california

California Road Trip III - Yosemite to San Francisco

Hello,

welcome back to the last part of our California road trip. We started almost two weeks ago in Los Angeles, drove along the coast on the famous Highway One all the way up to Nevada, danced in the desert at Burning Man and jumped into the blue waters of Lake Tahoe. Before heading back to San Francisco there was one last stop we were really looking forward to: Yosemite National Park.

 

Driving down from the North we first passed Washoe Lake and Mono Lake shortly after. The land was still very dry and the water was pretty low. We stopped at the lake for a quick lunch-break, but water levels were way to low to swim and we still had a long way ahead of us so we decided to move on.

Our entry point for Yosemite was Tioga Pass in the east of the Valley. It’s California’s highest highway peaking at almost 10.000ft. The road went on for about 30 miles along steep cliffs and cold and black lakes, until we finally reached Tenaya Lake. The sun was already starting to set so we set up camp for the night.

Next morning we got up early to watch the sunrise at Olmsted Point. From Olmsted Point you have a fantastic view over the slightly less frequently seen east side of Half Dome. As the sun slowly started to rise the cold of the night quickly vanished. Since we were so early we pretty much were the only people around, very peaceful start of the day.

Before heading down into Yosemite Valley we took a detour to Smith Peak and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Hetch Hetchy is sometimes referred to as the “Small Yosemite”, however it doesn’t lack any of its beauty. The scale of the dam that divides the valley is quite impressive, surrounded by sharp cliffs and forests.

Even though the nights were pretty cold with temperatures dropping to less than 10°C the days were still very hot. So after the trip to the reservoir we took a break at the creek, went swimming and had some lunch. Most of the surround area of Yosemite was surprisingly empty, for most of the day we didn’t encounter a lot of people.

In the late afternoon we finally arrived at Yosemite Valley. The sight when driving the winding roads down into the valley is quite spectacular. The beauty of the whole place is simply unimaginable. Particularly at sunrise and sunset the entire valley gets covered a very magical warm orange light. The way the light wraps around the cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome is an unbelievable sight unlike any other place I’ve seen.

We wanted to spend sunset at the famous Half Dome View. But after dinner and seeing the sun set behind the mountains we were quite tired so we stayed there for the night. The next morning turned out to be even better, also far less people. We were pretty much the only one around, having our morning coffee overlooking the whole valley.

After pancakes down at the creek we wanted to hike to Vernal Fall in the west of the valley. In our travel guide this was supposed to be one of the easier hikes, however it turned out to be more challenging than expected. The last half mile of the 2.5 miles in total was pretty steep and the ground very slippery. Nevertheless the view was absolutely worth it. Returning to the valley in the late afternoon we went for another swim before driving to Tunnel View, another famous Yosemite viewpoint that can be seen on many postcards.

For our last day we had booked quite a treat for ourself: A flight over Yosemite Valley. We took of in a small Cessna from Mariposa Airport at 7:30am. The light was just perfect, the sun just creeping over the mountain tops of Half Dome and El Capitan and the morning haze gently covering the valley into a blue glow. Only from up there you can get a sense of the true scale of Yosemite, an absolutely incredible and humbling experience. We flew with Airborrn Aviation, which I can highly recommend. Our pilot was super helpful, showed us all the good spots and steered the plane so we could get the best possible angle for the photos. It was also just the three of us in the plane so we had plenty of space. Fantastic experience, highly recommended!

Sadly every great trip has to come to an end eventually. Our journey though California ended quite sunny in San Francisco. After returning our RV we took a cab into the city centre to our hotel. We didn’t have a lot of time to do this great city justice, just about 24 hours. So we quickly rented some e-bikes from Jump and cycled down to docks and the pier. The sun was almost setting and we had to learn the hard way that San Francisco is a lot cooler than the rest of California. Shorts and shirts were definitely far to cold so we decided to call it a day and returned to our hotel.

The next day started typically wet and foggy. We took our chances and headed to Twin Peaks, but the sight was completely zero so went back down, had breakfast and jumped back on the e-bikes. Electric bikes work like a charm on the hilly streets of San Francisco. We had them for about 6 hours and we almost cycled 25 miles all the way and back to the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge.

It’s been an absolutely incredible two weeks, so many experiences far outside of our comfort zones. We’ve met so many incredible welcoming and helpful people, seen so many beautiful places. RV road trips definitely moved up a lot of my bucket list. America is big and there’s lots more to see. We will be back, promise.

