Looking for short road trip ideas from Los Angeles with a photography theme
May 4, 2006 9:42 AM   Subscribe

I have some vacation time coming up. Rather than one big trip, I'm thinking about taking 2 or 3 short little road trips (3 to 5 days each). Los Angeles is my starting point. Photography is my main activity. Where should I go, and where should I stay when I get there?

I tend to stay in my hotel room if I'm not scheduled out the wazoo when traveling, so I'd need a list of activities that I should do in each area.

I'm definitely thinking about the California central coast area because I've never been to Hearst Castle, and I'm pretty interested in seeing it. I found a few questions/threads dealing with that area, but the focus was on romance more than photography.

Those threads all contained several recommendations for staying at the Madonna Inn, but it looks a bit too kitschy for my tastes. I'd be looking for comfort, value and if possible free WiFi in that order.

I've also considered Joshua Tree. I've never done any desert photography. I'm interested, but also concerned about my lack of desert experience and the fact that I'd be alone.

I've also considered the Grand Canyon which I've seen from the top Chevy Chase style, but didn't actually ever hike down into.

I've also considered Carlsbad Caverns, but that seems like it's farther than I'd like to drive unless it's really, really worth it.

What else should I consider, and what else should I know about those various destination choices? Trips are last minute and would be happening sometime in May.
posted by willnot to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Hearst Castle is really spectacular, though they may restrict photography there. It's worth a trip anyway. Morro Bay, Pismo Beach all have good photo ops along the coast in that area.

Carlsbad is a very long way. If you do that, by all means go to White Sands Natl Monument.

closer to LA:
Find out when the desert is going to bloom and go to Anza Borrego outside of San Diego.

King's Canyon/Sequoia Nat'l Parks are great and offer a huge range of things to see.

Take a boat trip to the Channel Islands. I think there's an outfit that does trips out of Ventura.
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:55 AM on May 4, 2006

If you're going to stop by Hearst Castle, you should also make a pit stop to see the Elephant Seals. Right now they're molting and look sort of diseased, but the sight of so many of them crammed into the cove is still impressive as hell.
posted by hindmost at 11:02 AM on May 4, 2006

Hearst Castle is certainly worth a visit (the only restrictions on photography I've noticed there is no flash photos inside). Plus, you can go an hour or so north into Big Sur up to Carmel and be treated to some of the most spectacular coastline you'll ever see (or photograph).
posted by scody at 11:24 AM on May 4, 2006

Death Valley and/or Joshua Tree would make for an especially rewarding photography field trip if you could sleep over at one of the campsites- and awake at dawn to see the desert. The Hearst Castle is fun and spectacular and disturbing (there's an IMAX movie about Great Leader Hearst included with the tour) but if you head that far north you should really see the Elephant Seals, and stay in Big Sur so you can explore some of the most spectacular landscapes on the Pacific Coast. I was there so long ago I'm rusty on names of accomodations, but I know there are there are some relatively affordable options as well as a newly opened place (recently featured in the NYT) that offers luxury yurts. No joke.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 11:32 AM on May 4, 2006

I live right next to Joshua Tree NP and it is a great place for photography. 1000 Palms Oasis in the Coachella Valley Preserve is a little known, but beautiful place near Palm Springs. Joshua Tree doesn't offer much in the way of top notch hotels, but you could stay in the motel where Gram Parsons died. Palm Springs is nearby and offers the full range of lodging.

No trip to Joshua Tree is complete without a trip to the Integraton in nearby Landers and a chili burger at Pappy and Harriet's
posted by buggzzee23 at 12:07 PM on May 4, 2006

Try this site for ideas and information on areas you might be interested in. I would start with the 'Best of California' section...best architecture, natural attractions, beaches, etc.

The biggest question is, what do you want to take pictures of? If you're into natural attractions, you could go to Joshua Tree, or to Yosemite, or up along the coast to Big Sur.

If you're interested in architecture, you could do a tour of old missions, like those in Santa Barbera and San Diego and probably many other places along the way.

Or drive up to San Francisco and see the Golden Gate Bridge, lots of rocky beaches and Golden Gate Park. Stop in China town, climb the Coit tower for a view of the entire city...

It would help a lot if you can pick a couple primary places you really want to see and then fill in around them...within a day's drive of LA encompasses a lot of different options!
posted by sLevi at 12:36 PM on May 4, 2006

Mono Lake.
posted by inviolable at 3:15 PM on May 4, 2006

If you enjoy hiking, grab the camera and head north to the Lost Coast. Oh, and set aside at least one day to go visit the redwoods while you're up there.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 6:18 PM on May 4, 2006

A drive up Highway 395 through the Owen's Valley/Eastern Sierras is an awesome trip. Lots of good photo ops, including glimpses of Mt. Whitney. Hike through Fossil Falls, stop at Independence, Manzanar, Bishop. Maybe stay in Mammoth, and take day trips to June Lake, Convict Lake, even the White Mountains to see the Bristlecone Pines. Mono Lake is a must see. You could even venture up Tioga Pass into eastern Yosemite, if the road isn't closed due to snow.
On your way back, you could head east and hit Death Valley, too.

If you do a desert adventure, make sure your car is in good shape, you have lots of water with you, a map, a compass, a whistle and a cell phone. Don't venture off the established roads and trails too much. And watch where you put your hands and feet. I've done desert hiking on my own, probably not the smartest thing, but you should be ok if you are prepared. You mentioned you'd be alone, so let someone know your itinerary.
posted by socrateaser at 6:59 AM on May 5, 2006

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