Sunset Cliffs Open Ceiling Sea Cave in San Diego

The open ceiling sea cave in the Sunset Cliffs area of San Diego is one of those places that’s hard to believe is in California. This massive sea cave is a fantastic spot for photos, and due to the difficulty of access (only during a negative tide), it stays relatively secluded. If you want to go here is all the information. Note that it is dangerous to attempt when it is not a negative low tide.

Details

  • .1 mile
  • Slippery rocks, be prepared to get wet up to the knee to cross one section
  • Tide chart here
  • Location: Near Luscombs Point in the Sunset Cliffs

Getting There

I would recommend just putting Luscombs Point into your GPS and driving to that area of the Sunset Cliffs. There is street parking here if you are lucky and you will see the large gate that blocks you from getting close to the top of the cave.

The Trail

To get to the sea cave, you will need to walk to the end of Luscomb’s Point, where the surfers go down and scramble the roughly hewn steps down to the water.

From here you can walk along the rocks for about 100 yards before you have to get your feet wet to proceed on.

When I went at a negative 1.8-foot tide, it was less than knee deep, but at other times it would be a lot more.

Once you get out of the water, you will just want to walk along the rocks to the small cove which is probably near where you parked.

There is a way down near the cove as well, but I would not recommend you do it as it is very steep and sketchy. I have never done it and do not intend to.

From the cove, you simply walk around the next rock, and you will be at the entrance to the cave.

The cave is massive when you see it from this angle. There were a dozen or so people in it when I went, and it still felt huge.

The cave is a popular spot if the tides line up with sunset and you will generally see a bunch of photographers down here.

Take as much time as you want walking around and exploring the cave. Do note the tide schedules though, so it does not rise on you if you stay for a while.

Video

I waited almost a year to see this spot, and I am glad that I waited for a low tide. It is a fantastic place to explore with lots of great photo opportunities. Check it out the next time there is a negative tide and let me know what you think in the comments.

Headwaters of the Sacramento River In Mt Shasta City Park

The Sacramento River is one of the most impressive natural resources in all of California, and if you are visiting the town of Mount Shasta, you can take this quick stop to visit its humble beginnings. Mount Shasta City Park, on the outskirts of town, features the start of the river and has become an almost spiritual spot for people to visit and drink from. I saw a half dozen people come fill up water bottles while I was there. It is a peaceful place for a quick visit and here is all the information.

Details

  • Free
  • Signs said water was not safe to drink from, but the Shasta City website said it was.
  • Location: Rd No 2M010 Mt Shasta, CA 96067

Getting There

From the 5 North, get off on Lake St and head right. Turn left on Mt Shasta Blvd, and you can take this all the way to the park. There are signs for the park, but it is easy to miss, if you make it to the freeway you went too far. Parking is available around the area, and it is easy to walk to the headwaters.

From the parking area, follow the signs to the headwaters, which are less than 150 feet from most parts of the park.

When you get to the peaceful and serene area, you can grab a seat on the bench or steps to watch the water calmly cascade over the small rocks into the stream.

If you stay for longer than 10 minutes, you will probably see at least a few people come and fill up their water bottles in the creek. The water is said to have healing qualities (if you believe in that type of thing) and people come from all over to drink from it.

I wanted to give the water a try since I was told in the city it was all right to drink from, and I can say it was a very fresh and clean tasting water. My wife and I were both impressed, but I didn’t fill up any bottles.

There is information around the area about where the river eventually runs and about why they consider this the source.

The water here is mainly coming out of an underground stream, so it is pretty cool to see.

After taking about 15 minutes to explore it, we headed back to our car. This is a great quick road trip stop or part of a longer journey in the Mount Shasta area, let me know what you think in the comments.

Carrizo Plain National Monument: Soda Lake, Finding Wildflowers & Exploring the Park

Carrizo Plain National Monument is a beautiful range of mountains and valleys in Central California that has been relatively untouched over the years, helping it to maintain a glimpse of what California used to look like. The sprawling green hills, which are covered in wildflowers during the spring, give way to a lush lowland with everything from historic farms to the alkaline and often dry Soda Lake. You could easily spend a few days exploring the area, but if you are looking for wildflowers then right now (April 2017) is the time to go. Here is all the information on the park and the wildflowers at the bottom.

