An oasis of spellbinding scenery awaits on this enthralling tour of America’s great natural gems. From Yellowstone, to Mount Rushmore and the Grand Canyon, tour the best of these unspoiled natural preserves, enjoying heritage rail journeys along the way.
Your holiday begins with a flight from London to Denver, the 'Mile High City.' On arrival, meet your Tour Manager, an expert on America's National Parks. Denver is surrounded by the majestic peaks of the distant Rocky Mountains, which can be seen from all places of the city, which makes it the perfect city in which to start our explorations of America's most beautiful National Parks.
On Day 2 we begin our sightseeing with a short orientation tour of Denver. Afterwards we transfer for a journey on the Royal Gorge Railway.
Today, our final destination is Rapid City, however we have some time in Fort Laramie along the way. Fort Laramie is an incredible historic site, and its history is indicative of those pioneers who ventured across America to the 'wild west' in the early 1800's. Starting its life with the name of 'Fort John' and being used as a fur trading post in 1834 and eventually taken over by the US Army in 1849, this post was used as a stopping point along the Oregon Trail, an infamously difficult route for migrants from the East coast to find a new life in the as-before untamed West.
Eventually, and thanks to the introduction of railroads, Fort Laramie decreased in popularity with those travelling by wagons, and it was eventually abandoned in 1890, only to be rediscovered just under 100 years later. Continuing on from here, and with a short pit stop in Edgemont, we arrive in Rapid City where we check into our hotel. This evening, you are at leisure to further explore the 'Gateway to the Black Hills'.
We have an early start today, as we set out to explore Mount Rushmore, most famous for having the heads of past US presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln carved into its granite face. A spectacular thing to see on the side of a mountain, the sculptures took 14 years to complete, and was originally conceived as a way to bring more tourism to the Black Hills. Needless to say, the idea worked, and now Mount Rushmore has become one of the more iconic symbols of America throughout the world.
Next, we visit the Crazy Horse Memorial, an as-yet unfi nished monument which has been under construction since 1948 on a site dedicated to Native Americans. It is hoped that upon completion it will be the largest non-religious statue in the world. After time to admire the memorial, we transfer to Hill City, where we embark on the heritage 1880 train, for a magical journey through the South Dakota Black Hills. After our round journey, we transfer to South Dakota's stunning Badlands National Park.
On Day 5 we take a step back in time, to the Wild West town of Deadwood. This Gold- Rush era city is the epitome of what would expect of a town in the 'Wild West', and it is where infamous gunman 'Wild Bill' Hickok was killed playing Poker. Deadwood also serves as the burial place of Calamity Jane, another icon of the frontier.
On Day 6, we visit the site of the 1876 Battle of Little Bighorn. Otherwise known as 'Custer's Last Stand', this is where armies led by General Custer on one side and Lakota warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse on the other, fought in one of the many battles of the Great Sioux War. The battle ended in a crushing defeat for Custer's forces.
Today we visit one of the best-loved of America's many national parks, the iconic Yellowstone. Yellowstone is famed for its incredible scenery, varied wildlife, and the Yellowstone Caldera, which is responsible for the numerous fascinating geysers - the most recognised of which is 'Old Faithful', named so as it predictably and faithfully erupts in a spray of boiling hot water every hour and a half or so.
On Day 8 we have more time to see the Park's most famous sights after which we continue to Grand Teton National Park, with free time to enjoy the dramatic vistas of the Teton mountain range, which stand majestically in snow-capped splendour all year round. This evening, we overnight in Jackson Hole.
Following a leisurely morning we transfer to Salt Lake City on today, where this evening there is a guided tour of Temple Square. If it is dark enough in the evening, the view of the incredible white Salt Lake Temple is illuminated in a soft glow, and it is stunning to behold. The cathedral like Temple is one of the main places of worships for those in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormons). Built in 1893 and taking 40 years to finish, the inside remains a relative mystery to those on the 'outside' of the faith, as you are only allowed in the Temple if you are a Mormon with a recommendation.
Day 10 is at leisure to continue exploring Salt Lake City at your own pace.
We continue exploring Utah today, with an excursion to Dead Horse Point. Arriving here feels like stepping foot on another planet, as the vast and barren planes mix with fascinating rock formations to give this red-hued park an other-worldly feel. After time to explore, we move on to Arches National Park, which contains a wide selection of incredible natural rock formations, including some eponymous natural arches. We visit the magnificent Canyonlands National Park on Day 12.
On Day 13, we take an incredible Navajo-led tour of Monument Valley, one of the more recognisable National Parks in America thanks to its wide use in 'Western' films, as well as in '2001: A Space Odyssey'. Later we continue to Walnut Canyon, which was inhabited by the Sinagua, a people that resided here around 900 years ago.
Today we visit the Grand Canyon by rail, boarding the Grand Canyon Railroad for our scenic journey to the South Rim. We travel in vintage carriages hauled by historic locomotives to possibly one of the most scenic areas of the Grand Canyon, where we can see for miles across this outstanding natural wonder. On Day 15 we fly back to the UK, arriving on Day 16.