california

Tahoe National Forest | Travel

Tahoe National Forest | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

Tahoe National Forest | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

Tahoe National Forest was a lovely precursor to arriving in Lake Tahoe, California. The sky was mostly covered in wildfire smoke, creating a white backdrop as I drove between the large pines.

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore

  1. Boca Historic Townsite - an interpretive trail takes you through the once historic town.

  2. Calpine Lookout - a restored lookout station, available for rent, offers a unique overnight stay in the national forest.

  3. Frazier Falls - an easy half mile hike (each way) takes you over a wooden bridge, above a creek, to a peaceful view of the 176 foot falls.

  4. Highway 49 - this scenic road takes you along the North Yuba River and many quaint gold rush towns.

  5. Placer Big Trees - a grove of Giant Sequoias overlooking the Middle Fork American River.

What are some of your favorite spots in Tahoe National Forest?

Lassen Volcanic National Park | Travel

Lassen Volcanic National Park | Travel (127/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Lassen Volcanic National Park | Travel (127/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Driving through Northern California, I was unsure what to expect upon arriving at Lassen Volcanic National Park. This was my first view, walking up to the edge of Manzanita Lake. Smoke from nearby wildfires drifted in throughout my stay and kept hiking mileage to a minimum.

Lassen Volcanic National Park | Travel (127/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore

  1. Devils Kitchen Trail - a little over four miles, this moderate hike goes by mudpots, streams, two lakes and, of course, through the Devils Kitchen hydrothermal area.

  2. Lassen Peak Trail - this strenuous, five mile trail to the summit will take between four and five hours to complete.

  3. Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway - a beautiful, diverse 30-mile road through the park.

  4. Mill Creek Falls Trail - another moderate trail, a little over 3 miles in length, sits at a lower elevation and is easily accessible. A beautiful waterfall is visible during the spring and summer months.

  5. Stargazing - the sky is dark and the Milky Way is visible from this open, beautiful park. There are Dark Sky Festivals during the summer.

Have you ever been to Lassen Volcanic National Park?

Lassen Volcanic National Park | Travel (127/556) | Alaina Ann Photography
Lassen Volcanic National Park | Travel (127/556) | Alaina Ann Photography
Lassen Volcanic National Park | Travel (127/556) | Alaina Ann Photography
Lassen Volcanic National Park | Travel (127/556) | Alaina Ann Photography
Lassen Volcanic National Park | Travel (127/556) | Alaina Ann Photography
Lassen Volcanic National Park | Travel (127/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Lassen National Forest | Travel (126/556)

Lassen National Forest | Travel (126/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) Smoke filled the air from nearby wildfires as I drove through Lassen National Forest. California was dry and burning in many areas during this road trip. Unfortunately, I have asthma, limiting my hiking in the smokiest stops (including this one).

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Dow Butte Lookout - formerly a fire lookout, this area is now open to the public.
  2. Hat Creek Rim Overlook - this overlook offers beautiful views of the Hat Creek Valley. There's also easy access to the Pacific Crest Trail.
  3. Heart Lake Trail - this three mile hike rewards you with a mountain lake, after hiking along South Digger Creek.
  4. Spencer Meadow - a six mile trail providing access to Spencer Meadow. Also a National Recreation Trail.
  5. Subway Cave - this lava tube allows for underground exploring on a short, 1/3 mile long trail.

What are your favorite hikes and places to explore in Lassen National Forest?

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area | Travel (125/556)

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area | Travel (125/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) After days of driving through extremely dry conditions, entering Whiskeytown National Recreation Area offered the water-filled views I had been craving. By no means was the area void of drought conditions. The park simply offered a glimpse into a more wet and lush environment.

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area | Travel (125/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Brandy Creek Falls Trail - this moderate 3 mile hike takes you to the cascading Brandy Creek Falls.
  2. James K. Carr Trail - a 3.4 mile hike to Whiskeytown Falls, a 220 foot waterfall.
  3. Kanaka Peak Trail - a more difficult 7 mile hike to Kanaka Peak.
  4. Salt Creek Loop Trail - a short and easy 1.8 mile hike along an old mining wagon road.
  5. Whiskeytown Lake - enjoy 36 miles of shoreline and ample water activities.

Tell me all about your favorite hikes and places to explore in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area!

