This tour, America’s Magnificent National Parks, was offered by Vantage Travel  to whom I give high marks for their itinerary, timing, accommodations, and skilled bus driver and tour director. Although it involved some all day bus rides, they were broken by rest stops and lunch stops in interesting places. The bus was comfortable and it carried a cooler with ice and cold water for refills as well as a claustrophobic bathroom. The accommodations were very good in the cities and in 5 of the parks visited, we stayed in the park lodges which provided basic but comfortable rooms–who needs TV when the Grand Canyon is a block away. Excellent value for the money.

  The other travelers on the tour came from across the US and were, let’s say, a mature crowd—though we did have a problem with OCD shoppers delaying many departures. The tour director really earned her money on this tour; she was very knowledgable, experienced, and familiar with the itinerary as well as personable and full of bad jokes to liven up the long bus rides.

  All in all, I give the tour an A–, I heartily enjoyed the parks visited and the route travelled. I have no doubt I will travel again with Vantage Travel.

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WORLD HERITAGE SITES

Yellowstone National Park

Grand Canyon

MONTANA: the Madison Range of the Rocky Mountains
MONTANA: the Madison Range of the Rocky Mountains
MONTANA: small farms and ranches dot the valleys of the Madison Range
MONTANA: small farms and ranches dot the valleys of the Madison Range
MONTANA: the Gallatin River runs through the Madison Range
MONTANA: the Gallatin River runs through the Madison Range
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK: boardwalk over the boiling and steaming land
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK: boardwalk over the boiling and steaming land
YELLOWSTONE: a river runs through it...lined by mineral deposits
YELLOWSTONE: a river runs through it...lined by mineral deposits
YELLOWSTONE: a mini-geyser of boiling water
YELLOWSTONE: a mini-geyser of boiling water
YELLOWSTONE: mineral water seeping onto the surface leaves mineral deposits
YELLOWSTONE: mineral water seeping onto the surface leaves mineral deposits
YELLOWSTONE: a small lake bounded by mineral deposits
YELLOWSTONE: a small lake bounded by mineral deposits
YELLOWSTONE: the Fountain Paint Pots–a collection of colored bubbling mud
YELLOWSTONE: the Fountain Paint Pots–a collection of colored bubbling mud
YELLOWSTONE: blurp!
YELLOWSTONE: blurp!
YELLOWSTONE: Old Faithful Geyser
YELLOWSTONE: Old Faithful Geyser
YELLOWSTONE: a herd of bison find a pleasant pasture
YELLOWSTONE: a herd of bison find a pleasant pasture
GRAND TETONS NATIONAL PARK, WY: reflected in Jenny Lake
GRAND TETONS NATIONAL PARK, WY: reflected in Jenny Lake
GRAND TETONS: and the Lupine Meadows
GRAND TETONS: and the Lupine Meadows
GRAND TETONS: settler’s cabin and barn in a valley
GRAND TETONS: settler’s cabin and barn in a valley
JACKSON HOLE, WY: the town sports arches made from elk antlers which are shed every year
JACKSON HOLE, WY: the town sports arches made from elk antlers which are shed every year
JACKSON HOLE: the town puts on a corny but entertaining ‘shoot-out’ every evening
JACKSON HOLE: the town puts on a corny but entertaining ‘shoot-out’ every evening
JACKSON HOLE: a stagecoach trundles through town
JACKSON HOLE: a stagecoach trundles through town
LOGAN, UT: looks like thousands of American small towns
LOGAN, UT: looks like thousands of American small towns
LOGAN: the Logan Mormon Tabernacle was begun in 1864 and took 27 years to complete
LOGAN: the Logan Mormon Tabernacle was begun in 1864 and took 27 years to complete
UTAH: northern Utah valleys are devoted to agriculture...
UTAH: northern Utah valleys are devoted to agriculture...
UTAH: ...but irrigation is still necessary