Details

  • Free to enter
  • Location: 17495 Soda Lake Rd, Santa Margarita, CA 93453

Getting There

The best way to the park is on Highway 58, coming from the coast or from Highway 5. Highway 58 will take you along a paved road all the way into the park. If you originate from the south, you can take Highway 166 to Soda Lake Road and into the park that way, but it is about 18 miles of dirt road that can be impassable after the rain and is generally much slower going then heading in via Highway 58. There is parking along the road and in small parking lots at the main areas. Note that most of the roads in the park are dirt. They were passable when I went but just be sure to take your time or a high clearance vehicle if you have one.

Carrizo Plains

The park is full of adventures, and most are easily accessible from the main road. Here are some of the highlights.

Soda Lake

Soda Lake is one of the largest alkaline lakes in all of California. It has no natural drainage point, so the water sits in the lake before eventually evaporating during the summer months.

If you go when the lake has water in it, it is beautiful to see it reflecting the surrounding hills. There are two main ways to see the lake which are as follows.

Soda Lake Overlook

This short, tenth of a mile hike takes you to the top of a hill that overlooks the lake below. It is a great vantage point of the valley below.

There are even some benches up here that you can relax at if you want to just sit and take in the view.

Soda Lake Boardwalk

This half-mile trail takes you out to the shores of Soda Lake so you can get up close to this body of water.

You can then walk along the elevated boardwalk that takes you along the coast and gives you a great spot to view animals and birds from.

There are interpretive plaques that tell you about the lake and its history as well.

Painted Rock

Painted Rock is one of the parks main destinations as it is a collection of Native American art that is one of the best known in California. The area is only accessible via a guided tour during the spring though and via self-registration permits during the summer. I haven’t gotten a chance to go yet, but I am sure it is amazing.

Traver Ranch

Along the southern portion of Soda Lake Road, Traver Ranch is a historic ranch that the park has preserved.

I was only able to view it from the road since it was closed to the public when I went but it was cool to see, and I would like to explore it more next time I go.

Wildflowers

If you are coming for wildflowers, then the spring is your best bet. In the spring of 2017, after all the rain we had, there is currently a super bloom that is something you really must experience for yourself. Here are the best spots I found to see the wildflowers.

Corner of Highway 58 and Seven Mile Road

As you enter the park from Highway 58, the views get better and better as you go along.

The best view by far in this area was at the corner of Highway 58 and the dirt road into the park known as Seven Mile Road.

The mountains along the left side of the road were literally covered in yellow, making it a fantastic place to experience the super bloom. There was a small dirt cow path that took you to the top of a small hill, and there was a massive bloom happening up there that I took a ton of pictures of.

Simmler Road

On the South side of the lake, there is another dirt road known as Simmler Road. This route takes you through a massive collection of yellow flowers on both sides of you as far as the eye can see.

It is a great place just to pull off and experience the bloom, as well as looking over the lake.

Soda Lake Road South

If you are going home to Southern California and you have a high clearance car, then it is worth exiting through Soda Lake Road to the south. If you are from Northern California, then I would not say this is worth driving all the way down for though as the blooms are just as good in the north part of the park.

On this road, after you pass Traver Ranch, there is an extensive collection of blooms off to your left in the surrounding mountains.

The road eventually gets up close to a range of hills before it exits the park and these hills were covered in yellow as well. I pulled off and took a bunch more photos here as well before making my way out of the park.

Video

I will be putting a video up later today with these spots, be sure to check back!

As you can see, Carrizo Plain is an amazing spot to explore, especially during the 2017 super bloom. If you have the time, it is worth the drive to see the amazing spectical. Let me know if you go in the comments and what you thought.

The Ten Best Redwood Groves in California

The giant redwoods of California are one of the biggest draws for people who visit the state. It’s easy to see why as they are awe inspiring every time you see them. The best way to experience these giants it is to get out on a trail and explore a grove, here are my 10 favorite groves / hikes in the state.

Redwood Grove Trail in Big Basin State Park

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Located in the hills above Santa Cruz, Big Basin is a great short trail that takes you to see some massive coastal redwoods. The highlights here are the Mother of the Forest which is almost 300 feet tall and the Father of the Forest which is almost 2000 years old.

Redwood Grove Trail in Henry Cowell State Park

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Only a short distance from Big Basin, Henry Cowell State Park is another amazing place to see redwoods. This grove was protected at a time when 96% of the surrounding land had been clear cut. It is one of the only old groves left in the area and it has a lot of big trees. The highlights are the Fremont Tree which its large hole in the bottom and the Giant Tree.

