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The Contrasts of California

from £5200
Explore San Francisco before heading to California’s National Parks: Kings Canyon Park, Sequoia, and Yosemite

With an economy that rivals most of the world’s countries, California has some impressive statistics. Outside of its cities however vast areas have been carefully preserved for the sheer enjoyment of nature and its impressive landscape. Inland from the Californian coast the mountains rise sharply, eventually becoming the western extremity of the Rockies.

We fly to San Francisco and spend three nights exploring the icons of the city. A stroll across the Golden Gate with Alcatraz Island below us in the bay. Fisherman’s Wharf and the waterfront restaurants. The steep streets offer visions of Steve McQueen racing up and down in ‘Bullitt’. We will walk the city and cross the Golden Gate to Sausalito, taking the ferry back across the bay.

We then move on to the big names of California’s National Parks: Kings Canyon Park, Sequoia, and finally Yosemite. In Kings we walk remote trails through canyons and up beside waterfalls. In Sequoia we encounter the General Sherman tree, the world’s biggest living thing, we'll reach stunning view points with views cross the mountains.

Yosemite is perhaps the crowning glory of California’s National Parks. Little prepares you for the first neck stretching views of El Capitan and The Half Dome. Our walking here takes in immense vistas. From the valley floor everything around seems to reach up to the heavens.

Finally Napa and wine country. The area is actually two valleys, Napa and Sonoma. Napa is where the serious production takes place, Sonoma is much quieter with more appealing countryside around. We'll explore and taste the best produce of both valleys.


Holiday Highlights

  • Stand close to sequoias - the biggest living things ever!
  • Be amazed by the Half Dome and El Capitan. Two outstanding mountains amongst many in Yosemite.
  • Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Catch a glimpse of bears, deer, elk and coyotes.
The holiday inclusions and exclusions at a glance
What's included in this holiday Items that are covered in the cost of holiday price.

      Return flights from Heathrow to San Francisco (British Airways)
      Airport transfers
      En suite accommodation with breakfasts taken in the hotels
      Transfers between centres
      Five dinners
      All local transport costs.
Whats not included in this holiday Items that are not covered in the cost of holiday price.

  • Entrance fees to some museums and historic buildings (unless otherwise specified)
  • Personal expenses (such as your bar bill)
  • Discretionary tips
  • Optional excursions
  • Insurance
Please select Departure Date to view:

Please see Holiday Information Sheet for this holidays individual departures itinerary (located under View Departures & Book tab)

Whilst every effort will be made to adhere to the outlined itinerary and advertised program, local conditions can change due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances. This may mean that routes and timings need to be amended or the order of days may change, sometimes at short notice.

This departure: Grade 4

  1. Day 1

    We fly from London direct to San Francisco. On arrival it is a short transfer to our hotel in the heart of the city. Dinner is not included tonight as we doubt anybody will be particularly hungry. There are many eating options for anybody who does prefer. Your group leader will advise.

  2. Day 2

    After breakfast we start out sightseeing in this most walkable of American cities. The city sight are all within a reasonable distance of the hotel. Highlights include Fisherman's Wharf,  Lombard St, China town, Haight Ashbury (for those who remember the summer of ’67), the art galleries, hip shops and coffee bars, the list goes on. Expect a busy day.

  3. Day 3

    Today we plan a walk out of the city taking in perhaps the most famous bridge in the world, The Golden Gate. We can walk up to the bridge from our hotel and take the 1.2 miles hike across. Look out for Alcatraz Island in the bay below. At the far end we walk down to the appealing town of Sausalito. The path down takes you around under the Golden Gate and offer a stunning view. From Sausalito we can take the ferry back across the bay to San Francisco.

  4. Day 4

    The transfer today offers as extreme a change in scenery as you could imagine. We leave the city and drive out about 4hrs 30mins to Kings Canyon. The scenery becomes more and more mountainous as we approach. It is along scenic road to our hotel, Cedar Grove Lodge. Set amongst meadow and trees we are here to enjoy a wilderness experience. There is a shop and restaurant at the hotel but very little else. We should arrive in plenty of time for an introductory walk around the area.

  5. Day 5

    The walking begins in earnest today. We start in the valley then zig zag up with ever improving views. After a quick detour to The Overlook we continue up to take lunch at the highest point. We descend down beside Lewis Creek to the trailhead and back to the hotel. 13 km (8 miles); 400m↑↓; 5 hours.

