunities as the park's dramatic domes and drop-offs are highlighted. 
Overnight: Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite (B,D)

Day 6: Yosemite National Park 
Within Yosemite's nearly 1,200 square miles are wild meadows, rivers, lakes, and some of the world's most renowned rock formations. Did you know this diverse landscape supports more than 400 species of wildlife? Look around, and you'll likely spy one of the park's many amphibians, reptiles, birds, or mammals. A true treat would be to spot the rare Sierra Nevada red fox, seen for the first time in nearly a century on a wildlife camera in 2014.

Relish an entire day to soak in this park's natural beauty. Depending on the seasonal operation schedule, enjoy the open-air tram tour of the valley floor if possible. Led by park rangers and Yosemite hospitality naturalists, you'll learn about the history, flora, and fauna throughout the park. 

Lunch and afternoon activities are open for your leisure to enjoy. Work off the midday meal with a local hike, or take it easy with a complimentary program offered by the National Park Service. 

Tonight return to the hotel to relax and revisit your memories of the day. 
Overnight: Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite (B)

Day 7: Yosemite National Park / Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks 
Today, adventure awaits in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. These parks, which lie side by side, further testify to nature's size, beauty, and diversity. The parks' long list of superlatives includes Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States, and the Kings River Canyon, one of the deepest in North America. 

Sequoia National Park was established in 1890 to protect the General Grant Grove of giant sequoias. Kings Canyon National Park, established in 1940, is a wide glacial valley with green meadows, waterfalls, tall cliffs, and meandering rivers set against the high peaks of the Sierra Crest in the distance.

Explore the trails, scenery, and Visitor Center to take in the wonder. In Sequoia National Park, the Giant Forest harbors the world's largest collection of sequoia trees. The biggest of them all, the General Sherman Tree, measures more than 100 feet around the base of its massive trunk. Other trees are taller or wider, but none has the combined weight and width of this glorious one. How big is big? Consider this: every year it adds enough wood to make another 60-foot tree. Scientists have speculated that it may be more than 2,000 years old. 

Linger in these outstanding natural preserves and admire their amazing features. The two parks protect numerous karst streams and some of the best alpine karst topography in the United States. The lower elevations are home to a variety of wildlife, including bobcats, foxes, ground squirrels, mule deer, rattlesnakes, and reclusive mountain lions. This California Foothills ecosystem is the only one protected by the National Park Service.

This evening, clear skies permitting, you may elect to stargaze on your own, observing the waning light beneath the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains. 

Tonight, join fellow travel companions for a special farewell dinner.
Overnight: Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite (B,D)

Day 8: Fresno / Depart Fresno
After breakfast, the group departs together for Fresno Yosemite International Airport for flights home. (B)

B =  Breakfast, L = Lunch, D =  Dinner, R = Reception

(Itinerary subject to change.)

Activity Level

Moderate

The majority of the program’s activities will take place outdoors and a fair amount of walking on varying terrain is to be expected. Many of the parks have dirt trails, but they are usually fairly smooth for walking. Some have paved pathways or boardwalks. It is our expectation that guests on this program are able to walk a mile at a moderate pace, get in and out of a motor coach, and walk up a flight of stairs without assistance. Also keep in mind that you will experience varying altitudes from -200 feet below sea level up to 10,000 feet, to which you may not be accustomed.

What's Included

  • 7 nights accommodations in inspiring hotels and lodges
  • 7 breakfasts and 4 dinners, plus special welcome reception
  • Full guiding services of an Orbridge Expedition Leader as well as expert local guides
  • All activities as described in the 8-day itinerary
  • Admission and park fees
  • Private deluxe motor coach with air conditioning and comfortable seating
  • Luggage porterage
  • Gratuities to Orbridge Expedition Leader, local guides, drivers, porters, and wait staff for included meals
  • Airport transfers for guests arriving and departing during the suggested times

Accommodations

The Westin Las Vegas Hotel & Spa

Welcome to the City of Lights! This stylish hotel —just off the Las Vegas Strip—features a non-smoking environment, modern guest rooms, outdoor heated pool, fitness studio, lobby lounge, and 24-hour bistro.

