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Need Ideas for Napa/Anderson Valley Area and Quick Road T...
  
 
spooky action
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Need Ideas for Napa/Anderson Valley Area and Quick Road Trip from Napa to Las Vegas


Hi All:

I'm staying in Calistoga, CA in early July for about 6-7 days, then taking 2-3 days to drive from there to Las Vegas, probably through Yosemite-Tioga Pass-Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest-DV.

I enjoy landscape photography. I'm staying with family and my kids, so sunrise locations where I can get out alone are optimal, but we will be taking a day trip or two, as well. The road trip may just be with my wife so we'd have a little more flexibility. I've never been to these areas for photography (and never been to Yosemite/White Mountain/DV), so I could use some direction on locations/day trips. Here's what my research has shown so far:

Calistoga Portion:

- Hendy Woods State Park, Armstrong Preserve, or Navarro State Park for Redwoods
- Point Reyes (the lighthouse/chimney rock)
- Castello di Amarosa Vineyard
- Sea Ranch (I've seen some neat shots of Cypress Trees)
- Anderson Valley/Napa Valley Rolling Hills Vantage Points? Howell Mountain? (not sure where to go here)

Road Trip Portion:

- What is a good one day itinerary for Yosemite? I figure I'll do tunnel view, glacier point? What is a good moderate hike?
- Are there other recommendations besides Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest for White Mountain?
- Will DV just be too hot for dunes, badwater basin, other sites?
- Is there an alternative Road Trip itinerary that I should be looking into (Big Sur would have been on the list but it's more or less shut down).


Thanks for any and all suggestions.

Josh






Jun 20, 2017 at 02:29 PM
elkhornsun
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Need Ideas for Napa/Anderson Valley Area and Quick Road Trip from Napa to Las Vegas


Point Reyes is where I would spend most of my time. The range of wildlife there is amazing, and includes elk and many other mammals and birds. North of where you would to go through Anderson valley is Richardson Grove SP and that is one of the nicer areas.

A fantastic 40 mile section of road is referred to as the Avenue of the Giants and goes from Garberville to Rio Dell. It is the old section of Hwy 101 and so no trucking traffic along this route through the redwoods.

Death Valley yesterday had temperatures of 118 degrees (along with Las Vegas and Needles) so consider whether you want to be there in the peak of summer.

To go all the way from Florida to Yosemite and spend only one day there is sheer insanity. Highly recommend the book on photographing Yosemite by Michael Frye.



Jun 21, 2017 at 02:48 AM
bflood
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Need Ideas for Napa/Anderson Valley Area and Quick Road Trip from Napa to Las Vegas


I think you'll have more photo opportunities than you'll be able to get to. Family plans tend to do that. Nevertheless, give Napa Valley a good look - it's scenic on its own, and the vineyards and wineries only add to it. A winery tour offers good shooting opportunities as well being interesting. Beringer is a big corporation, but they put on a very good tour. The smaller, family owned wineries usually offer tours as well, but they usually confine them to weekdays, and some are only by appointment. Such a tour is likely to be conducted by a member of the family that owns & operates the winery, which offers a personal viewpoint that even the best corporate tour will lack. Look for a "what to do" booklet among the tourist info most motels/hotels have on hand - you'll find winery tour info if you're interested.

Yosemite - Only a day is a real limit, but then there's those family plans again. Be sure to check on the status of roads to and from the park - rock slides have been a problem in recent years, with the latest last Monday.

You can expect Death Valley to be 120 degrees or more in July. That dry heat presents dangers you won't find in Florida. If you go, be sure to have lots of water, and shoes with solid (and relatively thick) soles and with side that are high enough to not get sand inside. The thick soles help insulate your feet from the hot hot sand (for a while), but having 120 degree sand sliding inside your shoes isn't fun.



Jun 21, 2017 at 04:10 AM
dalite
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Need Ideas for Napa/Anderson Valley Area and Quick Road Trip from Napa to Las Vegas


First, Calistoga is a great springboard to Napa valley (Calistoga is at the north end of the valley). IMO, it's a nice place for some vineyard landscapes and wine tasting. Don't expect to find much wildlife/birdlife photography there.

The closest redwood area for you from Calistoga would be Armstrong Redwoods State park near Guerneville, and that is accessible via the River Road west off Hwy 101. Hendy Woods and the Avenue of the Giants, while having better specimens of redwoods might be a little too far a drive for you if time is a constraint, and it could very well be since there are so many things to photograph just in Napa-Sonoma counties.

The Sonoma coast has some lovely coastal views along Hwy 1: the Bodega Bay/Jenner/Guerneville loop I highly recommend. You'll see sea stacks, beaches and coastal bluffs along the Pacific Ocean.