  • Length: 1.2 miles
  • Elevation: Flat
  • Read more

General Grant Grove in King’s Canyon National Park

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General Grant Grove in Kings Canyon is easily one of the most impressive groves on this list. General Grant itself is the second largest tree in the world, and it is incredible to see up close. It is also the Nation’s Christmas Tree which makes it fun to see during Christmas time. The grove also has a downed tree you can climb through as well and a bunch of other impressive trees to see as you explore the grove.

  • Length: 1.5 miles
  • Elevation: 50-100 feet
  • Read more

General Sherman Grove in Sequoia National Park

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Located only 20 minutes from General Grant sits General Sherman which is the largest tree in the world. It is located at the end of a longer trail than most, but it is worth it to see the beautiful tree up close. There is also another grove you can hike to from the bottom of the trail if you want to extend the journey and see some more big trees.

  • Length: 2 miles
  • Elevation: 300 feet
  • Read more

Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park’s entry into this list is the impressive Mariposa Grove right at the southern entrance to the park. This trail is full of massive trees with lots of downed trees, a few that you can walk through and the impressive Grizzly Giant itself. Grizzly Giant is the biggest in the grove and is over 2,000 years old. This grove can be incredibly busy though when it is open, as is most attractions in Yosemite.

  • Length: 2.2 miles
  • Elevation: 400 feet
  • Read more

Tuolumne Grove in Yosemite National Park

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While not as overall impressive as Mariposa Grove, Tuolumne Grove is one of my favorite groves in Yosemite because it is much less crowded and is a great one to snowshoe too during the winter.  There are a lot of big trees here and it even has a tree that you can walk through, which is fun for pictures.

  • Length: 2.5 miles
  • Elevation: 400 feet
  • Read more

Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwoods National Park

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As one of the most famous coastal redwood groves, Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwoods National Park is impressive. Named for the first lady, the grove is one of the Northernmost on this list. I love the way the coastal fog moves in and out of these trees as it creates an air of mystery and a great photo opportunity.

Founders Grove in Avenue of the Giants

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This is a personal favorite of mine and one of the least popular on this list. Located at the end of the Avenue of the Giants, Founder’s Grove has dozens of moss covered giants all around the short trail. This grove is so beautiful with of all the green and browns, and with the growth that weaves in and out of the trees. There is a collection of downed, hollow and giant trees here as well.

Armstrong Redwoods – Pioneer Trail

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Located in Sonoma County, only about 45 minutes from Muir Woods, the Armstrong Redwoods are a great place to explore with only a fraction of the crowds. The two miles of trails here weave in and out of the forest and past three large trees. The Colonel Armstrong tree is the largest in the grove and it is impressive. Don’t forget to go visit the Redwood Theater when you are there as well.

Big Sur State Park – Pfeiffer Falls Trail

If you have spent some time driving the famous Pacific Coast Highway, then you have no doubt spent time marveling at the massive coastal views along Big Sur. While McWay Waterfall and Bixby Bridge are two of the most popular spots, you can also see some coastal redwoods by visiting Big Sur State Park as well. There are a few trails here and the largest tree is the Colonial Tree.

Honorable Mention 1: Yorba Linda Redwood Trail at Carbon Canyon

This trail shouldn’t replace any of the others on this list, but it is fun for all the Southern California people who don’t want to drive to one of the infinitely better spots above. This small grove of coastal redwoods was planted only a few decades ago but there are over 100 trees in the grove. You can hike to it from the parking area for the regional park and it is fun to be able to see redwoods, even small ones, so close to home.

  • Length: 2.5 miles
  • Elevation: flat
  • Read more

Honorable Mention 2: Leggett Drive Thru Tree

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This isn’t a grove as much as it is an attraction that many redwood seekers want to check off their list. The drive-thru tree in Leggett is one of the most popular places for road trip photos in California and it is a fun spot to check out at least once.

  • Length: Don’t have to get out of your car
  • Elevation: flat
  • Read more

Now it’s your turn, what’s your favorite spot to see redwoods in California? Be sure to leave it in the comments.

Muir Woods National Monument: Hiking the Bohemian Grove Trail

Muir Woods National Monument is a fantastic place to see redwood trees right near San Francisco. There are dozens of miles of trails and a couple incredible groves. That being said, it is also one of the busiest places to see redwoods in the entire state. I highly recommend you go, but just know that going in. The most popular trail in the park is the Bohemian Grove Trail and here is all the information so you can check it out for yourself.