Room Amenities: Individual climate control, Heavenly® Bed, 42" flat-screen LCD cable TV, complimentary Wi-Fi, phone, coffee maker, safe, and en suite bathroom with deluxe Heavenly® Bath sundries and hair dryer.

The Inn at Death Valley

A jewel of a property in Death Valley, this historic hideaway has pampered guests such as Marlon Brando, Carole Lombard, and Clark Gable. After an extensive renaissance, The Inn at Death Valley is now better than ever, offering visitors the opportunity to relax near the spring-fed pool, stroll through date palm gardens, and retire to rooms where old-school ambience meets modern style and amenities. 

Room Amenities: Individual climate control, satellite TV, complimentary Wi-Fi, phone, coffee and tea maker, mini-fridge, iron and ironing board, and en suite bathroom with sundries and hair dryer.

The Village Lodge at Mammoth

Steps from great shopping and dining are the condos of The Village Lodge at Mammoth, offering both convenience and luxury. This mountain resort features beautifully maintained grounds, a pool, hot tubs, and fitness center along with well-appointed units. Located above 8,000 feet, summer temperatures are generally mild, so the hotel and rooms are not equipped with air conditioning. 

Room Amenities: Writing desk and chair, flatscreen TV with cable/satellite, alarm clock, phone, kitchenette, coffee and tea maker, iron and ironing board, and en suite bathroom with sundries and hair dryer.

Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite

Located on 48 acres, the impressive Tenaya Lodge is nestled high among the pine and fir trees of Sierra National Forest, two miles from the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park. Guests can swim in outdoor and indoor pools, take advantage of the game room, try their skills in archery or rock wall climbing, or visit the on-site spa (additional fees apply). Rooms are spacious and sport plush bedding and deluxe baths. 

Room Amenities: Individual climate control, TV, complimentary Wi-Fi, phone, coffee and tea maker, mini-fridge, and en suite bathroom with sundries and hair dryer.

(Accommodations subject to change.)

Optional Post-Tour

Monterey to Santa Barbara


Extend your California adventure with this wondrously scenic tour, highlighting breathtaking views and points of interest. Cruise the panoramic coastline, discover wildlife and conservation inspiration at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, savor a wine tasting, and experience the history and grandeur of the Old Mission in Santa Barbara.

Itinerary

Day 8: Monterey
After breakfast, travel through California's farmlands to the Pacific coastal town of Monterey. With vineyards, artist communities, lighthouses, quaint shops, and a world-renowned aquarium, the town is packed with culture, history, and charm. A wonderful diversity of marine life distinguishes this area, including sea lions, sea otters, harbor seals, bat rays, kelp forests, pelicans, and dolphins. 

Later, visit the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, a facility known for its interactive exhibits. At the impressive Open Sea section, the aquarium's largest display, see up-close tuna speeding past and sardines swarming in huge, glittering schools. Watch the sea turtles swim lazily across the 90-foot window, while nearby brilliant jellies pulse through the water. For 35 years, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has been instrumental in rescuing sea otters no longer able to survive in the wild. Learn amazing facts about such wildlife, including, for instance, that sea otters have the world's densest fur, with up to a million hairs per square inch. Humans, by comparison, have 100,000 hairs or less on our whole heads! 
Overnight: Victorian Inn

Day 9: Monterey / Cambria
One of today's highlights includes traveling along the scenic 17-Mile Drive that hugs the Pacific coastline. View the iconic "Lone Cypress" rooted dramatically to a granite hillside, the beautiful white sand beach at Fanshell Overlook, Spanish Bay's grassy shoreline, treacherous Point Joe, and Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Continue down the Central Coast from Monterey to Moonstone Beach in Cambria. Along the Pacific Coast Highway, stop to admire the panoramic vistas at iconic locations, including Bixby Creek Bridge and Big Sur. 
Overnight: FogCatcher Inn (B)

Day 10: Cambria / Santa Barbara
After breakfast, learn about the area's incredible elephant seals and visit the beaches they frequent to see them in person. Did you know that elephant seals come ashore once a year and shed their first layer of skin and fur to replace with new ones? Make sure to have a camera ready to photograph these fascinating creatures. 

