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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)

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)

Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls

Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) The Columbia River Gorge is one of my favorite stretches in Oregon.

Driving along the Historic Columbia River Gorge Highway takes you by ten stunning waterfalls. A must drive route, in my opinion!

Bridal Veil Falls Horsetail Falls Latourell Falls Multnomah Falls (one of the tallest in the U.S.) Oneonta Falls Ponytail Falls Shepperd’s Dell Falls Triple Falls Upper Oneonta Falls Wahkeena Falls

Five of the waterfalls are easy access at the base, by a parking area. The others require a little hiking, in a beautiful fern and moss filled area.

Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

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

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

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

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 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

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!

Nebraska National Forest | Travel (94/556)

Nebraska National Forest | Travel (94/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) Most of my time in Nebraska National Forest was in the Pine Ridge Ranger District near Chadron, Nebraska. With over 80 miles of trails in this district alone, I found plenty of miles to occupy my time.

Nebraska National Forest | Travel (94/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Black Hills Overlook - accessible from the Outrider Trailhead, 1.5 miles each way.
  2. Pine Ridge National Recreation Area - the main access point to this 6,600 acre area is at Roberts Trailhead.
  3. Pine Ridge Trail - the forest service is working on a new trail, linking the entire Pine Ridge Trail system from West Ash Creek to Spotted Tail.
  4. Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway - Highway 2 passes Nebraska National Forest at Halsey and heads north toward Pine Ridge.
  5. Soldier Creek Wilderness - provides habitat for various wildlife, including bald eagles, bobcats and elk.

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

Nebraska National Forest | Travel (94/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest | Travel (91/556)

Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest | Travel (91/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) My time in Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest, in Nebraska, was filled with unexpected wild turkey encounters, a lovely little hike, beautiful water views and some curious cows. Quite the mix for the Nebraska Sandhills!

Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest | Travel (91/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. 16F - drive along this prairie road and enjoy the views.
  2. Blue Jay Trail - a one mile nature trail through the national forest.
  3. Merritt Reservoir - this recreation area is a deep lake, feeding off the Snake River and Boardman Creek.
  4. Niobrara Canoe Launch - a day use site located on the Niobrara River.
  5. Steer Creek Campground - this is the only overnight campground in the national forest. Also has access to the one mile Blue Jay trail.

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

Niobrara National Scenic River | Travel (90/556)

Niobrara National Scenic River | Travel (90/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) Nebraska was the final continental state on my list to visit. Niobrara National Scenic River was a lovely area and a perfect introduction to Nebraska. Filled with waterfalls, sandstone cliffs, numerous hikes and beautiful views, this scenic river is definitely worth exploring.

Niobrara National Scenic River | Travel (90/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Float the River - the best way to experience the river is in a canoe, kayak, raft or tube.
  2. Berry Bridge - offers a great view of the river and a family owned campground is nearby.
  3. Berry Falls - a small waterfall along the Niobrara River, east of Valentine.
  4. River Road - paved and unpaved road along the Niobrara River. May be impassable on the unpaved portion when wet.
  5. Smith Falls - the tallest waterfall in Nebraska at 63 feet.

Tell me all about your favorite spots along the Niobrara National Scenic River in the comments below!

Niobrara National Scenic River | Travel (90/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Missouri National Recreational River | Travel (89/556)

Missouri National Recreational River | Travel (89/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) My time exploring Missouri National Recreational River was swift, bouncing from South Dakota to Nebraska, as daylight quickly faded.

The water was intense and angry as wind speeds increased along the river.

After enjoying a few overlooks, I parked in Lewis & Clark State Recreation Area watching the sun dip out of sight.

For things to do in and around the river, check out this National Park Service page.

Would love to hear about your favorite spots in the comments below!

Effigy Mounds National Monument | Travel (88/556)

Effigy Mounds National Monument | Travel (88/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) Effigy Mounds National Monument was my official welcome to Iowa, after crossing the Mississippi River from Wisconsin. This was also my first time in Iowa, one of the two final continental United States left to visit.

Walking along the boardwalk through the Yellow River wetlands was a lovely way to stretch out after some serious miles on the road.

Effigy Mounds National Monument | Travel (88/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Fire Point Trail - two mile hike takes you by Little Bear Mound, conical mounds and compound mounds. The views of the river are fantastic.
  2. Founders Pond Overlook and Nezekaw Point Overlook - hiking to both overlooks is approximately 2 miles round trip.
  3. Hanging Rock Trail - this 7 mile round trip hike takes you past the Great Bear Mound, river overlooks and beautiful tallgrass prairie.
  4. Marching Bear Group - a 4 mile round trip hike explores ten bear mounds and three bird mounds.
  5. Yellow River Bridge Boardwalk Trail - a peaceful one mile trail through the wetlands.

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

Effigy Mounds National Monument | Travel (88/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)