“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” – Henry David Thoreau
We absolutely loved the road trip of covering various National Parks in the mainland USA. There is so much untouched beauty. At first me and Jay were skeptical about doing national parks as we are not very athletic people. But the experience was unbelievable and one of its kind. This was part of our road trip across USA from Phoenix to Seattle and we are glad we did it. The first National Park was the Glen Canyon which I wrote in detail in my previous post. You can read it here.
Inyo National Park
As we were driving from Vegas to Yosemite National Park, we had to take a night stay before we reach Yosemite. I came across this small town called Bishop through Booking.com while finding accomodations and found the one. Just an hour away from Yosemite this was an ideal stop at the border of the National Park. Later we found out that it is inside another National Park called Inyo National Park. An ideal place for hiking, fishing, biking, and any adventure activity you can think of. The most favourite of ours was Mammoth Lakes. It is out of this world and the pictures speak for themselves. There are quite a few lakes, we choose to visit Twin Lakes as it was easy drive and on route to Yosemite.
The next stop was Lee Vining Lakes. This is just outside one of the entrances of Yosemite National Park. The views are breathtaking. The great thing is there are parking areas near all the viewpoints. Also there are signs and boards explaining the place, its history and directions.
Yosemite National Park
A week is less to explore this National Park. It is the only park we visited which required to buy an entry ticket. We bought the annual pass as we thought this was the best way to donate money to the park. All proceeds go towards maintaining the park. We were short on time so we spent a night in Bishop (at the border outside the park), a night inside the park in Yosemite View Lodge El Portal (amazing views of the Merced River) and one night in Yosemite Inn Mariposa (just an hour outside the park).
This gave us 3 days to explore the park. The first thing we did was to visit the Visitor Centre to understand the park and things to do in Yosemite. The staff was really helpful and gave us recommendations according to our requirements. This saved a lot of time figuring out what to do when. The sights to visit in the park are mostly located around the central parking which gets full pretty quickly in the morning (we drove 3 times at 9:30 am to find parking). But good thing is they have internal free shuttle that runs every 30 minutes and covers all the sights, trails, hiking spots in the park. As we are very new to the concept of hiking we were recommended the following sites by the visitor centre:
The Ahwahnee is the most expensive place to stay inside Yosemite National Park. The view in the backyard of the oldest hotel in Yosemite National Park is just like a painting. The river is super cold but I had to dip my legs. We also saw a lot of squirrels here. The walk was exactly 10 minutes from the parking. Oh yea parking is free everywhere!
This 0.2 miles small hike to see the Yosemite Falls was just the start we needed to understand how to hike. The view of the falls is amazing. A lot of people were hiking further on the rocks to reach the bottom of the falls. However there are a lot of signs saying to not do this as the rocks might move. Also the water evaporates in late August as the temperatures rise.
The next hike was Mirror Lakes of 0.8 miles. There are two routes to reach the top. One is an adventurous climb through rocks and forest. The other is a concrete road.We climbed through the forest as it was fun and enjoyable. We saw a few butterflies on our way up. The lakes also have water in spring and start to dry out in summer because of the heat. More than the view the accomplishment of reaching the top was more rewarding. We took the concrete route to walk down as it was all downhill and easy.
Apart from these, there are a few viewpoints where you can drive and park your car. The valley view was breathtaking and unique. Even getting around inside the park was very scenic.
While driving out of Yosemite National Park towards Mariposa, we drove through Sierra forests. Very similar scenery as Yosemite, these forests have a lot of Picnic spots to enjoy a family day by the Merced river.
Situated in between Eldorado National Forest and Tahoe National Forest, this place is a blue bowl surrounded by green mountains. The colour of the lake is just mesmerising. We stayed in South Lake as we drove from San Jose. To our surprise, we were given a free access to a private beach called Lakeside Beach. The town is small and has two big casinos (because Nevada has to have a casino). We could not do any activity as you need to book them in advance especially clear bottom kayaks. Nonetheless the sunset from Cave Rock was out of this world. We drove through a giant rock which was carved to make the road. Next day we drove to the Sand Harbour beach which was really crowded and a full car park.
Redwood National Park
As we drove towards Seattle, the next stop was in Arcata near Redwood National Park. This place is so unique that it is overwhelming. The Redwood Trees are probably 10 to 12 feet in general (probably 3 times of me). These trees need fire to regenerate themselves after they burn and a new trees is grown, almost like reincarnation. The trees also get most of their food from the moisture in the fog. There are few spots where you can hug the trees and take pictures near the Big Tree which is the oldest one in the forest. We also drove to the scenic point which was extraordinary.
We wish we had more time to explore other National Parks like Yellowstone, Shasta- Trinity, Lassen, Death Valley etc. But trust me when I say this, United States of America has amazing natural beauty, as I was not convinced of spending a week and ended up spending a month exploring the country. People are very polite and helpful which makes the experience of travelling more enjoyable. Only thing I wished could be better was the tipping system and the taxes. Nevertheless, we really enjoyed the nature in USA and became quite active.