On our way home from backpacking Ediza and Thousand Island Lakes in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, we added a day for Lassen Volcanic National Park. Because of smoke from wildfires, we decided on a day of short walks and hikes combined with stops at various viewpoints, rather than climbing Lassen Peak.
For the first part of our July 2021 Cascades and Sierra Nevada roadtrip, we visited central Oregon, stopping in Bend, Newberry Volcanic National Monument, and Crater Lake National Park. Each of these destinations merited more time than we had, but we still enjoyed the three days we had to explore.
One summer at Cold River Camp, another guest presented on backpacking the Muir Trail and through the Ansel Adams Wilderness. This presentation inspired our summer 2016 backpacking trip from Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley. The image that most stayed in my mind, though, was a sunset photo at Thousand Island Lake.
Kyle & I finally visited in July 2021, stopping at Newberry National Volcanic Monument and Crater Lake National Park on the way there, and Lassen Volcanic National Park on the way back. This made for a one-week road trip with three days of backpacking in the middle.
Compared to the photo that inspired our trip, the sunset over Thousand Island Lake sunset was muted, but it was still excellent.
While a graduate student, I was fortunate to tack a couple of days in Yosemite National Park onto the end of a conference. That was enough time to hike up Half Dome (this was in the days before permits) and to explore Yosemite Valley. While stunning, I knew I had just scratched the surface of the Yosemite’s wonders.
I later saw a slide show of a hike along the John Muir Trail, which further motivated me to return. Kyle and I talked with friends–Joe and Jeremy–about a proposed trip. We decided to focus on the section from Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley. This would take us to Cathedral Lakes, Sunrise Lakes, Clouds Rest, and Half Dome.
We set about applying to permits by fax. On our third try, we secured permits for our desired route for 21-24 July 2016.
After visiting Zion, Arches, and Canyonlands on previous long fall weekends, Bryce Canyon called to us as the next destination. I had fond memories of visiting Bryce as a child, and Kyle had never been. Despite both of us having colds, we enjoyed three days of hiking in Bryce and a stop at Cedar Breaks National Monument on the way back to the airport.
We love Seattle, but by February or March, we’re craving some sunlight, warmth, and outside time. Conveniently, it’s easy to get to Hawaii from the west coast. In March 2015, we headed to Maui for a week of hikes, food, and beaches. We moved around between Hana, Lahaina, and Kula so that we could explore different parts of the island.
After the previous year’s enjoyable fall escape to Zion, we decided to escape the onset of Seattle’s rainy fall with a trip Moab, Utah. (We saved Bryce for a future visit.) Moab offered the chance to explore Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and could be reached by an easy, direct flight to Salt Lake City followed by a four hour drive.
Our visit included two days of hiking in Canyonlands–one in the Island in the Sky and one in the Needles District–and two days exploring Arches, including the Fiery Furnace, Devil’s Garden, Delicate Arch and Windows Arch. We also enjoyed three breathtaking sunrises at Mesa Arch, Delicate Arch, and the Windows.
Visiting in the fall meant that we got to see the most popular spots without the high-season crowds. We also got to do some hikes that the Park Service and others recommend against doing in the hot summer, including Druid Arch and Syncline Loop.
If you hike, fall is one of the best times to visit the southwest. Crowds have thinned, the days are cooler, and small spots of fall color can light up the canyons even more. Frequent summer thunderstorms can become less frequent. The days are shorter. You have to make good use of your limited daylight, but it makes it easier to catch sunrises and sunsets and to enjoy the stars.
To take advantage of this, we visited Zion National Park in November 2015, spending a day and a half in the Zion Canyon section, a day in Kolob Canyons, a day in the Subway, and a beautiful morning on the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway.