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Trip out west suggestions.
  
 
RMC cichlids
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Trip out west suggestions.


Apologies in advance for the long drawn out post.
I live just outside of Denver and I've decided to drive out to San Francisco to see family for the Christmas holidays. Normally I fly but this year I have no time concern so I'm going to drive out. My main goal is to see Death Valley and then Yosemite before I hit San Fran area. I will probably hit the road around December 8th so I should have 2 weeks before having to be in San Fran. I do want to spend at least 3-4 days in Death Valley and a couple in Yosemite. I'm open to suggestions on the route and places to see. I've not been to New Mexico yet so I was thinking about going the southern route towards Death Valley. Maybe hit Shiprock and Bisti badlands, Canyon de Chelly. then heading towards Page and do the slot canyons and maybe hit Toroweap. I've done lower antelope once on a very quick mini grand circle trip that I spent way too much driving and not enough seeing. Which is also why I'm considering heading direct west towards Captiol Reef then going down hwy 12 and getting some hikes in around Escalante and the hitting Bryce and Zion before heading down towards page. Or just heading west out of Zion and taking hwy 15 down to Vegas before hitting death valley. Even with 2 weeks to do this I know I'm probably pushing it on time. And the last thing I want is to just drive every day. I've done those trips too often, I could do some on my way back after the holidays. But I am thinking about going north up to Oregon and then wander my way home.
Thanks in advance
Kurt



Nov 12, 2016 at 09:25 PM
Timmeh
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Trip out west suggestions.


Hi Kurt,

If you're planning on staying with Death Valley, I'd go by way of Vegas. Temperatures should be very reasonable and the wind doesn't pick up very much. It should be comfortable, but the dunes trend to be pretty well trodden. DV is so big that spending four days is pretty reasonable. This board is full of suggestions, just know that the park is massive and 4 wheel drive is suggested for most places other than Badwater Basin and the Mesquite Dunes

If you're plan is to go to Yosemite immediately afterwards, you could get lucky with Tioga pass being open, though at the beginning of December it could close any day. That would be the 395 to 120 west route and would be fast. If the pass is closed or winter weather is threatening, you should head west through Bakersfield, and take 99 north to 41 north and get to the Valley that way.

Try searching this forum for suggestions on DV and Yosemite as there are many that already make good suggestions. Are you looking for wide shots of standard locations? What's your style? Do you like astro?

Tim



Nov 12, 2016 at 10:50 PM
RMC cichlids
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Trip out west suggestions.


Hi Tim,
Thanks for your response, I shoot mostly landscape and nature with a little bit of wildlife mixed in. I've been to Yosemite a few times so I have a handle on most stuff in the area. I'm currently doing research on DV and considering getting an Ebook. I'm not overly concerned with road conditions as I have a lifted 4x4 4runner that for the most part can get me anywhere. I hope Tioga pass is open but I am not counting on it. Mostly this post was for ideas on my way out to DV. I see you are out in SF bay area, my family is out in Petaluma/Sonoma area.
Kurt



Nov 12, 2016 at 11:03 PM
Greg Campbell
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Trip out west suggestions.


I'd try to find alternate slot canyons. Page is out of the way and you've seen Jackalope anyway.
Give this a few hours.... http://www.americansouthwest.net/slot_canyons/map.html

Goblin Valley is worth a visit in and of itself, and there are several nice canyons just minutes away. Ding, Dang, Little Wildhorse, etc.
http://www.americansouthwest.net/slot_canyons/san_rafael_swell/index.html

From Hanksville, several nice slots in the "North Wash" region are less than an hour away.
The Irish Canyons are easy to access and some are quite spectacular. http://www.americansouthwest.net/slot_canyons/north_wash/canyons.html

Burr Trail Road from Boulder suggests itself. It's paved and pretty, and there is one short-but-pretty canyon, Fuzzy Caterpillar Gorge, that is just a few hundred feet from the road. If the roads are in unusually good condition, you can take the unpaved section of BTR south from Capitol Reef. The switchbacks crossing the Waterpocket Fold are awesome and very photogenic.