UTAH: ...but irrigation is still necessary
SALT LAKE CITY, UT: the capitol building
SALT LAKE CITY, UT: the capitol building
SALT LAKE CITY: the ‘Beehive’ House of Brigham Young housed him and his many wives
SALT LAKE CITY: the ‘Beehive’ House of Brigham Young housed him and his many wives
SALT LAKE CITY: fountain in Temple Square
SALT LAKE CITY: fountain in Temple Square
SALT LAKE CITY: extensive gardens are meticulously maintained by the Mormons
SALT LAKE CITY: extensive gardens are meticulously maintained by the Mormons
SALT LAKE CITY: lobby of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building with a statue of the founder of Mormonism
SALT LAKE CITY: lobby of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building with a statue of the founder of Mormonism
SALT LAKE CITY: the Mormon Temple is the 4th one built, started in 1847
SALT LAKE CITY: the Mormon Temple is the 4th one built, started in 1847
SALT LAKE CITY: a performance of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
SALT LAKE CITY: a performance of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
SALT LAKE CITY: the Gateway, a shopping and entertainment center
SALT LAKE CITY: the Gateway, a shopping and entertainment center
UTAH: heading south from Salt Lake City, the land slowly changes from forests...
UTAH: heading south from Salt Lake City, the land slowly changes from forests...
UTAH...to scrubland...
UTAH...to scrubland...
UTAH:...to downright desert.
UTAH:...to downright desert.
MOAB, UT: the northern reaches of the Colorado River
MOAB, UT: the northern reaches of the Colorado River
MOAB: the town bills itself as the “Melon Capitol”
MOAB: the town bills itself as the “Melon Capitol”
UTAH:  scrubland with layered mountains behind
UTAH: scrubland with layered mountains behind
ARCHES NATIONAL PARK, UT: the reason for the name is obvious
ARCHES NATIONAL PARK, UT: the reason for the name is obvious
ARCHES: more than 2000 eroded arches have been identified in the park
ARCHES: more than 2000 eroded arches have been identified in the park
ARCHES: ‘Balanced Rock’ formations are also visibler. Careful where you stand!
ARCHES: ‘Balanced Rock’ formations are also visibler. Careful where you stand!
ARCHES: many of the arch formations look like sculpture
ARCHES: many of the arch formations look like sculpture
ARCHES: cactus in the desert
ARCHES: cactus in the desert
ARCHES: ‘The Three Gossipers’ rise from the eroded rock
ARCHES: ‘The Three Gossipers’ rise from the eroded rock
ARCHES: little Miss Prairie Dog stands watch for his colony
ARCHES: little Miss Prairie Dog stands watch for his colony
ARCHES: the Double Arch has two arches with three attachment points. Someday they’ll all fall down
ARCHES: the Double Arch has two arches with three attachment points. Someday they’ll all fall down
UTAH: eroded valleys reveal the rock layers in a ‘gooseneck’ formation
UTAH: eroded valleys reveal the rock layers in a ‘gooseneck’ formation
UTAH: different colors and textures of rock are exposed by erosion
UTAH: different colors and textures of rock are exposed by erosion
MONUMENT VALLEY, UT: dust devils race across the desert floor
MONUMENT VALLEY, UT: dust devils race across the desert floor
MONUMENT VALLEY: Goulding’s Lodge and Trading Post, built on Navaho Tribal land
MONUMENT VALLEY: Goulding’s Lodge and Trading Post, built on Navaho Tribal land
MONUMENT VALLEY: some of our group entering a Navaho traditional house, a hogan
MONUMENT VALLEY: some of our group entering a Navaho traditional house, a hogan
MONUMENT VALLEY: the interior is surprisingly spacious and the exposed log construction beautiful
MONUMENT VALLEY: the interior is surprisingly spacious and the exposed log construction beautiful
MONUMENT VALLEY: a flat-topped butte rising from the desert floor
MONUMENT VALLEY: a flat-topped butte rising from the desert floor
MONUMENT VALLEY: the ‘Mittens’–many of the formations have received evocative names
