Considering the TrekAmerica Western BLT for your first time in the States? I’m sharing my experiences of the trip and itinerary to help you make your mind up…
Almost three years ago now, I took a trip that changed my life more than I’d ever realise.
My travel experienced prior had been limited to a week in Spain, a college trip to New York and visiting family in the UK. I’d been getting wanderlust-y for a while, and wanted to get out there and see somewhere new. After seeing TrekAmerica being talked about by some bloggers I followed, I decided to check it out – and not long after, I ended up booking the Western BLT tour, a seven day, budget lodging trip in California, Nevada and Arizona.
(Fast forward less than six months after I came back, I’d somehow managed to get a marketing exec job in the UK office, and since, I’ve taken more flights than I can count…see. Life changer.)
Travelling solo, TrekAmerica was the perfect option for me – in my group, there were five other girls who were solo travellers, along with a couple from the Netherlands, two friends from Australia and two from the UK.
More recently, I’ve actually taken the Westerner tour, a two-week trip going into a bit more of the USA’s western hotspots. That one’s coming soon. But for now, I wanted to share my Western BLT itinerary, an ideal trip to take for a first time traveller, or someone with limited holiday, or just anyone who wants a whistlestop tour of the West’s highlights…
TrekAmerica Western BLT Day 1: Los Angeles – Colorado River
The night before my tour, I stayed in the tour’s gateway hotel, having been matched up to share a room with one of the girls on my tour. At 7.30am, I’d dragged my case downstairs and met our tour leader, Helen (an absolute legend), and the rest of the group.
I’d already had a day and a half to explore Los Angeles on my own, and had already been for a wander along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But if you’re arriving late the night before, it’s an essential sight to see in the City of Angels.
After our morning walk-around, we drove to Laughlin to stay the night. It’s not exactly a big tour highlight, but we spent some time having some food and drinks, and our first taste of casino culture. By the time we all went to bed, the group had already bonded more quickly than I’d ever known with a group of strangers!
Read more: Where to go on your first visit to Los Angeles | The Museum of Death | Los Angeles Sightseeing by Open Top Bus
TrekAmerica Western BLT Day 2: The Grand Canyon
Early starts are kind of a thing with TrekAmerica tours – but believe me, they’re worth it. Especially when you’re on your way to America’s most bucket-listed sight.
There are few words to describe the first time you see the Grand Canyon in all its sexy, stretching, orange-hued glory.
While some of the group went off for a helicopter ride (which sounded AMAZING, but was just too out of my price range), the rest of us went for a walk around Grand Canyon National Park.
Some of the group did a hike into the Canyon itself, but I chickened out – something I rectified on a more recent visit – and just enjoyed the sights of the rim trail.
TrekAmerica Western BLT Day 3: Route 66 – Las Vegas
This is the day I FOUND MY PLACE. I was hoping for a real slice of roadside Americana on my first ever USA roadtrip, and I found it in Seligman, Arizona. Aka, the birthplace of Historic Route 66. Although it was just a short stop, I grabbed a shake at Delgadillo’s Snow Cap diner, picked up some souvenirs and marvelled at the retro cars and…well…assorted cool junk in the diner’s back yard
On our first night, we went all-out-Vegas on an included party bus ride. Fireball shots were downed. Poles were danced on. And, of course, we got to check out the famous Vegas sign and Little White Wedding Chapel. Afterwards, we headed to a Vegas club…and from that point, my memory’s a little hazy…
Read more: Why You Should Visit Seligman, Arizona
TrekAmerica Western BLT Day 4: Las Vegas
With a sore head (and even more sore feet – don’t wear heels, kids), it was time to explore a little of what Vegas has to offer.
I’m not really a big gambler, and didn’t really do any on the trip, aside from $20 on a roulette table just to say I’d gambled in Vegas, obviously. But there’s plenty to see and do if rolling the dice and losing all your holiday spends isn’t really your style.
