Hot Spring Sunrises, Alpine Lakes, and Fall Colors: Autumn in the Eastern Sierras

Who says we need to head to the East Coast to get some color? The Sierras gave us everything we were hoping for and more!

I wanted to check two things off my list this trip. Hot springs at sunrise and fall colors. I've tried so many times to catch a hot spring at the right time, but every time I've been, there have either been people camped right on top of the pool (not cool), or the springs are cold/broken. 

Same with the fall colors, I've been trying for a couple of years to catch them in the Sierras, but it never works out. Life happens, but I think that's what makes it that much better. It wouldn't be so special if it was something I got to witness all the time. This time though, everything seemed to work out just right for us.

Our friends Joey and Will beat us to the hot springs, by a few hours (or more :) ). We got in at about 12:30AM, and immediately set up the bed in the back of the Land Cruiser so we could get warm and get some sleep. It was about 25 degrees outside and the wind was howling. Sunrise wasn't far off, luckily we had no trouble getting to sleep after a long day of working. 

Sunrise this time of year is my favorite. I naturally wake up around 5:30 or 6:00AM, so having the sun come up a little after 7 is soooooooo nice. I need my beauty sleep. 

Joey and I were the first ones up. We took the dogs and scoped out the pools. One was occupied already - we couldn't believe somebody was more dedicated to the sunrise than we were. Anyway, the pool down by the creek was open, so we went and got our stuff and made our way down.

Getting in was a ton of fun. With 20-degree temperatures, the idea of taking off your clothes doesn't sound appealing. But that's what makes these adventures that much better. You have to suffer a bit to really make this worth it. And it was so worth it. 

We had the place to ourselves for over an hour. Plenty of time to shoot photos, and just kick back and enjoy the warm waters


After we got out, we headed back up to the cars, half dressed, still wet, and freezing. We dried off and changed as fast as we could before we brewed up some nice hot coffee. We were trying to capitalize on the small amount of time we had out there, so we hit the road in search of the next destination. 

We ended up at Bodie. None of us had ever been there and we were curious to check out the abandoned mining town. I took some snapshots, but won't be uploading them here, you can check them in the highlights section on my Instagram account though if you're interested (@canevariphoto). I highly recommend stopping though. It was so cool to get a glimpse of how things were back then and it's crazy that so much of the town has just been left untouched.

Moving on! Next up was Parker Lake. I've been wanting to come here for years as well. Finally made it happen! It's a nice little 2-mile hike to the lake and it's such a pretty lake. We didn't stay the night though, and I think we were all happy about it.


The only reason we were glad we didn't stay at Parker Lake is because we were so pumped on the rest of the June Lake Loop. The colors were in full effect everywhere we looked. Another successful sunrise before we went our separate ways and went home to rest up before the work week!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!