Yosemite Valley drawing


In May-June 2012 I did a three week trip around the western US with Grand American Adventures. The trip I did was called 'The Best of the West'. It commenced in San Francisco, and seven states and seven national parks later it concluded in Las Vegas. This trip provided a great variety of scenery and the opportunity to see a large part of the western US. A selection of photographs from this trip is contained below. Click on the thumbnails to see larger images:


I spent a day sightseeing in San Francisco before the trip commenced. There are many steep hills throughout the city and the historic cable cars are a good way of moving around the city.


Lombard Street is a very steep street made famous in various movies and TV shows. Cars negotiate the tight switchbacks surrounded by beautiful gardens and many tourists.


The Golden Gate Bridge is the most famous landmark in San Francisco and one of the greatest bridges in the world. I went across the bridge by bus and also walked across its 1.7 mile length the following day. The bridge celebrated its 75th anniversary the week after I was there.


We left San Francisco and drove for a few hours east to Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada. We camped just outside the park and did a short walk later in the day at Tuolumne Grove to see some Giant Sequoias, the largest trees in the world.


We spent the following day in Yosemite Valley, one of the most spectacular places anywhere. The pine-forested valley is surrounded by the immense granite walls of El Capitan and Half Dome and the tallest waterfalls in North America.


Yosemite Falls are 2425' high and were at their peak when I was there in late spring, but they usually dry up over summer.


I caught a bus up to Glacier Point, which sits 3200' directly above Yosemite Valley and provides great views of Half Dome and the surrounding Sierra Nevada.


From Glacier Point I walked back down to Yosemite Valley via the Four Mile Trail. This 3200' descent provided great views of Yosemite Falls most of the way down.


The following day we headed through Yosemite National Park across the Tioga Pass Road. Along the way we stopped at Olmsted Point from where we could see the northern side of Half Dome. We continued past Tuolumne Meadows and across 9945' Tioga Pass to the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada.


We visited Mono Lake, a large shallow salty lake with no outlet just to the east of the Sierra Nevada range. The water level of the lake has been receding, allowing formerly submerged tufa columns to be visible around the lake shore.


We stayed overnight at South Lake Tahoe, just on the Californian side of Lake Tahoe. This large lake is at 6200' elevation and is surrounded by pine forests and many ski resorts. From here, the following two days were spent driving across northern Nevada and into Idaho and Montana towards Yellowstone National Park.


We spent the first afternoon in Yellowstone at Old Faithful and the Midway Geyser Basin viewing the different thermal features.


Old Faithful Geyser. We watched the geyser erupt at the scheduled time of 4:36pm, as snow started to fall.


We spent the following day in Yellowstone driving around the park to the various sights. The weather had turned and there was rain, snow and fog throughout the day. We visited Mammoth Hot Springs, with its spectacular calcium carbonate terraces.


Mud Volcano is a thermal area between Canyon Village and Yellowstone Lake containing mudpots, fumaroles and hot springs.


We saw many bison throughout the park. These are the biggest animals in North America and were almost wiped out a century ago but are slowly making a comeback in some parks.


Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This spectacular canyon, including the Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River, can be seen from the overlooks and trails near Canyon Village.


The Norris Geyser Basin contains the park's hottest hydrothermal areas, including Steamboat Geyser, the tallest active geyser in the world.


That night we had heavy snowfalls on our campsite in West Yellowstone, just outside the park.


The next day we headed south to Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park. The Grand Teton range contains many sharp peaks rising abruptly from the Jackson Hole valley in Wyoming.


We visited Jenny Lake and did some walking around the lake foreshore directly below the Grand Teton Peaks before getting rained out.


That night we attended the Jackson Rodeo.


The next day was spent in Jackson, where it rained and snow most of the day. The town square contains arches made of elk antlers collected from the nearby National Elk Refuge.


The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in Jackson is famous for its saddle barstools, cowboy murals and displays of western memorabilia.


