Great National Parks of the Western USA
The magnificent Old West conjures up images of cowboys and Indians, lawmen and outlaws, as well as courageous frontiersmen, forging ever westward in search of freedom, independence and greener pastures. No other period has influenced American culture and defined its history as greatly as the Western frontier. Its legendary figures – Wyatt Earp, Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickock – are now commemorated in film and fiction.
Areas of the West had already been populated since 11,000 BC with the arrival of the first Paleo-Indians. Long before Columbus, trade routes existed in places such as Yellowstone, a real highlight of our tour. The western territories saw rapid development in the 1840s with major settlements, largely due to the California Gold Rush and Oregon Trail.
Beyond the myths and legends, the West is famed for its bountiful natural treasures. As the largest region covering more than half of the USA, it is also the most diverse, boasting an impressive range of spectacular landscapes, from some of the highest mountain peaks, to expanses of desert lands and rolling plains. Our exhilarating tour focuses on the Mountain States – Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado – and extends northeast to the Midwestern state of South Dakota.
Our first stop is ruggedly striking Utah, featuring monumental red-rock mesas, vast canyons and arid deserts. The unique jaw-dropping natural sandstone structures of Arches National Park offer glimpses into the Earth’s turbulent geological past dating back over 100 million years. Salt Lake City, the capital, still has a small-town feel, despite its university and downtown skyscrapers.
We explore breath-taking Colorado, synonymous with outstanding vistas, mountain towns, and top-class ski resorts. We visit no less than three National Historic Landmarks, officially recognised by the US government for their significance – be swept away by the majesty of the Rockies, mirrored in the national park’s many crystal-clear lakes; witness the extraordinary cliff dwellings built by ancient Native Americans in Mesa Verde National Park; and relive the sights and sounds of yesteryear on the Durango & Silverton Railroad in a vintage steam locomotive, passing through the unspoiled San Juan Mountains.
Our tour takes us north into South Dakota with its gentle rolling prairies and four times as many cattle as people. As we pass through Custer State Park, try to spot its numerous inhabitants, from diminutive prairie dogs to slow-moving buffalo herds. Rising high over the treetops of the Black Hills is iconic Mount Rushmore and the faces of four great presidents, immortalised in the granite mountainside. We visit the historic gold rush town of Deadwood, first settled by miners and then all sorts of characters, both lawful and unsavoury, all seeking their fortune. Looming above the plains is Devils Tower, a flat-topped volcanic formation, a unique marvel of nature and the recipient of the first National Monument title.
We cross over to Montana, the epitome of the independent American frontier spirit. The unmistakable scent of pine fills the crisp country air, as we forge ahead to the Little Bighorn Battlefield, the site of the epic clash between the 7th Cavalry and several Native American tribes.
Heading south-west into Wyoming, the endless expanse of blue skies and rustling grasslands lets us know we’ve arrived in cowboy country, especially in the picturesque town of Cody, named after its founder, ‘Buffalo Bill’. Surrounded by stunning mountains, this charming town wouldn’t look out of place in an old Western. America’s most sparsely populated state is home to several world-famous national parks. In Yellowstone, where every view is a picture-perfect moment, there’s an absolutely astounding blend of natural beauty, rugged wilderness, plentiful wildlife, and the world’s largest concentration of geysers. The neighbouring Grand Teton National Park is equally blessed with dramatic vistas of gorgeous landscapes dominated by snow-capped peaks and crystalline alpine lakes.
When it comes to the cuisine of the West, you’ll find it as varied as its scenery. Many areas are steeped in ranch culture and hunting traditions, so wild game and meat dishes, particularly beef, are common. Chuckwagons and BBQs, historically used for cooking out on the prairie, still feature in cooking events. Native American staples have also found their way into the American kitchen, such as corn, beans, and squash, referred to as the ‘three sisters’. On this incredible journey, you’ll experience the lands and legends of a bygone era, and discover why its indomitable spirit still thrives today.
- A wonderful tour visiting no less than nine National Parks, Monuments and State Parks spread across Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana, including two days in magnificent Yellowstone
- Experience the unique landscapes and geology of Yellowstone, the world’s first National Park, with its geysers, hot springs, waterfalls and herds of bison, elk and grizzly bears
- Visit that iconic symbol of the USA – Mount Rushmore, with its colossal heads of four the USA’s greatest Presidents set in the Black Hills of South Dakota
- Drive through classic cowboy country in Wyoming and learn about its famous historical figures such as Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and Buffalo Bill
- See the site of Custer’s famous ‘Last Stand’ on the Little Bighorn battlefield
- Explore some of the remarkable, but lesser-known sights such as the Devil’s Tower, Mesa Verde and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison
- Gaze in awe at the incredible variety of sandstone arches, spires, balanced rocks and monoliths sculpted by nature in Arches National Park
- Travel on the historic Durango & Silverton steam railway amongst the spectacular scenery of the Colorado Rockies
- Return direct scheduled flights and transfers
- Stay in hand-picked three-star hotels with breakfast
- Escorted by our experienced tour manager
- Selected departures from July to September 2019
- The price of this holiday is per person based on two people sharing a twin room and includes: scheduled direct flights to Salt Lake City; all transfers; 14 nights accommodation in three-star hotels with breakfast; all tours as mentioned including visits to Arches, Mesa Verde, Black Canyon, Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, & Grand Teton National Parks, Mt Rushmore, Devils Tower, guided tour of the Little Bighorn Battlefield, city tour of Salt Lake City & Denver, Durango & Silverton railway; porterage of one item of luggage per person; the services of a Riviera tour manager.
- Please note: adverse weather conditions may result in some road closures in Yellowstone in early or late season.
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