Cascade and Porter of the ADK46

This Sunday, April 22nd, we set out to hike our first two of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks.  Steve and I hiked the 48 New Hampshire 4,000 footers over the past few years when we lived in Boston, so now that we are in upstate New York, this seemed like the perfect list to tackle next.

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Since this has been a long winter, we were hesitant to start climbing mountains this early in the season.  However, I’ve been feeling restless from many months without the great outdoors, so we went for it.  I had been reading trail reports and facebook posts to try and figure out what the trails would be like. Some people said snowshoes were needed. Some people said not to hike without crampons and an ice axe. I was a bit nervous. However, microspikes and trekking poles turned out to be enough for a solid hike up the mountains. The trail was icy on the way up and slushy on the way down.

The Hike

I will share some of the details and statistics from our hike.  Some of the information is based on the AllTrails app data and may not be perfectly accurate.

  • Time started: 9:45am
  • Time Ended: 1:45pm
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Total Distance: 5.7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,297 feet

We started at the Cascade Mountain Trailhead on route 73 between Lake Placid and Keene. There were a few small parking lots right along the main road.  I assume this probably gets quite full during the summer months!

Alltrails Map

We took the Cascade Mountain Trail and then at the junction we took the Porter Mountain Trail to hit the summit of Porter first.  This ascent took 2 hours.  The summit of Porter had some lovely views of mountains in one direction and beautiful snow covered trees in the other direction.  There was only one other couple up there and we took our time enjoying the quiet and the beauty around us.  We then hiked down to the junction and then up to the summit of Cascade.  This took another 45 minutes including taking photos and having snacks at the top of Porter.  We spent some time alone on top of Cascade enjoying the incredible 360 degree mountain views.

After 15 or so minutes at the top, we made our way down.  The descent to the car from Porter took less than an hour.  We passed a lot of inexperienced and unprepared hikers on the trail. Make sure to do your research when hiking in early spring! Microspikes and poles were needed for a safe day on the mountain.

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This was a beautiful hike and a great introduction to the Adirondack High Peaks. Even though the ice was a bit slippery and slowed us down a bit, the scenery was incredible.  We also didn’t face any crowds or bugs, which was a plus! I can’t wait to hike more high peaks! 2 down, 44 to go!

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Expectation vs Reality

After spending months planning our cross country van travels, I had a lot of different expectations for the the many spots we would visit.  For some places I was brimming with excitement and prepared with plans for photos I couldn’t wait to take.  Other places were added to the map as an afterthought or I was worried might be too crowded.  In many cases my expectations were spot on.  However, a few times I was completely surprised!

There were times the reality greatly exceeded our expectations and and we discovered some amazing beauty and serenity in places we never imagined.  Occasionally, however, the reality didn’t live up to the hype and the experience was a a bit of a let down. I wanted to share a few examples of each of these. Have you ever been pleasantly surprised on a trip? Have you been disappointed by a place you were excited about? Let me know in the comments!

Kind of a Let Down…

  • Mesa Arch – To be fair, I didn’t do a ton of research on this spot before we went, and if I had I might have been more prepared for the reality.  I had seen amazing sunrise photos of this arch which made it look like a huge natural structure hidden deep in the remote desert.  The photos of this arch were just so incredible that I had created a narrative in my head for what the experience would be like.  In reality, the arch is only a 5 minute walk from the road and therefore was swarming with people.  When we got to the parking lot, multiple tour buses were unloading with dozens of tourists.  It is also known as a sunrise spot, so when we arrived at the arch in the early morning hours, there was already a line of photographers in front of it, blocking the view for any latecomers. Luckily we were able to elbow our way in and found some room to snap a few photos.  I will say that the sunrise through Mesa Arch was an incredible sight.  The rays of sunlight caused the arch to glow in a brilliant shade of orange, with amazing shadows cast on the desert scene behind it.  However the whole thing just felt a little phony .  It was crowded, loud, and felt more like a photo shoot than an  authentic natural experience. 
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Expectation
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Reality
  • Diamond Fork (Fifth Water) Hot Springs – Okay, so don’t get me wrong, these hot springs were pretty great. But they didn’t quite live up to my expectations. The first time we tried to go was on a Thursday evening. When we arrived, the parking lot was almost completely full and there were loud, drunk young people everywhere. They were laughing, yelling, and blasting their music. I know, I sound so old right now! But we were looking for a quiet, peaceful soak…not a wild party! So we decided to skip the springs that day and try again on a Sunday. The second try was better, but the hot springs were still pretty crowded. Also, the photos I had seen showed a low flowing river of bright blue water and I was so excited to see and photograph it. However, when we were there, the river was raging with water that was brownish gray and not blue.  I guess we were there at the wrong time of year! The springs were still lovely and hot, but the experience was pretty underwhelming.

