California as a whole was something both Elliot and I had looked forward to, but the weather and the road closures really put a damper on our plans for the West Coast. We had both really looked forward to driving up the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) but since California has been in a drought for over 5 years and has all of a sudden been getting rainfall the state has had a lot on their plate with road closures due to rock slides. Our original plans were to drive from Southern California to Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite National Parks. However as we were getting ready to leave we realized the parks were getting a ton of snow, so there would be little visibility to sight-see. Instead we changed our plans to head up to Big Sur, which as exciting as that was for us it ended up being a trek and a half to drive up, even though it should’ve only taken us an hour or so. Apparently a rock slide took out most of the highway, making it completely unable to travel. We took the detour up to Santa Cruz then went south from there.
Santa Cruz didn’t have too much for us, we checked out their boardwalk then continued south to the 17-mile drive through Pebble Beach.The drive had so many vantage points, and even though the weather wasn’t exactly holding up we still got amazing views of the seascapes and clouds. From there we went to Big Sur and drove until the highway was closed. The views on the California coast were amazing! Through the whole coastline there are many vantage points, but if you look hard enough you can make your way down to the beaches to check out the rough waves from a closer standpoint. We got a bit too close and our hiking shoes got soaked with ocean water! Since every campground within Big Sur charges $60 for you to pitch a tent or they were closed due to flood damage we ended up driving pretty far back towards Sequoia for a cheap campsite. It worked out because we were going to Sequoia National Park the next morning anyways.
We still weren’t sure about the weather that Sequoia would hold for us but I knew I couldn’t miss out on seeing the trees, so we grabbed some required snow chains and made our way into the park. Initially when you’re driving up to where the Sequoia trees are you go up a few thousand feet in elevation. We’ve been up on high elevations on our road trip quite a few times already but not as quickly as we made our way up the (very cold) mountain; my body seriously noticed. Elevation sickness isn’t a joke, and if you need to rest you should definitely suck it up and do it. There weren’t many trails open due to the recent snowfall so we made the best of what we could do and made sure to visit General Sherman, the worlds largest tree, and climbed up to Moro Rock to view the park from the clouds.
Unfortunately, the highway between Sequoia and King’s Canyon was closed, so I missed out on seeing King’s Canyon but we were able to circle around to get to Yosemite National Park. We camped right outside of the park for free in a snow-play area, there wasn’t any snow so we were there by ourselves which is always nice. The next morning we made a short drive into the park and maneuvered our way around their construction. We finally got situated then hiked up to see Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls.
Seeing the falls right after the recent snowfall was amazing! Elliot had seen Vernal Falls in person in the past, but he saw it in summer so there wasn’t as much water. With the snow melting off the mountain peaks and combined with the sunny day it ended up being the perfect mix and we were able to see rainbows in the waterfall! While almost the entire hike was up a staircase it kept you guessing where you should put your foot next. There was a ton of mist coming off of the falls, so everywhere you set your foot was slippery, not to mention the water that was dripping from the cliffs above you! After passing Vernal Falls there aren’t nearly as many people that you have to navigate through, so the extra steps up to Nevada Falls were certainly worth it for us.
Yosemite was extremely crowded for our taste, but we were able to escape it for a little bit at the higher falls. We made the best of our day before making our way to San Francisco. There was definitely a lot more that we could’ve seen in the park if we had more time, but we’ll definitely make our way back sometime soon!