Tioga Pass (elev 9600 ft) most likely won't be open until late July due to the heavy snows of last winter, so I would rule that out for cross-Sierra driving. Yosemite is open but very likely all lodge accommodations inside the park are fully booked up. A female photographer friend of mine made tent camping reservations as long ago as November 2016 for her stay in May, so there . . . Outside the park, you can try Yosemite View Motel or Cedar Lodge (both under the same ownership) but Cedar lodge is slightly less expensive but also 6 miles further from the park entrance than the first place mentioned.

It's a big state, bro.



Jun 23, 2017 at 05:21 AM
spooky action
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Need Ideas for Napa/Anderson Valley Area and Quick Road Trip from Napa to Las Vegas


elkhornsun wrote:
Point Reyes is where I would spend most of my time. The range of wildlife there is amazing, and includes elk and many other mammals and birds. North of where you would to go through Anderson valley is Richardson Grove SP and that is one of the nicer areas.

A fantastic 40 mile section of road is referred to as the Avenue of the Giants and goes from Garberville to Rio Dell. It is the old section of Hwy 101 and so no trucking traffic along this route through the redwoods.

Death Valley yesterday had temperatures of 118 degrees (along
...Show more

Thanks, Elkhorn. After I posted the OP and continued researching, Point Reyes looks more and more like a definite full-on day trip. From the lighthouse, to Chimney Rock to Elephant Rock, plus all the wildlife, it looks too good to pass up, so I am allotting time for that. The supposedly amazing and fresh oysters in the area likely seals the deal.

I'll check out Richardson Grove SP. Your mention is the first I've heard of it.

Ave. of the Giants looks really awesome, but I think it will be too long of a haul to fit in.

Yeah, DV is looking less and less likely due to the heat, while Yosemite for more than 1 day is looking more and more likely as the weather in the Valley should be incredible. If I skip DV and the eastern side of the Sierra's entirely b/c Tioga pass is closed, than I think 2-3 days in Yosemite becomes a possibility.

I'll check out the Michael Frye book. Thanks for the rec.

Josh






Edited on Jun 23, 2017 at 07:54 PM · View previous versions



Jun 23, 2017 at 07:28 PM
spooky action
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Need Ideas for Napa/Anderson Valley Area and Quick Road Trip from Napa to Las Vegas


bflood wrote:
I think you'll have more photo opportunities than you'll be able to get to. Family plans tend to do that. Nevertheless, give Napa Valley a good look - it's scenic on its own, and the vineyards and wineries only add to it. A winery tour offers good shooting opportunities as well being interesting. Beringer is a big corporation, but they put on a very good tour. The smaller, family owned wineries usually offer tours as well, but they usually confine them to weekdays, and some are only by appointment. Such a tour is likely to be conducted by a member
...Show more

Blfood, thanks for your advice! I have kind of (foolishly) overlooked the vineyards/wineries just because I know I will be going to a few and have shot there before (either pre-DSLR or entry-level APSC - I can't recall...) and also because the family I'm visiting out there is handling those plans/appointments. That said, you're absolutely right and your comments take me back to some of those photos I got of my daughter running through vineyards at 2-3 years old. Very special and I'm now getting excited about getting both kids in similar shots with much better equipment (if not skills

Both you and Elkhorn are telling me 1 day in Yosemite will be insufficient and that DV will be inhospitable. I'm re-calibrating my plans as I type. As for family, I recently dragged them through Zion and Bryce (left at 5 AM from Zion to catch Bryce sunrise), including with my 2-year son on my back for the Queen's Garden/Navajo loop....so their complaints be damned!

By the way, I'm shocked that the sand can be so hot you feel it through your soles. Being in Florida I've walked/ran on some skin-blistering hot beach sand barefoot, but apparently nothing to the extent you're describing.

Thanks, again.


Edited on Jun 23, 2017 at 07:58 PM · View previous versions



Jun 23, 2017 at 07:39 PM
spooky action
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Need Ideas for Napa/Anderson Valley Area and Quick Road Trip from Napa to Las Vegas


dalite wrote:
First, Calistoga is a great springboard to Napa valley (Calistoga is at the north end of the valley). IMO, it's a nice place for some vineyard landscapes and wine tasting. Don't expect to find much wildlife/birdlife photography there.

The closest redwood area for you from Calistoga would be Armstrong Redwoods State park near Guerneville, and that is accessible via the River Road west off Hwy 101. Hendy Woods and the Avenue of the Giants, while having better specimens of redwoods might be a little too far a drive for you if time is a constraint, and it could very well be
...Show more

Thanks, Dalite! Do you think an hour or two for sunrise at Armstrong and then continuing on to Point Reyes is feasible? Or should I break up the redwoods trip for another half-day? If I need to break it up, Hendy doesn't seem too far for a half-day break from the vineyards.

