national park

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

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)

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

Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve | Travel (114 and 115/556)

Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve | Travel (114 and 115/556) | Alaina Ann Photography My first visit to Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve was quite a few years back, in my early twenties. Seems like a lifetime ago!

This unique, stunning park is well worth a visit. I truly hope to make it back during winter, maybe with a little snow on the ground adding even more contrast to the landscape.

Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve | Travel (114 and 115/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Cave Area - grab a permit and explore one (or all) of the five caves.
  2. Inferno Cone - a STEEP half mile trail (each way) to the top of the Inferno Cone. My favorite in the park!
  3. North Crater Flow Trail - less than half a mile, this trail takes you onto the North Crater Flow area.
  4. North Crater Trail - a 3.5 mile trail (one way), taking you over North Crater, into the crater mouth and onto Big Craters and Spatter Cones.
  5. Tree Molds Trail - a two mile trail with unique views of tree imprints in the now hard lava rock.

Tell me all about your favorite spots in the park, in the comments below!

Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve | Travel (114 and 115/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve | Travel (114 and 115/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve | Travel (114 and 115/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556)

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography My apologies for falling off the travel blog post wagon. Life has been a bit hectic the last few weeks since arriving home. Happily settling back into normalcy :)

Grand Teton National Park is an area I am happy to explore again and again. My third visit was spectacular, filled with stunning light, bears popping up everywhere, elk crossing the Snake River, dramatic clouds, cool temperatures and endless landscape goodness.

My top list of places to explore remains the same. Stop by my first blog post for more details.

Here are my recent favorite captures from this beautiful corner of Wyoming.

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Grand Teton National Park | Travel (111/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway | Travel (108/556)

John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway | Travel (108/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) The John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway connects Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. The drive is beautiful, as you might expect.

Worthwhile stops while driving between the two parks include Flagg Ranch and Glassy Lake Road.

Enjoy the stunning views while moving out of one great national park, into the next.

Yellowstone National Park | Travel (107/556)

Yellowstone National Park | Travel (107/556) | Alaina Ann Photography Visiting Yellowstone National Park is always a treat. My time exploring was low-key and familiar since this was visit number five. Highlights included bison everywhere (as usual), steamy and colorful geysers and beautiful rivers.

As in any national park unit, national forest, wilderness area and the like, be sure to read signs and follow regulations. For your safety as well as protection of wildlife and the surrounding ecosystem.

Yellowstone National Park | Travel (107/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Lamar Valley - always a great place to see wildlife. Bison, bears and bighorn sheep are always my favorites in this area.
  2. Madison River - while driving toward the West Entrance of the park, the meandering Madison River is always a beautiful and peaceful stop.
  3. Midway Geyser Basin - contains two of Yellowstone's largest hydrothermal features, including the Grand Prismatic Spring.
  4. Upper Terrace Drive - a beautiful drive around thermal features, near Mammoth Hot Springs.
  5. West Thumb Geyser Basin - the largest geyser basin located on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. I walk the boardwalks here during every visit!

What are some of your favorite hikes and places to explore in Yellowstone National Park?

Yellowstone National Park | Travel (107/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Yellowstone National Park | Travel (107/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area | Travel (105/556)

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area | Travel (105/556) | Alaina Ann Photography Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area covers ground (and water) in both Wyoming and Montana. And I must say, the extra drive to Devils Canyon Overlook in Montana is well worth your time.

Wildfire smoke was blowing in during my entire visit. Pops of blue sky showed up enough to make capturing photographs enjoyable.

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area | Travel (105/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Black Canyon - the sandstone cliffs rising high above the lake are absolutely stunning.
  2. Devils Canyon Overlook - the views are spectacular. Looking straight down, hundreds of feet, is sure to make your jaw drop a bit.
  3. Ewing-Snell Ranch - on of four historic ranches, once a gold mining location.
  4. Horseshoe Bend Marina - perfect spot for setting out on Bighorn Lake.
  5. Yellowtail Dam - the visitor center and viewing area are open each year from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

What are your favorite spots to visit in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area?

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area | Travel (105/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area | Travel (105/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area | Travel (105/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument | Travel (103/556)

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument | Travel (103/556) | Alaina Ann Photography The most striking part of Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is the tombstones, placed where the soldier died during the battle. You will come across on single tombstone, small clusters and a large cemetery.

The Auto Tour is highly recommended to see the entire park. And the drive through the open horse range is stunning, briefly taking you away from the somberness.

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument | Travel (103/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument | Travel (103/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Devils Tower National Monument | Travel (101/556)

Devils Tower National Monument | Travel (101/556) | Alaina Ann Photography While driving into Wyoming, the sky was filled with residual smoke from surrounding wildfires. These photographs come from a hazy afternoon exploring Devils Tower National Monument.