This afternoon, relax and raise a glass to toast your California adventure with a wine tasting event. Experience the beauty and charm of Santa Barbara's wine country with a visit to Zaca Mesa. Just 25 miles from the Pacific Ocean, these vineyards sit in a sweet spot providing the ability to grow dynamic, balanced Rhône grapes, such as Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Viognier. From the aroma of the wines' bouquet to vistas of the beautiful San Rafael Mountains, this event engages the senses and celebrates the distinct characteristics of the area. 

Next, tour the Historic Old Mission in Santa Barbara, established in 1786 as the 10th of the 21 California Missions to be founded by the Spanish Franciscans. Situated on 15 acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Mission grounds include the beautiful church, historic cemetery and mausoleum, a nine-room museum of historical artwork and artifacts, and multiple lush gardens. Learn about the Chumash—a Native American tribe who occupied an area from Malibu to San Luis Obispo. Exceptionally restored and well-maintained by the Franciscan monks still living here, the Mission provides guests both beauty and educational insights into the long history of this region of California. 
Overnight: Best Western Plus Santa Barbara (B,L)

Day 11: Depart Santa Barbara
After breakfast, guests departing during the suggested times take the complimentary transfer to Santa Barbara Municipal Airport for flights home. (B)

B = Breakfast, L = Lunch

Post-tour space is limited, so it's recommended to reserve early for best availability.

(Itinerary subject to change.)

Activity Level

Moderate

It is our expectation that guests on this program are able to walk a mile at a moderate pace, get in and out of a motor coach, and walk up and down a flight of stairs.

Accommodations

Victorian Inn

Victorian Inn provides a warm historic charm celebrating the spirit of Monterey. Close to popular attractions, this boutique hotel on Cannery Row appears as a quaint home from the outside, while the interior impresses with spacious, well-decorated rooms, courtyard views, and lovely amenities. 

Room Amenities: Writing desk and chair, flatscreen TV, complimentary Wi-Fi, alarm clock, phone, coffee and tea maker, mini-fridge, safe, marble gas fireplace, iron and ironing board, and en suite bathroom with sundries and hair dryer.

FogCatcher Inn

Relaxed and welcoming, FogCatcher Inn is an oceanfront gem located across the street from beautiful Moonstone Beach—voted one of the “10 Best Beaches in California” by the readers of USA Today. Coastal décor, driftwood-inspired headboards, and warm yellow accents reflect the beachfront setting and traits of a California beach cottage.

After visiting Cambria attractions by day, watch the sunset from the outdoor heated pool, over-sized hot tub, or one of the many benches throughout the lush hotel grounds.

Room Amenities: Individual climate control, fireplace, HDTV, complimentary Wi-Fi, phone, coffee maker, microwave, mini-fridge, bathrobes, and en suite bathroom with sundries and hair dryer.

Best Western Plus Santa Barbara

Tucked away on a quiet residential street lined with turn-of-the-century homes, but just minutes from historic downtown and the beach, Best Western Plus Santa Barbara offers all the amenities of a boutique hotel with the charm of a bed and breakfast. During leisure time, relax by the garden pool, delight in the bird aviary, work out in the exercise room, or browse the gift shop.

Room Amenities: Individual climate control, flat-screen satellite TV, complimentary Wi-Fi, phone, coffee maker, microwave, mini-fridge, safe, bathrobes, iron and ironing board, and en suite bathroom with sundries and hair dryer.

(Accommodations subject to change.)

What's Included

  • 3 nights hotel accommodations with breakfast each morning
  • Admission to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Santa Barbara's Old Mission, including transportation
  • Wine tasting event at Zaca Mesa
  • Gratuities to Orbridge Expedition Leader, local guides, drivers, porters, and wait staff for included meals
  • Airport transfers for guests departing during the suggested times

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