Mountains, Deserts and Moonscapes
This unforgettable 8-day Mountains, Deserts and Moonscapes Expedition will take you to the most remote and spectacular corners of this otherworldly state. After a brief intro to San Francisco, you’ll drive to Yosemite National Park, to hike, stargaze and picnic in some of the most picturesque surroundings on the planet. Next explore the contrasting habitats of saline Mono Lake and freshwater June Lake before taking a detour to Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest to see the world’s oldest living trees. Top it all off with two full days exploring surreal Death Valley, the lowest point in North America and the hottest spot on the planet!
Starting from $3,490 per person
Pricing includes everything from your international arrival to your departure, with the exception of flights and a few lunches and dinners.
HOW IT WORKS
- Explore the fabled Yosemite Valley by car and on foot. Embark upon an epic guided trek through this spectacular Park, and enjoy a picnic surrounded by wild flowers.
- Experience the contrasting ecosystems of briny Mono Lake (a surreal way station for migratory birds) and picture-postcard June Lake.
- Get up close and personal with the oldest living trees on the planet at Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, an off-the-beaten-path gem of a State Park.
- Spend two full days exploring the otherworldly desert landscapes of Death Valley, getting to know the geology and history of the lowest point in North America and the hottest place on the planet.
- From San Francisco to Yosemite and June Lake to Death Valley you will sleep in style and comfort, and dine on excellent locally procured and prepared produce.
- Enjoy the freedom that comes with having your own rental car and the benefits of being shown arround each destination by a local expert (we call them ‘docents’) who knows the place inside out.
- The circuit starts in San Francisco and ends in Los Angeles, so take the chance to explore California’s two great cities – or combine the trip with another SA Expeditions adventure.
Welcome to California! Today is a transit day. After your plane glides in for a landing over the waters of the San Francisco Bay, you will take a shuttle to claim your rental car before driving into the City by the Bay. Take the afternoon to explore or relax in your iconic SF Hotel. Rest up for the adventure to come or hit the town to experience some of San Francisco’s famous nightlife.
After driving over the bay and across the expansive Central Valley, climbing into the Sierras by vehicle you will arrive to the majestic and fabled Yosemite Valley. The glaciated valley within the shadows of massive granite protrusions was one of the world’s first National Parks. Its value to humanity as a natural landscape has inspired conservation movements around the world ever since. You will be greeted in comfort and style at your Yosemite lodge to begin your exploration of the park.
One of the best ways to explore the park is on foot. After breakfast, your guide will greet you at the lodge to take you into the backcountry. There you will picnic amongst the wild-flowers and green meadows and visit waterfalls and alpine streams that meander through sheer granite cliffs. By day’s end, you will be back at your lodge for a cold beverage to reflect on a beautiful day in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.
From Yosemite, you will descend out of the mountains down the Highway 395 corridor to Mono Lake. This saline lake, formed over hundreds of millennia, is a critical habitat for millions of migratory birds – and it’s equally popular among photographers and seekers of otherworldly landscapes. After visiting the briny waters of Mono, you will head to June Lake where a wonderful lodge, surrounded by a more conventionally majestic alpine setting, awaits. Your sunset and evening are spent taking in the views and mountain air.
This California State Park is home to the oldest living trees on the planet. The 5000-year-old trees of Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest live in groves on a windswept mountainside of dolomite at 11,000 feet. After a morning spent exploring the many trails of this paradise for naturalists and photographers, you’ll enjoy a well-earned picnic lunch. By the mid-afternoon you will depart for a scenic drive into Death Valley, arriving in time for your first desert sunset.
Death Valley National Park is a desert wonderland like few places on earth. Both the lowest point in North America (282 feet below sea level) and the hottest spot on earth (134 degrees Fahrenheit), Death Valley is not for the faint of heart! Not that you’ll have to worry about any of this – our travelers stay at the finest lodges in the park. Your first full day in the park will include a fascinating docent-led geology tour and a sunset trek among the dunes, once the midday heat has worn off.
Today you’ll have another full day to drink in this incredible landscape. Setting out in the morning, you will go with your guide to further explore the mysteries of Death Valley. Choose between a fascinating Geological tour of the sliding boulders and lunar landscapes and a journey through the storied history of the California desert with visits to Leadfield Ghost Town and Scotty's Castle. Regardless of which option you choose, you will be moved.
All good things must come to an end. Departing Death Valley you will return to the Highway 395 corridor before heading south to Los Angeles to head home or onwards to your next California destination.
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