MONUMENT VALLEY: the ‘Mittens’–many of the formations have received evocative names
MONUMENT VALLEY: the landscape is harsh and unforgiving
MONUMENT VALLEY: the landscape is harsh and unforgiving
MONUMENT VALLEY: more ‘Gossipers’, one very skinny
MONUMENT VALLEY: more ‘Gossipers’, one very skinny
MONUMENT VALLEY: a cowboy strikes a sentimental pose for the tourists
MONUMENT VALLEY: a cowboy strikes a sentimental pose for the tourists
MONUMENT VALLEY: the valley has been the scene for countless western movies
MONUMENT VALLEY: the valley has been the scene for countless western movies
PAINTED DESERT UT: erosion has produced a landscape of hills with various colors of stripes
PAINTED DESERT UT: erosion has produced a landscape of hills with various colors of stripes
PAINTED DESERT: the colors are subtle and beautiful
PAINTED DESERT: the colors are subtle and beautiful
PAINTED DESERT: it’s fun following the layers across an eroded hillside
PAINTED DESERT: it’s fun following the layers across an eroded hillside
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, AZ: 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and slightly over a mile deep
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, AZ: 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and slightly over a mile deep
GRAND CANYON: the Colorado River has been carving into the rock for more than 17 million years
GRAND CANYON: the Colorado River has been carving into the rock for more than 17 million years
GRAND CANYON: the layers’ colors change from hour to hour depending on the light
GRAND CANYON: the layers’ colors change from hour to hour depending on the light
GRAND CANYON: nearly 2 billion years of geologic history are exposed in the layers of rock
GRAND CANYON: nearly 2 billion years of geologic history are exposed in the layers of rock
GRAND CANYON: cliffs, mesas, and eroded rock with a snippet of the Colorado River
GRAND CANYON: cliffs, mesas, and eroded rock with a snippet of the Colorado River
GRAND CANYON: no single photo can convey the stark beauty of this canyon
GRAND CANYON: no single photo can convey the stark beauty of this canyon
GRAND CANYON: the park’s wildlife has gotten used to the visitors–here two male elk browse the vegetation along a road
GRAND CANYON: the park’s wildlife has gotten used to the visitors–here two male elk browse the vegetation along a road
GLEN CANYON DAM, AZ: built 1956-1966 to control the Colorado River above the Grand Canyon
GLEN CANYON DAM, AZ: built 1956-1966 to control the Colorado River above the Grand Canyon
LAKE POWELL, AZ/UT: the lake formed behind the Glen Canyon Dam and is a prime recreational site for boating and camping
LAKE POWELL, AZ/UT: the lake formed behind the Glen Canyon Dam and is a prime recreational site for boating and camping
UTAH: more eroded rock layers above scrubland
UTAH: more eroded rock layers above scrubland
UTAH: a network of rivers provide just enough water for herds of cattle and bison and other wildlife
UTAH: a network of rivers provide just enough water for herds of cattle and bison and other wildlife
BRYCE CANYON, UT: the exposed rock in this park is the youngest in the series of southwest canyons
BRYCE CANYON, UT: the exposed rock in this park is the youngest in the series of southwest canyons
BRYCE CANYON: most of the park is about 9000 feet above sea level
BRYCE CANYON: most of the park is about 9000 feet above sea level
BRYCE CANYON: the 50 million year old pink limestone of the Claron layer is topped by white dolomite
BRYCE CANYON: the 50 million year old pink limestone of the Claron layer is topped by white dolomite
BRYCE CANYON: these eroded formations are called ‘hoodoos’
BRYCE CANYON: these eroded formations are called ‘hoodoos’
BRYCE CANYON: the erosion here is caused by chemical weathering: rain and snow water enter the vertical cracks...