 

Better than Expected

  • Monument Valley – I knew that Monument Valley would be a nice place to visit and I had seen a lot of great photos of the place. However, the experience of being there was much more special than I had imagined. It’s hard to describe, but the valley had a peaceful and serene feeling to it and I just genuinely enjoyed being there, despite the fact that we didn’t even do much. I loved that the scene was the same and yet completely different as the sun moved across the sky and altered the lighting on the monuments. I also think we were there at the right time of year because there was hardly anyone else camping there and the whole place was relatively quiet, considering it is such a popular spot. We also happened to be there when the mitten shadow is on the other mitten, which apparently is a rare occurrence, and wasn’t something we planned for! (Click here to read more about this part of the trip!)
  • Alabama Hills – this is a spot that is photographed by a million instagrammers so I had assumed it would feel like a phony photo shoot spot swarming with young kids with their iPhones and cameras. What we found was an incredibly beautiful landscape with almost no people and tons of empty free campsites. The famous photo spot with the road leading down into the snow capped Sierras was empty at sunrise! I sipped coffee and hung out there all morning without seeing a single soul. This was one of the most beautiful scenes and peaceful moments of our cross country adventures and greatly exceeded my expectations. (My blog post about the Alabama Hills can be found here!)

Point Reyes National Seashore

Hello again!

Before heading into Yosemite National Park, we stopped for a day at Point Reyes National Seashore near San Francisco, CA. I had seen photos from this area and was looking forward to checking it out but Point Reyes ended up being so much more incredible than I had imagined or expected. The drive in was long and slow, but the views were magnificent! Below I will highlight some of the wonderful things we saw at Point Reyes!

 

S.S. Point Reyes Shipwreck

We almost drove right by this spot, but on your right hand side as you drive toward the Point Reyes Lighthouse, you will find the shipwreck near the town of Inverness, California. I did a little research for the history of this ship, but it sounds like it was just a boat owned by a local who never got around to fixing it up. Not a very glamorous story! However, the ship was really neat to photograph and it was a very peaceful spot.

 

Cypress Tree Tunnel

Our next stop was the Cypress Tree Tunnel – a short road leading to a white building, which I later found out was home to the KPH radio station. The road is lined with beautiful and giant cypress trees that form a canopy above. This is another popular spot for photographers that I had seen on Instagram and wanted to check out! We stopped here for a few minutes and walked up and down the road. There was not much else to do in this spot, but it was still pretty neat!

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Cypress Tree Tunnel

 

Point Reyes Lighthouse

We continued down the long and winding road to the lighthouse. We passed by many cows and some small ranches until we got to the lighthouse parking lot. There were only two other cars there on a weekday evening in June and we were happy to be some of the only people at this incredible spot. Just after stepping out of the car, we saw one of the most incredible views I’ve ever seen. The wild and rugged coastline stretched out for miles in front of us, wind whipped our hair, and we listened to the sounds of the waves crashing below us.

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View from the Point Reyes Lighthouse parking lot

After soaking in these incredible views for a while, we continued down the path to the lighthouse. It was a really lovely stroll but very windy and quite chilly! We stopped at the leaning cypress tree to capture our own version of the classic photo below.