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area | Travel (125/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Shasta-Trinity National Forest | Travel (123 and 124/556)

Shasta-Trinity National Forest | Travel (123 and 124/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) Another wildfire smoke filled visit, while making my way through Shasta-Trinity National Forest. For weeks, I was certain half of my trip would need to be re-routed due to wildfires. Somehow, someway, I managed to get awfully close to the fires while still keeping on course with all my national forest and national park destinations.

That said, my entire time in California left me craving a winter or early spring visit, when conditions are a little less dry and the forests feel a bit more alive with fresh air.

Shasta-Trinity National Forest | Travel (123 and 124/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. McCloud Waterfall Trail - a 3.5 mile easy hike to three lovely waterfalls. And wildflowers, if they're in season.
  2. Mount Shasta Trail - this 10.6 mile trail takes you on a difficult, technical hike/climb/scramble to the summit of Mount Shasta.
  3. Mt. Shasta Wilderness - a wilderness area with a snow capped, dormant volcano standing over 14,000 feet.
  4. Post Creek Lookout - this rustic cabin sits on a ridgeline above Beegum Gorge and is available to rent. Tucked away in the forest, you're certain to have a relaxing adventure!
  5. Trinity Scenic Byway - this scenic drive follows Highway 299 from Shasta to Blue Lake. Known as the route from the Valley Oaks to the Redwood Coast.

What are you favorite hikes and places to explore in Shasta-Trinity National Forest?

Shasta-Trinity National Forest | Travel (123 and 124/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Shasta-Trinity National Forest | Travel (123 and 124/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Six Rivers National Forest | Travel (122/556)

Six Rivers National Forest | Travel (122/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) Wildfire season was in full force during my visit to Six Rivers National Forest in California. Smoke was in the air, distant views were hazy and the wildflowers were bright and beautiful.

Six Rivers National Forest | Travel (122/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Bull Creek Flats Trail - a 7.6 mile moderate hike. Enjoy a relatively flat, long stroll through giant trees with frequent visits from wildlife.
  2. Founders Grove Nature Trail - an easy hike, a little over half a mile, through an old growth redwood forest.
  3. High Dome Trail - a four mile moderate trail to the overlook on High Dome Mountain. Enjoy views of surrounding mountains and the ocean.
  4. Marble Mountain Wilderness - aside from having a fantastic name, this wilderness area is known for having rugged terrain with high elevation lakes and streams.
  5. Smith River National Recreation Area - filled with stunning mountains, river canyons, unique rock formations, wildflowers and ample opportunity for hiking and exploring.

What are some of your favorite hikes and places to explore in Six Rivers National Forest?

Redwood National Park | Travel (121/556)

Redwood National Park | Travel (121/556) | Alaina Ann Photography Redwood National Park, and state parks in California, is one of the most magical places I have ever been. The early morning fog, overwhelming silence and trees beyond belief all add to the surreal feelings experienced while hiking and driving through the park.

A raven flew by at one point. It's wings flapping against the thick air was heard long before he appeared into sight and long after he vanished into the mist.

Goosebumps and peace were felt over and over again while exploring.

Redwood National Park | Travel (121/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Avenue of the Giants - a scenic 32 mile drive through the heart of Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
  2. Fern Canyon - enjoy being surrounded by ferns on all sides of the canyon walls. This canyon was a filming location in the recent Jurassic Park movie.
  3. Howland Hill Road - drive through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park for close views of redwood trees.
  4. Prairie Creek - enjoy a hiking trail by some of the larges redwood trees.
  5. Requa Road - overlooks the mouth of the Klamath River where whales are sometimes visible from above.

Tell me all about your favorite hikes and places to explore in Redwood National Park!

Redwood National Park | Travel (121/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Redwood National Park | Travel (121/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Redwood National Park | Travel (121/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Redwood National Park | Travel (121/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Zabreskie Point Colors | Photograph Story

Zabreskie Point Colors | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography Death Valley National Park is a hot, scarce and empty place. At least it was all three during my visit!

Exploring this unique park was both exciting and wind burning. So much wind. You can actually see a little dust taking off behind the colors in this photograph.

Zabreskie Point was at the top of my list while in the park. Reading about the colors isn't quite as spectacular as seeing them in person. The blue, pink, red, orange, yellow, white, black, brown, burgundy and colors in between blend together and contrast one another in a perfect way.

