Once in a lifetime

Exploring the Natural Wonders of the West Coast, USA

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A school trip to the western coast of the United States will give students the opportunity to explore some of the most amazing natural wonders in the country. While the history of the "wild west" is recorded in an abundance of movies and books, the opportunity to see it in person gives these iconic landscapes a life of their own. From the preserved beauty of the Yosemite National Park to the overwhelming scale of the Grand Canyon, there is something for everyone in these two important natural landscapes.

The Grand Canyon

When you land in the state of Arizona, on the western side of the United States, one of the sights sure to be on the itinerary of your school trip is the massive and stunning Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon was carved by the Colorado River over, what has been estimated to be, some 17 million years. The Canyon is 446 kilometres long and reaches a depth of over a mile, or 1,800 metres. It was first discovered by Spanish explorer García López de Cárdenas in 1540. A school trip to the Canyon will show you exactly why it is known as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
While there you can choose to stand on the edge and simply soak up the sublime feeling of being on the precipice of something so massive. Or, you can book a donkey trek down in to the Canyon itself, along the river basin and even stay for a few nights on a camping excursion. If you are feeling really brave [and flush with cash] you can take a helicopter flight over the Canyon to see some of the areas not often visible to tourists. If you prefer to stay a bit closer to the ground but still want a thrill, venture on to the Grand Canyon Skywalk. The Skywalk is a glass walkway that was built on the edge of the Canyon in 2007. It arcs out over the cliff face in a horseshoe shape at a dazzling height of 1,450 metres. It's not for the faint hearted!

Yosemite National Park

Moving to the west from the Grand Canyon, another excellent natural landscape that will likely be on the itinerary of your school trip is the Yosemite National Park. Located in the central-eastern part of the state of California, Yosemite National Park covers 3,080.74 square miles and encompasses part of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. The park supports five major vegetation zones which, in turn, each support the habitation of a variety of flora and fauna. The geology of the Yosemite National Park is made up of granite rocks and remnants of formations over 10 million years old. The park is well known for its groves of Giant Sequoia trees, which can grow to 94.8 metres high and up to 17 metres in diameter. It is a great place to hike or camp and it offers a huge variety of outdoor activities for all abilities. In 1984, Yosemite National Park was inscripted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its variety of granite relief caved by glaciation.

Angela Bowden works for STS (School Travel Service), the UK's largest educational travel company, providing school trips for secondary schools, primary schools and colleges. A school trip with STS can encompass art/design, foreign languages, history, science/nature, geography and more, to worldwide destinations.

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