Things to do in June Lake, California

June Lake, a small town north of Mammoth Lakes off of Highway 395 is one of my favorite places in the Eastern Sierra. It’s a tiny bit off the beaten path and often overshadowed by nearby Mammoth. Which often means it’s not nearly as crowded as other, more popular spots.

Things to do in June Lake California // tahoefabulous.com

Take a Scenic Drive
June Lake is located on the June Lake loop (Highway 158), a u-shaped road connected to 395. I’d driven by June Lake Loop probably a dozen times before I finally took the scenic detour – and it’s worth it, even if you’re just driving through. While it’s pretty either direction, I’d recommend turning in at the north end and driving south. This is the entrance further away from the town of June Lake, but your views will be more dramatic. The towering Sierra peaks are hardly noticeable from 395, but dominate the sky only a couple of miles in. There’s a reason that they call it “The Switzerland of California.” If you’re there in October, the loop has some of the best fall colors in the Eastern Sierra. Along the way, you’ll pass the lakes this area is famous for – Grant Lake, Silver Lake, Gull Lake, and, finally June Lake. The town of June Lake is situated between Gull and June lakes. The exit back to 395 is just a few minutes past town. Note: Highway 158 sometimes closes in the winter, so while there is access to June Lake, you can’t drive the full loop.

Lodging
There are all kinds of options for lodging in the June Lake area – from camping to resorts to vacation rentals. I’ve had two great experiences at the Oh! Ridge Campground and I’d highly recommend it. It has running water, flush toilets and easy access to a great beach on June Lake. I’ve also stayed at the June Lake Campground, which has convenient access to town, but it was really loud the one time I’ve stayed there. Reversed Creek Campground is very close to town, and Silver Lake Campground has great access to Silver Lake. While I’ve never stayed at any of the hotels or resorts, I’ve heard really good things about the Double Eagle Resort. There are also old school style cabins and lodges, like Fern Creek Lodge, which dates back to 1927. I’ve also stayed at a couple of vacation rentals in town, and there are plenty to choose from – I prefer VRBO for rural places like June Lake.

Eats
June Lake doesn’t have a ton of dining options, which isn’t surprising in a small town. However, it does have my all time favorite food truck, Ohanas 395. Ohanas is a fresh twist on classic Hawaiian food crafted with care and generous on the portion sizes. Greyson and I usually split two dishes – one regular and one small and that’s typically plenty. I love the Kahuna Chips – Hawaiian style nachos on kettle chips topped with kalua pork or huli huli chicken, sesame cabbage slaw, jack cheese, pepperoncinis and homemade bbq sauce. Their kalua pork is so good that it was better than any I got on the Big Island in June!

Another fun place to eat is the Tiger Bar & Cafe. It’s pretty typical pub food – heavy on the burgers and fries, light on the veggies, but good, if not good for you. Tiger Bar is historic – it was established in 1932, and it supposedly has California Liquor License #2 and is the longest legally operating bar in California.

Beer
June Lake is home to my favorite brewery in the Eastern Sierra – June Lake Brewing. I write in more detail about what makes the beer and the brewery so great in my June Lake Brewing post here.

June Lake Brewing // tahoefabulous.com

This area is also getting famous for it’s awesome June Lake Autumn Beer Festival. I went in 2016, and it definitely wasn’t your typical local beer festival. It’s put on by the June Lake Brewery crew, who moved to June Lake from the San Diego area and still have a ton of connections down there. While my local favorites (Mammoth Brewing Company, Mountain Rambler, etc.) were there, there were also a ton of farther flung breweries, many that I tried for the first time, like Pizza Port and Alpine Brewing Company. If you want to go, start planning early as tickets are very limited and in high demand – they sold out in early February for the 2018 festival happening on September 29th. If you happen to be in the area, sometimes there are extra tickets are available at the door. This is my favorite beer fest that I’ve been to – lots of beers, small enough that it’s not overwhelming, and a beautiful location and time of year.

Activities
There’s tons of stuff to do in the June Lake area, whether you stay in the loop or venture out a little farther. What there is to do in June Lake varies according to the season, but there’s something awesome all throughout the year.