Most slots in the Escalante area will require many miles of driving on dirt roads. If significant rain has fallen, the roads turn to greased owl poop and are completely impassable.

If you're up for exploring DV, I'll suggest the Digonnet book, "Hiking DV..." Buy it NOW and study well. There are hundreds of hikes, of which several dozen (at least) are fully practical and photogenic.



Nov 13, 2016 at 01:00 AM
RMC cichlids
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Trip out west suggestions.


Thanks Greg for all the great info, I'll definitely give it all a good read. I was thinking about getting this
E book for DV (http://www.naturephotoguides.com/e-books/death-valley/)
BTR road sounds nice. There are lots of great areas, I just don't want to make the mistake of trying to see too much, which I've done a lot. As far as slots in Escalante area I was thinking of peek a boo and zebra.



Nov 13, 2016 at 01:16 AM
gdanmitchell
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Trip out west suggestions.


December is a great time to go to Death Valley. The crowds that can show up in the spring aren't there, and the place is downright lonely sometimes. It is also often cool to even cold — I've actually seen temperatures into the lower 30s in the early morning in the Valley and colder in the higher areas.

I won't go into all the possibilities in DEVA since it is pretty easy to figure them out. One hint — think about what direction things face and plan accordingly so that you have the light you want. And consider having a sunrise subject, an early morning subject, and afternoon subject, and sunset subject each day.

Odds are that Tioga Pass will be closed when you get there, so your trip to Yosemite is going to involve a long drive either over Tehachapi Pass (most likely) and up the Central Valley, or else north to the Tahoe area with a crossing on 88, 50, or 80. That's a long drive!

Note also that the California coast is great that time of year.

Dan



Nov 13, 2016 at 03:40 AM
Greg Campbell
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Trip out west suggestions.


Both of your Hole-in-the-Rock-Road destinations require long sections of the road to be passable. It's about 30 miles from 12 to Spooky/Peek-a-Boo. Given the dry weather this may still be the case in December, but I'd put together a back-up list.

http://www.nps.gov/glca/learn/news/road-conditions.htm

More slot references:
Capitol Reef has gobs... http://www.nps.gov/care/planyourvisit/hiking.htm






Edited on Dec 02, 2016 at 02:42 PM · View previous versions



Nov 13, 2016 at 05:58 AM
RMC cichlids
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Trip out west suggestions.


Thanks guys, I'll definitely be keeping an eye on the weather as the date gets closer.


Nov 13, 2016 at 07:51 AM
GroovyGeek
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Trip out west suggestions.


DV in December - yum. If this is your first visit you will be tempted to hit the standbys - Badwater, Zabriiskie, Mesquite. Nothing wrong with that but expect LARGE crowds even in December. I distinctly remember a night I camped in Echo Canyon, not far way from Zabriiskie around Dec-15 last year. The forecast for the morning was a crystal clear sky so I decided to try Zabriiskie since I had studiously been avoiding it on prior visits. I was the first one around 5:30am and was alone for a grand total of 5 minutes. It got progressively worse from there, with a larg-ish group of visitors gathering, someone constantly hollering wanting to hear the echo of their voice bouncing around the canyon. Fortunately, most of the landscape worthy locations are totally un-interesting for casual visitors or are enough out of the way to keep crowds at bay. There is a decent e-book by Sarah Marino that describes some of the other options open to you.


Nov 15, 2016 at 09:28 AM
Greg Campbell
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Trip out west suggestions.


Yea, Zabriskie is a bloody zoo. Try hiking down Gower Gulch, _into_ the badlands, where the thundering herds fear to tread. You can descend Gower all the way to Badwater Rd if you like, and/or jog over to the upper reaches of Golden Canyon, passing the base of Manley Beacon on the way. For that matter, just about _any_ canyon in the Black Mountains is going to offer some interesting color and geology.

Other suggestions include Fall and Red Wall Canyons, Red Pass at sunrise, Hole-in-the-Wall, Grotto Canyon, and much more. If you like crowds, stick with the photo guide, if not, get a good hiking guide and go find your own "Icons."


