Welcome to Fresno, your gateway to the Sierra Nevada Mountains! Settle in and unpack before meeting your fellow adventurers at a Welcome Reception. Your Travel Director gives you the rundown of this exciting, active, self-paced tour. From easy strolls to hard-charger hikes, there are plenty of options and no shortage of natural beauty.
Up and at ‘em this morning for Yosemite National Park, famous for its giant, ancient sequoia trees, deep valleys, and grand meadows. Standing among these towering trees sets the tone for this week’s experiences of feeling small within the vastness of nature. After breakfast in Fresno, head to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, home to over 500 mature trees and the largest sequoia grove in Yosemite. An important historical site, you’ll learn how in 1864 President Lincoln signed legislation protecting the Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley, for the first time in US history setting aside scenic, natural areas to be protected by the federal government, even as the country was embroiled in the Civil War. You’re a part of history and your surroundings as you walk the Big Trees Loop or Grizzly Giant Loop (two miles) amongst other options. The 3,000-year-old Grizzly Giant sequoia alone is worth the trip! After your first full day of exploring, the adventure continues as we head to our home for the next two nights: the Yosemite Valley Lodge nestled in the valley and spectacularly located in the heart of Yosemite National Park. Rest up surrounded by nature as you look forward to tomorrow’s full day in the park.
You have the whole day to spend in Yosemite to really take in and appreciate this bucket list destination, so choose the hike that suits your level and what you want to see. Mirror Lake and Tenaya Canyon offer options from 2.4 (3.8 km) to 4 (6.4 km) miles. You’re close to the base of Half Dome, its crown reflected in the lake's waters. Hike to Mirror Lake, one of Yosemite's most popular swimming holes showcasing Mt Watkins and Half Dome. Looking for a few moments of serenity? Tenaya Canyon offers one of the quietest corners of Yosemite Valley. Another choice you can make is Bridalveil Fall 1.2 miles (2 km) hike to the 620 feet tumbling falls resembling a bridal veil. With mist and gusts blowing side to side and lifting water back into the air, you’ll understand why the Ahwahneechee people call it Pohono (Spirit of the Puffing Wind). The day can draw to a close at Sentinel Meadow & Cook's Meadow Loop for a 2.25 miles (3.6 km) flat, easy hike through meadows with multiple views of Yosemite Falls and Half Dome.
Another day of exceptional hikes begins on the journey from Yosemite to Mammoth. Your first stop is Tuolumne Meadows where, whether it’s an explosion of summer wildflowers or fiery fall colors, you’ll bask in beauty. Intersected by the Pacific Crest Trail and one of the largest high-elevation meadows in the Sierra Nevada Mountains at 8,600 feet, the meadows are easily explored in a 2-mile (3.5 km) hike along the river with views of rugged granite peaks and surrounding domes. Our next option for adventure takes us to the Cathedral Lakes’ trails for treks of up to 7 (11.2 km) to 8-miles (12.8 km). If you choose to take the full climb, it won’t disappoint! Part of the John Muir Trail, the hike to the lower lake showcases an amphitheater of granite capped by the iconic spire of nearby Cathedral Peak. Moving further along as you reach the southwestern side as the granite drops steeply away, keep your eyes peeled for Tenaya Lake shimmering in the distance or relax and take in your surroundings with plenty of photo-worthy scenery. We’ll then make our way through Tioga Pass (seasonal) to wildlife-rich Mono Lake and, if time allows, enjoy its one-mile (1.6 km) Tufa Trail where we’ll walk among the tufa towers feeling as if we’re in a cave of stalactites and stalagmites before finishing the day in Mammoth.
What better way to start the day than breakfast with a view? Sip your coffee as you take in 360 degree views of the Sierras and beyond on an aerial ride up Mammoth Mountain on the Panorama Gondola. Climbing 11,053 feet to the top of Mammoth Mountain, these sweeping views of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range can’t be beat. Next up is a rare geologic site and one of the finest examples of columnar basalt: Devils Postpile National Monument. Take your pick of eight miles of trails surrounding the monument including an easy 0.8-mile hike to the base of Devils Postpile for prime photo opportunities. This afternoon you might enjoy an up to five-mile hike to Rainbow Falls within the Devils Postpile National Monument where a 101-foot waterfall may dazzle with a colorful rainbow in its mist. The rest of the day is yours to continue your Mammoth sightseeing with another boots-on-the-ground exploration at Mammoth Lakes or a well-deserved rest.
Departing Mammoth, at Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, you’ll walk among the oldest living trees in the world. Some of these living trees are over 4,000 years old, displaying spectacular growth forms of twisted and beautifully colored wood. Then amble the tucked away trails at Schulman Grove before making our way to Bakersfield for the evening of trading tales and photos.
After seeing the world’s oldest trees yesterday, today we’ll depart Bakersfield for another highlight: Sequoia National Park. Your first stop is at the Giant Forest Museum where a connecting nature trail system introduces the parks features including its giant sequoias, meadows, and history. Then gaze up at the massive General Sherman Tree, the world's biggest tree. At over 36 feet (11 m) in diameter alone, it is estimated to be at least 2,300 years old. Hike the two-mile Congress Trail of giant Sequoias humbled by how small you feel. This afternoon you’re in for a treat if you choose to go to Crescent Meadows. Start with the 1.8-mile on the Crescent Meadow Loop or easy .4-mile Moro Rock Trail where, walking in the footsteps of John Muir, you’ll understand why he dubbed the area “the gem of the Sierra Nevada.” Back at the lodge this evening, we take things from land to sky gazing up at the starry night as a skilled naturalist and Local Specialist guides you through the constellations, galaxies, and planets. Hear stories and the latest astronomical news as the Milky Way galaxy spills out across the Sequoia sky.
Today’s is the final full day of your tour, and you can select the perfect hike to end your trip on a high. Descending into Kings Canyon National Park, even the drive is worth the trip to this remote natural area. Explore the optional Cedar Grove Trails where you’ll walk through Zumwalt Meadow passing high granite walls, lush meadows, the Kings River, and Roaring River Falls. If time allows, take the General Grant Tree Trail. After an immersive week in nature, learn about one of nature’s most fascinating and busy creatures: the bumblebee. Back in Sequoia, under the guidance of a Local Bumblebee expert, you’ll understand the impact of the humble bumble on these national parks. Wind down into the canyon to one of the world's largest living trees deemed by President Coolidge as the Nation's Christmas tree in 1926. Having seen and trekked the best of Sierra Nevada’s peaks, it’s easy to celebrate at tonight’s Farewell Dinner.
Departing Sequoia National Park, for one last memorable morning, we’ll visit Fresno’s Forestiere Underground Gardens. Tour this open-air museum to explore its wide variety of citrus trees, ranging from oranges to grapefruits. You will also have a chance to view its subterranean complex of patios, grottoes and garden courts built in 1901, all featuring arches and stonework using the local hardpan sedimentary rock. Filled with these unique memories, you’ll return to the Fresno Airport for your return trip home.