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@walasavagephoto at the leaning cypress tree

We finally got to the lighthouse area. There was a small visitor center which was closed, a handful of small worn sheds, and a huge gray whale skull.

When we got to the lighthouse itself, the stairs down were closed! We got there a bit too late.

We were a little bummed out that the stairs down were closed but the views of the lighthouse from the viewing platform above were still wonderful. We stayed there for an hour or so to watch the sunset. It was a breathtaking view and a magnificent experience.

 

I highly recommend Point Reyes to anyone who is nearby! There were a few other hikes in the area that we didn’t have time to do and I definitely want to come back here again some day to do more exploring and have more adventures!

Our next stop was Yosemite which will be my next post and right now we are decompressing up in central Oregon. If you have any recommendations for Washington and Oregon, please let me know on Instagram (@carrieoutdoors)!

Samuel H Boardman

After our lovely time in the redwoods, we made our way to the coast of southern Oregon. We found a nice rest area near Brookings to park overnight while we explored some beautiful beaches and viewpoints along the shore. The rugged coast dotted with rocky outcroppings and sea stacks was incredibly beautiful and I highly recommend this spot to anyone who is in the area!

 

Harris Beach State Park

Our first evening, we went across the street from the rest area to Harris Beach State Park where we witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. It started with the sun lighting up the sea stacks and bathing them in golden light.

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Golden Hour at Harris Beach State Park

We waited and watched as the scene kept changing as the sun sank below the horizon. Suddenly pink puffy clouds spread across the sky and reflected in the ocean over the incredible and unique rocky coast. This was an unforgettable sunset.

 

Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor

The next morning we woke up early to explore Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor. I had been wanting to see this area for a long time after seeing some incredible photos on Instagram, and the amazing scenery we found did not disappoint! Many of the viewpoints were easily accessible and we found pit toilets and picnic tables at the Arch Rock Viewpoint.

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Natural Bridges

We started with the breathtaking Natural Bridges area. There was a small sign indicating the parking area, but no other signage was to be found. We first walked the short trail on the left to the viewing platform. Unfortunately, the view from the platform was not great as it was quite far from the natural bridges and there were many trees blocking the view. I also noticed that this was not the angle I had seen in other photos.

We returned to the car and then followed the unmarked path on the right side of the parking lot which took us down a narrow trail through the woods. The trail was steep, muddy, and challenging (and surrounded by poison oak). We slid and scrambled down toward the shore, so please be careful if you attempt this descent. Finally we got down to the rocky outcroppings and were blown away by the scenery. This was the view we were looking for! We spent a few hours here, taking photos and soaking in the beauty.

This was my favorite photo from the day!

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Me and Steve at Natural Bridges

 

Arch Rock Viewpoint

We hiked back out and continued driving down the main road, stopping at various pull-off spots and viewpoints. We enjoyed a nice meal at the picnic area at the Arch Rock Viewpoint. There was a very short and easy trail to some lovely views (but we had to hop the fence in order to get unobstructed views of the rocky coasts and sea stacks).

 

Secret Beach

Our last stop was Secret Beach. We did not see signs for this spot, but had read on a different blog to find the parking area behind a guardrail that was on the right as you head south from Arch Rock (the blog said it was the third pull-off but we counted that it was the second). We parked in the unmarked dirt area and took the short, slippery path down to the beach. The views when we got down there were some of my favorite views of all time. Wow. We went at low tide and were able to walk the length of the beach. It was incredible to walk among the towering sea stacks rather than seeing them from above!

 

Overall, Samuel H. Boardman was a very beautiful area and I highly recommend it! Our next stop is to head back to California, where we reserved campsites at Yosemite National Park. If you have any recommendations on what to see and do in Yosemite, please leave me a message on here or on Instagram (@carrieoutdoors).

 

The California Redwoods

Hello again!

After a few wonderful days driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, we took some time to explore the amazing redwood forests of California. I had never seen redwood trees before and I was completely blown away. They are such incredibly beautiful trees and it was a magical experience driving and walking through the forests.