Edited on Dec 02, 2016 at 02:34 PM · View previous versions



Nov 15, 2016 at 03:12 PM
 

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gdanmitchell
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Trip out west suggestions.


Regarding the potential for crowds in DEVA in December... as long as you are not there during a brief period coinciding with holiday vacations, the "crowds" are really not there at all. If you (to the OP) are leaving two weeks before your holiday arrival in the San Francisco area, I'm presuming that you might pass through DEVA a during the week before Christmas and perhaps as much as a full week ahead of time. You won't see "crowds" then.*

Are you going to be completely alone at dawn at Zabriskie, at dawn or sunset at Mesquite Dunes, on top of Dante's View (presuming no snow), or at a few other iconic locations? Not likely, especially at the more popular times. But where you might share your spot with several hundred people (say, at Zabriskie) during the peak season, you might be among 25 on a pre-holiday Zabriskie Dawn. It will be quiet and just as beautiful as at those other times.

I'm not one to encourage serious photographers to stick to visiting and photographing icons, as those who know me and my photography already recognize. When I go to DEVA I most often (but not quite always) head off to less-popular places and/or photograph at less busy times. However, almost any person visiting a place like Death Valley for the first time should feel no shame about visiting the iconic sites. Zabriskie at dawn is a beautiful thing, and you should see it at least once.

Have a great trip.

Dan

* I'm going to qualify my comments about off season just a bit in the light of recent experiences. I've been going to the Yosemite high country for decades — to photograph, to camp, to hike, to backpack. I've long "known" that if I waited until about one week after Labor Day Weekend the crowds decrease significantly, and that places that are crowded in the high season may be much less so or even deserted.

Some experiences this year have caused me to start to wonder if that is going to be true much longer. As late as mid-October I encountered actual crowds at entrance gates such as on Tioga Pass, and I found campgrounds full much later than usual. There is a tremendous pressure by increasing numbers of visitors on our parks and other public lands.



Nov 15, 2016 at 03:43 PM
RMC cichlids
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Trip out west suggestions.


Thanks guys for all the great advice. I hope to be in DV around the 14th give or take a day depending on how the trip out goes. I'm not against shooting icons especially on my first trip.I'm sure it's going to take a couple of days just to get a grasp of the area and see what lights up my eyes. I'm still tinkering with my itinerary for the trip out. Any idea on how Columbia river gorge area is in January? I'm trying to decide which route to take home (Denver) after the New Year.
Kurt



Nov 16, 2016 at 01:50 AM
LeeG
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Trip out west suggestions.


While in DV check out Titus Canyon, it is a fun and very scenic ride, especially when combined with a stop at nearby Rhyolite Ghost Town. The drive through Titus is posted 4x4 but is easily doable in most suv's. I have visited DV 2x's a year for almost 30 years now and have never used nor seen anyone needing 4x4 on this mostly flat dirt road. Google the area and plan a great day with lots of photo ops. A good map for DV is the National Geographic DV map, it provides excellent details of all main roads and trails. Maps and plenty of books available at the DV Visitor Center in Furnace Creek. Enjoy your trip and please share the images!



Nov 16, 2016 at 06:10 AM
gdanmitchell
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Trip out west suggestions.


LeeG wrote:
While in DV check out Titus Canyon, it is a fun and very scenic ride, especially when combined with a stop at nearby Rhyolite Ghost Town. The drive through Titus is posted 4x4 but is easily doable in most suv's. I have visited DV 2x's a year for almost 30 years now and have never used nor seen anyone needing 4x4 on this mostly flat dirt road. Google the area and plan a great day with lots of photo ops. A good map for DV is the National Geographic DV map, it provides excellent details of all main roads and
...Show more

You are correct that it can be done without 4x4, though one might feel more secure with it. Despite record of precedent, having been over the route many times, I discourage anyone from trying it in a regular old urban vehicle. Good tires and good clearance are recommended.

