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The best of the West Coast USA

The best of the West Coast USA

California is the Golden State - an apt moniker indeed. Historically, the name evokes the 1840s Gold Rush, when prospectors swept in to seek their fortunes and the region boomed. But it also conjures up the sun-kissed skin of its beach-loving residents, the glint of a Hollywood Oscar, the honeyed hue of its Chardonnays and San Francisco's iconic bridge.

Head out on the highway

The best way to explore is by road because here they are generally spectacular. For instance, the Pacific Coast Highway north of glitzy LA hugs wave-crashed cliffs, inches over precipitous bridges and slices through a rugged hinterland.

There are interesting stop-offs too. Visit arty Monterey, whose bay is reportedly the only place in the world where you can find five different species of seal and sea lion. You’ll also see Hearst Castle, the flamboyant, hilltop mansion of former newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. His life inspired the movie Citizen Kane.

San Francisco’s famous bridge

San Francisco, familiar from countless films, doesn't disappoint either. The streets are just as vertiginous and twisty, the famous bridge just as misty, the harbour-side bright and bustling. The countryside nearby is equally mesmerising, with some of the USA's finest wines produced amid the rolling hills and Mexican-style plazas of the Sonoma Valley. Many of the vineyards offer tastings.

Mirror-clear lakes and snowy peaks

Head further inland and the geography becomes even more dramatic. Beyond state capital Sacramento – a key hub during Gold Rush days – the Sierra Nevada Mountains wind their way down eastern California. Here, unlike in Hollywood, Mother Nature is the premier director, fashioning a landscape of mirror-clear lakes hugged by snowy peaks, grand granite valleys and gorgeous gorges.

Tahoe is the USA's largest alpine lake, formed two million years ago. It's an ideal spot for a sunset cruise or simply marvelling at the mountains' reflections.

The tallest trees on the planet

Yosemite, to the south, is the place for hikes – hundreds of trails riddle this valley of pungent pines, whispering streams and rock monoliths. It's no coincidence that John Muir, grandfather of the entire conservation movement, was so inspired here in the world's second-oldest national park.

Further south lie the parks of Sequoia and King's Canyon. Between them they protect some of the planet's tallest and oldest trees – the General Sherman is 84m high and reputedly 2,700 years old – and conceal some of the deepest gorges, which plunge down 2,500m. To arrive back in LA after all this is to have looped around 1,000 miles – quite some road-trip.

Every Travelsphere holiday offers exceptional value for money. Included in the price are return scheduled flights/rail travel and internal flights, where applicable, overseas transfers and transportation, carefully chosen hotels, many meals and excursions and the services of a Travelsphere Tour Manager or Local Guide.