In town, you’ve obviously got the lakes. For swimming, I like June Lake Beach, which is sandy with room to spread out and the water is clear and refreshing. Gull Lake has a nice picnic area and playground, and is great for a family picnic. June Lake is at 7,600 feet so the lakes are pretty cold, but definitely swimmable in July, August, and September.

The whole loop is well known as a popular fishing area. While you can fish in all of the lakes, Silver Lake is known for the best shore fishing, June Lake for early season catches, Gull Lake for bait fishing, and Grant Lake for trolling. Nearby, Rush Creek and Lee Vining Creek are typical fly fishing spots.

Tuolumne Meadows // tahoefabulous.com
Tuolumne Meadows // photo by Greyson Howard

Tioga Pass into Yosemite National Park usually opens between late May and late June, and it’s a convenient trip into the park from June Lake via this route. The drive is gorgeous, but steep and exposed, and it gets you into the much less crowded high, east side of the park. From this side, you’ll have easy access to Tuolumne Meadows, Tenaya Lake, Olmstead Point and all the typical Yosemite summer activities, like hiking, climbing, paddling, swimming, etc. There are far fewer services in this side of the park compared to the Valley, so plan ahead for food and water, gas, sunscreen, bug spray, and any other accessories you might need. Tioga Pass is usually closed by late October.

Olmstead Point // tahoefabulous.com
Half Dome from Olmstead Point

June Lake is home to a ton of hiking trails, though many are difficult to the steep elevation changes. Fern Lake trail is one of those short and steep trails, gaining 1,600 feet in just 1.75 miles to the lake one way. Once you make it though, the fishing is supposed to be amazing. On the easier side of things is the 2 mile Gull Lake Loop Trail. It’s right in town and doesn’t have much elevation change – perfect for kids or anyone who wants an easier hike. The Parker Lake Trail is a good middle ground. It’s 3.6 miles round trip with 650 feet of climbing, and you’ll be rewarded with a gorgeous lake at the end. Some friends have used this as an easy backpacking destination, and they said it’s great for newbies or if your time is limited and just want an easy overnight.

I also have to plug the June Lake Triathlon – it’s my favorite race I’ve ever done. It’s got a small town, local feel, but it’s still incredibly well organized and the field is big enough that you never feel like you’re out there on your own. The course is challenging, and so beautiful that you get distracted from your suffering. The whole town seems to get involved, whether they are volunteering at the event or on the road cheering you on. They offer sprint, olympic, and half iron distance races, as well as aquabike and relay opportunities- plus Mammoth Brewing Company beer and a home cooked meal at the finish line.

June Lake Triathlon // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

If you’re visiting in the winter, there are still plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy. June Mountain Ski Area is basically right in town, and though it’s owned by Mammoth Mountain, it still has a small town feel. If backcountry skiing or riding is your thing, there are guided tours available from Sierra Mountain Guides and through June Mountain. For non-adrenaline junkies, there is snowshoeing and cross country skiing nearby as well.

If you enjoy the outdoors, you’ll find something to do in June Lake. I hope you check out this awesome hidden gem, and enjoy it as much as I do!

Olympic National Park

When we were planning this trip, one of Greyson’s “must dos” was Olympic National Park. Despite growing up in Washington, I’d never been either. Also, Greyson’s parents went to Olympic National Park on their honeymoon and they gave us two nights at the Lake Quinault Lodge as a wedding gift. After four nights of camping, we were excited for the luxury.

Olympic National Park Visitor's Guide // tahoefabulous.com

The Lake Quinalt Lodge is a historic lodge, on the shores of Lake Quinault, just outside of the National Park. The building was beautiful, the rooms were really nice – we had a deck over looking the lake and a fireplace, which we didn’t end up using. There is wifi, but it’s pretty spotty and slow – not really a problem unless you are planning on doing some work.  The property has it’s own beach with boat rentals and there are lawn games you can borrow or just sit on one of the adirondack chairs and watch the sunset.

“There are some places so blissfully disconnected from the modern world that they seem to stand suspended in time. Lake Quinault Lodge is one such place – a grand and rustic lodge built in 1926 that welcomes guests with warmth, hospitality, and a sincere feeling of home-away-from-home comfort. Here you can unwind in front of our majestic fireplace, dine in the historic Roosevelt Dining Room, curl up with a good book by the lake, paddleboard or fish in the afternoon sun, or venture deep into the temperate rainforest and enjoy the cool shade of the giant trees.”

