California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies

In late June I returned to California for the third time this year. There’s just something about the sunny state that keeps drawing me back. My husband and I had a 10-day adventure planned that would see us traverse from the beach to the mountains and back to the beach again.

California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies

California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies

There were many trip highlights, though one day in particular really stood out… We were dead asleep when our alarm went off at the end of our dark tent. It was 5 am and we were exhausted from multiple late nights and early mornings shooting in the best light Yosemite had to offer. But that golden light was calling so we crawled out of our warm sleeping bags and into the frosty morning.

That morning we decided to explore the many meadows that make the Yosemite valley so picturesque. It was the start of peak season and the day before the park had been buzzing with people. Being up before the crowds and having the valley almost to ourselves was just part of the magic. The meadows glowed and invited us to explore, shoot way too many images, and then stop for breakfast with those ginormous granite walls surrounding us in nearly every direction.

California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies

The glowy morning turned into searing hot sunshine. We retreated to a secret watering hole some locals had told us about. We sat in the refreshing shallow pool with the water cascading down the granite wall behind us, whilst looking out over the valley.

After cooling off we met up with a friend from social media, Christina Warburg, to shoot the sunset. This is one of my favorite things about social media. We hadn’t met Christina before that afternoon, but by the end of the night, we had made an awesome new friend. We all jumped into one car and set out exploring.

We first stumbled along a meadow filled with wildflowers and naturally had to stop and take it all in. Springtime was in full bloom up along Glacier Point road. The sky was looking promising for an epic sunset so we moved on to a lookout just before Glacier Point.

California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies

And what a sunset! We witnessed lightening in the distance, a rainbow next to Half Dome and then the sky exploded into every shade of pink, purple, orange and yellow. We retreated back to our campsite absolutely buzzing and once again set our alarm for 5 am. Needless to say, we were high on life but incredibly tired after 10 days of living like this.

Some other trip highlights included stand-up paddle boarding in Santa Barbara, hilltop sunrise soaks near Mammoth Lakes, and sleeping under the stars at Alabama Hills.

We were treated to another out-of-this-world sunset at our campsite in Alabama Hills. To the east, there was a dooming lightening storm, to the west a distant glowing grass fire, and all around us was the most insanely fluorescent yellow and pink sky. I sat journalling and pinching myself because surely skies like that can’t be real?! We fell asleep to the starry sky through the mesh of our tent, enjoying the complete solitude before sunrise beckoned again.

Here are some more images from the trip

California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies

California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies

California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies

California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies

California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies

California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies

California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies

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In late June I returned to California for the third time this year. There’s just something about the sunny state that keeps drawing me back. My husband and I had a 10-day adventure planned that would see us traverse from the beach to the mountains and back to the beach again.

California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies

California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies

There were many trip highlights, though one day in particular really stood out… We were dead asleep when our alarm went off at the end of our dark tent. It was 5 am and we were exhausted from multiple late nights and early mornings shooting in the best light Yosemite had to offer. But that golden light was calling so we crawled out of our warm sleeping bags and into the frosty morning.

That morning we decided to explore the many meadows that make the Yosemite valley so picturesque. It was the start of peak season and the day before the park had been buzzing with people. Being up before the crowds and having the valley almost to ourselves was just part of the magic. The meadows glowed and invited us to explore, shoot way too many images, and then stop for breakfast with those ginormous granite walls surrounding us in nearly every direction.

California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies

The glowy morning turned into searing hot sunshine. We retreated to a secret watering hole some locals had told us about. We sat in the refreshing shallow pool with the water cascading down the granite wall behind us, whilst looking out over the valley.

After cooling off we met up with a friend from social media, Christina Warburg, to shoot the sunset. This is one of my favorite things about social media. We hadn’t met Christina before that afternoon, but by the end of the night, we had made an awesome new friend. We all jumped into one car and set out exploring.

We first stumbled along a meadow filled with wildflowers and naturally had to stop and take it all in. Springtime was in full bloom up along Glacier Point road. The sky was looking promising for an epic sunset so we moved on to a lookout just before Glacier Point.

California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies

And what a sunset! We witnessed lightening in the distance, a rainbow next to Half Dome and then the sky exploded into every shade of pink, purple, orange and yellow. We retreated back to our campsite absolutely buzzing and once again set our alarm for 5 am. Needless to say, we were high on life but incredibly tired after 10 days of living like this.

Some other trip highlights included stand-up paddle boarding in Santa Barbara, hilltop sunrise soaks near Mammoth Lakes, and sleeping under the stars at Alabama Hills.

We were treated to another out-of-this-world sunset at our campsite in Alabama Hills. To the east, there was a dooming lightening storm, to the west a distant glowing grass fire, and all around us was the most insanely fluorescent yellow and pink sky. I sat journalling and pinching myself because surely skies like that can’t be real?! We fell asleep to the starry sky through the mesh of our tent, enjoying the complete solitude before sunrise beckoned again.

