Mount Watkins—stunning views above Yosemite Valley

August 5, 2023

East Yosemite

I drove up from Mammoth Lakes. I passed the massive Mono Lake in total darkness, turning off the main road and climbing towards Tioga Pass. Around 5 am I entered the park, passing through Tuolumne Meadows and towards the upper rim of Yosemite Valley. Finally, I arrived at a small dirt parking area, where my hike began.

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Cinder Cone Nature Trail (Lassen NP)

October 24, 2020

Arrival at Butte Lake

California lays claim to nine national parks, as of 2021—more than any other state. Some parks attract millions of annual visitors: Yosemite and Joshua Tree clocked 4.4mn and 3.0mn visitors, as of 2019. Luckily for NorCal adventurers, Lassen Volcanic flies comparatively under the radar. The park has seen just over half a million visitors, annually, over the past few years.

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The Dragon’s Back Trail to Mammoth Mountain

Mammoth Mountain's massive gondola span, seen from the Dragon's Back Trail

August 2, 2020, Twin Lakes Campground/Dragon’s Back Trailhead

Twin Lakes

I snagged a pretty excellent parking spot in an otherwise fully packed lot at Twin Lakes Campground. I arrived mid-morning on a peak late-summer Sunday. The place was humming with campers and paddlers and hikers. The journey began with a walk across a bridge between the two “twin lakes” towards the various camping and RV spots under tree cover. The scene was gorgeous, with a broad stream of water cascading down grassy boulders into the lake below.

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