Walking the Las Vegas strip is, obviously, a must do. Heading out early, I went with some of our group to check out the hotels and casinos that line the busy Las Vegas Boulevard. Quite honestly, you could spend all day just checking out the sights, street performers and shops here. Which is pretty much exactly what we did.
To enjoy a Las Vegas sunset, we hopped into an elevator that shot us straight to the top of The Stratosphere. (That tall building that looks a bit like an alien spaceship’s landed on top. That tall building that you can ride a rollercoaster on or bungee jump off, if you so wish. I did not wish, and did not do.). Usually you have to pay to go up to the observation deck, but if you’d rather spend your money on cocktails, try the 107 SkyLounge instead – there’s a two drink minimum, but watching the sun set over Vegas with a cocktail in hand? Perfection.
Before the call of sleep got too strong, I took a late night flight over Fremont Street on the Slotzilla zip line. It has two lines of different heights, and the upper line was sold out. The lower zip line was definitely still a whole lot of fun though!
Read more: Viva Las Vegas | Why you should ride the Slotzilla zoom line | Heart Attack Grill, Las Vegas | The best pizza in Las Vegas
TrekAmerica Western BLT Day 5: Van Appreciation Day & Yosemite National Park
This is a warning. Yosemite National Park will make you lose your shit a bit. This is nature at it’s most epic, awesome, overwhelming, and a million other superlatives.
The drive from Las Vegas to Yosemite was pretty long, split up by plenty of snack breaks along the way. But that moment when I first took in the park from Tunnel View made every moment of ‘van appreciation day’ worth the journey. It’s pretty hard to put into words just how phenomenal this place is…really, you just have to see it to believe it.
As the sun set, we rocked up to our base for the next two nights, Yosemite Bug Lodge. One thing I really like about TrekAmerica tours is that you get to spend multiple nights in some of the locations. And Yosemite Bug Lodge was a super cute place to spend both
Nestled in the forest, it’s a hostel-style set up, with dorms and a wooden building that serves as the dining room and social hub. For the past week, we’d been twin-sharing rooms, but in Yosemite, the girls all shared a dorm room. Which was basically like a massive, gossip-filled sleepover.
TrekAmerica Western BLT Day 6: Yosemite National Park
Considering I was decidedly Not. A. Hiker, our Mist Trail hike in Yosemite was one of the parts of the trip I felt pretty apprehensive about. The first part of the hike, which takes you up to Vernal Falls, was a little tough going at times (I had a sit down halfway up), but I felt SO proud of myself when I made it to the top, with plenty of encouragement from my Trek family.
Some of the group carried on with Helen to Nevada Falls, the second part of the trail, but a few of us decided to head back down and explore a bit more of the park. We checked out the reflections of the granite peaks in Mirror Lake, a seasonal lake that’s only filled with water half of the year. And mostly, we strolled around, saw plenty of deer, gazed up at the tall trees and generally enjoyed being out and about in this ridiculously impressive national park.
Read more: Hiking in Yosemite National Park
TrekAmerica Western BLT Day 7 – San Francisco
“AS IF IT’S THE LAST DAY OF THE TOUR ALREADY, WE ONLY JUST GOT HERE” was pretty much the sentiment during the morning of our final day, as we drove towards San Francisco, our final stop on the Western BLT.
For the final activity of the tour, Helen drove us to the famous Golden Gate Bridge, and we got to walk across and take in THOSE views of the City by the Bay. And before we knew it, we were at the gateway hotel, and this whole amazing week had come to an end. Worst feeling ever.
I stayed some extra time in San Francisco post tour, and after visiting Alcatraz I met up with a few of the other stragglers for a final dinner and drinks in the city. Goodbyes were tough, especially with some of the group heading back to the opposite side of the world. But we’d had an amazing time together experiencing some incredible things – and those are memories I still genuinely treasure today.
Read more: My San Francisco Highlights | Visiting Alcatraz Island
Hopefully that’s given you a bit of an insight into what goes down on the TrekAmerica Western BLT. So, basically, if you’re thinking of doing, DO IT. Honestly, if you’re anything like me…you won’t look back.