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Details

  • 2 miles round trip
  • Flat
  • $10 to enter the park if you do not have an annual NPS pass

Video

Getting There

Muir Woods is located about 30 minutes North of San Francisco, and it is a popular attraction. There are signs that point you to the park when you start getting close. The final 4 miles to the park are downhill on a windy road. Be sure to take your time.

When you get to the park, there is a tiny parking area near the visitor center which is typically full and an overflow lot about 50 yards down the road. If this lot is full, there is parking along the road further down as well. During the weekends it can be hard to find parking, but during the weekdays, there are usually a couple of spots. The good thing is that the parking spots turn over relatively fast since the hike is not that long, so if you have to wait you shouldn’t have to wait too long.

The Park

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After walking from the lot to the visitors center, you can go into the small shop they have there or just pay your fee and head to the park.

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The trail starts under the wooden Muir Woods sign that hangs over the path.

Bohemian Grove Trail

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From here the trail walks along an elevated boardwalk for nearly the entire way. There are three main groves that you want to make sure you hit while you are here: Founders Grove, Bohemian Grove, and Cathedral Grove.

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The first thing you will see on the trail though is the bathrooms, cafe, and store. I found the store to have a lot of interesting things to purchase, much more than I would have expected. I liked these 3D trees and took one home for myself.

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From here the trail passes the first bridge. These bridges are how you know how long you have been on the trail. You can cut back at any one of them, but the trail officially turns back at Bridge 4.

Founders Grove

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After bridge one, you will almost immediately come to Founders Grove. This grove has the biggest tree on the entire trail, Pinchot Tree. It is massive and pretty hard even to comprehend.

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The tree is surrounded by a few other old growth redwoods, and there are benches to sit on if you want just to bask in its awesomeness.

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Leaving Founder’s Grove you will reach an intersection with the Canopy View Trail which takes you above the trees on a smaller trail if you have time.

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Heading on you will continue to parallel Redwood Creek to the right of you as you are going along the boardwalk under massive redwoods.

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The trail passes bridge two and bridge three during this section.

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After passing bridge three, you will be in the Cathedral Grove, which is my favorite on the entire trail.

Cathedral Grove

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Cathedral Grove is a fantastic spot with a ton of impressive redwoods. I was blown away by how many they had here and in all shapes and sizes. A few are hallowed out, others have fallen over, and still others are towering above you.

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This grove is where there is a plaque for Franklin D. Roosevelt.

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You can spend a lot of time just sitting here and enjoying all of the trees in this grove.

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After exiting, you will notice the Cathedral Grove has two sections. You might want to walk the other section now if you plan to go back on the Hillside Trail to complete the loop.

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Heading on from here, it is just a lot more redwoods and beautiful forest until you hit bridge four.

Bridge four is the turn around point, and you can either go back the way you came or head up to the Hillside Trail. I recommend the Hillside Trail if it is open, but it was closed when I went so I headed back the way I came.

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If you do this, cut across the creek at bridge three so you can walk along the other side and see the last grove, Bohemian Grove.

Bohemian Grove

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Bohemian Grove is the grove for which the trail is named. It is the least impressive of the three groves but is still has a dozen or so redwoods for you to see.

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This grove also has a tree you can walk into the middle of, which is fun and I saw a lot of people doing it.

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Heading along the grove you will see the Centennial Tree, which started growing right around when we became a country (over 200 years ago). It puts it in perspective to see how big it is in such a short period of time.

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After passing this tree, you will be back at bridge one and can visit the gift shop or head out.

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I do love seeing redwoods, so Muir Woods is a perfect place to do it. If you have time though, there are a lot of other locations in California to see redwoods with a lot fewer crowds. Read more about some of them here.

Let me know what you think about Muir Woods and if you have other trails you recommend in the area be sure to leave them in the comments.

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve in Guerneville

One of the best things about California is the sheer wealth of options available for seeing redwood trees. From Coastal Redwoods to Giant Sequoias, you can find them up and down the state. The Armstrong Redwoods are one of those special places that have all of the majesty of the redwoods without all of the people. I got a chance to explore the park recently, after having been told about it for years, and I can easily say it lived up to expectations. Here is all the information so you can go on the short ~2 mile trail yourself.