BRYCE CANYON: the erosion here is caused by chemical weathering: rain and snow water enter the vertical cracks...
BRYCE CANYON:...and freeze and thaw cycles break chunks off the ‘fins’ of rock
BRYCE CANYON:...and freeze and thaw cycles break chunks off the ‘fins’ of rock
BRYCE CANYON: eventually, single ‘hoodoos’ remain
BRYCE CANYON: eventually, single ‘hoodoos’ remain
BRYCE CANYON: arches and other shapes are also produced by the weathering
BRYCE CANYON: arches and other shapes are also produced by the weathering
RED CANYON, UT: a step or two down the rock layers, the pink limestone Claron layer dominated this canyon
RED CANYON, UT: a step or two down the rock layers, the pink limestone Claron layer dominated this canyon
RED CANYON: the pink limestone also forms the ‘Pink Cliffs’ area of the Canyonlands
RED CANYON: the pink limestone also forms the ‘Pink Cliffs’ area of the Canyonlands
RED CANYON: limestone is very soft and some fantastic formations are seen in this canyon
RED CANYON: limestone is very soft and some fantastic formations are seen in this canyon
RED CANYON: a human-like ‘statue’ of Claron limestone
RED CANYON: a human-like ‘statue’ of Claron limestone
RED CANYON: an abandoned settler’s cabin at the bottom of the canyon
RED CANYON: an abandoned settler’s cabin at the bottom of the canyon
ZION NATIONAL PARK, UT: the canyon is 15 miles long and up to a half mile deep; visible is 150 million years of geologic history
ZION NATIONAL PARK, UT: the canyon is 15 miles long and up to a half mile deep; visible is 150 million years of geologic history
ZION: Checkerboard Mesa displays both horizontal and vertical weathering patterns, hence the name
ZION: Checkerboard Mesa displays both horizontal and vertical weathering patterns, hence the name
ZION: a blind (closed) arch on the upper level of the canyon
ZION: a blind (closed) arch on the upper level of the canyon
ZION: trees and other vegetation literally sprout from the rock cliffs
ZION: trees and other vegetation literally sprout from the rock cliffs
ZION: this park is unusual in that one visits the bottom of the canyon rather than the top
ZION: this park is unusual in that one visits the bottom of the canyon rather than the top
ZION: the rock layers are clearly visible in this view
ZION: the rock layers are clearly visible in this view
ZION: the pink layer is named Navaho Sandstone and forms most of the canyon walls
ZION: the pink layer is named Navaho Sandstone and forms most of the canyon walls
ZION: another blind arch, possibly a cave for early Native American hunters
ZION: another blind arch, possibly a cave for early Native American hunters
ZION: Zion is a favorite destination for rock climbers
ZION: Zion is a favorite destination for rock climbers
ZION: climbers look for the cliffs in the shade
ZION: climbers look for the cliffs in the shade
ZION: the canyon was cut by the Virgin River
ZION: the canyon was cut by the Virgin River
ZION: a small creek dribbles down into the Virgin River
ZION: a small creek dribbles down into the Virgin River
ZION: a quick shot of a mule deer grazing along the river
ZION: a quick shot of a mule deer grazing along the river

96 PHOTOS

CLICK on the first photo to start a Slideshow

11 June 2012     Pittsburgh PIT — Denver CO DEN — Bozeman MT BZN

12 June     Mammoth Hot Springs; Yellowstone Falls

13 June     Yellowstone National Park

14 June     Lewis Canyon; Grand Teton Nat’l Park; Jackson Hole WY

15 June     Salt Lake City UT

16 June     Salt Lake City

17 June     Green River UT; Moab UT

18 June     Arches National Park; Monument Valley

19 June     Monument Valley

20 June     Grand Canyon

21 June     Glen Canyon Dam; Lake Powell

22 June     Bryce Canyon

23 June     Zion Tunnel, Red Rock Canyon; Zion

24 June     Las Vegas

25 June     Las Vegas

26 June     Las Vegas  LAS — Chicago  ORD — Pittsburgh  PIT