Lake Quinault Lodge had great access to the park, and it was fun to inject a little luxury on the trip. We did eat dinner in the fancy Roosevelt Dining Room one night, but it was super expensive and not worth the prices. On night two, we ended up getting pizza and beer at the convenience store/restaurant across the street, which was a much better price and delicious.

We knew that we wanted to do a long-ish hike while we were in the park (and while we had a place to keep our bikes secure), and we decided on the Hoh River Trail. The trail parallels the Hoh River and is through the rainforest, which we really wanted to see. The trailhead was about an 1.5 hour drive from the Lake Quinault Lodge, but the route was scenic and took us by places we’d hoped to stop anyway.

Olympic National Park // tahoefabulous.com

On our way there, we stopped for some beach access. It was gray and cloudy in the morning, but we could tell the fog was already burning off. We also stopped to gape at trees. They’re no coast redwoods or giant sequoias, but they’re plenty big and strange.

Olympic National Park // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

Olympic National Park // tahoefabulous.com

After stopping in at the Hoh River Visitor’s Center to confirm that the Hoh River Trail was really what we wanted to do, we were off. Lots of visitors use the Hoh River Trail to access the back country – we saw tons of backpackers and even a few groups with alpine climbing gear. It’s also great for a day hike. It’s an out an back that goes 17.5 miles out to Glacier Meadows, so for a day hike, just turn around where ever you want.

Screen Shot 2017-09-07 at 4.40.05 PM
Trail map via Strava

Hoh River Trail // tahoefabulous.com

The trail is fairly flat and not technical, at least for the first five miles that we did. I’ve read that it gets steeper as you get closer to Glacier Meadows. Despite the very sunny day we had, it was cool and shaded along the trail. Since it’s through the rainforest, you don’t always have sweeping views. We did get some gorgeous mountain views in spots where the trail got close enough to the river that we could see up or down canyon.

Hoh River, Olympic National Park // tahoefabulous.com

We’d heard there was a waterfall along the trail, so we made that our unofficial goal. The sun had completely come out by noon and it was an absolutely gorgeous day, though Greyson kept joking that he felt cheated by a sunny day in the rainforest. At some point on our way out, we stopped on the side of the river and had a snack and basked in the sun. About 2. 5 miles after the Visitor’s Center, we arrived at a little bridge and a verdant waterfall – Mineral Creek Falls.

Mineral Creek Falls // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

We decided to keep hiking for awhile longer to see where the trail took us. While still not steep, there were more up and downs for the next 2.5 miles, where we decided to turn around. Sometimes out and backs can seem boring, since you are seeing the same scenery twice, but the Hoh River Trail didn’t feel that way to me. While the hike was relatively flat, my hiking muscles were not in shape. I was feeling it in my legs, especially at about mile 7. The faster I hiked, the better I felt, so I was seriously speed walking by the end.

We decided to break up the drive with a stop at the iconic Ruby Beach. It was a beautiful weekend day, and Ruby Beach was pretty crowded – there was even a culturally appropriative staged wedding photo shoot happening. We walked down to the beach and got a few pictures, but we decided that we’d leave a little earlier the next morning and stop by when it was less crowded (which is when the picture at the top of the post is from).

Ruby Beach // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

Ruby Beach // tahoefabulous.com

After the long hike and drive, a long shower back in our room felt amazing. While I love camping, and I don’t mind getting dirty, I have to say that the luxury of Lake Quinault Lodge felt pretty nice!

Oregon Coast & Oregon Breweries

After our time mountain biking in Ashland and visiting Caldera Brewing, we headed for the coast. The Oregon Coast is known for its gorgeous views, and we were excited to take them in.

Oregon Coast Camping and Breweries // tahoefabulous.com

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I spent a lot of vacations on the Oregon Coast, but I hadn’t been back since high school or earlier. Greyson had never been to the Oregon Coast at all! From Ashland, we headed north on I5 before cutting west a north of Roseburg to follow the Umpqua River along Hwy 138/38. This drive was beautiful, all along the meandering Umqua through bright green fields and dark green trees. Our eventual destination was Tahkenitch Campground and the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, but we enjoyed the scenic route there.