First I want to quickly thank everyone who left thoughtful and insightful comments and messages about my blog post on the new Instagram algorithm (Click here to see it). It was nice to know that I am not alone in struggling with the Instagram platform lately!

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Looking up at Redwoods

 

Redwood Grove & Picnic Area

After hitting the road early, we were on the lookout for a picnic spot to make our usual morning coffee and breakfast. We happened to come across a really lovely clearing on the side of the road next to a wonderful redwood grove. There were picnic tables in the shade of the tall trees surrounded by ferns and lush greenery as well as a port-o-potty. It was just what we were looking for! We enjoyed our morning routine in this beautiful spot and took a short walk on the shady path through the grove before hitting the road again.

 

Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree

Our next stop was the Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree in Leggett, CA. While Steve and I know that cutting a giant hole out of an ancient and majestic tree is a terrible idea, we still wanted to check out this famous spot. It cost $5 to enter the small area and we were pretty bummed out that our van was too large to drive through the tree. Still, it was a pretty neat experience to stand inside the tree and it gave us a true sense of the scale of the amazing redwoods.

 

Avenue of the Giants

Our next stop was the Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. This area was completely different from what I expected. I guess I was expecting it to be a quiet, secluded road that winds deep in the forest through long stretches of untouched redwoods. I am not sure why I imagined it this way. The phrase “Avenue of the Giants” just sounded so magical and wonderful. In reality, it’s a road parallel with the 101 highway that alternates between groves of redwoods and small towns with tourist attractions. The whole experience felt more commercial and less natural than I was expecting. However, each time we pulled over and wandered into the redwood groves, I absolutely loved it. Each grove was named after some one who had donated or help to preserve the forest. I am very thankful to the people throughout history who stepped up to protect these beautiful trees.

 

Trinidad Rest Area

There isn’t too much BLM or National Forest free dispersed camping in this area, but we enjoyed spending the night at the rest area in Trinidad. I couldn’t believe it but the rest area actually had a lovely redwood grove with picnic tables where we made dinner and breakfast. Sometimes you don’t need to take long treks to find some pretty wonderful scenery!

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Me standing in awe of the majestic redwoods

The next morning, we drove around the coast and came across one of the most beautiful foggy forest scenes I have ever witnessed just outside of Patrick’s Point State Park. We stopped for a bit to take photos and soak in the beautiful misty scenery.

 

Redwood National and State Parks

Our next stop was Redwood National and State Parks. Here we saw even more beautiful and old redwood groves that continued to leave me awestruck. We also saw huge elk roaming and grazing just near the visitor center! I am sure we could have spent a lot of time in this park, but we only had one day. We decided to check out Fern Canyon since it was on our list and looked very different from everything we had seen lately.

 

Fern Canyon

The drive to Fern Canyon was on a very bumpy and rough dirt road with a few stream crossings. Thankfully we had our high clearance van to drive over deep potholes and through the large puddles on the road! It was a really neat and very short 0.1 mile hike to the deep and shadowy canyon covered in thousands of ferns of several varieties. We hopped over streams and balanced on logs as we meandered through the incredible and lush canyon. It was truly a unique experience!

 

Klamath River Overlook

We then drove toward the Oregon coast. We made a quick stop at the very beautiful Klamath River Overlook. This was a beautiful viewpoint of where the Klamath River meats the Pacific Ocean. We looked for whales and didn’t see any, but the fog over the distant pine trees took my breath away!

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Klamath River Overlook

 

Trees of Mystery

Our last stop before Oregon was the Trees of Mystery parking lot. This tourist attraction was closed when we got there, but we only stopped there to see the famous giant statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the big blue ox anyway.

There were also some large bear statues, and I really love bears! We took some silly photos in the parking lot and then went on our way!

 

Warning!

A quick warning! If you plan to hike around this area, be on the lookout for Poison Oak! It was everywhere! Remember: “leaves of three, let it be.” Or just avoid touching any plants just to be safe!

