Friday, July 19, 2013

Zion- Great Basin - Lake Tahoe- Eastern Sierra Road Trip From San Diego

We recently took a road trip from San Diego that covered three main areas: Zion National Park (UT), Great Basin National Park (NV), Lake Tahoe (NV and CA) and the Eastern Sierra(CA). Here is the itinerary of our 10-day trip for those who may be looking for an adventure filled vacation.

Day 1- Long Drive from San Diego to Zion National Park, Utah ( 470 miles, about 7 hours drive Northeast)
The Virgin River with Angel's Landing in the Background ( by the Grotto Trailhead )
How do we make long drive feel shorter? We entertain ourselves with roadside scenery and we talk about anything under the sun. We make stops if needed, so the 7 hour drive went by so quickly. When we reached Zion National Park, we did not feel like hiking from the long drive and also because of the heat, instead, we just took the Zion Bus and tour the park like most tourists do. We stopped in several points, such as the Grotto trailhead, to simply enjoy reminiscing the hike we did before, that is Angel's Landing, that tall, thin monolith in the background. Hiking Angel's Landing is one of our favorite National Park hikes.

we stayed at: Zion National Park ( 1 night )

Day 2: Hiking The Narrows, Visit Cedar Breaks National Monument, and then, drive to Beaver, Utah for one night.
A. Hiking The Narrows
We have hiked "The Narrows" before, we loved it so much that we always dreamed of doing it again. Though this was our 2nd hike in the Narrows, it totally still was very enjoyable and provided us with different experience.
Hiking The Narrows ( this is already at Orderville Canyon), Zion National Park, Utah
B. Drive from Zion National Park to Cedar Breaks National Monument ( 75 miles, about 1 hour and 40 minutes drive North )
Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah
Our stop at Cedar Breaks National Monument is just very strategic for us, since we are moving North to Great Basin National Park, in Nevada ( but close to Utah-Nevada border). We did not want to drive long in the dark, so we chose Beaver, Utah as our stop-over for a night of rest. 
C. Drive from Cedar Breaks National Monument to Beaver, Utah ( 50 miles, about an hour drive North )

we stayed at: Beaver, Utah ( 1 night )

Day 3: Drive from Beaver, Utah to Great Basin National Park, Nevada ( 115 miles, about 2 hours drive )
One very positive observation we had when driving on this road to Great Basin, people were not in a hurry, no reason for road rage, no one attempted to pass us despite we wee enjoying the scenery of the drive ( meaning, we followed every speed limit posted, where in most highways, if you drive at the speed limit, you are slowest and people blow horn at you!). When we reached Great Basin National Park, we first reserved for Lehman's Cave tour, had lunch at the park cafeteria, then, it was our time to explore Lehman Caves.
 Lehman Cave, Great Basin National Park, Nevada 
After the cave tour, we drove the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive and hike the Alpine Lakes Loop Trail.
a hike is never complete without taking photos :) this is at Teresa Lake, and you can see the Wheeler Peak in the background
After the hike, we did a lot of photographing at Wheeler's Peak Scenic Drive, taking in the serenity of the Great Basin ( a desert basin) below. Because I try to limit the length of this post, I will share more details of our exploration sometime later.

After sunset, we checked in our hotel, and had dinner. After dinner, we checked the stars outside, and to our amazement, stars were just everywhere. It also was our first glimpse of the Milky Way. 
The Milky Way, Great Basin National Park, Nevada
How excited we were to see the Milky Way, the galaxy that contains our solar system. For my husband's niece, it was a long time dream of her to see and experience the Milky Way. The joy was priceless on seeing the Milky Way for the very first time, a real treat for us who lives in the city, where the Milky Way is no longer visible due to city's light pollution. 

we stayed at: Baker, Nevada ( 5 miles from the Great Basin National Park entrance, the nearest place for lodging from the park ) for 2 nights

