At a Glance: Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Yosemite, Death Valley: four spectacular American National Parks. Explore them from the mighty Sierra Nevada range to the stark allure of the Mojave Desert as on-site presentations delve into their geologic, human and natural histories.
Keep the Pace: Walking up to two miles on uneven terrain. Elevations of 4,000-8,000 feet.
Best of all, you'll...
* Study the magnificent forest ecosystem of Sequoia, named for giant trees that can live for more than 2,000 years.
* Admire granite monuments like El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridalveil Fall as you learn how Pleistocene glaciers carved the wonders of Yosemite Valley.
* Visit Yosemite’s high-country areas, cross the Sierra Nevada to Mono Lake and Owens Valley and explore forbidding, dramatic, beautiful Death Valley.
Day 1: Fly to LAXative
Day 2: Sequoia NP, General Sherman Tree, Sequoia & Kings Canyon NP
Day 3: Kings Canyon NP, Roaring Falls, Zumwalt Meadows, Sequoia & Kings Canyon NP
Day 4: To Yosemite, Lunch at Big Trees Lodge, Yosemite Valley Views, Yosemite NP
Day 5: Yosemite NP, Valley Visitors Center, Yosemite NP
Day 6: Tioga Pass, Tuolumne Meadows, Mono Basin Visitors Center, Owens Valley
Day 7: Manzanar Historic Site, Alabama Hills, Death Valley NP
Day 8: Zabriskie Point, Badwater, Death Valley Visitors Center Death Valley NP
Day 9: Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, LAXative, Program Concludes
DAY 1 - Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
(D) Fly to Laxative. Hotel shuttle to the hotel, check-in from 3:00 p.m. Program Registration: Come to the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff and get your packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, and other important information. The Group Leader will review the program theme, the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, and answer any questions you may have.
For several meals on this program, we ask you to pre-order your preferred entrée. You will have two nights on your own while in Yosemite Park to dine where you choose.
Unlike most hotel-based Road Scholar programs, the Four Jewels program is a rigorous, moving adventure in which participants will be on the road every day with access to your rooms at the beginning and end of each day. We have set aside some free time in the schedule for your personal independent exploration.
At the hotel enjoy a plated meal. HOTEL: LAX Airport area: Courtyard Los Angeles LAX/Century Boulevard
DAY 2 - Sequoia National Park, General Sherman Tree, Sierra Nevada Mountains - Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park
Activity note: The ride is approximately 3 1/2 hours with several stops to stretch our legs; No elevator at Montecito Sequoia Lodge.
(BLD) From the hotel, we’ll depart via private motorcoach to Sequoia National Park. On this transfer, we’ll travel a major north-south route which bisects the entire LA metropolitan area. Journey through chaparral covered mountains before reaching the scheduled rest stop at Pyramid Lake. After the rest stop, travel through the farms, orchards, and vineyards of the San Joaquin Valley which is the heart of agriculture in California.
Enjoy a buffet lunch (where?) Upon arrival in Sequoia National Park, visit the Giant Forest Museum featuring exhibits on giant sequoia ecology and the General Sherman Tree. Estimated to be between 2,300–2,700 years old, the General Sherman Tree is the largest currently living tree in the world. Sequoia National Park was established in 1890 and encompasses a vertical relief of nearly 13,000 feet with the highest point in the lower 48 states, Mount Whitney. The park is south of and contiguous with Kings Canyon National Park.
In the Montecito Sequoia Lodge dining room, enjoy a hearty buffet. At the lodge, the Group Leader will lead an educational presentation. Hotel: Montecito Sequoia Lodge (2 nights)
DAY 3 - Kings Canyon NP, Roaring Falls, Zumwalt Meadows, Sequoia/Kings Canyon NP
Activity note: Walking distances up to 1 mile on varied terrain.