Oregon Dunes // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

Despite my many trips to the Oregon Coast growing up, I had never been to the Oregon Dunes. When we arrived, I was blown away! The dunes stretched forever, and there was an entire forest growing on them between us and the ocean. They’re very unique – the large, oblique shape of the dunes don’t occur anywhere else and they’re one of the largest tracts of temperate coastal dunes in the world.

Oregon Dunes // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

After we got our fill of the sand dunes, we settled into our campsite at Tahkenitch Campground. We were there mid-week, and this campground was basically empty. We got our choice of campsites, and most of them looked really great. There were a few that were close to the highway, but I’d generally recommend this campground. The bathrooms were clean with flushing toilets and there was potable water available. It was pretty mosquito-y, being near some ponds, but not unbearable at all. There were very few other people in the campground, so it was a peaceful night. We made dinner, drank some Game of Thrones wine leftover from our wedding, and went to bed early.

Oregon Coast Camping // tahoefabulous.com
Photos by Lynn Baumgartner & Greyson Howard

Our next destination was South Beach State Park, near Newport, Oregon. We got an early start and headed up 101, taking in the gorgeous ocean views whenever we could.

Oregon Coast // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard
Oregon Coast // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

Oregon Coast // tahoefabulous.com

File_000 (4)

We hadn’t planned on stopping in Yachats, but once we saw Yachats Brewing, we flipped a u-turn and went inside. Yachats Brewing was really cute – lots of light and wood, with a locally focused menu. We didn’t end up ordering any food, but everything sounded and looked delicious.

“Carved deep into the stoney coastal headland, and cut from the reclaimed legacy of our industrial past, Yachats Brewing + Farmstore is a reflection of craft, place, and culture. We are located in the heart of the beautiful coastal village of Yachats, Oregon, and surrounded by the Siuslaw National Forest. Yachats Brewing + Farmstore was founded by Nathan and Cicely Bernard in 2013. Starting with a building originally built as a bank in 1965, Nathan and Cicely have transformed the space into a thriving center for local food, great beer, and coastal culture…Remnants of Yachats’ logging roots backdrop the vibrant color, texture and flavor of locally grown produce, pasture raised meats, hand crafted brews, and house fermented vegetables. Our Sauerkraut, Kim Chi, and Garlic Dill Pickles bring living food fans from far and wide. Our restaurant/taproom features 30 taps, including 15-20 of our award winning beers and house made probiotic beverages, such Kombucha, Jun, and Kefir soda.”

Yachats Brewing // tahoefabulous.com

As for the beers, here’s what I sampled and my ratings (all descriptions from Yachats Brewing):

Camp One IPA (3 out of 5 stars)
An American IPA with a slighty hoppy bite; a slighty sweet finsih with an amber dark honey color. This IPA drinks great all year round.

Coastal Dark Ale (3.5 out of 5 stars)
Our version of a Cascadian Dark Ale brewed with all whole leaf hops from the Pacific Northwest. Patagonia perla negra give it a black color and soft roast flavor. Name: The long dark days of winter on the Oregon Coast.

Thor’s Hammer IPA (4 out of 5 stars)
This IPA has a crisp malt build with an assertive piney bitterness and a strong floral finish. Name: A unique intertidal sinkhole near Yachats

From Yachats, we continued up the coast to the campsite we’d reserved at South Beach State Park south of Newport. South Beach State Park is a HUGE campground with literally hundreds of tent and RV camping sites. There’s a ton of stuff to do there, including trails, beach access, ranger talks, a small store, bike rentals, and more. It’s definitely not a remote or low-key campground, but it is very well organized, with clean bathrooms, free showers, and friendly staff. It’s also close to town, so good access for things to do there.

My main goal was to see some otters and eat seafood. We managed to do both, and we threw in a trip to another brewery while we were at it. Rogue Ales is one of the OG craft breweries. It’s in an industrial area of Newport, near the water and the Oregon Coast Aquarium. We didn’t do the whole tour, but we drank good beer and I had a salmon sandwich.

Newport Oregon // tahoefabulous.com

The Beer (most descriptions from Rogue Ales, unless obvious)

Pendleton Pale Ale (4 out of 5 stars)
A light, refreshing pale ale brewed with hops and malts grown on Rogue Farms in Oregon.

Straight Outta Newport IPA (5 out of 5 stars)
We drank A LOT of beers over the course of our honeymoon, and this west coast IPA was in my top 5.

