California is the state with most National Parks, nine in total. Each with its unique beauty and offering a very different experience from the others which also varies with the season. It is my intention to visit them all. For now, here's a taste of four.
The stops mentioned here are easily accessible with parking lots and mostly flat path for all levels/capabilities.
Death Valley - Badwater Basin
This is the lowest point in North America at about 282 feet below sea level, it is also the hottest, be prepared.
To reach the salt flats, one has to walk about 200 yards on a flat surface, though those feel like the longest 200 yds ever, the walk is worth it though, specially for sunset.
Death Valley - Night Sky
One of the darkest skies in the Southwest of US. On a clear moonless night, it is possible to observe the milky way. On this summer night, we drove from Las Vegas at midnight just on time to grab a shot before sunrise washed out the stars.
Stargazing in a dark night is such humbling experience . hard to forget the moment when we see the universe opening in front of us.
Death Valley - Mesquite Dunes
And for a totally different view, try the mesquite dunes, specially while the sun is low on the horizon casting long shadows over the sand. Beware of sand storms, having a bandana or similar to protect the face from the sand scrub can save your hike. Because of all the ups and downs, distances can be deceiving.
Yosemite - Tunnel View
Hard to describe the feeling when seeing this view for the first time, coming out of the tunnel. Yosemite in all its glory. I just wanted to breath it all in.
This outlook is a very popular spot for sunset and in early spring you can see the milky way raising over the half dome.
Yosemite - Yosemite Falls
This waterfall has two parts, the upper fall (photo) can be seeing from across the meadows, while the lower fall is seen only after you walk pass the trees following the [almost] flat trail. On a sunny day, the sun hits the water displaying a beautiful rainbow.
Yosemite - Yosemite Valley View
In addition to this grand view, you can see the latest camera models at this place, all searching/feeling their Adam's moment.
I missed this spot on my first drive two winters ago yet it is so easy to access from the Northside Dr, a few yards before taking the Portal Rd to exit the park, this spot has a few parking spots on the left hand-side of the road.
At first glance, this park seems to be a repetition of Joshua Trees and rocks. Even if that were all, the striking contrast of colors fills the eye, however there is more, tons more, for those that adventure to explore this wonderful park.
It is at this park that I made my first attempts to capture images of the Milky Way. The dark skies are among the darkest in the USA just be aware that temperatures can drop significantly at night. Always carry a [red] light and remember two things: a) your eyes need about 20 min to adjust to darkest at which point you can appreciate the details on the sky, even looking at your phone would reset the timer and b) your light (regardless of color) could spoil a picture, please be considerate of us photographers out there. Thank you!
Joshua Tree - Cholla Garden
The smallest of California's nine national parks and my shortest visit to any park. I arrived in the afternoon of a summer day to witness the commotion and activity as a fire started at the High Peaks leading to an evacuation of hikers. Thankfully the fire was quickly under control by CA's expert firefighters.
I did learn though that the park has two entrances (east and west) but the roads do not connect, that means you cannot drive across the part. 🧐.
Coming up next:
Colorado: Black Canyon of the Gunnison & Great Sand Dunes
Arizona: Grand Canyon & Petrified Forest
Feel free to contact me for questions/comments or recommendations!