Can you believe we went to three national parks in one weekend? We drove further through the sunshine state to cross off more places from our bucket list. We continued our journey to see all of the National Parks in the US!
This week, we explored some of the best places in Northern California. We spent the week connecting with friends we rarely get to see and we spent the weekend immersed in nature. It was a special week full of highlights that we will remember for the rest of our time!
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Table of Contents
Where We Went this Week
Palo Alto & Mountain View
We exited the Pacific Coast Highway and detoured to the Mountain View and Palo Alto area. Dylan and I are lucky enough to have a couple best friends in the area. We slept in front of their places at night and during the days we worked from the comfort of their homes.
Seeing good friends always puts a smile on my face and we were both feeling the love all week. Some of the highlights included watching the Super Bowl with delicious munchies, walking our god dog with Dylan’s best friend, getting amazing ramen at Ramen Nagi, walking with a friend on Stanford’s campus, and eating homemade pizza with our best friends. Also, I was able to go on a date with one of my best friends during the days where she took me to one of her favorite places, Half Moon Bay. We walked along the coast having some heart to hearts before grabbing delicious burritos at Taqueria Tres Amigos.
We concluded the week of seeing loved ones, by grabbing dinner with Dylan’s mom. She happened to be in town for work, which was a delightful coincidence. We were so happy to be together and share in a delicious meal of Mediterranean cuisine at Lokanta Grill. Our hearts were full and we were ready to head off once again into the wildnerness.
On Friday, we went to one of the coolest phenomena in the US. Firefall only happens two weeks out of the year in Yosemite National Park (NP #17). Horsetail Falls is a seasonal waterfall in the park that only flows during the winter and early spring. During two weeks of February the sunset light hits the falls at the exact angle to make them look like they are on fire.
We decided to try and catch this phenomenon ourselves. We drove to the park on Friday and took the special shuttle they run to the drop off point. Just glimpsing Yosemite was magical and made us excited to go back. The landscapes are so vast that I felt tiny and insignificant. From the drop off point, we walked for 1.5 miles to get to the area where you can view the falls. There were hundreds of people camped out with chairs, snacks, and their tripods set up ready to view the spectacular show.
Dylan and I found a spot with a good view amongst the crowd and met up with a couple of our friends. We were honestly a little disappointed when it happened. I think the prescribed burns in the area made the falls a little dull. It all lasted one minute and then completely disappeared. Overall, we were still glad we went and can’t wait to return.
That evening, we grabbed pizza with our friends and then went to a dive bar in Oakhurst. This was the quintessential local dive bar. People were jamming out on the karaoke mic and others were hanging around playing pool. I hadn’t been to a bar in so long and it was honestly such a fun night and the perfect way to end our night.
Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Park
On Saturday, we drove into Kings Canyon National Park (NP #18). This park is right next to Sequoia National Park and there is a highway that runs between the two, but it is closed in the wintertime. There were a bunch of prescribed burns in the area, which made the park hazy. It was still beautiful, but we only spent a morning there because we couldn’t hike in those conditions.
From there, we drove two hours (because the highway was closed) to get to Sequoia National Park (NP #19). Along the way, we passed hundred of orange and olive trees, so we had to stop for fresh fruit. We went to a fresh fruit stand and got the most delicious mango and pineapple covered in chile sauce and tajin. It was so tasty. Then, we saw a long line for Sierra’s Subs right outside of Sequoia and we stopped again. I had to wait in line for half an hour before finally getting the food. The sandwiches smelled so good that we devoured them right away.
After eating our fill, we continued into the park. We drove up the steep and windy road past the mountains and up into the Giant Forest. Sequoia was so much more beautiful than I had ever pictured it. The trees tower above and the mountain scenery is stunning. I loved it, but I didn’t love the crowds that prevented us from parking in many spots. That day we got to walk under the Sequoias on the Big Trees Trail and catch a stunning sunset on the way back down to town.
We found a spot to camp right outside the park by a trailhead. It was peaceful and we passed out for 10 hours of sleep. We woke up early to get into the park and visit the trails that we missed the day before. First stop was General Sherman (the largest tree in the world!) and the Congress Trail. Dylan and I donned our microspikes and played amongst the grand trees. Then, we hiked to the famous tunnel log to snag a pic under the hollowed out tree.
We were blown away by this park and its magnificence. We hope to return one day to do the trails that we didn’t have time for. After hiking through the park, we drove down the mountain and along the Kern River. We stopped to check out a couple hot springs that were so crowded it was honestly not very fun. It was cool to see them, but we wouldn’t do it again. We slept at a free campground in Barstow, which was beautiful but also super windy. We will have to come back to enjoy it in nicer weather.
After our quick jaunt in California, it was time to make our way back East! I can’t wait to see where we end up next.
Where We Stayed
- Outside of our Friend’s Houses in Mountain View & Palo Alto
- Spot outside of Yosemite National Park (37.81038,-119.89581)
- Walmart Sanger (36.70556,-119.57553)
- Trailhead near Sequoia National Park (36.45301,-118.86975)
- Sawtooth Canyon BLM Campground (34.67384,-116.98254)
Did you enjoy Van Chronicles #5: Palo Alto, Firefall, & Sequoia National Park? Don’t forget to pin it to save for later!