Salt Lake Temple. The next day we drove south through Wyoming into Utah to Salt Lake City. The Temple Square complex in the centre of the city is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and includes the Salt Lake Temple, Salt Lake Tabernacle, Salt Lake Assembly Hall, and two visitors centres.


View of Salt Lake City from our hotel.


We drove from Salt Lake City to Moab the next day. Late in the day we visited Arches National Park and drove past the Balanced Rock. This park has spectacular scenery, including over 2000 natural rock arches.


We walked to Delicate Arch to watch the sunset on this rock formation, which is the most famous arch in the park and a symbol of Utah.


We did an early morning walk the next day in the Devil's Garden section of Arches National Park, where we saw a number of aches, including Double O Arch.


Landscape Arch is a spectacular ribbon of rock about 290' in length, and is the longest arch in the world.


At Double Arch, two giant arch spans are joined at one end.


Later that day I did a rafting trip down the Colorado River gorge to the northeast of Moab.


The following morning we visited the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park, and did a walk from Elephant Hill to Chesler Park. This area contains amazing rock formations and numerous red and white banded rock pinnacles.


Rock pinnacles in the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park.


Rock pinnacles in the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park


In the evening we visited Mesa Arch in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park.


Grand View Point Overlook in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park provides views of the Green and Colorado River valleys, numerous mesas and gorges extending to the horizon.


Approaching Monument Valley from the north. We left Moab and headed south towards Arizona, and stopped along the road at the point made famous in the Forrest Gump movie where he stopped running!


Monument Valley. We stopped at the Visitor Centre and viewpoint before going on a late afternoon guided Navajo tour of the valley.


John Fords Points. John Ford was a famous movie director who filmed many westerns in the Monument Valley area.


The Totem Pole is a spectacular spire of rock in Monument Valley.


The next day we headed west to Grand Canyon National Park, and we had our first glimpse of the abyss at Desert View at the far eastern end of the canyon. The stone Desert View Watchtower built in 1932 is modelled on other ancient Puebloan buildings from this region. From here we continued to our campsite near Grand Canyon Village.


We were up early the next morning to watch the sunrise over the Grand Canyon.


Later I descended the switchbacks on the South Kaibab Trail and walked out to Ooh Aah Point and Cedar Ridge, 1100' below the rim.


The walk out to Cedar Ridge provided great views of the canyon.


View of the Grand Canyon from Hopi Point. The Colorado River was just visible in the gorge a mile below.


We left the Grand Canyon and headed north to Zion National Park. Along the way we did the short walk to Horseshoe Bend, which provides a view of the Colorado River doing a big sweeping bend 1000' below.


The Glen Canyon Dam flooded the Colorado River to form Lake Powell, a huge manmade lake above the Grand Canyon in Arizona and southern Utah.


Early the next morning I attempted the Angels Landing walk in Zion National Park. The trail climbs 21 stone switchbacks up a steep cliff known as Walters Wiggles.


From just beyond Scouts Lookout there is a great view of the Virgin River Valley directly below.


The climb up to Angels Landing goes along a very narrow exposed spine of rock, with 1000' dropoffs either side.


The Step of Faith, at three feet wide the narrowest section of the walk. I didn't go beyond this point!


The lower portion of the Angels Landing trail, where the trail has been cut into the sandstone cliffs.


The Riverside Walk is an easy one mile long trail which follows the Virgin River to the start of the Narrows.


Weeping Rock contains a large overhang with dripping water seeping from the rocks above.


The Court of the Patriarchs is a group of peaks (Abraham Peak, Isaac Peak, Jacob Peak) within Zion Canyon named after figures from the Old Testament.


Our trip finished in Las Vegas, where we had the opportunity to explore the casinos and shops along the Las Vegas Strip.


Las Vegas at night.


We watched the dancing water fountains at The Bellagio casino, which are synchronised to music.


The Luxor casino has an Egyptian theme, with a large sphinx and a pyramid shaped building.


The New York New York casino contains a rollercoater, the Statue of Liberty, and the New York skyline.

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