I had an epic 9-day trip driving and car camping across northern California with my friend Calley, my Subaru Outback I call Tron and my Canon 6D Mark ii I call Bear. We covered a lot of ground and made multiple stops along the way to see more remarkable landmarks. Our driving days were long, constantly winding up and down through the mountains (do not recommend if you get car sick) but it was all worth it. No driving distance can phase me now. So here's where we went; brace yourself, we did a lot.
Pitstop | Red Rock Canyon
This was a great first stop to stretch the legs and see some cool red rocks you'd almost think you're in Arizona territory.
Destination - Inyo National Forest
We tried off-roading with Tron the best we could being first timers. It was intense!
We went to the lovely town of Bishop for food and craft beer at Mountain Rambler Brewery.
We did not have a campsite reserved and all the first-come first serve sites were full by 11am. Luckily we were ready to car camp and stayed in the Hikers Overnight parking lot (which was where our main hike, Big Pine Lakes, started).
Trekked up into the mountains on a 14 mile hike through the Big Pine Lakes. At 10,000 ft in elevation, the lakes were breathtaking sitting just below mountains with ice cold water from the melted mountain snow.
Destination | Mammoth
Made it to Wild Willy's Hot Springs just in time for sunset bathing. Because we were here on a holiday weekend, there were a lot of families. Other weekends it's a more free spirited place (clothing optional), granted we did see one birthday suit man.
The springs were off a road not labeled in a type of campground area. We saw some 4-wheel vehicles parked in the unmarked land so we decided to follow suit (easy when car camping). We had 360 views of mountains!
Our first National Monument stop on the trip was Devil's Postpile, a crazy natural rock formation. We continued walking further on the trail to see Rainbow Falls.
Tip, if you plan to stop at more than one national monument / park, purchase the National Parks year pass. It's only $80 and you get unlimited access (vs. $20 per car entrance, sometimes more depending on the park)
Next time I'd stay longer and do mountain biking in the Mammoth mountains.
Pitstop | Natural Bridges Cavern
At first, the cave looked like a shallow pool area. But once we got in our donut floats, we realized it was a tunnel cave! It was completely dark in the middle of the cave. I was brave and brought my phone for a flash light (reco to bring head lamps). Definitely a cool experience especially on a hot day. We also floated further down in the small river and "showered." Realized we weren't getting showers in our campsites any time soon so we used our resources!
After this, we stopped in a cute town, Sonora, for tacos and beers at Sonory Brewery.