Cold Brew IPA (3 out of 5 stars)
Stumptown Coffee Roasters’ Cold Brew Coffee is blended with an IPA made using Rogue Farms hops for a unique interplay of hops and coffee flavors. Opening with a huge hit of rich coffee aroma that is balanced by a not-so-subtle hop punch, the transition is seamless from one bold flavor to the next.

8 Hop IPA (4.25 out of 5 stars)
The boss of the hop family, this IPA brings brash and burly flavors. INGREDIENTS: Rogue Farms Dare™, Risk™, CaraRed, Maier Munich, Dextra Pils & Dare™ R-1 Malts; Rogue Farms Liberty, Newport, Revolution, Independent, Freedom, Rebel, Yaquina & Alluvial Hops; Pacman Yeast & Free-Range Coastal Water.

Rogue Ales // tahoefabulous.com

Since sea otters are extinct in the wild in Oregon, we needed to go to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. I was worried that I’d been spoiled by the wonderful Monterey Bay Aquarium, and while the Oregon Coast Aquarium is smaller, it is still worth visiting. Of course, I loved the otters, but I was also enamored with the blind, rescued harbor seals and the very intelligent octopus.

Oregon Coast Aquarium // tahoefabulous.com

Once back at our campsite, I went for a run on the trail and the beach. It was a gorgeous stretch to run, but very difficult between the steep trails and the soft, soft sand. I eventually made it to the beach, and I spotted a whale spout!

South Beach State Park Newport Oregon // tahoefabulous.com

It was another mellow night for us, cooking on the camp stove, drinking beer leftover from the wedding, and an early night before our long drive up to Olympic National Park the next day.

 

Ultimate Northwest Mountain Bike Road Trip Itinerary

After Greyson and I got married this June, we went on an amazing, ~4 week honeymoon. We road tripped with our camping gear and our mountain bikes from Point Reyes, up through Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and back again. It was A LOT of planning, but I have to say that our route was just about perfect. I’ll go into more details about the specific destinations – the biking, the camping, the beer, and the other activities. I thought that I’d start with an overview of our route, in case anyone is looking to plan a similar trip.

Planning a PNW mountain bike road trip // tahoefabulous.com

Figuring out our route was a lot of work, but I knew there were some places that we definitely wanted to visit, places that friends recommended, some free hotel nights, and a few other requirements. The main resources I used for planning were:

  1. Trailforks
  2. Google maps
  3. BC Parks website

We needed to be in my hometown in eastern Washington exactly 4 weeks after our wedding, so our itinerary couldn’t be completely flexible. We wanted to not be too scheduled, though, so I broke our trip into a few segments.

  1. Oregon
  2. Olympic National Park
  3. Vancouver Island
  4. Sunshine Coast
  5. Whistler/Bellingham
  6. North Cascades/Eastern Washington
  7. Back to Truckee

PNW MTB Road Trip Route Map // tahoefabulous.com

The towns and regions we picked for mountain biking were

  • Ashland, Oregon
  • Vancouver Island, British Columbia
  • Sunshine Coast, British Columbia
  • Whistler/Squamish, British Columbia
  • Bellingham, Washington
  • Hood River, Oregon

We had a few other must-do non mountain biking destinations, like Olympic National Park and North Cascades National Park and friends we wanted to visit. Using the above lists and research I did on camp sites, I came up with a general itinerary and route:

Route Planning Spreadsheet //tahoefabulous.com

(Though this is our final-final itinerary the “final” one we came up with before the trip got a few changes along the way.)

We had a few places booked to stay – campsites when we thought it would be too busy to get first come-first serve, a few hotels, friends to stay with. This itinerary gave us some flexibility within our set dates. For example, we ended up leaving Ashland a day early for an extra day on the coast as a lot of the trails were closed.

Here’s what we ended up doing Point Reyes, CA > Ashland< OR > Oregon Dunes (via the Umpqua River scenic route) > Newport, OR > Lake Quinault Lodge/Olympic National Park, WA > Parksville, BC > Courtney/Comox/Cumberland, BC > Campbell River, BC > Powell River, BC > Roberts Creek/Seechelt, BC > Squamish, BC > Whistler, BC > Bellingham, WA > North Cascades National Park/Winthrop, WA > Reardan, WA > Hood River, OR > Bend, OR > Truckee, CA. It was an amazing trip, and I can’t wait to share more!

