This five-day tour puts you in the middle of Northern California’s majestic national parks. You’ll make memories from the sandy beaches of Monterey to the breathtaking granite cliffs of Yosemite National Park. You’ll savor the tastes from Napa and Sonoma Valley wineries and gaze at the grandeur of soaring redwood trees in Muir Woods before returning to San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge.
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This 5-day grand tour of Northern California’s national parks begins in one of the world’s greatest cities, San Francisco. Your Expedition Leader will pick you up at the front door of your downtown hotel and give a quick tour through fashionable Union Square, fascinating Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf.
Pacific Coast beauty will surround you as we head south on Highway 1. Keep your eyes peeled for glimpses of all kinds of wildlife, such as sea otters, elephant seals, humpback whales, white sharks and dozens of species of seabirds and shorebirds.
After reaching coastal Monterey, we can arrange a collection of memory-making excursions. Fascinated by local Pacific Coast sea life? Head over to the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, an ocean conservation and research facility.
Feeling more adventurous? Let us help you arrange to kayak, bike or paddleboard along the grand Monterey Bay Coastal Trail.
The afternoon features a leisurely roll along the scenic 17-Mile Drive from Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach Golf Links before arriving at Carmel by the Sea. The Lone Cypress tree, a species that has adapted to harsh coastal conditions, makes the perfect group photo.
As the sun sets, join your Expedition Leader and your tour mates for a getting-to-know-you sunset happy hour. You will have free time for dinner, then, lose yourself in the rhythmic waves of the beach before retiring to your comfy Monterey lodging.
You’ll make a leisurely departure from Monterey as the group makes a crossing of the wide San Joaquin (aka Central) Valley and climbs into the Sierra Nevada mountains. Your Expedition Leader will provide fascinating stories about the region’s history, geology and wildlife.
Once we reach the Yosemite Valley, you will have a guided tour as well as a couple of hours of free time to explore. Check out the Ansel Adams Gallery or the Yosemite Valley Wilderness Center in Yosemite Village. Both are great spots to pick up some souvenirs and gifts for friends back home. Don't forget to snap some cool pictures of Yosemite Falls!
After re-boarding your tour vehicle, you day has more highlights. The tour makes a photo stop at El Capitan Meadow where you can get straight on view of the Yosemite icon, an impressive vantage point for Cathedral Rocks and Horsetail Fall.
You’ll have several hours of free time for dinner after checking into your hotel.
Start your day with the hike to Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias. You will not doubt for a second that these Yosemite trees are the largest living creatures on the planet. No picture does them justice, but that should not keep you from trying!
After a departure from Yosemite, lunch will be in the Gold Rush community of Columbia, where you can stroll and take old-timey selfies along the wooden sidewalks of this historic mining town and even take a stagecoach ride. (Go back in time, but don’t miss the bus!)
You can rest a bit on the scenic drive through the El Dorado National Forest on the way to Lake Tahoe. The beauty of this glistening mountain jewel will energize you. And with all the seasonal activities in the area, that’s a good thing! Take an Emerald Bay cruise, visit Vikingshold Castle, hike in the forest or walk on the beach. In winter, there’s skiing, snowboarding, and much more. Save some energy for night shows, fine dining and gaming at Harvey’s, Harrah’s, Dottie’s or the Lakeside Inn, all walking distance from where you’ll stay.
Your Expedition Leader will be raring to go the next day (where does all that energy come from?). But first, you’ll all enjoy a breakfast buffet in Lake Tahoe. Then it’s on to more great food and fine wine (with the emphasis on “fine”) as we travel through the scenic country of Napa and Sonoma valleys.
As you approach California’s famous wine country, you’ll learn about the micro-climates and soil types that combine to produce some of the world’s best winemaking grapes – Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Zinfandel.
Soon, it will be time for our first wine tasting with fruit of the vine selected exclusively for us by the winemaker. Today this region produces some of the world’s best wines. Look it up! At the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, a contest conceived by a British wine merchant with French judges, California wines won best-in-the-world honors.
As late afternoon approaches in the wine country, you’ll make a stop at a small family-owned winery in Sonoma Valley. Try some new varietals and see what delights your taste buds. Whether you are a wine connoisseur or novice, you’ll be warmed by the vineyard host who will explain their winemaking process
After checking into your charming hotel, make dinner plans that will delight your palate.
On Day 5, we cruise toward Point Reyes. The thundering ocean breakers, wide beaches and rocky headlands of the Point Reyes National Seashore offer unforgettable scenes.
Stay alert for spawning Coho salmon in area streams, oyster fishing boats on Drakes Bay, elephant seals and their pups on the beaches and migrating gray whales surfacing near Chimney Rock.
The Point Reyes Lighthouse will provide you with a powerful new profile picture – one that captures your adventurous spirit. Descend the 300 wooden steps to its base and capture an indelible memory. Minutes away is the Cypress Tree Tunnel, another stunning site with can’t-miss photo potential.
When you’ve had your fill of locally sourced food, we have a special dessert – a stop at the Muir Woods National Monument and its ancient Coastal Redwood forest. Some trees rise 250 feet in the air and have stood for over 1,000 years.
We’ll stop for photos at the northern footing of the Golden Gate. Your selfie with the bridge is a forever keepsake. You’ll linger a bit before a short jaunt to charming Sausalito where you can enjoy fantastic shopping and an early dinner (not included) as you watch twilight settle over the San Francisco skyline.
Filled with five days of fun and a lifetime of magical memories, you’ll arrive back at your San Francisco hotel inspired to start planning your next adventure.
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