national forest

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 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?

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?

Siuslaw National Forest | Travel (120/556)

Siuslaw National Forest | Travel (120/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) Stopping at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, in Siuslaw National Forest, was an unplanned brown sign spotting stop. It's not uncommon for me to see an unexpected park sign and immediately detour off my planned route. Makes road trips even more fun!

Siuslaw National Forest | Travel (120/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Cape Perpetua Scenic Area - enjoy endless fog rolling through the jagged shoreline.
  2. Drift Creek Wilderness - features the Coast Range's largest rain forest of old growth. A true paradise if you love ferns and moss.
  3. Marys Peak Scenic Botanical Area - I struggle to resist botanical areas and gardens. The national forest is working to restore historic views and meadows.
  4. Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area - be blown away by over 40 miles of wind sculpted sand dunes.
  5. Sand Lake Recreation Area -located along the North Coast, you'll find sand flats and stunning ocean beaches.

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

Mount Hood National Forest | Travel (119/556)

Mount Hood National Forest | Travel (119/556) | Alaina Ann Photography Mount Hood National Forest, in Oregon, greeted me with tall pines, cool temperatures and a foggy mist. I was smiling from ear to ear the entire time.

Mount Hood National Forest | Travel (119/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Clackamas Wild and Scenic River - deep in a gorge, surrounded by rocky cliffs.
  2. Mount Hood Meadows Ski Resort - claimed to be one of the best locations in the Northwest for skiing and snowboarding.
  3. Timberland Lodge - a National Historic Landmark, handcrafted in the 1930's and now open to the public as a ski resort with hotel and restaurant.
  4. Timberline National Historic Trail - a 36.6 mile, near loop trail, inside the Mount Hood Wilderness.
  5. Timothy Lake Recreation Area - The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail traverses the eastern side of Timothy Lake.

What are some of your favorite places and hikes in Mount Hood National Forest?

Challis National Forest | Travel (117/556)

Challis National Forest | Travel (117/556) | Alaina Ann Photography Challis National Forest is where I hit most of the snow during my Idaho national forest loop. Would love to get back for a warmer fall day, with fewer snow flurries!

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Franck Church River of No Return Wilderness - quite the name! Filled with rugged mountains, canyons and whitewater rivers.
  2. Little Bayhorse Trail - a quick one mile hike around Little Bayhorse Lake.
  3. Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway - over 140 miles through diverse Idaho landscape, including mountain peaks, lava flows and ghost towns.
  4. Upper Vanity Lakes - a moderate 2.1 mile trail, out and back, to four small lakes in the Frank Church Wilderness.
  5. West Fork Lakes Trail - a 1.4 mile hike to West Fork Lakes.

What are your favorite places in Challis National Forest?

Sawtooth National Forest | Travel (116/556)

Sawtooth National Forest | Travel (116/556) | Alaina Ann Photography It was early September and snow began to fall as I drove into Sun Valley, Idaho. With a long detour through three national forests ahead, popping into a Ranger Station for weather information was my first stop in Sawtooth National Forest.

The Park Ranger kindly confirmed I would see snow during most of my drive, but would be at a low enough elevation to not worry about messy roads.

Perfect news! The sky and clouds were dramatic and changing quickly during my entire time in Sawtooth National Forest. Beyond excited to head back for more exploring.

Sawtooth National Forest | Travel (116/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Eagle Loop - a short, easy 2.5 mile loop trail.
  2. Galena Overlook - after driving through some serious switchbacks, stop and take in this stunning view.
  3. Redfish Lake - named after the once abundant sockeye salmon run, this lake is ideal for enjoying the beach, surrounding views and water activities.
  4. Sawtooth Scenic Byway - a must drive on my list! 116 miles total, with canyon, mountain, river and lava deposit goodness along the way.
  5. Sawtooth Wilderness Area - with 50 jagged peaks over 10,000 feet tall, there's plenty of exploring to be had here.

What are some of your favorite areas of Sawtooth National Forest?

Sawtooth National Forest | Travel (116/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Sawtooth National Forest | Travel (116/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Caribou-Targhee National Forest | Travel (112 and 113/556)

Caribou-Targhee National Forest | Travel (112 and 113/556) | Alaina Ann Photography Finding myself above the tree line, enjoying near and distant waterfalls, unexpected rainbows and bears scurrying across the road all made Caribou-Targhee National Forest a memorable stop on my around the country road trip. An absolutely fantastic place.

Caribou-Targhee National Forest | Travel (112 and 113/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Grand Targhee Ski Area - all the expected snow activities during winter, with festivals, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding during warmer months. Plus amazing views of Grand Teton.
  2. Lower Mesa Falls - a more distant view of the waterfall, from above the tree line.
  3. Minnetonka Cave - nine rooms over the course of a half mile. The cave is open during summer months.
  4. Teton Scenic Byway - 69 mile scenic drive, with the Teton Mountain Range in clear view.
  5. Upper Mesa Falls - enjoy an easy boardwalk trail located at the top of the waterfall.

Tell me all about your favorites in Caribou-Targhee National Forest!

Caribou-Targhee National Forest | Travel (112 and 113/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Caribou-Targhee National Forest | Travel (112 and 113/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Caribou-Targhee National Forest | Travel (112 and 113/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Caribou-Targhee National Forest | Travel (112 and 113/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Bridger-Teton National Forest | Travel (109 and 110/556)

Bridger-Teton National Forest | Travel (109 and 110/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) The Bridger-Teton National Forest, although considered separate national forests, will be shared together. They intertwine beautifully across 3.4 million acres of land.

I covered ground here after leaving Yellowstone National Park and driving along the beautiful John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway.