Super Exciting News!

Hello all! Sorry for the absence, I’ve been super busy at work lately. If you follow my instagram (@tahoefabulous), you probably saw the good news. Greyson and I got engaged in Yosemite last week!

Yosemite Engagement Olmstead Point

Yosemite Valley Engagement

It was a beautiful, sunny fall day in Yosemite Valley and he proposed in El Cap meadow. We’re both so excited, and looking forward to a long, happy life together! P.S. Here’s a close up of my ring, from the jeweler who designed it.

 

Planning a California North Coast Road Trip

So I’ve mentioned a few times that Greyson and I went on an amazing road trip up the North Coast of California. We managed to hit a bunch of must-see spots, both well known and off the beaten path.

Planning a CA North Coast Road Trip // tahoefabulous.com

I’ve already written about one of the hidden gems we visited, Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, but I thought I’d share the other stops on our amazing road trip.

Road Trip Map via Google Maps

  1. Truckee, California to Inverness, California (200 miles, 3.5 hours):We stayed at the Cottages at Point Reyes Seashore in Inverness, California for Greyson’s sister’s wedding. I’ve written about what to do in Point Reyes in the past – it’s an amazing place full of tons of things to do.
  2. Inverness, California to Westport, California (163 miles, 4.5 hours via Hwy 1):We headed north on the legendary Highway One, on our way to Fort Bragg and Westport-Union Landing Beach. In the Fort Bragg area, I knew I wanted to return to Pacific Star Winery and eat fresh seafood. I got my wish, and we tasted wines and watched a new batch of grapes be unloaded at the winery while the staff gave us a tour and let us taste test the different grape varieties. We ate dinner at Sea Pal Cove restaurant, where I had local rockfish fish and chips.  I had been to the area before, and I knew that I wanted to stay in a private that I had discovered allowed camping on the sand, north of Fort Bragg on Westport Beach – Westport Beach RV Park. Though it is also an RV park, the tent camping sites are secluded from the rest of the park, and all we heard all night were crashing waves.
north coast 3
Beach camping at Westport Beach near Fort Bragg, CA. Photo by Greyson Howard
  1. Westport, California to Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, California (75 miles, 2.25 hours via Garberville, CA):I’ve already written about the amazing Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, but I just want to emphasize again how incredible it is! If you enjoy the outdoors, it should be on your California Bucket List. On our way to Sinkyone, we stopped for lunch in Garberville at the Eel River Cafe – a cute diner with good food in generous portions.
  2. Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, California to Redwoods State and National Parks, California (142 miles, 3.5 hours): On our way to the Redwoods, we drove through the Avenue of the Giants, a well known drive that’s definitely worth getting off the highway for.
north coast 4
Avenue of the Giants. Photo by Greyson Howard

 

One of the main things Greyson wanted to see on this trip was Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park(part of Redwoods National and State Parks). We found that Gold Bluffs Beach Campground was the closest access to Fern Canyon, and open on a first come-first serve basis in early October during our trip. We arrived fairly early on a Thursday, and by Thursday night the campground was pretty much full, despite it being a weeknight during the off season. If you plan on staying at Gold Bluff Beach, Fern Canyon is a pretty much year-round attraction, so plan on getting to the nearby campgrounds early in order to find a spot. Our campsite was tucked away behind some bushes for a wind break, and a quick walk to the ocean beach, surrounded by the gold cliffs that give the area its name. Fern Canyon can be accessed by a less than quarter mile hike from the parking area, but we chose a longer 7 mile loop through old growth redwoods to access the back side of the canyon. The longer hike was definitely worth it, full of wet forest plants and creatures that we don’t get to see in the Sierra, and not very strenuous at all.

Banana Slugs in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Banana Slugs in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Fern Canyon was like nothing else I’ve ever seen – sheer walls entirely covered with ferns – and worth a trip to the Redwood State and National Parks just on its own.