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Details

  • 1.8 miles
  • Flat
  • $8 to get into the park

Getting There

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Armstrong Redwoods are located about 35 minutes from Santa Rosa in the town of Guerneville. When you get to the town on Highway 116, you will see a sign that directs you onto Armstrong Woods Rd and into the park. There is a decent size parking lot right near the visitors center.

Pioneer Nature Trail

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After paying the fee and parking in the visitor’s center lot, you can make your way back to the toll booth which is where the Pioneer Nature Trail starts.

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This trail is almost immediately impressive as it bends through shaded groves and past massive trees on its way through the valley floor.

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I loved seeing all the greens from the leaves to the moss on the fallen branches, and each bend brought new trees and new views. We happened to be there at the start of fall, which brought with it some yellow and gold colors in the trees above as well.

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The first point of interest you will get to is the Parsons Jones Tree, which is the tallest in the park at just over 300 feet.

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From here you will keep going on the trail, and you will shortly reach a crossroads which has a few more gigantic trees and a fallen tree which shows the root structure.

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It was especially surprising to see the massive roots of the fallen tree here.

Colonel Armstrong Tree

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Continuing on you will eventually reach the next point of interest and the oldest tree in the forest, the Colonel Armstrong Tree. The Armstrong Tree was named for Colonel Armstrong who bought this land and set out to protect it in the late 1800’s. This tree is over 1,400 feet tall, and it is very impressive to see.

Redwood Theater

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I would recommend heading out on the short spur that leads to the Redwood Theater from here as well. This massive 2,000 foot amphitheater in the middle of the forest is used a few times a year for productions but was even more impressive when it was empty like this.

I was told this is where you will see banana slugs as we’ll but I didn’t see any when I went. Heading back from here to the Armstrong tree you can catch back up with the trail and finish the last .6 miles of the loop. This area is more of the same but in that it is still incredibly impressive.

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If you like redwoods then you owe it to yourself to see this spot. While Muir Woods is probably more impressive overall for a spot to see redwoods in the Bay Area, Armstrong Redwoods can surely hold its own. It is especially great to be able to see these trees without the crowds.

Video

Here is a video of my time there.

Be sure to check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

Abalone Cove Preserve: Beach Hiking & Tide Pools in Rancho Palos Verde

The hills of Rancho Palos Verdes have become one of my favorite places for coastal hiking in California. Of course, there is the epic shipwreck hike, but if you are looking for something relatively easy and family friendly then check out the stunning Abalone Cove Reserve with its miles of trails, beaches and tide pools. Here is all the information.

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Details

  • 2 miles
  • 400 feet of elevation change
  • $6 for 2 hours of parking, $12 for more than two hours
  • Location: 5970 Palos Verdes Dr S, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275

Getting There

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Abalone Cove Reserve is located right on Palos Verdes Dr, which is the main road that hugs the coast of Rancho Palos Verdes. There is a turnout for it on the left, right after passing Wayfarers Chapel (coming from Long Beach). The parking lot has a decent amount of spots, but it can quickly fill on the weekends in the summer so get there early if you go at that time.

The Trail

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This trail can be as short or as long as you like. If you don’t want to hike, you can simply walk down to the beach and just enjoy the water, it’s an easy 10-minute walk.

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I opted to explore as much of the area as I could though while I was there, so this hike takes you over the main trails and lets you see the entire reserve. The trail begins by heading down to the beach mentioned above.

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When you get down to the sand, you will walk along the beach to the lookout in front of you.

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This is a fantastic beach and a beautiful area; there was even a small waterfall created by runoff that was fun to see.

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After reaching the end of the beach you will see a dirt road that takes you up the hillside, this is the path you will want to take.

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The dirt road winds around the hill before eventually dropping you off at Portugues Viewpoint.

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From here you can head back the way you came or continue down into the fantastic Sacred Cove.

Sacred Cove

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Heading on from here you will take the steep Cave Trail as it leads down the side of the hill to the coast below. This trail is sandy and steep so take your time.

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When you reach the bottom, you can head out to the end where there is a sea cave and tide pools.

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The sea cave actually goes through the entire rock but be careful as the waves come rushing through and it is dangerous to go swimming near it.

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If you get your feet wet, you can go out to the tides pools, or you can keep hiking the trail. The trail from here runs along the coast all the way to the other side of the cove.

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This beach is perfect, and my recommendation is to come over to this side if you are spending the day here as fewer people make the trek.

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The beach has a unique black sand that makes it amazing to explore as well.

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Heading around the cove you will want to walk out to the edge of this area as well as there are more tide pools to see. I saw sea urchins and anemones while there.