I'm going to check out your Sonoma loop suggestion. Really, the coastal views at Point Reyes is my substitute for Big Sur (which I've driven before but it's been some years and I need the fix). Between Point Reyes and Sonoma Coast drive, what would you recommend?

When I was mapping out the drive from Calistoga-Yosemite-DV-Vegas, google maps frustratingly wouldn't allow me to use Tioga pass. I soon discovered that's because it was still closed, which was surprising since info I read states that closings are in winter and it is usually open by sometime in June. Anyway, between that and DV heat, it's looking more and more like an extra day or two in Yosemite and a drive to vegas along the west-side of the sierras.

I'll check out your lodging suggestions. I'm hoping for some cancellations in the park in the meantime.



Jun 23, 2017 at 07:53 PM
dalite
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Need Ideas for Napa/Anderson Valley Area and Quick Road Trip from Napa to Las Vegas


The Bodega/Jenner/Guerneville loop I highly recommend as it does include Armstrong Redwoods SP in Guerneville (I doubt there are areas where you can get sunrise photos in the park). Again, Hendy Woods is too far away and not worth your precious time compared to other offerings.

Point Reyes National Park is highly recommended. The area around Drakes beach/Chimney Rock and the Lighthouse are all closer to each other than other parts of the park. But definitely stop at the Park HQ for free maps and nice things to look at about the geography and wildlife of the park. That would be a whole day trip in itself.

Yosemite if a must if you have never been there but, a this time of year, accommodations will be exceedingly difficult to obtain. Maybe tent camping if you are lucky. Some people develop the strategy of calling Yosemite Lodge reservations around 5:00 PM to see if there are any cancellations, but this means one has to be ready to move at very, very short notice.

So if it was I this is my plan: 1 day for the Sonoma coastal loop; 1 day for Point Reyes; 1 day for Calistoga/Napa and laid back time with relatives. Good luck with trip.



Jun 23, 2017 at 09:15 PM
YneGrwr
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Need Ideas for Napa/Anderson Valley Area and Quick Road Trip from Napa to Las Vegas


Josh,
I agree with dalite on his recommendations. Unless absolutely necessary I would avoid Yosemite at this time of year due to the massive number of people there. The only difference between Yosemite and Manhattan in the summer is what the canyons are made of.

Armstrong Redwood State Park near the town of Guerneville is a nice quick stop during the Bodega/Jenner/Guerneville loop. It is a small grove of redwoods with no view other than straight up. Not a sunrise /sunset location.

Pt Reyes is 2 hr drive from Calistoga and affords good wildlife viewing most of the time. And there is some landscape possibilities also. Plan on all day.

Another alternative full day trip that has lots of redwood and seascape opportunities is follow Hwy 128 north from Calistoga through the wine regions of Knights Valley & Alexander Valley, to the town of Cloverdale. Continue on hwy 128 west all the way to the coast. You will pass Hendy Woods but it is a small grove. Instead continue west to Navarro where the redwood show really begins. There are several pull outs on the road to get up close and personal and hug many trees. When you reach the coast and Hwy 1 turn south and then right into Navarro State Beach for a short stop. From there continue south on hwy 1 all the way down to Jenner. The coastline here is almost as good as Big Sur. Just past Jenner turn east on hwy 116 to Guerneville, Santa Rosa and eventually back to Calistoga.
Google Maps (https://goo.gl/maps/5Hgr91BFNfm) shows this trip as 200 miles and 5 hours drive. Realistically plan on 10 to 12 hrs to make some stops and enjoy it. Big day so start early, but this trip will give you a great taste of NorCal.
Good luck and enjoy your time here. You can PM me for additional info.

Frank

Edited on Jun 24, 2017 at 10:30 PM · View previous versions



Jun 24, 2017 at 04:28 AM
YneGrwr
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Need Ideas for Napa/Anderson Valley Area and Quick Road Trip from Napa to Las Vegas


I should also add a few words of warning about our Sonoma and Mendocino County coastline. It is nothing at all like Florida's beaches. Beautiful to look at and explore, but can be and often is deadly. Use only well established trails to get down to beaches. Dozens of people are injured or killed every year trying to get down the cliffs. Once on the beach stay away from the water. Many of the beaches drop off suddenly at the surfline where it becomes a washing machine. Stay above the wet sand line. Sleeper waves are very common. They will knock you down and pull you into the surf. Many, many deaths here every year. Watch the kids closely. A young girl was killed here today. Enjoy the view but remember it is not Florida.