  6. Day 6

    Today we might climb to Mist Falls, a level valley walk for 2 miles which then climbs up beside the creek to the falls. There is a lovely picnic spot above the falls to enjoy lunch and scenery. We will return the same way. 13 km (8 miles); 300m↑ 300m↓; 4.5 hours.

  7. Day 7

    It is about an hour to drive between Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park, they abut each other. However we will pack in some outstanding sites on the transfer. As there is only one road into Kings Canyon we must retrace our route to reach Sequoia. We can visit the General Sherman Tree, the largest living thing ever when measured by volume. It is one of a number of very impressive trees which can be reached by short easy walking trails. Our accommodation in Sequoia is in a small village with shops and restaurants, the facilities are lavish compared with Kings Canyon.

  8. Day 8

    We spend the day enjoying various trails in the park taking in two superlatives. We have many options but expect to walk amongst groves of sequoia and enjoy views across to Mt Whitney, at 4421m the highest mountain in the 48 states.

  9. Day 9

     Today we transfer to Yosemite. The drive takes about  5hrs with stops to top up on supplies. There are shops in the park but choice and prices are better in a local supermarket. We will arrive in the park through the Wawona Tunnel. The view on arriving park side of the tunnel is as good as any of the stunning views you will enjoy on this holiday. The rock face in front of you is El Capitan. Perhaps the most famous rock climbing wall in the world. if you have binoculars you should be able to pick out the tiny dots of climbers ascending what appears to be a vertical rock face. We will spend a little time in the park then travel out to our accommodation at El Portal.

  10. Day 10

    Yosemite offers some of the finest walking in the USA. Everywhere we go we are surrounded by amazing mountain vistas with rocks sculpted over millennia by forces of unimaginable power. We might start with the descent from Glacier Point down the Four Mile Trail. We drive around to Sentinel Dome car park and walk out to the dome. Next we go down to Glacier Point. From here it is easiest to see how the forces of glaciation have shaped the park over eons. Finally we have along gentle descent to the valley bottom where our transport will be waiting. 13 km (8 miles); 500m↑ 1200m↓; 4.5 hours.

  11. Day 11

    Vernal and Nevada falls are two of the most picturesque water falls in the park. the walk to reach the top of Nevada Falls is probably above the grade but both falls can be viewed walking within grade. It is well worth it. 11 km (7 miles); 550m↑↓; 5.5 hours.

  12. Day 12

    It is well worth exploring the valley floor whilst in Yosemite. There are many walks to choose from. We might combine a walk past Mirror Lake & Bridle Veil Falls (approx 6km, generally flat) stop at Yosemite Village to have a look at the shops and the Ahwahnee Lodge. We can take lunch at the village and then continue on to Bridal Veil Falls (6km, generally flat) with a chance to paddle at the falls before taking transport back to the hotel.

  13. Day 13

    Today we transfer to Napa Valley. The journey takes about hours with stops. We will have lunch on the journey. The Napa and Sonoma valley both run north to south in the gentle hills to the north of San Francisco. The climate and soil are ideal for vines and you will immediately notice these are planted in abundance. Napa is home to the larger wine producers, Sonoma has more bespoke wine production. Both are well worth visiting. After checking into our hotel we should have time for a stroll around Napa town centre.

  14. Day 14

    Today we explore the Sonoma Valley. We start in the attractive town of Sonoma with its pleasant arcaded town square and historic (at least by American standards) feel. Later we will take a walk in the local countryside and enjoy a wine tasting at one of the vineyards.

  15. Day 15

    We will have some free time before returning to the airport for our flight home. The journey back to the airport takes about 2hrs.

  16. Day 16

     We arrive back in the UK.

Travel Details

  • Return flights from Heathrow to San Francisco (British Airways)
  • Airport transfers by road c.1hr
  • Upgrades are available on most flights. For scheduled flights this may be Premium Economy, Business or First Class. Please ask us for details and a competitive quote.
  • If direct regional flights are not available, we can often offer add-on flights to a London airport at a competitive rate. Please ask us for details and a competitive quote.
  • Visa is required

Trip Map

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Tourist class accommodation is used throughout.
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