(BLD) Visit the Kings Canyon Visitor Center in Grant Grove Village before continuing onto General Grant Tree, one of the five largest trees on earth. Located in the General Grant Grove and named after General Ulysses S. Grant, the giant sequoia is arguably the largest living creature on Earth. A relative of the coastal redwood – the tallest tree on Earth – the giant sequoia reaches a height of well over 200 feet and can live to several thousand years old. The General Grant Tree is estimated to be close to 1,700 years old while the General Sherman Tree is estimated to be between 2,600 to 2,700 years old.
Bag lunch provided by Montecito Sequoia Lodge in Kings Canyon featuring the sandwich selected previously, etc. After lunch, we’ll visit Roaring River Falls during a relaxing hike. Created by the snowmelt running through the canyon, the falls drop nearly 40 feet off a narrow ledge into the pool below. As we leisurely make our way to the Falls, we’ll have excellent views of the Kings River and the surrounding granite cliffs, including Grand Sentinel (8,518ft) and North Dome (8,717ft) while receiving commentary about the natural history and storytelling.
Buffet dinner in Montecito Sequoia Lodge dining room. Enjoy a living history program, “An Evening with John Muir”. Born in Scotland in 1838, Muir emigrated to the U.S. with his family in 1849. During his lifetime, he was a farmer, inventor, sheepherder, explorer, botanist, and writer but he is best known as America's most famous and influential naturalist, conservationist, and founder of the Sierra Club. Often called the “Father of our National Park System,” Muir’s writings and efforts resulted in Congress creating Yosemite National Park. He was also involved in the creation of the Grand Canyon, Kings Canyon, Petrified Forest, and Mount Rainier National Parks.
DAY 4 - To Yosemite, Lunch at Big Trees Lodge, Yosemite Valley Views, Yosemite NP
Activity note: Ride is approximately 3 hours; We’ll stop along the way for lunch and to stretch; Short walks around Pioneer Village and hotel grounds; No elevator at Yosemite Valley Lodge.
(BLD) We’ll head out from the lodge and make our way to Yosemite National Park. On our drive, we will pass through the cities of Fresno and Oakhurst.
At the historic Big Trees Lodge, enjoy a plated lunch. The Big Trees Lodge, a National Historic Landmark, rests upon verdant meadows and besides rushing streams. The tranquility of this Victorian-style lodge in Yosemite makes it a favorite of those who prefer a relaxed environment and the gracious charm of a bygone era. The motorcoach will stop at Tunnel View, which offers a photo opportunity of the world famous view of the Valley. Considered one of the most iconic symbols of Yosemite, Half Dome rises more than 4,000 feet above the valley floor and is a favorite hiking trail, with as many as 50,000 visitors per year.
Dinner on your own in Yosemite Village, at The Majestic Yosemite Hotel, Yosemite Valley Lodge or Half Dome Village. This evening, use the Yosemite Guide to find out about Ranger-led programs and other activities after dark in the park. HOTEL: Yosemite Valley Lodge (2 nights)
DAY 5 - Yosemite NP, Valley Visitors Center, Yosemite NP
Activity note: Walking distances up to 1 mile with some steep and elevated terrain before the Bridalveil Fall viewpoint.
(BLD) Start the day at the Visitor Center to view the "Spirit of Yosemite", a 23-minute film about Yosemite National Park, and explore the exhibits. Without question, Yosemite is one of America's most beautiful and best known of our national parks. Designated as the country’s third national park in October 1890, Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias have been preserved since 1864. For the first time in history, Congress set land aside for the preservation and recreation for all people, and the national park concept was born. At the Visitor Center, a Ranger will further introduce us to Yosemite National Park.
A Bag lunch provided by the hotel restaurant. Take this afternoon for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. You may want to return to the Visitor's Center, visit the Yosemite Museum, the Ansel Adams Gallery, take a hike on you own or join the instructor for a hike to Happy Isles.
Dinner is on your own in Yosemite Village, at The Majestic Yosemite Hotel, Yosemite Valley Lodge or Half Dome Village. This evening, use the Yosemite Guide to find out about Ranger-led programs and other activities after dark in the park.
DAY 6 - Tioga Pass, Tuolumne Meadows, Mono Basin Visitors Center, Owens Valley
Activity note: Ride is no more than 5 hours. We’ll make stops along the way to stretch; No elevator at Dow Hotel & Dow Villa Motel; Easy walk on flat surface to Lone Pine Film History.
