Tioga Road is a scenic drive through Yosemite's High Country which offers several vista points, waterfalls, lakes, hiking opportunities as well as the unforgettable Tuolumne Meadows. It is a great escape from the crowds of the valley and is usually open from June through September. The drive also takes you to some of the last great undeveloped land of the west.
Kelso Dunes in the Mojave National Preserve are one of the largest (45 square miles) and tallest (700 feet) sand dunes in the North America. They are considered young created in the last 25,000 years by climate change and are often called the 'Singing Dunes' for the booming noise created by sliding sands. Run down a dune and listen for the rumble. A moderate 3 mile round-trip trail takes you to the top of the highest dune and is perfect for solitude seekers.
Mariposa Grove is the largest Sequoia grove in Yosemite National Park. Its most famous resident 'Grizzly Giant' is estimated to be 1900-2400 years old, and is the 25th largest in the world. Abraham Lincoln famously protected these trees on June 30, 1864 as an Act of Congress. Stunning trails wind through this enchanting forest of gentle giants.
Dante's View is the best place to admire the expansive view of Death Valley. At 5,475 feet, the vista sits on the crest of the Black Mountains and looks to the Valley, Panamint Range and Badwater Basin with its white salt flats. On a clear day, the highest point in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney (14,494 feet) can be seen alongside the lowest point Badwater (-282 feet).
Tuolumne Meadows is the serene and stunningly beautiful alpine meadow of Yosemite's High Country. At 8,600 feet, it can be reached by the scenic Tioga Road in the summertime where the Tuolumne River flows among draping peaks. The meadows mark the northern border of the largest stretch of road-less wilderness in the continental United States allowing you to escape in solitude.
Rancho Sierra Vista Satwiwa in the Santa Monica Mountains preserves sacred Native American land of the Chumash and Tongva/Gabrielino. The iconic Boney Peak provides a dramatic backdrop for this once village called 'Satwiwa' or Bluff where 150 archeological sites have been discovered. The area was first visited by Europeans in 1769-70 during the famous Portolá expedition and again in 1774 during the Juan Bautista de Anza expedition. Enjoy miles of trails and Spring wildflowers in a landscape largely unchanged.
Vernal Fall in Yosemite National Park drops a stunning 317 feet along the Merced River. The falls can be accessed from base to top by a strenuous 2.4 mile hike along Mist Falls Trail where a refreshing mist will soak you alongside a mirage of rainbows. Visit in the Spring and Early Summer for a roaring dance of water.
Big Trees Trail is an easy 2/3 mile walk that winds through Round Meadow in Sequoia National Park. With its towering giant sequoias and lush green meadows, it is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the Giant Forest.
A drive along Park Boulevard in Joshua Tree National Park takes you up close and personal through one of the most famous 'Yucca brevifolia' strands in the World. Traveling Mormons in the 19th century named the trees after Joshua in the bible because they seemed to raise their hands in prayer and guide. This legendary name stuck and has been an iconic desert symbol ever since.
Kings Canyon Scenic Byway (Highway 180) travels from Giant Sequoia Groves down into the heart of the Sierra Nevada Wilderness. The canyon is the deepest in North America and will keep you on your toes as you make the mountain-hugging descent. Stop at Junction View for a stunning panoramic vista. Once in the canyon, the drive follows the impressive Kings River, several waterfalls and lush forest surrounded by towering granite peaks.