Top 10 escorted tours in America's West
For epic landscapes, gorgeous coastlines, revered national parks and fascinating cities, to explore the American West is on most of our bucket-lists. But it’s also most challenging to navigate independently. So it’s clear why escorted tours have proved to be such a pull for those keen to get their kicks on Route 66, hike in Yosemite, have a flutter in Las Vegas, unleash their inner cowboy/girl in the Wild West, and enjoy cultural fixes aplenty. Best of all, each tour includes on-location guiding, action-packed itineraries, hand-picked accommodation and of course, all the travelling without you having to drive or catch a train. Here’s our pick of the top 10 escorted tours in America’s West guaranteed to appeal to all ages.
National Parks Explorer
How long: 14 nights
What: While the scale alone of America’s West will make you wish you had double the amount of time planned, this outstanding tour packs in more than enough to satisfy. Highlights include the spectacular landscapes of Yellowstone, the Colorado River, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Lake Tahoe, the Sierra Nevada mountains, and of course the Grand Canyon. You’ll also get chance to visit some great cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas and see truly unique sights in the Craters of the Moon National Park.
The best bits: YA mountain wilderness, boasting historic cabins and prehistoric sites, that’s home to grizzly bears, eagles, wolves, and herds of bison and elk, Yellowstone National Park is the core of one of the last, nearly intact ecosystems in the Earth’s temperate zone.
More information and to book: National Parks Explorer
Wings over the West
How long: 14 nights
What: West Coast splendour reveals itself on this upscale small group tour. Travelling by private plane to cover the longer distances and luxury coach when there’s lots to see, you’ll get the best of both worlds. You’ll experience a birds-eye view of the magnificent Grand Canyon, plus the Hoover Dam & Lake Mead. You’ll meander along the glorious pacific coastline and through the National Parks of Monument Valley & Zion. You’ll also enjoy wine-tasting in the Napa Valley & cruise San Francisco Bay, on this holiday of a lifetime.
The best bits: Taking a private jet from Las Vegas to Yosemite National Park allows you so much more time to discover its awe-inspiring scenery. Upon arrival, you’ll board an air-conditioned coach and drive he original route along the first route that brought the original travellers to the valley floor along the Merced River Canyon, then you will discover the stunning rock formations of Half Dome and El Capitan, and waterfalls such as Bridal Veil.
More information and to book: Wings over the West
Wild West Cowboys and Buffalos Family Tour
How long: 8 nights
What: Discover the cowboy towns of Jackson, Sheridan and Keystone with the whole family. Explore Yellowstone, admire Mt Rushmore and witness the incredible black bears of this region. Young and old alike will have an amazing time on this Wild West adventure, with expert tour manager, first class accommodation, transfers, transatlantic scheduled flights and deluxe coach included.
The best bits: Experience a traditional homestead and enjoy a BBQ, chuck wagon ride and horse riding, catch a glimpse of life of the Old Trail with a trip to the Oregon Trail Centre, explore the beautiful Grand Teton National Park, discover the stunning landscapes of Yellowstone National Park, learn about the history of the American West in Cody
More information and to book: Wild West Cowboys and Buffalos Family Tour
Rocky Mountain Frontiers
How long: 13 nights
What: Beginning and ending in the mile-high city of Denver, this perfectly-planned tour is all about fresh and fast adventures that never slow down. There’s stays in Cheyenne, Rapid City, Cody, Jackson Hole, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Colorado Springs, as well as the chance gaze in wonder at peaks and canyons of sizeable proportions at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the Bighorn Mountains, and Yellowstone. Further fun at the Buffalo Bill Historic Centre, Fort Laramie and Route 66 will have you wishing you could stay for longer.
The best bits: Fuelled by Wild West charm and a unique urban-chic vibe, Denver is the cultural capital of Colorado that lures with a hipster-filled downtown district. Must-dos here include hitting the 16th Street Mall for cowboy apparel, relaxing in the Denver Botanic Gardens, watching street performers in the buzzy Larimer Square, and taking the free 45-minute tour of the US Mint.
More information and to book: Rocky Mountain Frontiers
How long: 7 nights
What: Natural wonders pull focus here, so prepare to be dazzled by soaring peaks, striking coastal scenery, and some of the world’s tallest trees. Kicking off with a tour of San Francisco that includes visiting the Cable Car Museum, you’ll get to wine and dine at Napa Valley, soak up the alpine beauty of Lake Tahoe, learn about fruit and veg production in Salinas Valley, and relish stops in Sacramento, Yosemite, Carmel, Big Sur, and more. A farm-to-table dining experience in Monterey and the giant redwoods of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park wrap things up nicely.
