Day 1 - 2 - San Francisco
This year we wanted something easy to plan se we decided to go to the West coast of the USA, got great flights with Air Berlin (A330, so we expected that we would get the 2 seats, unfortunately we got seated in the middle). Moreover the airlines went bankrupt couple weeks before the flight, but we still could go. The flight was long and with not much to do. In San Francisco we rented a car, small Ford and drove to the Golden Gate Bridge to enjoy the views, on the way back we stopped at the Twin peaks, really nice place to see the city from above. The next day we just wondered around the city, went to Alcatraz, visited Chinatown, Pyramid, Union square, Lombart street - which was packed with people, Fisherman's Wharf, which was great and Chirardelli square, with beautiful weather we really enjoyed our stay. The only downside was our accommodation close to Pine Street, the surrounding area was not the nicest and I would reccommend avoiding it.
Day 3 - Yosemite National Park
Early in the morning we hit the road and drove to the Yosemite, a road we were supposed to take was closed due to a forest fire so it took us little bit longer. The smell of fire was evident even in Yosemite and the views were obstructed a bit by the smoke. We entered the park among the first and headed to the Lower Yosemite Falls, it is a small and pleasant hike to the bottom of the falls (we decided that we do not want to climb to the Upper falls). The forest around is really nice. Then we continued to the Brindalveil Falls, also nice, but when you copare both of them, the first one is nicer. Next stop was tunnel view, packed with tourist (it was getting close to 1 pm) so we went on a hike up to the mountain above the Tunnel view, where we hiked for about 2 hours and met just 4 people along the way, beautiful way how to relax and enjoy the views. Final stop was the Glacier Point high above the valley which was impressive. If only there were a bit less people, but we enjoyed it anyway.
Day 4 - Sequoia Tree National Park
Again early in the morning, when the sun was rising we hit the road and climed up to the Sequoia Tree national park. First we stopped at the General Grant tree, then did a "hike in the car" to beautiful rock formation, which was crazy since our sedan car was not the best option for rough uphill dirt road, but the view were stunning and according to a lady in a visitor center only a handful of people visit this place a day. Further we continued to the Congress train and General Sherman, the area around the tree was packed with tourist, the trail was almost deserted. On the way to last stop we stopped briefly at the Tunnel log, but we did not feel like waiting in a line for picture so we went on to the Moro rock, short trail up to a huge rock with beautiful views to the valley. This place might be really great for wathing the night sky.
Day 5 - Death Valley and Las Vegas
We were not sure if we wanted to do Death Valley in the summer, but we got up early and decided that we did. We were able to get there before 8 am so the temperature was alright and we were able to fully enjoy the views. First we stopped at the Mesquite Flat sand dunes (not really big, but nice place to stop), continued to the Harmony Borax works, where we did a quick circuit around the area, the temperature was rising. We stopped at Badwater Basin and drove around the Artist's palette, both places were nice. On the way to Las Vegas we made a quick stop at the Zabriskie point (really nice place to stop and enjoy the view) and at Dante's view, high above the lowest point of the park. We managed to get to Las Vegas in afternoon and spent the evening on the Strip.
Day 6 - Grand Canyon National Park
Again early in the morning we hit the road, made a brief stop at Hoover Dam and drove to Grand Canyon Village. We got there at around lunch time, it was quite warm and we did not feel like riding the bus which was packed with visitors, so we rented bikes instead and decided to enjoy the view at our own pace. It turned out to be great idea, visiting all of the views requires about 40 km of cycling, but we found out that most of the views were similar so we just stopped at those which we liked or at place where noone was around so that we could really enjoy the views and silence. In the evening we returned the bikes and did a short walk along the goelogy trail with beautiful views of the canyon. Even though we had just about 7 hours to enjoy the park, we had a great time.
Day 7 - Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Monument Valley
As always we got up early and went on a tour of Antelope Canyon which we booked in advance. This time we decided to do the Lower Antelope Canyon, which in my opinion is less crowded and impressive. The canyon was breathtaking and even though there were other people we managed, at some places, to be alone. The tour is quite short, I can imagine that most of the people could stay there for much longer. After that we drove to the Horseshoe bend to enjoy the famous view of Glen river bend. The hike was quite short, but on direct sun, so I recommend to take water, the view was nice, but quite crowded. On the way to Arches National park we got a chance to stop at the Monument Valley Monument. We decided to pay the entrance fee (which is not cover by the National park pass). The views were beautiful at the beginning of the trail, but the further we got the less impressive it got, so i would probably just looked at it from the road without entering the park. Before we reached Moab we stopped along the way at a random arches, where we spent quite a long time alone, just watching the sunset.
Day 8 - Arches National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park
We wanted to see as much as possible, so we got up early and drove straight to Arches NP. First we stopped at Devil's Garden trail, which was the longest of our todays hike at 9 km, took us about 2h30m and it was really great. Since we got to the trailhead as the first one all the way down we were alone and the views were really nice, especially at the second part of the trail. Later we did the famous hike to Delicate arch, approximately 5,5 km and 1h30m, again really nice hike to do, with more people, but still not as crowded as the last one (Window's loop trail, the easist of them all). We were really glad that we managed to do all of the trails, each was great for something else, but if you do not have time, do the last one, you get to see many different arches. When we were done with the arches we drove to the Bryce canyon, the road itself was beautiful with changing vegetation along the road and we climed more than 2 000m above sea level. We got to Bryce canyon just at the right time, about 2,5 hours before sunset so we had a lot of time to go down the Canyon and walk along the Queen's garden and Navaho Loop trail, which is a must do. With the setting sun the rock's color was just stunning so we got out of here long after sunset.
Day 9 - Unplanned Las Vegas
Today we were supposed to the the Zion National park, but since we were getting little bit tired and wanted a day off, we decided to go to Las Vegas instead and to do some shopping. Later that day we went to the Strip and spend there the whole evening/night. At the end of the day we were glad that we decided to ease out a bit and at least we have another reason why to visit USA again. Next day we had an early morning flight bound for Cancun, Mexico, where we would spend another week exploring the Yucatan peninsula.