Fern Canyon. Photo by Greyson Howard
Fern Canyon. Photo by Greyson Howard
  1. Redwood State and National Parks, California to Nevada City, California (328 miles, 6.25 hours via Chico): The only problem we ran into on our whole road trip came on this leg. We had planned to stop in Chico, California for our last night and do a tour and tasting at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, and just get a cheap motel room when we go into town. It turns out that we arrived on the Saturday of Parents Weekend at Chico State, and there wasn’t a room to rent within 50 miles. We ended up just having an early dinner/beer tasting at Sierra Nevada, and we pushed on to Nevada City. We grabbed a couple of beers at Matteo’s Public, and were asleep before ten in our room at the Emma Nevada House.
  2. Nevada City, California to Truckee, California (102 miles, 3 hours via Hwy 49 & 89): Since our inadvertent night in Nevada City meant that we were further along on our road trip, we decided to take the long way – Highway 49 to Highway 89 through Downieville. This route has beautiful views of the Sierra Buttes, and our quick stop in Downieville had us lamenting the fact that we didn’t have our bikes. This meandering, scenic route was the perfect end to a perfect Northern California road trip.
Looking back at the Sierra Buttes from Hwy 49
Looking back at the Sierra Buttes from Hwy 49

And finally, in true data-nerd form, here’s my spreadsheet of trip mileage, travel time and a few notes, for reference:

CA North Coast Road Trip Plan // tahoefabulous.com

Fall in Yosemite Valley

Fall in Yosemite Valley // tahoefabulous.com

I was lucky enough to spend some time in Yosemite for a work training that I put on. (Lucky me!) While we spent most of our time in a classroom setting at the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort (more on that later), we were able to spend a gorgeous fall afternoon in Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park. Fall is definitely my favorite time to visit Yosemite Valley. It’s less crowded, the temperatures are cooler, the waterfalls may be running again, and the changing leaves are amazing against the stark bare rocks and dark evergreens.

yosemite 2

We headed into the park on Saturday. After it rained all night on Friday and most of Saturday morning, the rain cleared out just in time for our arrival in Yosemite Valley. The precipitation had left a coating of snow on the high peaks surrounding the valley, while leaving the valley floor just a little muddy, and awash with the smell of fall leaves in the rain. After many years in the Pacific Northwest, that’s one of my favorite smells.

yosemite 3

Though the rain had cleared out, there were wispy clouds blowing in and out of the otherwise clear sky, resulting in gorgeous light and dappled patterns on the granite monoliths. We headed out of the park in the early evening and we were able to watch the setting sun as we drove away.

yosemite 4

If you’re going to be spending your days in a classroom looking at powerpoint presentation, the Yosemite Bug has got to be one of the best places in California to do it! I love hosting events at the Bug due to it’s perfect location, amazing staff, on-site amenities and gorgeous facilities.

yosemite 5

The Yosemite Bug is not just a great place to host events! Located in Midpines, California, it’s a wonderful home base for exploring Yosemite National Park – only 26 miles from the Yosemite Valley entrance which is open year round. The Bug has private rooms, tent cabins, and shared dorm rooms. It’s also a member of Hostelling International, if hostel hopping is your thing!

yosemite 6

In addition to the beautiful grounds, which you can explore on their well maintained trail, the Yosemite Bug has a luxurious spa (you can soak in the essential oil hot tub for only $10!) and a restaurant that’s in my top ten. The food is organic, local, delicious, and affordable. In fact, one of the training evaluations said the food was “too good. I gained 3 pounds.”

Yosemite Bug is not at all paying me to say this – I just love the place so much and think that everyone should check it out, even if you’re just passing through for a meal. They also host events throughout the year like a Thanksgiving dinner, live music, Wilderness First Aid trainings, yoga retreats, art events, and scientific lectures, just to name a few examples.

yosemite 7

We had a great time at the Yosemite Bug and visiting Yosemite Valley in the fall. I can’t wait to make my way back, hopefully for my first winter trip to Yosemite!

Where to Go: Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park

Where to Stay: The Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort, Midpines, CA

 

Beartooth Pass & Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, MT & WY

Beartooth Pass // tahoefabulous.com

A way long time ago, I wrote about driving through Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park. Next on the agenda: Beartooth Pass and the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway.

The Beartooth Highway is a…“…68 mile byway winds its way through southwest Montana and northwest Wyoming and leads into Yellowstone National Park at its Northeast Entrance.  Since opening to automobile travel in 1937 the Beartooth Highway has welcomed visitors from around the world – introducing them to one of the most diverse ecosystems accessible by auto in the United States.”

