The Great American Outdoors

Expedition Cruises
By Lisa James
Home » The Great American Outdoors

The USA’s mountain ranges, national parks and great open plains make memorable backdrops for lovers of the outdoors.

Travellers can discover the Grand Canyon and Death Valley, or be a City Slicker for a day or more on a cattle ranch in Montana or Arizona.  Other outdoor options include the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park in Washington, the wilderness of Vermont (main picture), Native American cultural tours and sleeping in a wagon or teepee under the stars in Nebraska.

Here are some suggestions that might interest clients:

Grand Canyon

National Parks

The US National Parks cover 84 million acres countrywide. They include Yellowstone – with one of the largest dormant volcanoes in the world, the Grand Canyon National Park, Yosemite and Zion National Park.

Newmarket’s Hollywood, Vegas and the Grand Canyon itinerary explores Los Angeles, San Diego and the shores of the Pacific, with a jeep ride through rock spires and sandstone cliffs around Sedona and the chance to learn about plants and animals of Arizona’s high desert, before journeying north to the Grand Canyon.

Bryce Canyon, Utah

Exodus has a Western Explorer tour that takes in Yosemite Valley, the Grand Canyon and the Navajo’s sacred Monument Valley. Guests can also hike under the largest sandstone cliffs in the world at Zion Canyon, observe strange landscapes in Death Valley, and marvel at the constantly changing colours of Bryce Canyon, Utah.

Ranching holidays

The 1991 comedy Western City Slickers, which saw three middle-aged friends embark on a two-week cattle drive from New Mexico to Colorado, put the spotlight on ranching holidays. There are three different types. Resort ranches tend to be larger properties, created specifically for guests. Accommodation is usually of a higher standard and there are daily activities. Dude ranches, also known as guest ranches, have weekly programmes that include wild west shows, rodeo visits, square dances and outdoor activities, with horse riding the main focus.

Horse riding

The third option, working ranches, provide hands-on experience of life as a cowboy, with guests helping out on real ranches where livestock is raised and crops are farmed. Accommodation is usually basic.

Among ranch options offered by North America Travel Service is the White Stallion Ranch, 30 minutes’ drive from Tucson, Arizona. Tucked away on 3,000 acres of lush Sonoran desert, the ranch offers horseback riding, rodeos and dude ranch activities. It also has a fitness centre, games room, kids’ activities and hiking trails.

Alternatively, Running Y Ranch Resort in Klamath, Oregon, at the foothills of the Cascade Mountain Range on 3,600 acres, is a luxurious resort, offering a spa, fitness centre, golf course, sports centre, fishing and more.

Alaskan tours

America’s biggest state is an unspoilt wilderness. Alaskan cruises from Seattle or Vancouver offer the chance to get out into the outdoors on some unforgettable excursions, such as small boat tours to view wildlife, horse riding, rafting and kayaking, spotting bears, bald eagles and whales, as well as immersing in Native American communities and appreciating their artwork.

Bald eagle, Alaska

It’s also possible to explore Alaska by a combination of road and rail, such as on Titan’s 10-day Natural Wonders of Alaska tour. It starts in Anchorage and takes guests along Parks Highway, Hatchers Pass and Seward Highway and on the Alaska Railroad.

The tour travels through canyons and national parks, such as the spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site of Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Denali National Park.

At Fairbanks, 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle, guests can visit a local village recreated by Athabascan Indians. Another highlight is a cruise on Prince William Sound.

Brown bears, Alaska

The Rocky Mountains

The Rockies stretch 3,000 miles from Canada through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and down to New Mexico in the US. A popular tourist hot spot includes Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, which has hiking trails and the Trail Ridge Road – a 48-mile highway that reaches a high point of 12,183ft.

Audley Travel’s 15-day Colorado Rockies Explored tour begins in Denver, which stands a mile above sea level.

Guests self-drive to Colorado Springs at the foot of the Rockies, where they can take a 4×4 adventure to the 4,300-metre-high mountain Pikes Peak, then head to Breckenridge for outdoor pursuits such as hiking, cycling and zip-lining.


Independence Pass takes clients into the mountains to the historic mining town of Aspen, for more hiking opportunities, then on to Roaring Fork River for white-water rafting along Class 3 rapids, which are suitable for beginners.

After that, visitors drive along Trail Ridge Road, traversing Rocky Mountain National Park where they are likely to spot elk, moose and bighorn sheep, to arrive in Estes Park.