Death Valley, Yosemite and the Great Parks of California

Death Valley, Yosemite and the Great Parks of California

Join us on a transformative journey into the sublime, sprawling wilderness of California’s national parks. With more national parks in the Golden State than anywhere in the nation, it’s home to some of our most iconic natural wonders—the highest waterfalls, largest trees, and one of the deepest canyons.

Showcasing Death Valley, Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks, this 8-day program celebrates the history, beauty, and culture of these magnificent public lands. Together we’ll experience rich and diverse natural landscapes, opportunities to glimpse wildlife, a cosmic voyage of stargazing, and a palpable connection with nature.

After each rewarding day exploring the surreal geological formations at Death Valley, the picturesque panoramas at Yosemite, and the towering sequoia forests of Sequoia and Kings Canyon, we’ll retire to well-regarded and comfortable resorts and lodges.

Trip Itinerary:

October 2 Arrive in Las Vegas, NV / Death Valley National Park, CA

Upon arriving in Las Vegas, meet with your fellow travel companions and Orbridge Expedition Leader before setting out for Death Valley National Park.

En route, enjoy a stop at Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. Named for an abundance of ash trees that provide welcome shade for creatures such as big horn sheep, this is the largest remaining oasis in the Mojave Desert—where nearly 11,000 gallons of water emerge from its springs. Learn of the efforts to protect and restore the ecosystem that supports 16 different botanical habitats. Walk scenic boardwalks leading to sparkling springs full of fascinating pupfish, and learn about the nearly 30 endemic species found here and nowhere else on the planet. Ash Meadows has been declared a wetland of international importance by the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental treaty providing a framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

Continue on to Death Valley National Park, arriving at the hotel to settle in and enjoy dinner with the group.
Overnight: The Inn at Death Valley (D)

October 3 Death Valley National Park

Death Valley is famous for being the hottest, driest, and lowest national park—and 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.

Following leisure time on your own, join together again for dinner and an evening stargazing program. Death Valley National Park is the world’s largest International Dark Sky Park. With these dark skies, gaze in awe at the expanse of the Milky Way, see details of the moon, and simply reflect on your place in the universe.
Overnight: The Inn at Death Valley (B,D)

October 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. It's a gateway to some of the most majestic seasonal landforms and attractions, including the stately basalt pillars of the Devils Postpile National Monument—a natural structure featuring thousands of hexagonal columns formed about 100,000 years ago when lava flow slowed, cooled, and cracked. The Devils Postpile National Monument also includes Rainbow Falls, a 101-foot waterfall known for the colorful rainbow its mist creates.

Take in the spectacular views from the Panorama Gondola. With this seasonal operation, ride up, up, up to the top of Mammoth Mountain at 11,053 feet. At the summit, visit the interactive displays of the Eleven 53 Interpretive Center, with information on the area's geologic, hydrologic, and volcanic history.
Overnight: Mammoth Mountain Inn (B,L)

October 5 Mammoth Lakes / Yosemite National Park

Today, depart Mammoth Lakes for 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 around nearly every curve of the road as the park's dramatic domes and drop-offs are highlighted.

After lunch on your own, spend the remainder of the day in Yosemite. Within its 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.
Overnight: Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite (B)

October 6 Yosemite National Park

Relish an entire day in Yosemite to soak in more of the park's natural beauty. Start with an open-air tram tour of the valley floor. 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,D)

October 7 Yosemite National Park / Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Depart Yosemite National Park for 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.

Linger in these outstanding natural preserves and explore 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.
Overnight: Wuksachi Lodge (B,D)

October 8 Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Explore the trails, scenery, and Visitor Center to take in more of the wonder of these magnificent parks. In Sequoia National Park, the Giant Forest harbors the world's largest collection of sequoia trees. The biggest of them all is the General Sherman Tree, which 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 more than 2,000 years old.

Tonight, join with fellow travel companions for a special farewell reception.
Overnight: Wuksachi Lodge (B,R)

October 9 Sequoia National Park / Fresno / Depart Fresno

After breakfast, guests departing during the suggested times take a complimentary group transfer to Fresno Yosemite International Airport for flights home. (B)

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