Day 4: @ Great Basin National Park, we hiked the Bristlecone and Glacier Trail ( 6 miles round trip, 1200 ft ascent )
 Left: Several Thousands Years old Bristlecone, Right: A baby bristlecone, at maybe 400 years old
This hike is such an eye-opener for us. It has always been in my bucket list to be up close this ancient forest, where the oldest living things on Earth still live. The oldest bristlecone is more than 5,000 years old, and amazing to see them in such rocky region, full of glacial moraines. We learned these amazing trees hardly die from disease, they mostly outlive the mountains where they stand, dying only when all the soil erodes exposing their roots. Amazing, that in this desert, the oldest living things continue to survive all the harsh tests of time, and a glacier (mostly buried in rocks or glacial moraines), still continue to thrive and shape this land. 
Hiking to Rock Glacier, Great Basin National Park, Nevada
From afar, it may look like all eroded rocks ( eroded by erosion and glacier ), but looking deeply, there were beautiful wildflowers adorning the rocks! Nature's garden, at its best!
 What does the bristlecone trees tell us? That the oldest living thing on Earth is not the one who lives in the most pleasant conditions, but is the one who is able to withstand all the harsh tests of time! Exposed to harsh elements, it's amazing that a baby tree is already 400 years old! Indeed, 400 years old is a baby compared to 5000+ years old! More about this trail and bristlecone in my later posts.

Again, we ended the night watching the Milky Way, and it was such a lifetime treat!

Day 5: We left Great Basin National Park for a long drive to Lake Tahoe. ( 400 miles, about 7 hours drive West )
From the oldest living thing on Earth and Nevada's only glacier, we passed a sand mountain along Highway 50, on our drive to Lake Tahoe from Great Basin.
Sand Mountain, Nevada
The 7 hour drive went very fast, before we knew it, we are already in the Lake Tahoe area.
Emerald Bay State Park, South Lake Tahoe, CA

we stayed at: Minden, Nevada ( stayed for 2 nights), because of last minute accommodations, we could no longer get accommodations anywhere in South Lake Tahoe.

Day 6: We explored all of Lake Tahoe, from California side to Nevada side. 
We started with a hike to Eagle Lake, in the Desolation Wilderness of Emerald Bay State Park, had fun taking a dip in the water ( by the waterfall, river, and lake), and then, drove around Lake Tahoe ( 60 mile loop in all ) for sight seeing and for taking in the beauty of Lake Tahoe in all parts. :)
 Hiking @ Desolation Wilderness, Emerald Bay State Park, California
Boulder Hopping at Sand Harbor State Park, Nevada

Day 7: left Lake Tahoe for Lee Vining, California ( 91 miles, about 1 hour 40 minutes drive South )
At Lee Vining, we met my cousin and my friend who took off from their busy life in Los Angeles to join us in this stretch. We first explored Yosemite National Park, and it felt so good to be back in Yosemite, after 5 years!
 Yosemite National Park, California ( close to Tuolomne Meadows )
We had so much fun in Tenaya lake ( pictures later), jumping to our heart's content and later at the Valley. Actually, our group jumping picture all started during our trip in Alaska, where there were also five of us. Since it was our sort of reunion, we again kept the practice of jumping for fun when we were reunited 2 years later, we call it "The Fab 5 Reunion!" Here is a picture of the Fab 5 minus 1 ( the other one was the one taking our group jumping picture )
The Fab 5 Minus One Reunion After 2 years at Tenaya Lake, Yosemite National Park, California
After exploring Yosemite ( in the High Sierra and the Valley - more pictures and details later), we had dinner at Lee Vining, checked in at our hotel, and then, drove to Mono Lake for our Mono Lake Milky Way.
The Fab 5 ( Us, hehe ) Enjoying the Milky Way @ Mono Lake
( more pictures of Mono Lake and Milky Way at later posts )
We stayed at: Lee Vining, California ( for 3 nights )

