Arrive San Francisco
Tour begins: 5:30 PM, The Westin St. Francis. A transfer is included from San Francisco International Airport to The Westin St. Francis, the elegant "Grand Dame" of Union Square. Join us for a welcome cocktail reception and dinner.
Muir Woods & The Presidio
Leave your hotel for a visit to the Presidio, a former Army base, now a national park; the preserved setting is rich with history - it was once home to the African-American cavalry troops known as the "Buffalo Soldiers." From here, it's a short drive over the Golden Gate Bridge to Muir Woods, a coastal redwood forest preserved as a national monument. Lunch in picturesque Sausalito, then hop aboard a ferry for the return trip to San Francisco. Dock at the historic Ferry Building terminal with its famous clocktower and its arcade of shops and cafés along the Embarcadero. The remainder of the day is free.
The Central Valley to Sequoia National Park
Before there was a National Park Service, the job of policing and protecting the national parks belonged to the U.S. Army. At Sequoia and Yosemite, the parks' guardians were the Buffalo Soldiers, who rode out every spring from the Presidio, crossing 300 miles on horseback to the Sierra Nevada. Drive a route that follows the Buffalo Soldiers' path across the agricultural Central Valley. Stop in Fresno for lunch, then board a motor coach for the 7,000-foot climb to Sequoia National Park. Your destination is remote Wuksachi Lodge® on the park grounds. This afternoon, an expert from the Sequoia Field Institute describes how John Muir found and documented the "Giant Forest" in 1875, a perfect introduction to the park. Tonight at the lodge, a naturalist guides you through the spectacular constellations that fill the night skies.
Land of giants and Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park
Begin the day with privately guided walks among ancient Giant Sequoias soaring to the height of skyscrapers; your first walk is in the Giant Forest Grove to see the General Sherman Tree, estimated to be over 2,500 years old (and still growing). Next up is a walk along the "Big Trees Trail" at Round Meadow with an interpretive naturalist guide who will give you some amazing insights into the unusual ecosystem of the Giant Sequoias. Lunch today is a private barbecue style western lunch. Travels this afternoon inside Sequoia National Park are via small 10-passenger vehicles, accompanied by a guide; you'll hear stories of early park "personalities" such as John Muir, Charles Young and Stephen Mather, as well as climb the 400 steps to the top of Moro Rock for stunning views of the park and the peaks of the Great Western Divide. The rest of the day is yours to explore as you wish. Possibilities include a visit to the Lodge Pole Visitor Center to learn about the amazing Buffalo Soldiers, or a visit to the Giant Forest Museum to learn about the giant Sequoias, meadows and human history within Giant Forest. Everyone returns to the Lodge late afternoon; the evening is free.
Yosemite National Park
Depart Wuksachi Lodge and Sequoia National Park this morning and head over to Fresno via Kings Canyon National Park, arriving at the south entrance to Yosemite National Park late morning. Your Yosemite tour begins with a film by Ken Burns describing Muir's passion for the Yosemite Valley, and his activism to preserve it for future generations, and is followed by lunch at Wawona® Hotel, an inn that was once a stagecoach stop. Then join a National Park Service guide and visit Glacier Point for a stirring view of the Valley, overlooking Half Dome and a panorama of glacier-formed peaks; on this spot in 1903, John Muir stood with Teddy Roosevelt during a private tour of the area that persuaded the President that Yosemite should be under federal protection as a national park. This evening, settle into your room at Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly The Ahwahnee®), a historic masterpiece of stone, timber and soaring stained glass windows in the heart of Yosemite; dine at your leisure.
Yosemite, "Nature's Grandest Temple"
Yosemite "is the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter," wrote Muir, who regarded such settings of awesome natural beauty as sacred places with restorative powers, "where the galling harness of civilization drops off and wounds heal, ere we are aware." Discover the park's power to move your spirit on a guided Yosemite tour in a special open-air vehicle, with opportunities to explore on foot. The afternoon is yours to enjoy the park at your own pace. Optional activities are available (some at additional cost), including bicycling, a hike over the footbridge at Vernal Falls, and a visit to the Yosemite Indian Cultural Museum and Village.
Return to San Francisco
Depart Yosemite this morning, first visiting the Mariposa Museum, then heading out for San Francisco across the Central Valley, with a stop for lunch. Filmed narratives by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan weave together the past seven days of history and nature, with insights you won't get anywhere else. One of the stories relates to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, a glacial valley Muir fought unsuccessfully to save. In the 1920s, the federal government allowed its river to be dammed, turning the valley into a reservoir for the city of San Francisco; a campaign continues to this day to restore the valley to its original state. Arrive late afternoon at The Fairmont San Francisco on Nob Hill. Join us tonight for a farewell reception and dinner; Yosemite can never be left behind (and may be as close as your glass of tap water).
Tour ends: San Francisco. Fly home anytime. A transfer is included from The Fairmont San Francisco to San Francisco International Airport. Allow 2 hours for check-in.