Devils Tower National Monument | Travel (101/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Joyner Ridge Trail - this 1.5 mile loop is set back from Devils Tower, offering a more distant view and generally quieter experience.
  2. Red Beds Trail - a 2.8 mile large loop around Devils Tower.
  3. South Side Trail - an .6 mile walk through Prairie Dog Town.
  4. Tower Trail - a 1.3 mile trail along the base of Devils Tower.
  5. Valley View Trail - this .6 mile trail takes you along the Belle Fourche River.

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

Devils Tower National Monument | Travel (101/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Devils Tower National Monument | Travel (101/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Devils Tower National Monument | Travel (101/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Devils Tower National Monument | Travel (101/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Jewel Cave National Monument | Travel (100/556)

Jewel Cave National Monument | Travel (100/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) Similar to other national park units with caves on this trip, I skipped the underground adventures in Jewel Cave National Monument. Maybe another day. They are, however, at the top of my list for folks who love stepping below the ground you walked in on!

Jewel Cave National Monument | Travel (100/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Cave Tours - choose between the Scenic Tour, Historic Lantern Tour, Discovery Talk or a Wild Caving Tour.
  2. Canyons Trail - a 3.5 mile rough trail, each way. Takes you into Lithograph Canyon and Hell Canyon.
  3. Hell Canyon Trail - a 5.5 mile moderate trail, through Jewel Cave National Monument and Black Hills National Forest. Views of limestone cliffs and Hell Canyon are along the way.
  4. Historic Area - open only during summer months, get a glimpse of the original ranger station.
  5. Roof Trail - easy quarter mile trail with canyon and forest overlooks.

Tell me all about your favorite experiences from Jewel Cave National Monument in the comments below!

Jewel Cave National Monument | Travel (100/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Badlands National Park | Travel (99/556)

Badlands National Park | Travel (99/556) | Alaina Ann Photography Over a decade went by between visits to Badlands National Park. I knew my arrival would be greeted with wonder, fresh eyes and amazement. During my first evening and morning in the park, storms were rolling in and out. The dynamic blue sky served as a stunning contrast to the badlands and areas with green grass and vegetation.

There's no way I will wait another ten years before my next visit!

Badlands National Park | Travel (99/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Badlands Loop Road - driving through the entire park on the loop road is a great way to see diverse badlands, stunning overlooks and enjoy short hikes.
  2. Big Badlands Overlook - my number one spot for sunrise.
  3. Castle Trail - a moderate, 10 mile hike passing through badlands formations.
  4. Saddle Pass - a short, strenuous quarter mile trail climbs up Badlands Wall offering a vantage point above the White River Valley.
  5. Yellow Mounds - the colors in this region are absolutely breathtaking.

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

Badlands National Park | Travel (99/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Badlands National Park | Travel (99/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Badlands National Park | Travel (99/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Badlands National Park | Travel (99/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Badlands National Park | Travel (99/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Badlands National Park | Travel (99/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site | Travel (98/556)

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site | Travel (98/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is conveniently located to Badlands National Park. If you find yourself in the area and have an interest in Cold War history, I highly recommend stopping in at the visitor center.

During my visit, the mock-ups for the final visitor center exhibits were in place and an educational video was available in the auditorium.

Guided tours are available at the Launch Control Facility Delta-01 with a park ranger and Missile Silo Delta-09 by cell phone.

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

Wind Cave National Park | Travel (95/556)

Wind Cave National Park | Travel (95/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) Caves and caverns are amazing, beautiful and quite impressive. And I have had the pleasure of visiting all sizes and depths across the country, including Carlsbad Caverns. Despite all these grand experiences, I have managed to become less interested in exploring caves and caverns.

Why bring this up? Because I skipped going underground at Wind Cave National Park, and every other national park unit to follow. Perhaps this is permanent. Or, more than likely, my camera and I will find ourselves in a cave again... one day.

Either way, the caves are listed below because they still hold a spot on my top five list while visiting the park.

Wind Cave National Park | Travel (95/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Cave Tours - all tours are guided by rangers and vary from easy, moderate to strenuous.
  2. Centennial Trail - part of a 111 mile trail through the Black Hills, this 6 mile portion goes through prairies, forests and along Beaver Creek.
  3. Cold Brook Canyon Trail - this mildly strenuous 1.4 mile trail explores a former prairie dog town and Cold Brook Canyon.
  4. East Bison Flats Trail - another mildly strenuous 3.7 mile trail along the rolling prairie hills.
  5. Rankin Ridge Trail - a one mile trail to the highest view in the park.

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