Make this the summer you finally get out and explore the country's most stunning landscapes and take in some true American icons by touring our national parks. If the thought of bundling the whole family in the car or driving solo isn't exactly your speed, you can join like-minded adventurers from here and abroad on one of these awe-inspiring national park tours. Depending on your level of fitness and what you want to experience, there are tours that cater to your needs from strenuous hiking and roughing it outdoors, to more leisurely windshield tourism and deluxe lodgings.
Globus Journeys (tel. 866/755.8581; www.globusjourneys.com) is offering a Canyon Country Adventure departing from Scottsdale, AZ regularly from May through October, 2009. Enjoy spectacular scenery and adventures on this family vacation through Utah and Arizona. Highlights include the rugged sandstone spires of Oak Creek Canyon; hiking along the rim of the Grand Canyon; meeting local Navajos and admiring the stunning rock formations of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. There's also a four-wheel-drive tour of Monument Valley; Lake Powell; a float trip excursion on the Colorado River; a horseback ride in the footsteps of Butch Cassidy; and hiking beneath the canyon walls of Zion National Park. This eight-day tour ends in Las Vegas and includes all transportation, sightseeing, seven nights' deluxe and first-class accommodations, breakfasts and three-course dinners daily. Several summer departures are booked out, but there is still availability for June 17, July 22, August 19 and multiple dates in early fall (September and October). The tours is priced at $1,829 or $1,839 per person, based on double occupancy.
Caravan Tours (tel. 800/CARAVAN; www.caravan.com) has an eight-day Mt Rushmore, Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone tour priced from $995 per person based on double occupancy (taxes and fees of $164 are additional). Single occupancy is priced from $1,455. The tour begins in Rapid City, SD and visits the monumental Mt Rushmore; Crazy Horse Memorial; the Indian Museum of North America; Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument; Bridger-Teton National Forest; and of course both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Spend two nights staying at Old Faithful Inn located in the heart of Yellowstone and a have a full day complete circle tour of Yellowstone Park including Norris Geyser Basin, Mammoth Hot Springs, Fountain Paint Pots, Yellowstone Lake, Yellowstone's Grand Canyon, Yellowstone Falls, and Old Faithful Geyser. In Grand Teton, experience the grandeur of the park with a float trip down the majestic Snake River for exceptional wildlife viewing opportunities. The trip price includes airport transfers, breakfast daily, two lunches, four dinners, touring, entrance fees, and seven nights' accommodations. There are daily departures from May 27 to July 30, and again from August 9 to September 26.
For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, join Smithsonian Journey's (tel. 877/338-8687; www.smithsonianjourneys.org) Wildlife of Glacier National Park tour that runs from August 15 to 21. Explore the natural treasures of Glacier National Park and be charmed by its unique wildlife and spectacular vistas. Priced at the high end of national park tours ($2,995 per person), this tour is restricted to eight participants and is an intimate look at the park set amongst Montana's majestic Rocky Mountains. Encounter grizzly and black bears, wolves, moose, and elk and stay in historic inns and lodges. Enjoy daily hikes into scenic sections of Glacier National Park like the Lewis Overthrust Fault and Many Glacier Valley. Explore Two Medicine Valley, take a boat ride across Two Medicine Lake, spot some of the 200-plus bird species that live there, see a "living" glacier during a boat ride on Lake Josephine; and journey along the famous "Going-to-the-Sun Road," to cut through the heart of Glacier, traverse the park's sub-alpine and alpine regions, and cross the Continental Divide. The tour includes most meals, extensive touring with an expert Smithsonian study leader; hiking one to four miles per day, and six-nights' accommodations at Kalispell Grand Hotel in historic downtown Kalispell (one night); Glacier Park Lodge at the foot of Dancing Lady Mountain (two nights); Many Glacier Hotel on the shores of Swift Current Lake (two nights); and Lake McDonald Lodge, a true wilderness retreat and historic hunting lodge.
Sierra Club (tel. 415/977-5500; www.sierraclub.org) part of the largest grassroots environmental organization in the country, provides high-quality outdoor adventures across the country (and around the world) and this year it is offering close to 200 U.S. based trips, some with a volunteering component. Their Family Ramble in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado will run from July 18 to 25, 2009. Highlights will include hiking through spectacular alpine scenery along the Continental Divide and traversing Andrews Glacier and climbing 14,256-feet to Longs Peak. The trip will have a maximum of 20 participants and is priced at $1,395 per adult and $995 per child (children must be at least seven years of age). Stay in comfortable lodge accommodations located adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park with all transportation, Denver airport transfers, and meals included. There will also be evening nature programs, children's programs, horseback riding (not included in trip price), fishing, swimming, volleyball and miniature golf. The tour will be led by a former Rocky Mountain National Park ranger who has hiked nearly every corner of the park, and promises to take travelers to some of the most sensational areas in the park. Trip participants should have experience hiking with a backpack over long distances. Even though you will only have to carry daypacks, adults should be prepared to assist their children if necessary.
Sierra's "In Pursuit of the Obvious Notch" tour of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks will set off from Lodgepole in Sequoia National Park on July 25 and runs until August 1, 2009. Highlights include hiking cross-country at timberline elevations, exploring remote Sierra Nevada canyons, and swimming in high-elevation lakes. The camping tour takes a maximum of ten participants and costs $595 per person which includes an expert guide and all food and cooking gear. The trip follows a cross-country route around the northern periphery of the Tableland, a high plateau above timberline in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National parks. This is a trip for fairly experienced backpackers who are comfortable exerting themselves (average daily distance around four miles) and will bring a good level of stamina and flexibility to the outing.
For those who want to see a lot in a limited time TrekAmerica (tel. 800/221-0596; www.trekamerica.com) has a nine-day National Parks extravaganza that takes you to six different parks and monuments in Nevada, Arizona, and Utah in what it calls its "Canyon BLT." Departing from Las Vegas, the tours is priced at $1,449 per person and includes the services of a TrekAmerica tour leader, all transportation by private adventure vehicle, eight nights' hotel/cabin/hostel accommodations on a twin/multi share basis, admission to Monument Valley and entry to all National Parks. Its mid-summer trips are sold out, but there is still availability for early September and into the fall months. Travel along Route 66; visit historic ghost towns; spend a full day exploring the Grand Canyon; hike the famous Bright Angel Trail to Indian Gardens; join a Jeep tour led by local Native American guides through Monument Valley; be captivated by the rock formations Arches and Canyonlands National Parks; take in the colors of Bryce Canyon National Park; and hike through the desert oasis of Zion National Park. No meals are included. Maximum group size is 13 participants.
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