The best bits: For waterfalls unlike anywhere on Earth, the head-turning Yosemite Valley is the crown jewel of California’s Yosemite National Park - a UNESCO-listed wonderland that spans a whopping 1,200 square miles. After accessing the park through the snow-clad Tioga Pass in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, check out the 620-feet-high Bridalveil Fall - the iconic waterfall that may not be as high as the Yosemite Falls, but it’s definitely the best-looking.
More information and to book: Northern California
Best of Hawaii
How long: 8 nights
What: We’ll admit that Hawaii isn’t strictly speaking “America’s West” but we thought we’d throw this wild card in as this tour really is an incredible way to discover this remote American state. This ten day adventure takes you to the three contrasting islands of Oahu, Maui and Hawaii Island. On Oahu you’ll visit the moving museum of Pearl Harbour and whilst Waikiki Beach might not be an unspoilt paradise it’s definitely fun and we’d recommend sipping on a Mai Tai cocktail whilst watching the daring surfers. Maui is a tropical wonder and here you will visit a local farm, the Iao Valley State Park and the Haleakala volcano. You’ll travel east to west over Hawaii Island from the eastern volcanic black sandy beaches to the golden sands of Kona where you will see and learn all about Manta Rays.
The best bits: In Volcanoes National Park, you’ll learn all about the fascinating geology of the island in the interpretive centre and then enjoy a unique lunch at the Rim Restaurant overlooking the active Kileau caldera – a magical experience.
More information and to book: Best of Hawaii
How long: 7 nights
What: We picked this one as it really packs a punch in just one week, a circular tour flying in and out of LAX and providing great value for money. You’ll experience the desert scenery of Palm Springs and Phoenix and the world-renowned national parks including Bryce Canyon, Zion and the Grand Canyon. You’ll have the opportunity to visit Navajo country and Monument Valley, along with Lake Powell, Sedona and Las Vegas.
The best bits: It’s got to be the Grand Canyon – at one mile deep, 18 miles wide and 277 miles long – it is truly awe-inspiring. One of our team (who will remain anonymous) memorably said “isn’t it just a hole in the ground” until she visited it herself and since then hasn’t stopped talking about how amazing it is!
More information and to book: Western Trails
Pioneer Adventures of the Old West Family Tour
How long: 7 nights
What: A thrill-a-minute family adventure is assured in the Old West, the wide-open landscape marked by red rock formations and enough movie references to make you want to return here immediately and do it all over again. Following in the footsteps of real-life cowboys and native Indians, you’re offered a compelling mix of laid-back road and rail trips, mind-blowing vistas at the Grand Canyon, and visits to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, Sedona, Montezuma Castle, Cameron Trading Post, Monument Valley and Lake Powell.
The best bits: Once limited to the Navajo and Hopi Indians who came here to barter their hand-made goods for food staples, Arizona’s hundred-year-old Cameron Trading Post still sells western basics. But it’s the Native American crafts by tribal artisans that are most appealing; be sure to stock up on silver and turquoise jewellery, wood carvings, wool blankets, colourful pottery, and weaved rugs crafted on looms handed down through generations.
More information and to book: Pioneer Adventures of the Old West
The Great American Crossing
How long: 16 nights
What: As the name indicates, this is not just a tour of western America but takes you from coast to coast. Beginning in New York you’ll visit Philadelphia, Washington DC and the Gettysburg battleground before visiting the awe-inspiring Niagara Falls just over the border. From here, make you way to Detroit and Chicago, before moving westwards to the Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore and the Old West history of the Black Hills. Take in the sights of Yellowstone National Park and Teton Mountains on your way to Salt Lake City, then it’s Bryce Canyon, Lake Powell and Grand Canyon. Venture to Las Vegas down Route 66, before heading back into the desert and into California to arrive in Los Angeles. The final straight is up the Pacific Coast ending this epic tour in the charismatic city of San Francisco.
The best bits: So many highlights are crammed into this tour … Niagara Falls, Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, Las Vegas …
More information and to book: The Great American Crossing
How long: 14 nights
What: For bucket-list ticking, our most popular escorted coach tour ranks as number one for its ambitious itinerary and affordability. You’ll get to see exactly what makes America’s West so special with a selection of gems that include the Painted Desert, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Lake Powell, Bryce Canyon, Death Valley, Mammoth Lakes, Yosemite, Oak Creek Canyon, Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and more. Top things off, there’s limitless fun in Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Santa Barbara.
The best bits: No trip to California’s central coast is complete without a sojourn to Carmel-by-the-Sea, the arty beach city on the Monterey Peninsula. Must-sees include the fairytale-like cottages, gourmet eateries, upscale boutiques, contemporary galleries, and pristine white-sand beach. If time allows, touring the Carmel Mission with its four museums, basilica, courtyards and Indian cemetery is a great way to spend the morning.
More information and to book: Western Discovery