Frank



Jun 24, 2017 at 05:31 AM
 

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spooky action
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Need Ideas for Napa/Anderson Valley Area and Quick Road Trip from Napa to Las Vegas




dalite wrote:
The Bodega/Jenner/Guerneville loop I highly recommend as it does include Armstrong Redwoods SP in Guerneville (I doubt there are areas where you can get sunrise photos in the park). Again, Hendy Woods is too far away and not worth your precious time compared to other offerings.

Point Reyes National Park is highly recommended. The area around Drakes beach/Chimney Rock and the Lighthouse are all closer to each other than other parts of the park. But definitely stop at the Park HQ for free maps and nice things to look at about the geography and wildlife of the park. That would
...Show more

Thanks again and thanks for the well wishes.

I will see if I can fit in the Sonoma loop; but regardless will at least do Armstrong instead of Hendy. Definitely doing Point Reyes for a full day - which I've already locked in.

I booked a tent in half dome village for the first night I'm in Yosemite. Still looking for lodging for the second, but no doubt something will open up - if not I'll try the 5:00 PM strategy. There was an availability at the Majestic, but no thanks for $620/night!

Question on lenses:

I'm bringing my usual travel fare: 20 1.8g, 24-70g, 85 1.8g, Zeiss 135 + tripod.

I'm thinking I should consider renting or short-term buying something wider, like a Zeiss or Irix 15, or even the Sigma 12-24, if only to see if I like something on the ultra-wide spectrum long-term. Does this make sense or should I just dance with the ones that brung me?



Jun 25, 2017 at 03:40 PM
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Need Ideas for Napa/Anderson Valley Area and Quick Road Trip from Napa to Las Vegas



YneGrwr wrote:
Josh,
I agree with dalite on his recommendations. Unless absolutely necessary I would avoid Yosemite at this time of year due to the massive number of people there. The only difference between Yosemite and Manhattan in the summer is what the canyons are made of.

Armstrong Redwood State Park near the town of Guerneville is a nice quick stop during the Bodega/Jenner/Guerneville loop. It is a small grove of redwoods with no view other than straight up. Not a sunrise /sunset location.

Pt Reyes is 2 hr drive from Calistoga and affords good wildlife viewing most of the time. And there is some
...Show more

Thanks, Frank. If I start getting restless in Calistoga I'll consider that longer loop up and down the coast. Navarro park is intriguing and I included it in my OP. That said, with only 5 days in the Napa area before Yosemite and one already taken by Point Reyes, I'm not sure if I'll have he time for a second full day. I go with the flow though so it's always an option.

I understand Yosemite will be mobbed, which is annoying, but I'm not sure when the next opportunity to see it will arise, so I don't want to miss this one.

Thanks for the warning on the beaches by the way. I learned about the "washing machine" (and not even what you're describing in NorCal) in Santa Monica last September. I went in the water with my 2 yr old like I always would in south Florida, and it took me about 1 minute to get back out as I didn't think i could handle him in and keep myself afloat safely.



Jun 25, 2017 at 03:57 PM
dalite
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Need Ideas for Napa/Anderson Valley Area and Quick Road Trip from Napa to Las Vegas


spooky action wrote:
I booked a tent in half dome village for the first night I'm in Yosemite. Still looking for lodging for the second, but no doubt something will open up

I was told that the numerous tents at the foot of El Capitan camground might have included several "tent squatters", i.e no camping permit so maybe you could check that out

$620 a night at the Majestic Yosemite hotel.

...but hey, they do offer free coffee in the morning.



Jun 25, 2017 at 11:41 PM
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Need Ideas for Napa/Anderson Valley Area and Quick Road Trip from Napa to Las Vegas




dalite wrote:
I was told that the numerous tents at the foot of El Capitan camground might have included several "tent squatters", i.e no camping permit so maybe you could check that out



Thanks for the idea but no need anymore - just booked the second night in a cabin*

*assuming the booking doesn't get bumped, which apparently is not uncommon

Now I just need to worry about the bears...



Jun 26, 2017 at 02:21 AM
Craig Gillette
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Need Ideas for Napa/Anderson Valley Area and Quick Road Trip from Napa to Las Vegas


Don't worry about the bears. they make loud noises to scare them away. I know I've never slept through a bear in the camp. Or actually, never slept through the noises but apparently missed the bear visit several years ago.

Watch the road closures info. some of the other passes may be open and maybe Glacier Point may still be closed?

