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Hiker in Alabama Hills, California by photographer William Gray


With wild fires devastating its forests and communities, California often seems to be in the news for all the wrong reasons – but this stunning state is still one of the best road-trip destinations for photographers.

I've always wanted to drive the Pacific Coast Highway and, in 2019, I got the opportunity to tour the section south from San Francisco. Some of the photographs below depict highlights, such as the magnificent redwood groves and the stunning scenery of the Big Sur coast. Whale watching in Monterey Bay was another memorable part of the trip, as was hiking in Yosemite and visiting the elephant seal colony at Hearst-San Simeon.


But it was during the loop back through Owens Valley and the Sierra Nevada that we encountered some of the most dramatic scenery. If you're planning a self-drive in this part of California, I would highly recommend a visit to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest where you can hike through an extraordinary landscape of dolerite-strewn mountain slopes, dotted with the world's oldest trees – some of them over 4,000 years old. We also spent a few days in the Alabama Hills – an unmissable spot for landscape and astro photography. The surreal semi-desert landscape of eroded sandstone hills has a backdrop of the saw-tooth Sierra Nevada, while the clear night skies are perfect for capturing the Milky Way.

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