Last month I partnered up with Avis Usa and I finally got to do something I had been dreaming of doing since I was a teenager obsessed with anything Americana: I went on an epic road trip through the American West!
It was a very intense trip. Within two weeks we crossed fours different states, constantly on the move and sleep deprived, chasing sunrises and sunsets, driving through the vastness on many empty roads going on and on for miles and on to the horizon. Throughout the whole trip I could see the words of Jack Kerouac coming to life right before my eyes.
The West holds incredible beauty, and in front of such beauty I couldn’t help but feeling tinier than ever and so grateful for being allowed to be a guest on this planet.
I will make separate more in depth posts/guides for each state I visited soon, but for now here’s a peek into my full Itinerary.
THE GRAND CANYON – ARIZONA
I met my insta-buddy Phil at the Phoenix airport and after picking up the car we drove towards Sedona and stopped at a motel once it got dark. The morning after we were up bright and early at 5.00AM, first stop: Grand Canyon (the South rim). Once we got out of the car we were hit by the coldest temperature I’ve ever experienced, -18° celsius! We didn’t let that stop us and we made it out of the parking lot and walked towards the Canyon and once we got there the cold didn’t really matter anymore, what we had in front of our eyes was beyond beautiful, it was so big, so vast, so majestic!
Entrance fee $30 per vehicle
HORSESHOE BEND – ARIZONA
About 1 hour and 40 minutes drive from the Grand Canyon and 5 minutes away from the town of Page there’s this magical piece of Earth: Horseshoe Bend, a horseshoe shaped meander of the Colorado River. At sunset there were a ton of people around so we headed to Page for the night and came back for sunrise the following morning to have the place to ourselves…totally worth waking up early for it!
After we were done with our shots we drove straight to Antelope Canyon.
No entrance fee.
ANTELOPE CANYON – ARIZONA
Antelope Canyon is located east of Page and it’s a very short drive from Horshoe Bend. We were now in Navajo land.
TIP The best time of the year to visit is durning the summer, when the sun is at its highes and incredible looking light beams form inside the canyon but you can still catch some from late March to October.
The only way to access this hidden canyon is by one of the private tours organized by the Navajo tribe. There are two kinds of tours:
Regular tour $40 per person This is a group tour and it lasts about one hour (no tripods allowed! it’s really dark inside so without a tripod don’t expect great pics.)
Photography tour $120 per person This is a private tour (you have to have a dslr and a tripod). The perks of this tour are that you can take your time to get the shot you need and you don’t have to worry about having people in your frame!
You can book you tour here
MONUMENT VALLEY – UTAH
Still in Navajo land, Monument Valley is by far one of the most awe inducing places I’ve ever seen!
Is a two and a half hours drive from Antelope Canyon. We stayed 3 days and 2 nights. It was pretty cold, to enjoy it fully I think it’s best to go when the weather is a bit warmer (but maybe not in the middle of the summer when it’s too hot and there are too many tourists around!).
There are a lot of horses around, I didn’t have time but I would have loved going horseback riding through the valley.
I’ll write a quick guide to Monument Valley soon cause there’s a lot more to say about this magical spot!
Entrance fee $20
CORAL PINK SANDUNES – UTAH
A 4 hours drive from Monument Valley, in the middle of nowhere, there’s this! Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. We stopped to take a few shots and drove to the next town over (still a few hours away) to spend the night.
Entrance fee $8 per vehicle
VALLEY OF FIRE – NEVADA
The next morning we drove to Valley of fire which is located about one hour outside of Vegas. Driving through it felt a bit like being on Mars, we were completely surrounded by giant red rocks everywhere. We went hiking around a bit and when the sun went down we got back in the car and drove to Vegas.
Entrance fee $10 per vehicle
LAS VEGAS – NEVADA
Believe it or not I lived in Vegas for a whole year back when I was a dancer (not THAT kind of dancer!) so between that and being incredibly exhausted from our early morning call times I had very little interest to hang in the Casinos so I went straight to bed.
In the morning, before strolling out I stopped at In’n’out (a manditory stop on the west coast!) I had been waiting for this moment for the last 3 years!! (There were several more In’n’Out stops over the rest of the trip!)
NELSON – NEVADA
20 minutes outside of Vegas there’s a ghost town called Nelson. This used to be a cool place when I visited last time, it still had the old mine town vibe. I was so bummed when I realized it was transformed into a ultra fake filled it with 10 times the amount of cars, buildings and props that used to be there yeas ago so now more than a ghost town it looks like an amusement park. But if you’d like to see wome weird desert stuff or take a tour of the old (real) mines it’s probably still worth stopping by.
DEATH VALLEY – CALIFORNIA
We moved on to Death Valley, the driest side of America, but we were behind schedule and when we reached the Mesquite sand dunes the sun was going down. We stopped to enjoy the last bit of the sunset and kept driving towards the next destination.
Entrance fee $25 per viehcle
SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK – CALIFORNIA
Unfortunately due to the snow we couldn’t access many areas of the park but we still got to see General Sherman, the largest tree on Earth. It’s 275 feet (83 m) tall, and is over 36 feet (11 m) in diameter at the base. I saw red woods before but this was my first time ever seeing sequoias and I was mesmerized!
We only spent a few hours here but if it was summer I would have loved spending a few days hiking in the woods.
Entrance fee $20
BIG SUR – CALIFORNIA
Big Sure is the most beautiful scorch of California, I can’t believe I had never been here all those years I lived in LA!
After a quick stop to the Bixby Bridge we headed to the McWay Falls, an incredibly pretty 80-foot waterfal in an emerald-water cove. I dropped my tripod in an insanely steep cliff and, although the ranger strongly discourage me from trying to get it, I still went down and managed to take it back…that was one of the stupidest and scariest thing I’ve ever done but hey, I got my tripod back!
SAN FRANCISCO – CALIFORNIA
I had 4 days in San Francisco and it was pouring raining for 3 of them! When I first arrived into town I went straight to the golden gate but it was no where to be found! The fog was so thick you couldn’t even see the bridge. I spent most of my time in SF hanging out indoors and catching up with work, I was about to give up when finally on the last day the sun showed up and we were able to get some shots!
POINT REYES – CALIFORNIA
The last stop in Northern California was Point Reyes Station, a small town in Marin County, about 1 hour drive north of San Francisco. There are plenty of things to see in this nature reserve, gorgeous cliffs coastline , waterfalls, redwoods, lighthouses and even an old shipwreck. Our weather bad luck followed us up here and we were surrounded by fog the whole day, which gave the place a bit of a creepy vibe!
LOS ANGELES – CALIFORNIA
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know that I lived in LA for 2 years before I started doing photography. I only had two days there and since I still have a ton of friends in town I spent one day taking pictures in Venice and Santa Monica and the remaining two days just enjoying some down time and catching up with old friends finally in nice sunny warm weather.
JOSHUA TREE- CALIFORNIA
This wasn’t part of my original itinerary but when I was in LA my friend Jon wanted to spend a day of adventure with me so we went on a last minute one day trip to Joshua Tree National Park as it’s only a two hours drive from LA.
It was amazing! I felt like I was a guest in Tree-Kingdom! We wandered around for hours, climbing rocks, hiking, looking at petroglyphs. It was a fun day and a perfect way to end this epic roadtrip!
Entrance fee $15 per vehicle
A huge thank you to Avis USA for making this possible!