Nature is amazing. And absolutely beautiful.

When you make your way to this amazing view, hold onto your hat! The wind zips by unlike any other place I have been. There's a collection of hats piled at the bottom of the overlook :)

Tufa Sunrise | Photograph Story

Tufa Sunrise | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography It's been one year since my visit to Mono Lake, on a very crisp fall morning.

My original plan was to arrive well before sunrise, to capture the changing of colors in the sky. Shortly into my trip north, through the Sierra Nevada region, I learned my "mid-size" Yaris rental car was not well equipped for the inclines. I putted along at 40 mph (in a 65 mph zone) coaxing the car along the way.

Dawn lacked color, so I wasn't too terribly disappointed with my late arrival.

Walking through the South Tufa region while the soft sun rays poked through was majestic. The lake was very peaceful. Birds were chirping nearby while coyotes howled in the distance. And the tufa formations were impressive, from afar and up close.

I captured this photograph while standing between several formations, surrounded by tufa goodness.

Yosemite National Park | Travel

Yosemite Tunnel View | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography Yosemite National Park has more goodness than I had time to explore. I think I could live in Yosemite for months and still walk away wanting more time in the park!

Truth be told, I have yet to go through all of my photographs from my trip. As I continue to travel and revisit parks, I will offer more detailed travel posts for specific hikes, sights and landmarks in areas and parks I have already covered previously. I think this will be great motivation to revisit and enjoy places I have already checked off my travel bucket list :)

Yosemite Half Dome | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

Recommended Hikes
  • Bridalveil Fall - an easy, half mile, round trip hike to the base of the waterfall. This waterfall flows year-round.
  • Cook's Meadow Loop - an easy one mile loop offering views of Half Dome, Glacier Point and Royal Arches.
  • Four Mile Trail - this trail is closed from December to May due to hazardous conditions. During the warmer months, this strenuous trail takes you from the base of Sentinel Rock and climbs to the top of Yosemite Valley at Glacier Point. Sounds amazing!
  • Half Dome - grab onto the cables and hike the 14 to 15.2 miles (depending on the trail chosen) to the top of Half Dome. A permit is required and rain/lightning will cancel your hike for safety reasons.
  • Lower Yosemite Fall - an easy one mile loop, providing views of the upper and lower falls. This waterfall generally dries up in July or August (the fall was dry during my visit).
  • Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias - depending on your level of interest, you may choose a 1.6 to 6.9 mile hike through the sequoias.
  • Mirror Lake/Meadow - this hike is two miles or five miles, round trip, depending on your decision to walk around the full lake (when at peak capacity).
  • Upper Yosemite Fall - one of the oldest trails in the park! A strenuous 7.2 miles to the top of North America's tallest waterfall.
  • Valley Floor Loop - a thirteen mile, round trip, hike through forests, meadows and along the Mercer River. The trail is difficult to follow at some points so be sure to have a map.
  • Wawona Meadow Loop - the 3.5 mile loop through this meadow while wildflowers are blooming is bound to be amazing.

Yosemite Valley View | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

Recommended Pullouts {Beautiful Views} and Stops
  • Tioga Pass - driving from this entrance station to Yosemite Valley is breathtaking! You will, however, drive through the recent burn area, allowing the devastation of the fire to settle in.
  • Tuolumne Meadows - a lovely meadow view while driving to Yosemite Valley from Lee Vining.
  • Glacier Point - an awe inspiring view from above Yosemite Valley, allowing for a close look at Half Dome.
  • Tunnel View - a must stop on your way to Glacier Point from the Yosemite Valley!
  • Valley View - get close to the water and cliffs in Yosemite Valley.

There are so many more hikes and beautiful views in this large park! Like I said before, I could spend months in Yosemite and still not get enough of the goodness!

Mono Lake | Travel

Tufa Sunrise | Alaina Ann Photography Mono Lake is most notably known for tufa formations and spectacular light, color and reflections during sunrise and sunset. During my California road trip, I arrived before sunrise on two mornings. Each morning the light and tufa formations were amazing! The color and mesmerizing reflections were, unfortunately, a no-go on both days.