(BLD) We will board the motorcoach and depart Yosemite for Lone Pine via the scenic Tioga Road, the Park’s trans-Sierra Nevada crossing (weather permitting). The current Tioga Pass Road was bought from private owners in 1915 for the park which did not finish paving it until 1961. We’ll stop at Olmstead Point for a scenic overlook and enjoy an easy walk at Tuolumne Meadows located in the heart of Yosemite’s high country and surrounded by Lodgepole pines.
Enjoy a bag lunch provided by hotel restaurant at the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area Visitors Center. After lunch, continue on US 395 to Lone Pine which is reminiscent of a small western town. Check into the historic Dow Hotel that housed many Hollywood stars including John Wayne and Roy Rogers. Be sure to find Mt. Whitney in the distance.
At a local restaurant in Lone Pine, we’ll have a previously selected plated meal. We’ll walk from the hotel to our program at the Lone Pine Film History Museum, where we will learn about the Hollywood history of this tiny dwelling in the California desert. HOTEL: Dow Hotel & Dow Villa Motel
DAY 7 - Manzanar Historic Site, Alabama Hills, Death Valley National Park
Activity note: Walking up to 1/2 mile on flat terrain.
(BLD) Visit Manzanar National Historic Site Interpretive Center and view the 22-minute documentary “Remembering Manzanar”. Led by a Park Ranger, enjoy an expert led visit to the best preserved site where Japanese-Americans were incarcerated during WWII. On our ride through the Manzanar National Historic Site, see where just over 10,000 people were kept behind barbed wire and learn the stories of the 120,000 Japanese-Americans that were relocated to ten different sites by the War Relocation Authority in 1942.
In the Manzanar Mess Hall, we will enjoy a catered lunch. Our day continues with an expert-led ride through the Alabama Hills, an area of granite boulders that is considered part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. They are considered their own range due to their features, which sharply contrast the rest of the Sierra Nevada range, containing Mount Whitney; the highest summit in the continental United States with a peak of just over 14,500 feet. The Alabama Hills are featured in many Hollywood films including "How the West was Won," "Gladiator," and "Iron Man." We’ll travel through Panamint Mountains on the way to Death Valley National Park where we’ll check into Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley National Park.
At Stovepipe Wells, we’ll enjoy a buffet style dinner. At the hotel, the Group Leader will lead an educational presentation. HOTEL: Stovepipe Wells Resort (2 nights)
DAY 8 - Zabriskie Point, Badwater, Death Valley Visitors Center
Activity note: Walking will include distances up to 1 mile on mostly flat terrain.
(BLD) From the hotel, we’ll take an all-day field trip throughout Death Valley. The lowest point in North America, Death Valley receives its name from the extreme heat and limited rain that make it one of the most desolate places on the continent. Located in the northwest corner of the Mojave Desert, it contains a diverse landscape from sand dunes and salt-flats to canyons and mountains.
At the Wrangler Buffet at Furnace Creek Ranch enjoy a buffet. We’ll continue our visit around the sites of Death Valley. At Stovepipe Wells we will have our farewell dinner with entrees selected previously.
DAY 9 - Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, LAXative, Program Concludes
Activity note: Walking on sandy surfaces up mild inclines on the sand dunes; Ride to Los Angeles International Airport is approximately 4 hours.
(BL) From the hotel, we'll visit the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. These graceful desert dunes are among the best known in Death Valley National Park and are beautifully rippled from the wind, which is seemingly always blowing. While the highest dune rises less than 150 feet, they cover a broad expanse of space. They may be most famous as the location where the dune scenes were filmed in the Star Wars series. We’ll return to Stovepipe Wells after the Sand Dunes to depart for Los Angeles travelling though the towns of Trona, Ridgecrest, and Mojave.
At a local restaurant in Ridgecrest, we’ll have a plated meal with entrées selected previously. When returning to LAXative, a stop will be made for those who would like to be dropped off at the airport.