A glimpse outside the borders: United States West Coast

This is a guest post by Ruchi Undevia, a Transformational Yoga Teacher and a budding filmmaker currently living in Dubai. 

Having worked for a few years in the safe zone, I lost the reason why I was doing it all. I continued to work because this was the only world I knew. Until an identity crisis struck and it struck hard! That’s when I gifted myself some time off from the “real world” and resigned from my job. Since then I have travelled to Vadodara, Udaipur, Pondicherry, Delhi, Bhutan, Sikkim and United States West Coast (San Jose, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Oregon, and Los Angeles). In my travels this year, I have met some amazing people and visited many breathtaking locales.

My most recent trip was a six week holiday to the United States West Coast. What made it special was that I got to explore like a tourist but also live like a local - driving, joining fitness classes and walking my nephew to school. I have hiked in nature, shopped, partied and celebrated Navratri (an Indian festival) as well as my birthday there with family.

Yosemite National Park

Our first stop while exploring the gems of United States West Coast was hiking and biking in the Yosemite National Park where we saw rivers, waterfalls, open fields and mountains. The open fields made us feel like we were in a Bollywood song sequence! There are many hiking options with different levels of difficulty where the paths are well marked and easy to follow. We stayed there for 2 nights in a camp which was a novel experience. The tents we rented accommodated 5 of us with fitted beds. We stored our scented belongings and foodstuff in a metal container outside the tent to keep away bears!

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Los Angeles

In the heart of United States West Coast lies Los Angeles, where we went to Universal Studios, the Hollywood Sign and the Walk of Fame. TheUniversal Tour was really memorable showcasing the famous film artefacts like cars of ‘Back to the Future’, ‘2 Fast 2 Furious’ and TVsets like ‘Will & Grace’. They also showed how the disasters like floods and earthquakes are created for the big screen. Some of the memorable rides were Harry Potter, Jurassic World, and Transformers. The mummy ride was a bit scary. The best part for a true Harry Potter Fan was the light and sound show on the Hogwarts Castle. It really created a magical atmosphere and brought the books alive momentarily!

Universal Studios

Half Moon Bay

A beautiful gem in the United States West Coast is Half Moon Bay, scenic locale hardly an hour away from our location in Fremont. It is a crescent-shaped beach with a restaurant on a clifftop with fantastic views and fireplaces to keep warm.It was a nice drive to the place too.

Napa Valley

Went to the wine country, Napa Valley where I, who is not too fond of alcohol, sampled 7 different wines and bought 3 wine bottles! I chose the Sterling Winery where there was a tour to see how wine is made. We also saw the winery from a bird's eye view sitting in a cable car. We also went to the Culinary Institute of America nearby which is famous for its food.

Culinary Institute Napa
Culinary Institute Napa

Sterling Vineyard, Napa Valley
Sterling Vineyard, Napa Valley

San Francisco

Being in California, of course, we went to San Francisco. We travelled by Bart, the public transportation. We got off at Powell Square which is really lively with a huge shopping arena and a happening Union Square nearby. Walked for nearly an hour absorbed by the vibrant city. Saw the iconic crooked street laden with flowerbeds. Reached the Ghiradelli Square in the Fishermen’s Wharf area, the chocolate paradise that was buzzing with people and activity. We walked ahead to Pier 39 which has the view of the infamous Alcatraz Prison. Even saw many many seals on a nearby dock.There was a small skate area, mirror maze, games and eateries around.

On another visit there I went to the Golden Gate Park which is really huge and needs a complete day to cover. This time I took the Mini Bus to get to the park from the Powell station. In the park, there is the California Academy of Sciences where I was mesmerized by the planetarium experience. I went for 2 shows – ‘Earthquakes’ and ‘Dark Matter’ - overwhelming visuals with music and a live presenter who adds the recently related facts. Besides that, there is the coral reef inside, dinosaur world, aquariums, live shows, documentaries, nature photography, physics experiments to play with, a rainforest and more.

Haight Ashbury is another very different area near the park. It has a very distinct Hip-Hop vibe, colourful artsy graphics on buildings with young crowds zooming past on skateboards. Saw a cute bookshop called the Booksmith, farmers market, record label shops and vintage clothing stores.