 

Next Steps

Up next is Oregon and exploring the waterfalls and hiking trails of the beautiful Pacific Northwest! As always, feel free to send recommendations of hikes or viewpoints. The best ways to do that are through comments on my blog or a DM on Instagram (@carrieoutdoors).

NorCal Coast

Hi again!

The adventures continue as Steve and I make our way north through California. There has been an incredible amount of beautiful scenery on the rugged coast and in the immense redwood forests. Keep reading to find out what we did and to see photos of our travels!

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After having a blast in the Eastern Sierra region (Alabama Hills and Mammoth Lakes) we drove west to the California coast. Our original plans had us exploring as much of the coast as possible, but some recent (and historically huge) landslides meant that we would have to start north of the slides and skip a chunk of the Big Sur area. Despite this setback, we saw some incredible scenery and drove on some amazing roads. Keep reading to see where we went!

 

Big Sur to Santa Cruz

We started by driving south along the coast on Route 1 to see how far we could get. We were able to get as far south as the town of Big Sur before running into the “road closed” signs.

As bummed as we were that Pfeiffer Beach and McWay Falls were inaccessible, the views we saw along our drive were some of the best I have ever seen! We stopped at almost every viewpoint and turnoff, trying to soak in the incredible beauty. The brilliant blue water of the Pacific Ocean shimmered far below steep cliffs covered in fields of yellow wildflowers. Here are just a handful of the many amazing photos we took along the California coast!

We also stopped by the famous Bixby Creek Bridge for some photos! There were a lot of other people there, but it was a beautiful viewpoint.

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Bixby Creek Bridge

And we took a selfie, for good measure!

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Selfie near Big Sur

 

Davenport Pier

After a lovely drive through the Big Sur area, we headed back north along the coast to Davenport to check out the old abandoned pier. This is an odd structure where a pier used to be, but now all that remained were the cement pylons that used to hold up the pier. We wandered around on the steep cliff above, looking down on the scene as the sun slowly set. There appeared to be a steep and treacherous-looking path down to the beach, but we chose not to take it and instead enjoyed the awesome views from above.

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Abandoned Davenport Pier

 

Shark Fin Cove

Another beautiful spot that we checked out near Davenport was Shark Fin Cove. Thankfully this was a pin on our custom Google Map, or we may have missed this incredible spot! There were no signs on the street and nothing indicating there was anything to see down below. We had done our research ahead of time and knew exactly which unmarked dirt pull-off spot was the correct parking area. There was a steep but short path of loose dirt that led down to the beach. If you go here, be sure to wear sneakers or boots and not flip flops on this trail!

Shark Fin Cove is named for the giant rock in the ocean which looks very much like a shark fin. We were there around sunset, but I think the scene may have been even more beautiful at some time in the morning when the sunlight would be lighting up the shark fin.

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Shark Fin Cove

This was a really beautiful cove, that also included a small cave that waves crashed in and out of.

We saw some really huge waves and enjoyed how the ocean sounds echoed off of the walls surrounding us. Unfortunately, this area was also very dirty and poorly maintained. There was a ton of trash that had been left behind by people and the rock walls were covered with graffiti. I was very disappointed to see such a beautiful place treated so poorly and covered in garbage. We all need to treat our natural places with more respect!

 

Glass Beach

Our next stop on the California coast was Glass Beach near Fort Bragg. This beach used to be a dump in the early 1900s and the town would literally push their trash into the ocean. Over the years, the waves broke apart and smoothed the glass from the trash into beautiful, colorful pieces of sea glass.

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The first evening when we arrived, we checked out the main beach, located just behind a parking lot with pit toilets. The main beach was a bit disappointing, as I was expecting fields of glass but it was mostly a rough, rocky beach.

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Glass Beach at high tide

The next morning we came back and found the other glass beach, just south of the main beach. This second beach, which is only accessible at low tide, has much more of the beautiful sea glass. Most of the glass is a cloudy white color but there are also green and brown pieces and occasionally you can find some lovely blue, teal, yellow, and pink!