We drove east on the Highway, just to the top of the pass, and we we’re rewarded with incredible sweeping vistas of sawtooth mountains, fields of wildflowers (in late July!) and the eeeping of a pika! It’s a great jumping off point for recreation, and, with the right timing, wildlife abounds. Here are just a few of my (many) pictures:

beartooth 2 beartooth 3 Beartooth Highway // tahoefabulous.com

The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway connects the Beartooth Highaway (and Yellowstone National Park) with Cody, Wyoming. You’ll travel through the Shoshone National Forest, between the Beartooth and Absaroka Mountains, and across the Clark Fork River. The bridge over the high gorge of the Clark Fork was a highlight for me!

beartooth 5 Clark Fork // tahoefabulous.com

While not as iconic as Highway 1 or Route 66, I think that the Beartooth Highway and Chief Joseph Scenic Byway drive deserve to be on the list of “must-do” American road trips.

Lamar Valley, Yellowstone

A few weeks ago, I did an awesome trip through Montana and Wyoming with my parents. Check out my recaps of Glacier National Park and Gardiner, Montana.

Lamar Valley // tahoefabulous.com

The next section of my trip surprised me by being my favorite place we visited. I had traveled through the southern part of Yellowstone in 2009, and I had assumed all of Yellowstone National Park was like that: bubbling mud, alien landscapes and the occasional bison. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

We drove through the Lamar Valley in the north east portion of Yellowstone National park on our way towards the Northeast Entrance and beyond. The Lamar Valley is known as one of the best places to spot Yellowstone’s famous wildlife. This valley is habitat for bears, elk, pronghorn antelope, eagles, wolves, bison, bighorn sheep and more. In fact, Lamar Valley at dawn is the #1 place to spot wolves in Yellowstone!

Lamar Valley // tahoefabulous.com

Most of Yellowstone’s most spectacular wildlife are most active at dawn and dusk. Though we were a little late for dawn, we managed to see huge herds of bison, eagles and osprey, pronghorn antelope and elk.  My phone camera isn’t up to snuff for wildlife photography, so I really only managed to capture decent pictures of the large, stationary bison.

lamar 2

In addition to the phenomenal wildlife, the drive from Gardiner, Montana through the northern part of the park has gorgeous mountain and river views. This part of the park was much less crowded than the southern sections, and we enjoyed the vistas in relative isolation.

Glacier National Park

Over the past few years, I’ve really expanded the number of US National Parks I’ve visited. I went from one in 2009 (North Cascades National Park) to my current count of twelve. Just last week, I was able to add another National Park to my list: Glacier National Park in Montana.

Glacier National Park // tahoefabulous.com

My parents and I spent a (too) quick day here on a drive through the park. I can’t wait to go back for a longer stay and more exploring!

We drove to Glacier National Park’s West Entrance and had to wait in a fairly long line to get in. We were there on a Saturday, so we definitely experienced the summer crowds. If you end up visiting in the summer, I encourage you to go midweek.

Glacier National Park // tahoefabulous.com

My parents aren’t huge hikers, so we didn’t get to experience much of Glacier National Park’s 700 miles of trails. In fact, in the couple of places we tried to go on short hikes, the trail head parking lots were so full we couldn’t park! We ended up just stopping at a number of little pull out areas along the way to stretch our legs, explore along the river, and take in the park’s amazing views.

Glacier National Park // tahoefabulous.com

One reason we chose to go in the summer was the opportunity to take the Going to the Sun Road over Lolo Pass. Glacier National Park describes Going to the Sun Road as

“One of the most amazing highlights of Glacier National Park is a drive on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This engineering marvel spans 50 miles through the park’s wild interior, winding around mountainsides and treating visitors to some of the best sights in northwest Montana.”

Glacier National Park // tahoefabulous.com

This drive is definitely worth fighting the summer crowds, at least once. We even got to see some great wildlife on the drive!

Glacier National Park // tahoefabulous.com

Despite the long lines and full parking lots, Glacier didn’t feel as crowded as Yosemite or Yellowstone often do. I can’t wait to come back and do more backcountry exploring. Go visit Glacier National Park soon, before all the glaciers melt!

Glacier National Park // tahoefabulous.com

Until next time, Glacier!