And, it most certainly is not a "mostly flat" dirt road! There are several rather steep sections, including both sides of Red Pass. It isn't all that technical, but it definitely isn't "flat."

Dan



Nov 16, 2016 at 08:11 AM
LeeG
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Trip out west suggestions.


There are plenty of YouTube vids documenting the places you can explore in DV and surrounding deserts. Check with rangers for current road/trail conditions and be prepared and go have fun!
Titus Canyon:




Nov 16, 2016 at 10:45 PM
Greg Campbell
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Trip out west suggestions.


A picture (or video!) is worth a thousand words!

Maybe I've just been lucky, but the video depicts the average road conditions I've encountered. The vast majority of Titus is, IMO, relatively "flat" and easy driving. A few of the switchbacks - all descending - are sorta steep and rough, an example can be seen at 29:14. There are also a few short sections with gravel that shouldn't present too much of a challenge if you keep up a little speed. That said, a little rain can quickly and radically degrade the road. See http://www.bikepacking.net/forum/bikepacking/trip-report-death-valley/ for examples of wash-out and deep mud that would stop anyone in a "grocery-getter" vehicle.

As you can see, the area is lovely! The pastel rocks can become quite colorful if aided by a little warm sunrise/set light.



Nov 17, 2016 at 02:18 AM
gdanmitchell
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Trip out west suggestions.


A lot of it is "relatively flat," but, like a chain, the "weakest link" is the one you are most concerned with.

Anyone who is accustomed to driving on gravel backroads in mountainous desert terrain will find this to be a straightforward drive. On the other hand, I've most certainly encountered folks who lacked that experience who believed what they read in online reports and got into something that was more than they bargained for.

I don't find it all that challenging, but I drive this stuff all the time and I have a 4WD vehicle with good clearance.

Folks who aren't familiar with this kind of driving might not want to make it their first attempt. As you correctly point out, there are some somewhat twisty, narrow, and bumpy descending sections that do unnerve some who aren't used to this stuff. Your point about weather is appropriate.

It is a lovely and lonely place.

Dan














Nov 17, 2016 at 03:37 AM
RMC cichlids
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Trip out west suggestions.


Thanks for all the feedback guys and the video. Dan I've admired your work for some time. Amazing stuff, very jealous of all your back country hiking in Yosemite. I hopefully will get one of those trips in the not so distant future. As far as driving conditions I'm not overly concerned as I have a 4runner that has after market suspension and lifted 3in. I've been over some of the gnarliest passes down in Southwest Colorado. With that said I'm still very careful especially on roads I'm not familiar with.
Kurt



Nov 17, 2016 at 07:14 AM
gdanmitchell
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Trip out west suggestions.


RMC cichlids wrote:
Thanks for all the feedback guys and the video. Dan I've admired your work for some time. Amazing stuff, very jealous of all your back country hiking in Yosemite. I hopefully will get one of those trips in the not so distant future. As far as driving conditions I'm not overly concerned as I have a 4runner that has after market suspension and lifted 3in. I've been over some of the gnarliest passes down in Southwest Colorado. With that said I'm still very careful especially on roads I'm not familiar with.
Kurt


As a 4Runner owner myself (Trail edition), you'll obviously be fine on this road and many, many others in DEVA. The 4Runner is more than sufficient for this route. Enjoy!

Dan



Nov 17, 2016 at 03:37 PM
MrPeteH
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Trip out west suggestions.


A couple of additional thoughts...

On the way: not *too* far out of the way is Monument Valley (on the UT/AZ border). One of the most-photographed scenic spots.

Once you get to DV: Golden Canyon will likely look a bit familiar -- part of the first Star Wars movie was shot there

On the way to Yosemite: IF you are able to take the east side (395) route, and IF you're not already out of time... an unusual stop on the way is Devil's Postpile Nat'l Monument. Very unusual formations, plus waterfalls and a lot more.

Give Yosemite plenty of time. Obviously... famous photographers have lived there for years and never tired of new vistas.



Nov 26, 2016 at 01:58 AM
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