Mono Lake Tufas | Alaina Ann Photography

Recommended Stops
  • South Tufa - this area has the greatest concentration of tufa formations, just off Hwy 120 East in Lee Vining. There is a self guided tour, allowing you to walk through the tufa formations. A must stop, in my opinion!
  • Navy Beach - located just east of South Tufa, this beach allows for a different viewing point of the highly concentrated tufa area.
  • Panum Crater - especially exciting for geology enthusiasts, this area of young volcanoes is accessible by a dirt road, just off Hwy 120 East.
  • Mono Lake County Park - an easy trail and boardwalk will take you to the lake, through the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve. This area is quite popular for bird watching.

South Tufa | Alaina Ann Photography

There were several groups launching from Navy Beach in kayaks while I was visiting the area. If you are looking for opportunities to explore Mono Lake while on the water, click here.

I am quite excited to return to Mono Lake one day in the future to experience one of the amazing sunrises I have heard so much about!

Death Valley National Park | Travel

Dante's View Horizontal | Alaina Ann Photography Death Valley National Park is one of the most desolate places I have ever been. As you might expect, entering and traveling through this park requires ample food, water, gas and a map/directions. Using a GPS is not recommended due to the number of obsolete roads no longer in service. October through April are the most desired months to visit the park. My September visit was a windy, 110* day!

My initial attempt to enter the park from the south was quickly detoured because of a flooded road. Due to this unexpected road condition and a two hour wait for my rental car, I started my day in Death Valley nearly four hours behind schedule. I rushed through the park, seeing as much as possible, during the remaining daylight hours. Many roads and areas of the park were closed due to water and road conditions. I am both excited and anxious to return for my second visit!

Inferno Floor Horizontal | Alaina Ann Photography

Recommended Hikes
  • Badwater Salt Flat - from the Badwater parking area, it is 1/2 mile to the edge and 5 miles across the salt flats. This is the lowest place in North America and the temperatures are HOT! It is not recommended to walk across the salt flats during the summer months.
  • Darwin Falls - a spring-fed waterfall in the desert, this waterfall flows year-round in a narrow gorge. The waterfall is located west of Panamint Springs, down a 2.5 mile dirt road. The 1 mile walk to the falls requires some rock scrambling and stream crossings.
  • Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes - the moderate hike to the highest dune is 2 miles. There's no official trail; parking is available in the Sand Dunes parking area. Morning, evening and full moon nights are the best time to hike.
  • Mosaic Canyon - this is a popular 1/2 mile to 2 mile hike (one way) through a narrow marble-walled canyon. Start hiking from the Mosaic Canyon parking area.
  • Natural Bridge Canyon - accessible from the Natural Bridge parking area, this easy hike is 1 mile to the end of the canyon (1/2 mile to the natural bridge).
  • Salt Creek Interpretive Trail - an easy 1/2 mile, round-trip trail from the Salt Creek parking area. There's a boardwalk along a small stream making this a great viewing area for the rare pupfish and other wildlife.
  • Ubehebe Crater - a large volcanic crater; 600 feet deep and 1/2 mile across. Walking to the bottom of the main crater is easy, with a more difficult hike back out. The rim of the crater is a 1 1/2 mile round trip hike.

Zabreskie Point Colors Horizontal | Alaina Ann Photography

Recommended Pullouts {Beautiful Views} and Stops
  • Artist's Drive - a nine mile drive through volcanic and sedimentary hills. The Artist's Palette is a great opportunity to get out of your car and get a closer look.
  • Dante's View - a breathtaking and vast view of the park. Dante's View is located on a mountaintop, 5,000 feet above the Inferno of Death Valley.
  • Eureka Dunes - located in the Eureka Valley, the Eureka Dunes sit at a 3,000 foot elevation. They are three miles wide and one mile tall, making them the tallest sand dunes in California.
  • The Racetrack - one of my most anticipated locations to visit! This dried lakebed is best known for the trails formed by moving rocks and small boulders. The drive to the racetrack is 28 miles, each way, and requires a high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle.
  • Titus Canyon - one of the most diverse canyons and most popular back-country roads in the park. This 27 mile drive requires a two-wheel-drive vehicle with high clearance and takes approximately 2 to 3 hours.
  • Twenty Mule Team Canyon - a 2.7 mile, one way, loop through the colorful badlands.
  • Zabreskie Point - this overlook is surrounded by eroded and vibrant colored badlands. This location is quite windy, with a collection of hats at the bottom of the overlook!