Hope you enjoyed this blog post, if you like to read more about our road trip through California check out our trip along the Highway One, Burning Man and Lake Tahoe. You can also follow us on Instagram and Twitter for more frequent updates.

See you soon!

California Road Trip I - Highway 1

Hi,

900 miles in 3 days. That was the plan, to go from Los Angeles along the Highway 1, past Sacramento and Reno all the way up north to Burning Man at Black Rock City. As it was our first time steering a RV that was longer and wider than any other vehicle I' had driven before, this was without a doubt quite an endeavour.

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So after after an 11 hour flight and a short night in a hotel near LAX we picked up our camper van which was supposed to be our home for the next two weeks. We quickly realized that a 21 feet vehicle is far from ideal for the streets of LA so we left the city of stars behind us and headed north onto the famous Highway One.

It took a little while to get the hang of this new way of travelling but once you get used to it it’s great fun. Being able to stop almost everywhere and cook, make coffee or sleep is quite amazing.

The Californian coast is incredibly scenic and diverse. The road takes you along waterfalls and white beaches, steep cliffs and bridges, green fields and orange plantations. The warm and dry climate is very comfortable, and once we left the LA traffic behind us the roads became quieter. It’s a very easy going highway, windows down and music on. Sadly the jet-lag was still in full swing, so we both were very pretty relieved after we reached our first campsite after around 200 miles.

The next day started early and grey. It was still dark when we left the campground but the daily target was almost 300 miles so we had to get on the road.

After around 50 miles we reached the Elephant Seal Vista Point. After coffee and breakfast at the beach including some seal watching we continued the Highway 1 towards the Big Sur.

The Big Sur is the the central coastline of California, stretching between San Simeon in the South and Carmel in the North. It is considered one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, and it can be a very touristy area. Luckily outside of public holidays at the end of August we had the road to our-self most of the times.

Along the highway there are plenty of view points. We pretty much drove and stopped whenever we liked, most vista points have free parking and lots of space for RVs.

Just after lunch the sky cleared up and the sun came out. We wanted to stop at Carmel-By-The-Sea for an afternoon break. Carmel is a small village dedicated to arts and crafts, very pretty and quite laid-back. There are plenty of artisan shops and galleries, also there’s beautiful white sand beach.

Just outside of Carmel begins the Point Lobos State Reserve, a small national park along the coast. It costs about 17$ entry per vehicle but definitely worth the visit. As it’s located with a large section of the coast facing west it was the perfect spot for sunset.

So we fired up the stove in the camper and probably had one of the best sunset-dinners at the beach of the whole trip, including breathtaking ocean view.

The next day started warm and sunny. We heavy-heartedly left the ocean road and set course towards land-inwards Sacramento. The landscape quickly changed to a vibrant orange and the curvy highway became much steeper. After around 200 miles we reached Tahoe National Forest and lush grasslands changed to impressive mountain ranges. Some of the passes have an elevation of almost 6000ft, but our RV slowly fought his way up the roads until we eventually reached Crystal Lake.

After a lunch-break and a swim in the lake we continued west along the Eisenhower Highway, past the picturesque Donner Lake and plenty of ski resorts. We hadn’t booked a campsite so we just tried or luck at a campground at the Boca Reservoir. That area had multiple campsites and luckily all of them were pretty much empty. So we picked a nice spot for the night just by the lake.

A lot of the campsites in the National Parks operate on a first come first serve policy. Also most of them are self service, so if you find an empty spot (there’s usually a little sign that tells you if a spot is reserved already) just put the amount for the night in a little safe box at the entrance and put the receipt under the windshield.

Wild bears are still quite common and visit campsites frequently, most of the times attracted by human food. So be advised to never leave open canisters of food as well as any rubbish outside. If you’re in a tent, most campsites have dedicated food storage boxes.

Coming from a big city the night sky was particularly impressive. Far away from any light pollution the sky was filled with millions of starts, even the Milkyway was visible to the naked eye.

The next day should be a big day for us, the reason why we traveled so far in the first place. We would finally make our way to Black Rock City to attend the Burning Man. There was just another 300miles between us and the probably craziest festival in the world. You can read all about it in our blog post What it’s like at Burning Man. Also if you want to see more frequent updates please follow us on Instagram and Twitter.

See you soon!