Here are some more images from the trip

California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies

California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies

California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies

California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies

California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies

California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies

California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies California Road Trip: Golden Mornings & Painted Skies

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Winter California Road Trip: Redwoods & Yosemite

America’s National Parks: Ranked Best to Worst

15 Most Underrated National Parks in America

Renee Hahnel

Hi! My name is Renee and I'm an Australian photographer, blogger & travel addict. I now call the U.S.A home but you can usually find me wandering the globe with a camera in hand ✈ Let's get lost!

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21 Comments

  1. Jackie on August 7, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    Fantastic blog Renee and spectacular photos. Really enjoyed hearing about your travels.

  2. David Carman on August 9, 2016 at 9:10 am

    Wonderful blog Renee xo

  3. Erin Sullivan on August 11, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    Love this! All the shots from this trip are so dreamy. It can be hard to get out of your sleeping bag but so worth it sometimes. Ya never know. xo

    • Renee Hahnel on August 13, 2016 at 6:27 pm

      Absolutely! It is always a struggle getting out into the cold when you’re exhausted, but 99% of the time it’s worth it xo

  4. Korinna on August 14, 2016 at 7:22 am

    Hey Renee,
    it’s such a delight to scroll through your pictures, you are so talented! I’m going on a 6 months solo travel soon and I definitely hope to spontaneously make friends there like you! I also will try to implete your secret of going to places in the early morning, so few people will be around 🙂
    Enjoy your future trips, I will love to read more about your adventures!
    Kind regards, Korinna

    • Renee Hahnel on August 14, 2016 at 10:06 pm

      I really appreciate that Korinna! I hope you have the most amazing 6 months traveling solo!

  5. Faye on August 14, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    Hi Renee,

    Lovely outfits with all your pics! I would love to inquire what kind of footwear you have for all these treks. Did you make up Yosemite in those sneakers? (which brand are they?) I love so many hiking pictures of popular bloggers and always wondered what shoes are comfortable for long hikes yet still look stylish. Please help! Thank you!

    • Renee Hahnel on August 14, 2016 at 10:05 pm

      Thank you Faye! The hike to Taft Point was short and easy so shoes like Converse are okay. For longer hikes (or in poor conditions) I wear my hiking boots or my trail runners. Danner Boots make stylish shoes to hike in and I also love my Salomon boots for longer treks. Good luck!

      • Lynn on August 21, 2016 at 2:52 pm

        Thanks for clearing this up! This has always baffled me. Instagram is full of people in beautiful, haunting places and dangling from cliff edges, wearing shoes that make me wonder how they got there in the first place! Your photos are absolutely stunning.

        • Renee Hahnel on January 12, 2017 at 3:31 pm

          Haha no worries. Everyone prefers to hike in different styles of shoes so I think it really depends on the person. I prefer to be practical and comfy for the most part 🙂

  6. Cindy Rangel on August 15, 2016 at 8:17 am

    How inspiring. I need to capture the California sunsets and sunrises. I am in love with CA ever since I moved here. It’s so smitten with me as well. Hahah. Lovely photos and interpretation of this golden state. Thank YOU!

    • Renee Hahnel on August 19, 2016 at 5:20 pm

      Thanks so much, I really appreciate it 🙂 California is amazing! Enjoy

    • Lily on January 4, 2017 at 5:31 am

      I believe that is among the so much imratpont info for me. And i’m glad studying your article. But wanna remark on some general things, The website style is great, the articles is in reality nice : D. Good task, cheers

  7. Veronica on September 2, 2016 at 12:28 am

    These photos are absolutely stunning! You’re so talented with a camera!

  8. Ida Pahus on September 13, 2016 at 9:38 am

    Such beautiful pictures!! Just went to Yosemite and a lot of the other national parks in the US this summer and I fell in love. Until this point I never though the outdoor life was for me, but how wrong I was.

    • Renee Hahnel on September 20, 2016 at 3:11 am

      Yosemite is out of this world beautiful!

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Renee Hahnel

Hi! My name is Renee and I'm an Australian photographer, blogger & travel addict. I now call the U.S.A home but you can usually find me wandering the globe with a camera in hand ✈ Let's get lost!

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Mount Rainier National Park has to be one of the most stunning places in the entire world! From meadows of wildflowers, to old-growth forest, to beautiful waterfalls and rivers, and incredible mountain views… Mount Rainier really is a nature lovers dream. I have visited the park at least 10 times now, including during my 2017…

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I’ve tried a lot of hiking and camping gear over the years and there are some items I just keep coming back to. For me, a piece of gear gets the tick of approval if it does what it performs as advertised, lasts a long time, is lightweight and easy to pack, and is comfortable.…

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