Have you ever been to Death Valley National Park or are you planning your first visit? If so, I would love to hear from you!

Bodie State Historic Park | Travel

Bodie State Historic Park | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography Ghost towns are fun! I had my first experience visiting one in California, after spending the morning at Mono Lake.

Bodie State Historic Park is a California gold-mining ghost town. The streets and buildings of this once thriving town of 10,000 people are now deserted and eerily left as they were when the town began to dwindle. A small portion of the original town has survived the decades of absence and is available for exploring.

Bodie State Historic Park | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

The park is open all year, however, is only accessible by skis, snowshoes or snow mobiles during the winter months. Since the main road in is predominantly dirt, mud and snow may be problematic for many vehicles.

Camping is not permitted and there are few amenities within the park. Primitive restrooms are available and there is a bookstore in the museum for guided tours.

Bodie State Historic Park | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

Location

Bodie State Historic Park is located northeast of Yosemite National Park. The park entrance is 13 miles east of Highway 395, on Bodie Road (Hwy 270). I had a bit of an adventurous ride in on Cottonwood Canyon Rd, a much more rugged route into the town! I recommend driving in on Hwy 270.

If you find yourself in the area, stop by this ghost town! Taking a step back in time can be quite intriguing :)

Sequoia National Forest | Travel

Sequoia National Forest | Alaina Ann Photography Sequoia National Forest, located in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains in California, is a somewhat magical place to visit. My original intention was to travel to Sequoia National Park, but the distance was too great for a day trip from my hotel. I opted for a drive through Sequoia National Forest instead.

The National Park would have been somewhat more ideal for solo exploring, given more foot traffic and developed sightseeing areas. That said, driving through Sequoia National Forest and stopping for short walks along the way gave me a great introduction for future visits!

There are Ranger Stations in Springville, Kernville and Lake Isabella where you may inquire about the National Forest and pick up maps and brochures for your visit.

Sequoia National Forest | Alaina Ann Photography

Recommended Hikes
  • Amos Alonzo Stagg Tree - noted as the sixth largest in the world, this Giant Sequoia is 29 feet in diameter at the base and 243 feet tall. The trail to this tree is located off a dirt road, after making a few turns from State highway 190, east of Camp Nelson.
  • Trail of 100 Giants - prepare to be mesmerized :) This trail is an easy walk through Long Meadow Grove. There's approximately 1.3 miles of paved trail with several loop options. The trailhead is located on the Western Divide Highway (M107) and there's a $5 per vehicle charge. This trail is only accessible May 15 to November 15, weather permitting.
  • Freeman Creek Trailhead - located in the 1,700 acre Freeman Creek Sequoia Grove, off of Lloyd Meadow Road (Road 22S82). The trail will lead you to the President George Bush Tree (about 3.2 miles into the hike). Along the way, you will experience meadows, the Freeman Creek, sequoias, Jeffrey pines, white fir, sugar pines, black oaks, dogwood, California hazelnut and bracken fern.

All three hikes are on my list for my 556 in 12 return visit!

For a little perspective, below is a photograph of me in front of the Proclamation Tree from the Trail of 100 Giants :)

Sequoia National Forest | Alaina Ann Photography

California Road Trip | Travel

I am in California :) It feels quite wonderful to be back out west! I have been itching to travel since the moment I parked my car in the driveway after driving across the country. I knew June, July and August would be busy months with a sitting Jetta. I decided to drive out to California, from Las Vegas, before an upcoming work trip with Alaina Ann Creative. I booked my travel weeks ago, before realizing Yosemite National Park and Death Valley National Park are within driving distance to Las Vegas. After poring over a map and chatting with a good friend about the area, I decided to change my reservation and fly out early :)

Over the course of five days, I will visit a handful of photographically pleasing areas!

  • Death Valley National Park
  • Alabama Hills
  • Bodie State Historic Park
  • Mono Lake
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest
  • Sequoia National Forest
  • Red Rock Canyon State Park

View California Road Trip 2013 in a larger map

As you might expect, I will be sharing iPhone photographs along the way on Instagram and Facebook :)