Bay Bridge, San Francisco
Bay Bridge, San Francisco

Crooked Street, San francisco
Crooked Street, San Francisco

Las Vegas

We couldn’t afford to miss the brightest place in US and the shiniest gem of the United States West Coast, Las Vegas. I think this is the city that never sleeps! To be honest, Dubai, where I come from, is always very bright with beautiful architecture as well so this for me, was a one-time experience. The hotel we stayed at in the Paris section was just wow with huge ceilings and majestic statues. The highlight of this place was the colourful La Reve Show.The story flowed seamlessly with the incredible acrobatic stunts and the stage looked dazzlingly different in each act.

Las vegas

Las vegas

Las vegas

Grand Canyon

Yet another place that deserves a visit on the United States West Coast, we drove to the Grand Canyon. The magnificent view there created a feeling of limitlessness. Huge natural structures stretched across without boundaries. We rented bikes and rode from the village centre to the top viewpoint and back- about 6 hours ride with stops. Biking on the windy and sometimes steep roads was great as it was too hot to enjoy the view otherwise. The breeze downhill made it all worthwhile. There are many hikes leading down the canyon but to reach below is mostly meant to be a 2-3 day trek while carrying all the overnight arrangements (a definite plan for the next trip!). At night we went to the darkest corner of the canyon and gazed at the Milky Way and a sky flooded with lights from the stars.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Sunset
Grand Canyon Sunset

Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon Night Skies

Oregon Redwood Forest, Burney Falls & Crater Lake

In Oregon, I visited the amazing redwood forest. I have never before witnessed such tall and majestic trees. There was even a tree with a gap in a trunk so wide that cars could literally drive through! The sky was dotted with tree heads and the redwoods around looked positively radiant. The Burney Falls was striking too. But the ultimate was the snowy jaw-dropping Crater Lake. We reached when the first snow of the season had just fallen. On route, we crossed many snow-capped trees and houses. The snow glittered as the sunlight fell on it and the water was a deep dark blue shade whose beauty I cannot describe in words.

Oregon Redwood Forest
Oregon Redwood Forest

Near Crater Lake

On-route Crater Lake
On-route Crater Lake

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is a popular destination on the United States West Coast and for good reason. It looks beautiful from every viewpoint and is really vast. I had the best view while parasailing across the lake. We hiked across nearby lakes stopping more often than not just to drink in the tranquillity and the beauty of the surroundings.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe Hiking Trail
Hiking Trail

It’s been an overwhelming six weeks on the United States West Coast and still, there is so much to see and explore. For one who loves nature, this is paradise!

40 thoughts on “A glimpse outside the borders: United States West Coast”

  1. I love the perspective of my home country from an outsider’s point of view. Never in my life have I used the descriptive phrase – Bollywood song sequence, but I can see that in Yosemite. I also love your parking lot photography of the Milky Way at the Grand Canyon. I love how bright the night sky is in the desert (also at 2500 m). This was a really refreshing post that helps me enjoy my home that much more.

    1. A lot of Indian movies are shot in locations from across the world and we tend to recall seeing them once we actually get to those places 🙂

  2. What a nice tour of the US West Coast. Your photos of Yosemite are amazing. I’ve really got to get there. And Oregon. Those huge trees are so beautiful. Sometimes I wish trees could tell us their stories because they live so long and see so much (my flight of fancy!). My Grand Canyon experience was life-changing. It was the point in life where I realized just how small humans are the scheme of things and yet we do so much damage. What an amazing trip you!

    1. I haven’t visited half of these places myself but my guest writer had a great 3 months exploring the West Coast 🙂

  3. You should do the Pacific-1 drive sometime if you haven’t – San Francisco to Los Angeles. Takes some time, but every curve of the road has a breathtaking view.

    You should try Tahoe in summer and winter both. Completely different at different times of the year. You will be amazed at the transformation.

    Also looks like you’ve been travelling a lot! Keep it up!

    1. Next time in the US – If you go around fall you should definitely do Rhode Island and Maine. Breathtaking scenery, and the fall colors are gorgeous.

