Carpe Diem! Nothing showcases this Latin adage more than enjoying the moment the sun comes up or sets. It’s nature’s ultimate canvas, painting the sky with atomic tangerines, fiery reds, and flaxen yellows. To make sure you don’t miss out, here’s some of the best spots to catch a sunrise or sunsets in California High Sierra.
Mono Lake – South Tufa
Mono Lake is a location with no shortage of inspiration when it comes to getting the “shot”, especially in the morning. The Tufa Towers provide an otherworldly backdrop with them either being backlit against a darker sky if shot from the east, or silhouetted against a rosy sunrise if shot from the west.
Directions: Turn east onto Highway 120 from Hwy 395 and go about 5 miles to Navy Beach. You’ll find a Federal (USFS) area with a small parking fee, so be sure to bring a few bucks. Foot paths lead down to the shore which features infinite possibilities of Tufa Tower photos.
For more amazing photo opportunities, check out Mono County’s top 10 Instagram worthy spots.
Yosemite – Cloud’s Rest
When it comes to landscape photography, there’s very few places in the world that provide as many dramatic shots as Yosemite National Park. These wonders range from the classic Tunnel View which we highlighted in our most Instagram worthy spots to El Capitan. But for those looking for something different and more unique, look no further than Cloud’s Rest. The catch? The only way to get there is by hiking… over seven miles one-way on an unnervingly narrow trail. If you do make it, you’ll be rewarded with an unobstructed 360-degree view of the park at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level. It seems like the views go as far west as Hawaii and east to Colorado… or at least it’ll feel like that.
Rainbow Bridge (Donner Memorial Bridge)
You’ve seen the Rainbow Bridge in countless car commercials. So dramatic. So unique. An engineering feat especially for its time. When the state of California was building a new road over Donner Pass to support automobiles in the roaring twenties, one of the topographical features they had to contend with was a creek. They had to build a bridge that curved AND had a grade. The first of its kind! With Donner Lake in the background and the early 1900’s architecture in the forefront, this might be one of the coolest bridges to get a shot of during the “golden hour.” Just a hop, skip, and jump from historic downtown Truckee, it’s well worth the drive.
From historic marvels to natural and otherworldly landscapes, the High Sierra is home to a vast playground for photographers and visitors of all sorts. Be sure to hashtag #CAHighSierra on Instagram to show us what you think are the best spots to get a sunrise/sunset photo in the High Sierra.
Author: Alex Silgalis
Alex Silgalis is an outdoors travel writer who enjoys snowboarding, mountain biking, or having a cold one from a local mountain brewery. See more of Alex’s work at https://localfreshies.com
Stay Up to Date
Join our mailing list for updates on hidden gems, events, and more from California's High Sierra.