Travel & Photography Trip

Visiting Eastern Sierras, Yosemite, Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Parks

*Plus a bonus visit to Colorado National Monument

(Ellen & Doug; August 2015)

Travel Trip Photo: Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California


Ellen and Doug took a 2,800 mile road trip in August 2015, from home in Colorado to California and back. The drive west took them across western Colorado, central Utah and southern Nevada to the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountains in southeastern California. Their return trip took them through the Bakersfield area, across the Mohave desert (hot! hot! 108 degrees hot!), through (but not stopping in) Las Vegas and the southern tip of Nevada and then back up and across Utah and, finally, 19 days from their start, home in Lafayette, Colorado.

Website photos, with captions, and slideshows (with music):

After 2 long days on the road, the first leg of the trip was 3 days and nights based out of the Mammoth Lakes area.

Eastern Sierras I: 2 days were spent exploring some of the geologic wonders of the area, including the Earthquake fault and Hot Creek Geologic Site just outside of Mammoth Lakes, plus Obsidian Dome half way between Mammoth Lakes and Lee Vining. And the highlight was kayaking on Mono Lake, with its spectacular Tufa Towers, surrounded on all sides by mountains, just outside Lee Vining;

Eastern Sierras II: ;

Leaving Mammoth Lakes, they drove up over 10,000' Tioga Pass to the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park, to begin a week long stay split between the Tioga Pass/Tuolomne Meadows and the Yosemite Valley areas.

Tuolomne Meadows area: Just inside the Yosemite National Park eastern entrance is Tuolomne Meadows. Doug and Ellen took in the splendid scenery and took 2 great hikes, one on the Glen Aulin trail and the other on the Lyell Canyon trail. Both follow the Tuolomne river and are also the John Muir and Pacific Crest trails at these points;

Tioga Pass to Yosemite Valley: Following their stay in the Tuolomne area, they spent a leisurely day driving 120 miles, on the Tioga Pass Road, going through Yosemite from Tioga Pass to the Yosemite Valley area. Before leaving the Tioga Pass area, they drove to Saddlebag Lake, located in the national forest adjacent to Yosemite National Park. Along the Tioga Pass Road they made stops at several viewpoints and overlooks, including Pothole Dome, Tenaya Lake, Olmstead Point (offering a first view of Half Dome), Yosemite Creek, May and Siesta Lakes;

Yosemite Valley: Highlights of their 4 day, 5 night stay at Wawona and daily visits to Yosemite Valley included a full day personal tour of the valley with guide Fred, who took introduced them to both well known and less known features and areas, and how to negotiate the crowds and the park's elaborate shuttle system. The Valley tour included a hike on Valley Loop Trail, which took them to the bases of El Capitan, the Cathedral Towers, Bridalveil (a trickle), Ribbon (dry), Horsetail (dry) and Yosemite (low) Falls. The following day they went to Glacier Point, with its expansive views of the surrounds, spectacular even though Half Dome, Vernal and Nevada Falls, and other features, were enshrouded in smoke from nearby fires. On their final day, Ellen and Doug hiked from the main visitor center area to Mirror Lake at the base of Half Dome;

From Yosemite Ellen and Doug drove south, through the smog and haze of the Fresno area and the Central Valley, before turning east and climbing back into the mountains ... of Kings Canyon and adjoining Sequoia National Parks.

Kings Canyon National Park consists of an island (actually a peninsula off the north side of Sequoia National Park) to the west, that contains the Grant Grove and other giant Sequoias, and the eastern part of Kings Canyon. The western part of Kings Canyon is in Giant Sequoia National Monument. Sequoia National Park is adjacent, just south of, Giant Sequoia National Monument, as well as the Grant Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park. (See map ) They spent 3 days in the area.

Kings Canyon: Time restrictions limited the visit to Kings Canyon to a long afternoon's drive from end to end and back, beginning at the west end in Giant Sequoia National Monument, where the active forest fire was very visible just over the ridge to the north, and going to the end of the road, up the canyon to the east in the National Park;

Sequoia National Park - the Trees: The main area for viewing, and hiking among, the Giant Sequoias was the Giant Forest area, including a hike around Round Meadow (complete with black bear sows and cubs), and a hike along the Congress Trail to visit the General Sherman Tree and the Government Grove (with Chief Sequoia, The President and the McKinley trees and the Senate and House groves);

Sequoia National Park - Other: Other key hikes, climbs and stops during the 2+ day visit included hiking on the Clover Trail, climbing Moro Rock, touring Crystal Cave and stopping at Hospital Rock;

Ellen and Doug's visit to California was divided into 4 locations: Mammoth Lakes/Lee Vining, Tioga Pass/Tuolomne Meadows, Yosemite Valley and Kings Canyon/Sequoia.

Where We Stayed: At Mammoth Lakes they stayed in a nice, fully equipped cabin at Tamarack Resort on Twin Lakes, including a nice deck with a limited mountain view, right above Twin Lakes. At Tioga Pass, they stayed at the very rustic and quaint Tioga Pass Resort, the first 2 nights in a small room with a large deck and a beautiful mountain view and the 3rd night in a fully equipped cabin with no deck and no view. In Yosemite, they stayed in the Redwoods community in Wawona, located near the southern entrance to the park. Their accomodations was a spacious log "cabin", actually a full vacation rental home, with the upstairs bedrooms closed off, but with a full kitchen, living room and dining and one bedroom downstairs, a surrounded by a huge that wrapped around on 2 sides. Theirfinal stay was at Wusachi Resort, a very nice, traditional tucked in the heart of Sequoia National Park, with a Lodge and a room in the Ponderosa building;

As a special treat breaking up the drive home, Ellen and Doug visited Colorado National Monument, near Fruita, Colorado, a place with many memories for them but which they had not visited in almost 20 years.

Colorado National Monument: They spent several hours driving the 23 mile Rim Rock Drive, stopping at numerous overlooks and viewpoints.

NaturesPix Website NaturesPix YouTube Olfarts' Home Other Trips Home Eastern Sierras I Eastern Sierras II Tuolomne Tioga to Yosemite Yosemite Valley Kings Canyon Sequoia-Trees Sequoia-Other Where We Stayed Colo Nat'l Monument