Bixby Bridge, Big Sur (Shutterstock: see credit below)
List Words : Hazel Plush | 30 June

Trips of a lifetime: USA

Big, bold, beautiful America celebrates its independence this week. How to plan the perfect trip for you? With these knock-out itineraries, of course...

Best trip for... hiking iconic routes

Appalachian Trail Walk, Grand American Adventures

It's no mean feat, but you'll be amazed by how much ground you cover on this Appalachian Trail Walk with Grand American Adventures. Take on the daunting mountain ranges of New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and, hike through the lush Green and White Mountains National Forests, and spy wildlife galore as you tackle this 10-day trek.

Acadia National Park, Maine (Shutterstock)
Acadia National Park, Maine (Shutterstock)

As well as walking a snippet of the USA's most famous footpath, you'll visit a microbrewery (craft beers are big round these parts), rent canoes to explore wilderness lakes, and take a cable car to the top of Cannon Mountain for views that stretch as far as Canada. Every night you'll rest up in comfy log cabins and boutique hotels – an invigorating combination of comfort and intrepid adventures.

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Best trip for... driving Route 66

Self-drive Route 66, American Sky

Cover some serious ground on this independent road trip on America's most iconic highway. Self-drive Route 66, an American Sky holiday, takes you all the way from Chicago to LA – with accommodation, meals and recommended stop-offs along the way.

Route 66 (Shutterstock)
Route 66 (Shutterstock)

Like all great road trips, Route 66 balances spectacular driving with lots of off-road adventures. The itinerary lists each one, alongside recommended timings, so you can stop off as much or as little as you like. We'd park up for a paddleboat cruise along the Mississippi river, a 72-ounce steak at the Big Texan Steak Ranch, a helicopter tour of Grand Canyon National Park, and a flutter in Las Vegas – to name but a few...

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Best trip for... cowboys and Indians with the kids

Family into the Wild West, Explore

Fancy taking the whole family on an American adventure, letting off steam on cowboys and Indians-style pursuits? A Wild West tour with Explore whisks you into the canyons, lakes and deserts of Arizona – with plenty of activities that all the kids will love.

Monument Valley, Utah (Shutterstock)
Monument Valley, Utah (Shutterstock)

Spend a night in a teepee, stay on a Navajo reservation, try jet skiing on Lake Powell, and go on a breathtaking tour of the Grand Canyon. In Las Vegas, while you're soaking up the bright lights and slot machines of the Strip, the kids will no doubt be hurling themselves down the waterslide that runs through your hotel. Yes, really. They might even let you have a go too...

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Best trip for... budget-conscious travellers

Camping America's West, G Adventures

Long trips to the USA can be pricey – but this small-group camping holiday boasts great value for money. From £1,439 for 22 action-packed days, G Adventures' Camping America's West packs in real bang for you buck. The small print? You'll be camping every night. But with well-equipped pitches in spectacular surroundings, we think that sleeping under canvas is a treat rather than a chore.

Coastline of Big Sur (Shutterstock)
Coastline of Big Sur (Shutterstock)

You'll drive down the West Coast, stopping off to sunbathe and camp on windswept beaches, before heading inland to the sand dunes of Scottsdale, up to Moab and Monument Valley, and westwards again to the wineries of Napa Valley.

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Best trip for... a big bite of NYC

New York, Ramblers Worldwide Holidays

It would be impossible to see all of New York in just a week – but Ramblers Worldwide can help you squeeze the Big Apple's best bits into one whirlwind city trip. You'll see all the iconic sights with an expert guide: the Rockefeller Center, Empire State Building, Smithsonian Museum, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty and Fifth Avenue – to name but a handful. By night, you'll catch plays on Broadway and dine in the city's best restaurants.

New York City (Shutterstock)
New York City (Shutterstock)

You'll venture out into New York State on a rail trip up the Hudson River Valley, a journey through colonial villages and beautiful countryside terrain. While it would be hard to pack in this much into an independent New York trip, this small group itinerary has it all planned out – so you can relax and enjoy the ride.

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Best trip for... Alaska adventures

Denali Unexplored, World Expeditions

Alaska is by far the USA's biggest state – big on size, and big on drama. World Expeditions' 7-day Denali Unexplored trip takes you up North America's tallest mountains, across minty-white glaciers, and even over ice-edged lakes on a float plane flight. Spectacular stuff.

Mountains in Denali NP (Shutterstock)
Mountains in Denali NP (Shutterstock)

You'll travel (mostly) under your own steam, trekking across the snowy terrain and camping every night like true explorers. It's all hands on deck: trekking by day, and setting up camp and cooking every evening. This no-frills itinerary gets you to the heart of Alaska – and by travelling largely on foot, you'll get a real sense of the state's unparalleled scale.

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Best trip for... Southern charm

Dixie Dreaming, Audley

Venture into the Deep South on Audley's Dixie Dreaming trip: a 19-day round-trip from Atlanta through Memphis, New Orleans and South Carolina, on a private itinerary. One each stop-over you'll find something fun to do: dance the night away in a honky tonk country music bar, explore New Orleans' French Quarter, and take a trip on the world's steepest railway at Lookout Mountain near Alabama.

Memphis, USA (Shutterstock)
Memphis, USA (Shutterstock)

This trip takes you to the birthplaces of country, blues, jazz and rock n' roll music, and there are plenty of foodie highlights too. Stuff yourself with Cajun and Creole delights in Louisiana before working it off on a hike through Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Reserve – a wetlands park where you'll spot white-tailed deer, alligators, and lots of protected birdlife. 

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Best trip for... leaf peeping in New England

Six States: One Fabulous Fall, Frontier Travel

Is there anywhere better to see autumn colours than the leafy states of New England? If you're travelling between September and October, Frontier Travel's 14-night Fabulous Fall trip takes you to the best leaf-peeping spots, such as the thick forests around Sebago Lake in Maine. In Vermont, you'll stumble upon country stores, artist’s studios and sprawling farms, and in Connecticut rewarding hiking trails await.

Autumn in New England (Shutterstock)
Autumn in New England (Shutterstock)

Trace the colonial days of Newport, and meander through the antique shops of Sandwich, Cape Cod. The quaint Americana village of Woodstock is a highlight, as is the summit of Mount Washington (don't worry, there's a train to the top). There's plenty of history to soak up, too: stop off at plantation museums and the spot where the founding fathers first set foot in America.

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Best trip for... incredible national parks

Yellowstone & Grand Teton, Peregrine

Exploding geysers, burping puddles of mud, and towering mountains – the natural beauty of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks is big on wow-factor. Peregrine's group tour around the two parks includes guided walks, overnight accommodation in rural ranches, and incredible photographic opportunities aplenty.

Yellowstone NP (Shutterstock)
Yellowstone NP (Shutterstock)

In Yellowstone, you'll trek through dense woodland and past bubbling geothermal pools, keeping an eye out for grizzly bears on the slopes of Mount Washburn. In Teton, you'll trek up the bizarrely-named Disappointment Peak (trust us, it should be re-named Awe Peak) – with Grand Teton looming over the glacial moraines and vast pine forest. 

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Main image: Bixby Bridge, Big Sur (Shutterstock)