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The signs around the beach said not to take any of the sea glass, which seems strange considering it’s actually just trash! However, at the Sea Glass Museum that we visited later in the day, there were signs saying that it is technically legal to take the glass but that you should replace it with “seed glass” that they sold at the gift shop. According to the museum, the sea glass has actually become a life-sustaining source in the ocean. The museum owner claimed that sea creatures feed off of the minerals from the glass and other animals make their home in the crevices between the glass stones. It is very tempting to take the beautiful pieces of glass, and I saw people collecting it by the bagful. I recommend checking out the museum first before going to the beach to decide if you want to take the glass.

 

 

 

 

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Sign on beach: “Leave glass at Glass Beach”
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Sign at museum: “It is perfectly legal to take the glass”
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Seed Glass for sale at the museum

The museum itself was really neat (and free!) with a huge and impressive collection of large glass pieces of glass in every color of the rainbow! There were also pieces of metal, pottery, animal bones, and other artifacts from the sea.

 

What’s Next?

After the NorCal coast, our next stop was the unbelievable redwoods and the stunning southern Oregon coast, but I will save those for my next blog post! In the meantime, please let me know if you have any suggestions for Oregon and Washington! Find me on Instagram: (@carrieoutdoors) and don’t forget to check out the amazing accounts I recommended at the top of my blog!

Mammoth Lakes

Hello again!

After the Alabama Hills, we drove north and had an amazing time in Mammoth Lakes. Despite some lingering snow from a harsh winter, we did some lovely hikes and saw some amazing views! I highly recommend checking out this incredibly beautiful area. Keep reading below to find out what we did!

The last blog post I wrote was about the Alabama Hills (click here to read it!), located in Eastern Sierra. Our original plan for this part of the trip was to quickly see the Alabama Hills and then rush west to the California coast. Our plans changed for a couple of reasons and we ended up spending a week in Eastern Sierra. First of all, we were absolutely in love with this area. For me personally, being surrounded by the snow-capped Sierras was waking up a part of my soul that had missed the mountains dearly. We weren’t ready to leave this amazing place. The second thing that changed our plan was that there was a historically huge landslide on Route 1 near Big Sur. We were planning on driving all the way up the Pacific Coast Highway but the landslide made this impossible since the road was closed in several spots. So we had to change plans, as often happens in life on the road. While we were pretty bummed that McWay Falls and a few other iconic spots in Big Sur were inaccessible (for at least a year!), we were also excited to head north and explore more of the Eastern Sierras.

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Steve and me at Hot Creek

 

Mammoth Lakes

We drove north up route 395 to an area called Mammoth Lakes. I had heard of this area as a ski town and that’s about it. I didn’t have any expectations going in and was very pleasantly surprised! The drive from Lone Pine to Mammoth was incredibly beautiful with more snow capped mountains popping up every few miles. Mammoth Lakes is a very adorable area. We stopped by the visitor center and got some great advice for what to do in the area. There were a multitude of free camping options: several spots with dispersed camping and even a real campground with pit toilets and fire pits, free of charge! This is an amazing area for van dwellers. Although some of the areas around Mammoth Lakes were inaccessible due to the snow that hadn’t melted yet, there were so many awesome spots we were able to check out. Keep reading to find out more!

 

Sherwin Lakes

The first thing we did in the area was the 6-mile roundtrip hike to Sherwin Lakes, sub-alpine lakes in the Muir Wilderness. The hike was really lovely. After being in the desert for so long, the sound of wind in the trees, the shady trails, and the forest smells were greatly appreciated.  We meandered through tall pine trees, across a rushing river, and up many gentle switchbacks to get to there. The path was mostly dry, though we did have to hike through a few snow patches, and quite easy. Surrounded by snow covered mountains, the lake was one of the loveliest sights from this whole trip. We spent a while exploring the shore, taking photos, and I waded into the chilly water out to a log propped up on some rocks (see below).