Bridger-Teton National Forest | Travel (109 and 110/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Big Rocks Trail - two mile, moderate hike, through an old growth forest with large boulders waiting for you along the way to the top.
  2. Big Spring Scenic Backway - oh how I love a scenic road. This drive offers 68 miles of mountains, wildlife and valley goodness.
  3. Bridger Wilderness - located in the Wind River Mountains with more than 600 miles of trails. Loads of options for exploring!
  4. Gros Ventre Wilderness - a beautiful area called home to larger wildlife, including bison, elk, grizzlies, wolves and mountain lions.
  5. Teton Wilderness - located in the southern portion of Yellowstone National Park, be sure to stop in for a hike before heading south on the Parkway and into Grand Teton National Park.

What are your favorite hikes and places to explore in the Bridger-Teton National Forest?

Bridger-Teton National Forest | Travel (109 and 110/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Bridger-Teton National Forest | Travel (109 and 110/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Shoshone National Forest | Travel (106/556)

Shoshone National Forest | Travel (106/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) Similar to Bighorn National Forest, Shoshone National Forest is another favorite to drive through on my way into Yellowstone National Park (from the east). With 2.4 million acres of land, there are many opportunities for exploring this beautiful portion of Wyoming!

Shoshone National Forest | Travel (106/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness - this wilderness area spans across the Montana and Wyoming border, features two mountains (Absaroka and Beartooth), hundreds of lakes, grasshopper glaciers, deep valleys and endless, rugged exploring.
  2. Cody - a great western, cowboy town in Wyoming. Also the location for the national forest Supervisor's Office.
  3. Kirwin - a historic mining town on the Wood River.
  4. Popo Agie Falls - a 3 mile round-trip hike with about 700 feet in elevation gain to the falls. Some people ride the falls down to the pool below. I am not one of those people!
  5. Stough Creek Basin Trail - a strenuous 16.2 mile hike offering access to a large alpine lake basin.

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

Shoshone National Forest | Travel (106/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Bighorn National Forest | Travel (104/556)

Bighorn National Forest | Travel (104/556) | Alaina Ann Photography I love driving through Bighorn National Forest on my way to Yellowstone National Park, if entering from the east. Wildfire season was in full force and the landscape was more brown than green during my drive. Still quite beautiful to me.

Everyone I know who has driven through saw a moose EVERY time. Naturally, I have never seen one.

Bighorn National Forest | Travel (104/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Bighorn Scenic Byway - a 45 mile stretch of US Hwy 14 offering scenic valley views.
  2. Cloud Peak Wilderness - named after the tallest peak in the national forest, covered in snow most of the year. This wilderness area has over 189,000 acres of land.
  3. Cloud Peak Skyway - another 45 mile scenic drive, this one along US Hwy 16. Enjoy the southern Bighorn Mountains and distant mountain views along the way.
  4. Shell Creek Trail - a 5.2 mile hike along Shell Creek, through meadows and eventually reaching the boundary of the Cloud Peak Wilderness.
  5. Shell Falls - this waterfall along Shell Creek pours over granite. Also the site of the visitor center for the national forest.

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

Bighorn National Forest | Travel (104/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Bighorn National Forest | Travel (104/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Custer National Forest | Travel (102/556)

Custer National Forest | Travel (102/556) | Alaina Ann Photography While traveling in South Dakota, I visited one of the Custer National Forest areas, separate from the main area in Montana. Roaming bison, antelope and scenic landscapes filled my time in the national forest. Sadly, I have no explanation for my complete lack of photographs from visiting.

I have included hikes and places from both the Montana and South Dakota regions below.

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Beartooth Scenic Byway - this 68 mile drive is claimed as one of America's most beautiful highways. The road is closed during winter when snow takes over.
  2. Capitol Rock - stunning butte standing tall in the prairie.
  3. Diamond Butte Lookout - open for reservations during non active fire months. This rustic cabin is on top of a 30 foot tower, offering amazing views.
  4. Historic Main Boulder Ranger Station - one of the oldest facilities still standing in the Forest Service System.
  5. Palisade Falls Trailhead - an easy half mile trail with views of Palisade Falls.

Tell me all about your favorite places to visit and explore in the comments below!

Black Hills National Forest | Travel (97/556)

Black Hills National Forest | Travel (97/556) | Alaina Ann Photography My first drive through Black Hills National Forest was in 2013, while visiting Mount Rushmore. It was a rainy, low fog morning and the views were spectacular. My favorite moment, of course, was meeting this mountain goat :)

Visiting last year came with more warmth and sunshine. Perfect for hiking and exploring new areas in the forest.

Black Hills National Forest | Travel (97/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Black Elk Wilderness - the only wilderness area in the national forest, said to be sacred to many American Indians.
  2. Gold Mountain Mine - the only gold mining site left in the national forest.
  3. Harney Point Overlook - the highest point in the United States, east of the Rockies.
  4. Old Baldy Trail - a 5.7 mile loop, with a short spur to the summit of Old Baldy Mountain.
  5. Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway - the best byway in the national forest for seeing waterfalls. The limestone canyon walls are also stunning.

Would love to hear about your favorite spots in Black Hills National Forest, in the comments below!

Mount Rushmore National Memorial | Travel (96/556)

Mount Rushmore National Memorial | Travel (96/556) | Alaina Ann Photography These presidents were far less bashful during my recent fall visit to Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. As you may recall back in 2013, fog rolled in for hours and only brief glimpses of the presidents and blue skies came into view.

Since my recommendations remain the same, check out the blog post linked above.

And be sure to enjoy this mountain goat cuteness from the same fall visit :)

Mount Rushmore National Memorial | Travel (96/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Mount Rushmore National Memorial | Travel (96/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Mount Rushmore National Memorial | Travel (96/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Mount Rushmore National Memorial | Travel (96/556) | Alaina Ann Photography