  4. Though I’ve been to the US, I’ve only been to the East Coast (New York and Florida), so all of these places would be great for me to visit. I’ve often thought about maybe hiring an RV or a little camper, and road tripping down the coast from North to South – maybe one day hey 😉 x

  5. Beautiful photos. I agree Vegas is definitely the city that never sleeps. So many of these places are on my list to see. Good post.

  6. Love your photos, all these places are on my bucket list (especially Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon) so you have just inspired me to move them up to the top!

    1. Thanks Indu! The amazing itinerary was planned by my sister, Sapna. Good trip equals good pictures 🙂

  7. Been to most of the places from this list in West coast and i have one word to say is ” Incredible”. yosemite and Grandcanyon are mindboggling destinations for me and i have enjoyed thoroughly been there.

  8. The US West coast really is littered with incredible spots – one of my favourite experiences has been exploring the vineyards of Napa valley a couple of years ago!

    1. I agree, my guest writer here spent 3 months and had ample time to explore. I wish I do too, some day!

  9. Ahhh, the views of the American National Parks make me want to pack my bags and fly straight away. Someday when I get to America, I’ll make sure to see at least 10 of these parks!

    1. I love the fact that they have so many national parks. Especially since I live in a city like Dubai where it’s all about city life and there’s hardly any nature to enjoy (except, of course, the desert!).

  10. Firstly I love that ‘gave myself time off from the real world’ ….that was me when I first started to travel. And secondly, this post will actually be so helpful when I finally get around to going my USA road trip (granted that is a few years away) I’ve been to SanFran before and loved it, not so much the steep streets though….Saved this post 😀

    1. I’m glad you liked the post Amit. A road trip there would be amazing! Hope to read about your adventures in the next post here 🙂

  11. It’s a dream of mine to visit Yosemite National Park ever since I read John Muir’s book Yosemite. You’ve visited so many great places along the west coast. Lake Tahoe looks so beautiful!

    1. Yosemite is lovely, I haven’t read this book but it sounds good 🙂 Lake Tahoe was like a winter wonderland, really captivating!

  12. Your trip looks really nice and brings back some memories: Yosemite, SF, LA… Still I didn’t have the chance to taste 7 wines 😉 nor did hike the Grand Canyon at night. Sounds like something to do one day.
    Beautiful pictures – and it shows, that you did enjoy your trip!

  13. Oh! Yosemite is one national park in the US I want to visit! I went to Yellowstone and it was awesome but I think Yosemite is another good one to visit!

    I looooooove San Francisco. I have so many great memories there and it looked like you also did enjoy it!

    1. Yosemite is pretty awesome Justine! I missed Yellowstone this time but it is on my wishlist. And San Francisco has a very lively cool vibe, indeed I really liked the place.

  14. its amazing post..we have visited all the places in the post and we loved our 4 weeks stay in USA.. i love this country ..its so big and so diverse and so full of nature…would like to visit the central part of it someday..loved the post.

    1. Thanks Ritika! Me too, hoping to visit the central and eastern parts of the US in the next trip.

  15. I’ve done most of these destinations except Redwood forest and Yosemite, which are like the two I want to do most. Those pictures are so pretty ! Love the West Coast!

    1. I’ve actually not done most of the places except LA, Vegas, SF, mostly the cities. All the lovely national parks and lakes and redwoods (which are actually the lovelier places) make me want to visit again. My guest blogger, Ruchi, had 6 weeks, she went exploring around. Lucky girl!

    2. Thanks Wallis! Yosemite has many hikes, each one leading to a lovely sight. And Redwood Forest is a world of its own, overwhelmingly beautiful. Great choices 🙂

  16. Beautiful pictures you have got there. The west coast of the States is really fascinating and there is so much to see and visit and do and more. Thanks for the share.

  17. I’d love to see the Oregon Redwoods forest one day. I saw the same trees in Muir Woods in Sausalito, and fell in love immediately! You’ve covered some great, and essential places in the US. Great photos too!

    1. Thank you 🙂 And you should plan this trip. For anyone who loves nature, Oregon is really really beautiful. I went there for about 2 days but there is so much to see that I plan to go for a longer trip next time!

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