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At the end, there is another cave right on the point.

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After exploring this area, head back to the small single track trail you passed on the hillside and start making your way up. It is a steep climb but just take your time.

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As you near the top, you will see a trail that takes you up to Inspiration Point.

Inspiration Point

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I highly recommend hiking up here as the views are mind blowing. You can look at the Portuguese Bend in one direction and back at Sacred Cove in the other.

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I spent at least 15 minutes up here just exploring and taking it all in.

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After you finish, head back the way you came and up to the road you drove in on. This is the path I recommend taking back as it is much flatter then going down to the coves again.

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This path also takes you to the Smuggler’s Lookout. While not as impressive as the other two, it is still a fun spot to look out from.

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Also, on the way back to your car, along the dirt path next to the road, you will pass Wayfarers Chapel.

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You can cross the street here and see the chapel as well if you would like but be VERY careful as traffic can go fast in this section and there is no crosswalk.

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You can also just go back to your car and then drive over and see the chapel. Either way, you should make sure you visit it though as it is amazing and so close.

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On the way back to the car you will also pass a small turnout that has plaques dedicated to the area you just explored for you to read as well.

All in all, this is a fantastic place for a beach day or some coastal hiking. It’s hard to think of better views in Southern California, and I highly recommend you add it to your list. Let me know if you have been in the comments and what you thought.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes: Best Sunrise Spot in Death Valley

Death Valley National Park is a variable playground for the landscape photographer. Both Zabriskie Point and Dante’s View are absolutely spectacular for sunset and while they are good for sunrise as well, the light is coming from behind you so it is not as epic. Enter the Mesquite Dunes as one of my favorite places for sunrise in the park, here is all the information so you can check it out yourself.

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Details

  • Get there 20-30 minutes before the time your phone says sunrise is
  • About 30 minutes drive from Furnace Creek

Getting There

If you are staying in Stovepipe Wells, then the Mesquite Dunes are pretty much right in your backyard. If you are staying in Furnace Creek though, then you will need to drive about 30 minutes North to get to the dunes. They are pretty hard to miss, you just stay on the main road through the park and don’t take the offshoot to Scotty’s Castle. There is a large parking lot for the dunes, and it shouldn’t be full before sunrise.

The Dunes

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Once you make it to the dunes, you can pretty much explore however much you want. The walk out to the top of the main dune is about 2 miles round trip, but it is not an easy two miles as you have to walk up in the sand which is no fun.

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If usually just walk out about 100 yards or so from the parking lot and try to find a good spot to look at the primary dune from. I find that the view from in front of it with the sunrise adding a warm glow is better than being on top of it and looking down.

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There are usually a good amount of people out there, but it’s such a massive area with so many dunes that it is not hard to find a spot by yourself.

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The early morning light often adds some purples and blues to the sky which is great for getting set up and finding a good shot. Then when the light comes over the mountain, you will see the mountain range to your left start glowing first.

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Eventually, as the light crests the hill, the Mesquite dunes in front of you will start putting on a show.

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The warm morning light is just spectacular here, and the way it bounces off the dunes never ceases to amaze me.

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After watching the sun fully come up, I got back in the car and headed to the next spot. Read about my 24 hours in Death Valley here.

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If you are looking for the best place for sunrise in the park though, then be sure to check out the Mesquite Dunes.

Hiking to the Palisade Glacier from Second Lake on the Big Pine North Fork Trail

Palisades Glacier is the southernmost glacier in North America and it sits right around 12,4000 feet. It is accessed by a short but very difficult trail which splits off from the Big Pine North Fork Trail. Getting there is an incredible accomplishment but one that shouldn’t be taken lightly as you have to deal with elevation (over 12,000 feet), class 3 scrambling to the ridge and just overall distance. If you are interested in doing it, then read on for all the information.

palisade-glacier-22

Details

  • 19 mile round trip from the trailhead, 8 miles round trip from Second Lake
  • 5,000 feet from the trailhead, 2,500 feet of gain from Second Lake

Getting There

This hike can technically be done in a day, but I would not trust myself to do it in a day and so I wouldn’t recommend trying that. I did it as part of a backpacking trip along the North Fork of Big Pine and this post talks about the trail as it leaves from Second Lake. If you are interested in the portion from the trailhead to Second Lake then read all about it here.