We stayed in Petaluma and went up to the Dry Creek area near Healdsburg. But it seems likely that there are a lot of pretty vineyard areas and wineries throughout the area. The AVAs and local tourist groups have a lot of info available on visits, scenic areas.



Jun 27, 2017 at 12:42 AM
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Need Ideas for Napa/Anderson Valley Area and Quick Road Trip from Napa to Las Vegas




Craig Gillette wrote:
Don't worry about the bears. they make loud noises to scare them away. I know I've never slept through a bear in the camp. Or actually, never slept through the noises but apparently missed the bear visit several years ago.

Watch the road closures info. some of the other passes may be open and maybe Glacier Point may still be closed?

We stayed in Petaluma and went up to the Dry Creek area near Healdsburg. But it seems likely that there are a lot of pretty vineyard areas and wineries throughout the area. The AVAs and local tourist groups have
...Show more

Thanks Craig. That's the first I heard that there is Bear repellant noise! Frankly, I think I'd rather take my chances with the bears...

So far all roads seem to be open, with Tioga road opening up tomorrow.

That's a good idea to look into the AVAs and tourists groups to get ideas for scenic vistas.



Jun 29, 2017 at 03:19 AM
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Need Ideas for Napa/Anderson Valley Area and Quick Road Trip from Napa to Las Vegas


Now that I know Tioga pass will be open, can anyone suggest stop-offs on the route between there and Las Vegas.

In other words, are there stops that can be relatively quick in DV or White Mountain or elsewhere along the route? I'm thinking like Zabriskie Point or a drive into badwater basin (neither of which I've ever seen). I'm gong to research it myself, but figured I would throw it out there.

Josh



Jun 29, 2017 at 03:25 AM
Craig Gillette
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Need Ideas for Napa/Anderson Valley Area and Quick Road Trip from Napa to Las Vegas


If you go through Bishop, going south on 395 after getting to Lee Vining which would likely to be the route I would take as opposed to continuing across 120 to US 6 then south on 95 in Nevada, there is the late Galen Rowell's Mountain Light Photography gallery. There are guides on line to the Eastern Sierra and Highway 395. Depends on timing and how much of a side trip you want but there are trips up into the high country to either east or west at several points that might interest you in addition to the Bristlecone Pines. May still be hard to access but the view of the Minarets from the crest near Mammoth Mountain is worth considering. Can't offer current assessments but the store/restaurant at Tom's Place was good last time we stopped there, several nice places in Bishop for traditional good comfort/coffee shop+ foods. Keep an eye out for the elk. Last time we went through they were taking advantage of some of the irrigated fields not too far off the highway.


Jul 01, 2017 at 03:48 AM
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Need Ideas for Napa/Anderson Valley Area and Quick Road Trip from Napa to Las Vegas




Craig Gillette wrote:
If you go through Bishop, going south on 395 after getting to Lee Vining which would likely to be the route I would take as opposed to continuing across 120 to US 6 then south on 95 in Nevada, there is the late Galen Rowell's Mountain Light Photography gallery. There are guides on line to the Eastern Sierra and Highway 395. Depends on timing and how much of a side trip you want but there are trips up into the high country to either east or west at several points that might interest you in addition to the Bristlecone
...Show more

Thanks for the ideas. I did plan on driving 395 south as my route. I just did some quick research and did see a number of interesting options, from Kitsch to Nature and everything in between. It'll all depend on how much of my wife's patience is left after Yosemite (though we will be kid-free so the patience reservoir should be deeper). Bristlecone still looks like the most interesting without straying too far from the highway, so I'll focus my efforts there.

Do you have thoughts on preferred hikes for Yosemite? Having never been, I want to take full advantage, so I'm going to aim for the 4 mile + panorama trail for the 1 full day we're there. Another half day will be exploring the valley floor. Is there a hike that I shouldn't miss that I'm not considering, if only just to get away from crowds or from pure photography goodness perspective (it'll be near a full moon so I figure there's got to be some good moonlight options, too)?

Thanks.



Jul 01, 2017 at 07:17 PM
Craig Gillette
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Need Ideas for Napa/Anderson Valley Area and Quick Road Trip from Napa to Las Vegas


Not a big hiker anymore. The Four Mile/Panorama trail combo sounds great but very strenuous. One advantage would be that you wouldn't have to revisit the Vernal/Nevada Falls area again. I like wandering around the meadows area around Sentinel Bridge and over to the lodge/Swinging Bridge area. It's pretty flat so finding a parking place may be the issue then just walking about with the others will be the order of the day. Of course the prime areas of the valley will be crowded. Think about time of day and sun direction some when planning if you can.


Jul 02, 2017 at 05:09 AM







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