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Photo of me, taken by @walasavagephoto

We didn’t end up getting to the other lake because it was getting late, but overall this was an easy and awesome hike! The hike took us 3 hours total, including a long stop for photos and relaxing by the lake.

 

Convict Lake

The next day we woke up early in the morning to watch the sunrise at Convict Lake. This is a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. It is named after an incident that occurred in 1871, when a group of convicts escaped from prison in Carson City and were caught near the lake. I am typically not a morning person and love sleeping in, but watching the sunrise in the mountains is always worth waking up for!

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Convict Lake at Sunrise

 

Hot Creek Geological Site

We then checked out Hot Creek Geological Site. There is a beautiful flowing river with brilliant blue steaming geothermal hot springs (NOT for swimming!) and beautiful mountain peaks in the background. When you follow Google Maps, it takes you to an area with a neat view of the steaming pools, some informative signs, and pit toilets. However, it was not obvious how to get the view in the photo below.

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Hot Creek Geological Site

The views from the marked area are nice, but the best view (seen in the photo above) is not well advertised. We had to wander around for a while to find this exact perspective. To get to this viewpoint you need to keep driving east on Hot Creek Hatchery Road past the pit toilets and gate at the far end of the geological site, and turn left down a dirt road with no signs. At the end of the road there is a small clearing with a stone fire pit (possibly a camp site!). There you will find this stunning view! See the map below, the approximate location of the viewpoint is indicated by the red circle.

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Driving the June Lake Loop

After the beauty of Hot Creek, we continued our drive north to the June Lake Loop.  This is a beautiful road that winds through mountains, cute towns, and several lovely lakes. June Lake itself looked very pretty from the road, but we didn’t find a good viewpoint so we continued driving.

We stopped at Silver Lake, which was really beautiful. Unfortunately, it was very windy so the water was choppy and full of waves. I think this spot would have looked even more beautiful with still, reflective water.

We also stopped by Grant Lake, a dazzling blue lake nestled in the mountains and rolling hills. This spot felt so similar to some of the hikes we did in the fjords of Norway!

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Grant Lake (photo by @walasavagephoto)

 

Parker Lake

After spending a couple hours on the lovely June Lake Loop, we drove down a bumpy dirt road to the trail head for a hike to Parker Lake. This was a relatively short and easy hike, only 3.6 miles roundtrip, and took us two hours. There were hardly any other people on the trail and it was a very peaceful hike. Just before getting to the lake, there is an amazing shallow river winding through a pine forest. It felt like something out of a magical fantasy world.

The lake itself was really beautiful. The water was a dazzling shade of turquoise and the tall rocky mountains loomed just behind the lake. I tried to wade in the freezing cold water, but the rocks were sharp and slippery- I almost fell in!

 

Leaving Mammoth Lakes

Aside from these lovely lakes and hikes, we enjoyed some tasters at the two local breweries: Mammoth Brewing Company, which had delicious beers and the best logo of a smiling black bear, and Black Doubt which is one of the more clever brewery names I have ever seen.

We also stopped briefly at Mono Lake on our way out, but we weren’t really feeling this area so we didn’t stay too long. Most of the mountain roads were closed so we had to drive north and then west to get over to the California coast.

 

What we skipped

One thing we did not explore in Mammoth Lakes was the hot springs. I have seen so many amazing photos of these springs and wanted to check them out. For some reason we were busy with all of the hiking and driving, we ended up not doing the hot springs. Sorry not to have any info on these! We also tried to spend some time at Lake Tahoe on our way out, but found it not to be very van-friendly. We saw some nice views as we drove around, but had trouble finding places to park or sleep for free. We will have to plan another trip to this area!

Since writing this blog post we have already explored much of the Califoria coast. I can’t wait to share photos and stories from our adventures on the Pacific Coast Highway and in the redwood forests! Until then, you can keep up-to-date by following along with my posts and stories on Instagram (@carrieoutdoors).