The Trail

palisade-glacier-1

I did this trial with my friend Chris from LastAdventurer.com. We set out on the trail at around 8 AM after watching the sunrise and drinking coffee.

palisade-glacier-3

The trail leaves from Second Lake on a well maintained path that starts climbing gradually as you head out from the lake.

Third Lake

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Within a half mile or so you will be starting to get your first glimpse of Third Lake, which is another glacier fed lake that is beautiful like First and Second Lake. We walked down to the shore of Third Lake as the water was pristine in the early morning light.

palisade-glacier-4

Heading back to the trail we started up the switchbacks that take you up in elevation quickly as you will soon be looking down on Third Lake below you.

palisade-glacier-5

The switchbacks eventually end in a small meadow, and you will walk along a shaded path for about a tenth of a mile.

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From here the trail splits and you will be heading down on the path to Glacier Lake, not Lakes 4-7.

palisade-glacier-7

This part of the trail is amazing as you enter a large meadow with daunting peaks above you and a bubbling creek running down the middle.

palisade-glacier-8

We went during the fall, which is why the colors were so amazing in their orange and golds.

palisade-glacier-9

Crossing the stream you will be heading up on a bunch of switchbacks for the next 3/4ths of a mile.

palisade-glacier-10

This is where the trail starts to get hard as you just keep going up and up until you reach right around 11,000 feet.

Sam Mack Meadow

palisade-glacier-11

At 11,000 feet the trail flattens out and you enter Sam Mack Meadow. Sam Mack Meadow is a pristine high altitude meadow with large granite rocks, foliage and a creek running down the middle. This is a great place for a break as you filter water and take in the surrounding landscape.

palisade-glacier-12

From here the trail gets tough. You will be leaving the meadow and heading up more switchbacks that are less and less maintained. Meaning that the trail has large uneven rocks in it that slow your pace.

palisade-glacier-13

Eventually you will reach a vista point that looks down on lakes 1-3 with 4-7 being able to be seen out in the distance as well.

palisade-glacier-14

The trail then continues its uphill trajectory as it climbs more and more switchbacks till you are at around 11,700 feet.

palisade-glacier-17

At this elevation the trail officially “ends” and you will be doing about a half mile of tough, class three scrambling up a talus slope before you can see the glacier.

palisade-glacier-18

This part is incredibly tough and shouldn’t be taken lightly. The trail is hard to find and the rocks are big in your path. When we went, there were cairns that you could follow over the rocks, and that would lead you up the trail. I am sure that during different parts of the year these are gone, so make sure you have a GPS or a map with some idea of where you are going so you do not get lost.

palisade-glacier-16

This section hugs the side of the mountain for a little while, and you will be climbing over rocks in a very exposed area so be careful.

palisade-glacier-19

When you make it around the side, you will then just have about 300 feet of straight up left to get to the glacier overlook. This part is not as exposed as the previous, so you can take your time, follow the cairns and find the best route up.

palisade-glacier-24

You will cross over 12,000 feet here, so be prepared to be very winded. Be sure to note any symptoms of altitude sickness and immediately turn around if you get them. Continuing up the rocks you will eventually see the ridgeline in front of you which is your destination.

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When you finally crest over the ridgeline, you will be looking down on the Palisades Glacier.

Palisades Glacier

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This glacier is very impressive from this viewpoint as it is large and has a big pool below it.

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The viewpoint is still a good 200 feet above it though, and if you wanted to get down to the water, you would have to climb down the talus rock and then back up the way you came.

palisade-glacier-21

We were both tired from the climb and had to make it all the way back out, so we just looked at it from the overlook and didn’t go down. After eating some lunch and taking it all in we headed back down the trail the way we came.Be sure to be extra cautious on the way down as it is more likely you would fall going down than going up.

All in all, this is an amazing hike to a truly spectacular piece of California. Be sure not to take it lightly if you go though and be careful. Let me know if you have been in the comments and what you thought.

Hiking to the Palisade Glacier from Second Lake on the Big Pine North Fork Trail

Palisades Glacier is the southernmost glacier in North America and it sits right around 12,4000 feet. It is accessed by a short but very difficult trail which splits off from the Big Pine North Fork Trail. Getting there is an incredible accomplishment but one that shouldn’t be taken lightly as you have to deal with elevation (over 12,000 feet), class 3 scrambling to the ridge and just overall distance. If you are interested in doing it, then read on for all the information.

palisade-glacier-22

Details

  • 19 mile round trip from the trailhead, 8 miles round trip from Second Lake
  • 5,000 feet from the trailhead, 2,500 feet of gain from Second Lake

Getting There

This hike can technically be done in a day, but I would not trust myself to do it in a day and so I wouldn’t recommend trying that. I did it as part of a backpacking trip along the North Fork of Big Pine and this post talks about the trail as it leaves from Second Lake. If you are interested in the portion from the trailhead to Second Lake then read all about it here.