Day 8: We hiked at Twenty Lakes Basin 5- 8 mile loop trail in Yosemite High Sierra/Lee Vining.
Again, we had so much fun in this hike, enjoying all the snow in the middle of summer. 
The Power of the Lake Was Pulling Me To It
Looking Down @ Shamrock Lake, Twenty Lakes Basin Trail
After the hike, we had dinner again at Lee Vining, then, went to Mono Lake again for sunset and Milky Way. 
Mono Lake South Tufa State Reserve, Lee Vining, California ( at sunset )
Again, we ended the night ( about 10 pm) watching the Milky Way at Mono Lake.

day 9: Devil's Postpile National Monument Hike and Rainbow Falls ( this is a 4 mile hike, I forgot the change in elevation ) at Mammoth Lakes which is about 20 miles South of Lee Vining. Again, this was another fun hike.
Rainbow Falls, Devil's Postpile National Monument, Mammoth Lakes, California
 The Fab 5 Minus 1 @ Rainbow Falls
The Other 1, Our Photographer, My lifetime hiking and adventure partner :)

Again, after this hike, we had dinner at Lee Vining, and spent sunset and early night ( to 10 pm ) to watch the Milky Way at Mono Lake.

Day 10: Long drive from Lee Vining back to San Diego ( 400 miles, about 6 hours drive Southwest )
Again, the drive was not long because of the roadside scenery. Some sights we saw were slowing us down, perhaps, tempting us to stay longer?
It Sure Was Very hard For Us to Pass This Sight, 10 days too short, but physically, we were tired, our body needed much much rest from all the hiking and Milky Way nights :)

Here is the map of our trip:
B- Zion National Park, Utah
C- Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah
D- Beaver, Utah
E- Great Basin National Park, Nevada
F- Lake Tahoe, Nevada/California
G- Lee Vining, California
not shown ( A and H)- San Diego, home sweet home

 In my next posts, I will share more details about the places we hiked and explored in this 10 day road trip, hiking and adventure vacation.
Facebook Twitter StumbleUpon Digg Delicious Reddit Technorati Mixx Linkedin


  1. You're such a great adventurer! Your photos are always breath-taking!

  2. I really love your adventures Ate Beth, exploring the narrow path would be my favorite of all of them!

    1. The sand mountain would just give my feet the longing that I have ever since I came here in the mountainous region.

  3. You always amaze me with your so many interesting adventure.

  4. Wow!!!!! Speechless here wonderwoman!!!!! what an amazing adventure!!! Love your shot jumping from boulder to boulder! and the Milky Way oh am eyes are bulging out not to mention all the blueness here!!!!! ;)

  5. simply breathtaking, can I come next time along! I am in love with your pics+intinerary...happy sunday!

  6. An adventure that not many can make. Awww...

  7. Ms. Betchai,
    Thanks for always sharing the beauty of your part of the world.

    Ganda naman nung slow shutter shot ;-)

  8. I've been in Zion National PArk 2 years ago. My husband loves to go in Cave/caverns and that's the first thing he check if we were new in the area. All your photos are breathtaking and beautiful,Betchai.

  9. That is really cool to have friends with the same interests. It is hard to find that kind of friendship.

  10. This is what we call TRIP and TRAVEL... Breathtaking views and exciting adventure rolled into one!

  11. Wow! that long hours of travelling Sis is worth :-) I love all your pictures especially the water falls :-) It makes me want to go underneath it. You always take amazing pictures and I am sure by now you know that I am one of your fans.

  12. Parang National Geographic docu lang eh. sis, you always brings us awesome photos.

  13. You always amaze me Ate! Not only because you are so adventurous, but because you take such great pics and visited amazing places such as this. Ahhh! Would be nice to be able to come there. Breathtaking! ♥

  14. i am running out of words with how i admire your great adventures, it always amaze me. your pictures are all gorgeous and thanks for sharing to us how lovely those places were. bring me on your next journey? hehehe! :)

  15. Ikaw na ang super energized ate! Ikaw na ang always may time to do these things..

  16. Those photos of the girls are so wonderful. Looks as if those jumps were quite high too. smiles.

  17. Everything's so refreshing, Te Betchai! I miss you Te Betchai and my daily visits here. It is always a joy to see your beautiful photographs. Breathtaking photos as always!

    Love and hugs!