The Trail

palisade-glacier-1

I did this trial with my friend Chris from LastAdventurer.com. We set out on the trail at around 8 AM after watching the sunrise and drinking coffee.

palisade-glacier-3

The trail leaves from Second Lake on a well maintained path that starts climbing gradually as you head out from the lake.

Third Lake

palisade-glacier-2

Within a half mile or so you will be starting to get your first glimpse of Third Lake, which is another glacier fed lake that is beautiful like First and Second Lake. We walked down to the shore of Third Lake as the water was pristine in the early morning light.

palisade-glacier-4

Heading back to the trail we started up the switchbacks that take you up in elevation quickly as you will soon be looking down on Third Lake below you.

palisade-glacier-5

The switchbacks eventually end in a small meadow, and you will walk along a shaded path for about a tenth of a mile.

palisade-glacier-6

From here the trail splits and you will be heading down on the path to Glacier Lake, not Lakes 4-7.

palisade-glacier-7

This part of the trail is amazing as you enter a large meadow with daunting peaks above you and a bubbling creek running down the middle.

palisade-glacier-8

We went during the fall, which is why the colors were so amazing in their orange and golds.

palisade-glacier-9

Crossing the stream you will be heading up on a bunch of switchbacks for the next 3/4ths of a mile.

palisade-glacier-10

This is where the trail starts to get hard as you just keep going up and up until you reach right around 11,000 feet.

Sam Mack Meadow

palisade-glacier-11

At 11,000 feet the trail flattens out and you enter Sam Mack Meadow. Sam Mack Meadow is a pristine high altitude meadow with large granite rocks, foliage and a creek running down the middle. This is a great place for a break as you filter water and take in the surrounding landscape.

palisade-glacier-12

From here the trail gets tough. You will be leaving the meadow and heading up more switchbacks that are less and less maintained. Meaning that the trail has large uneven rocks in it that slow your pace.

palisade-glacier-13

Eventually you will reach a vista point that looks down on lakes 1-3 with 4-7 being able to be seen out in the distance as well.

palisade-glacier-14

The trail then continues its uphill trajectory as it climbs more and more switchbacks till you are at around 11,700 feet.

palisade-glacier-17

At this elevation the trail officially “ends” and you will be doing about a half mile of tough, class three scrambling up a talus slope before you can see the glacier.

palisade-glacier-18

This part is incredibly tough and shouldn’t be taken lightly. The trail is hard to find and the rocks are big in your path. When we went, there were cairns that you could follow over the rocks, and that would lead you up the trail. I am sure that during different parts of the year these are gone, so make sure you have a GPS or a map with some idea of where you are going so you do not get lost.

palisade-glacier-16

This section hugs the side of the mountain for a little while, and you will be climbing over rocks in a very exposed area so be careful.

palisade-glacier-19

When you make it around the side, you will then just have about 300 feet of straight up left to get to the glacier overlook. This part is not as exposed as the previous, so you can take your time, follow the cairns and find the best route up.

palisade-glacier-24

You will cross over 12,000 feet here, so be prepared to be very winded. Be sure to note any symptoms of altitude sickness and immediately turn around if you get them. Continuing up the rocks you will eventually see the ridgeline in front of you which is your destination.

palisade-glacier-23

When you finally crest over the ridgeline, you will be looking down on the Palisades Glacier.

Palisades Glacier

palisade-glacier-22

This glacier is very impressive from this viewpoint as it is large and has a big pool below it.

palisade-glacier-20

The viewpoint is still a good 200 feet above it though, and if you wanted to get down to the water, you would have to climb down the talus rock and then back up the way you came.

palisade-glacier-21

We were both tired from the climb and had to make it all the way back out, so we just looked at it from the overlook and didn’t go down. After eating some lunch and taking it all in we headed back down the trail the way we came.Be sure to be extra cautious on the way down as it is more likely you would fall going down than going up.

All in all, this is an amazing hike to a truly spectacular piece of California. Be sure not to take it lightly if you go though and be careful. Let me know if you have been in the comments and what you thought.