Adventure photographer Tiffany Nguyen embarks on a six-day California beach and mountain vacation starting Tuesday, February 20 through Sunday, February 25. The Southern California–based photographer and blogger—who, by the way, is also a dentist—plans to Catch the Winter Wave by capturing both ocean and mountain activities within the same vacation.
Nguyen will start on the beaches of San Luis Obispo County, where she’ll explore ocean caves before swapping her watercraft for a snowboard to end her trip in Mammoth Lakes. Follow Nguyen’s journey on her Instagram feed (@tiffpenguin) and check out more of her stunning photos on her website. Below is a snapshot of Nguyen’s California itinerary.
San Luis Obispo
Active college town San Luis Obispo (SLO to locals) has a fun, walkable downtown and makes the perfect home base for exploring California’s Central Coast. Grab a latté at Scout Coffee, snap a pic at the famous bubblegum alley, and cruise by the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa before making your way to the beaches of San Luis Obispo County.
A 15–20 minute drive will take you to Pismo Beach, one of the charming SLO beach towns with an iconic 1,200-foot-long Pismo Beach Pier. Downtown still maintains its funky flair, but new eateries and shops have elevated the offerings. Don’t miss the colorful donuts at Surfside Donuts, the gourmet chip concoctions at Chipwrecked, or the slow-smoked brisket at Central Coast Meat Market. Time your drinks or dinner to watch the sunset from casual burger-focused Wooly’s, its upstairs sophisticated neighbor, Oyster Loft, or the Rooftop at Inn at the Pier—all with perfect ocean views. (You can wake up to the Pacific, too, with an ocean-view room at The Inn at the Pier, opened in late 2017.)
Although Pismo is a laid-back beach town, it’s got an active side, too. Surfing by the pier is popular, or you can venture into the protected coves and Dinosaur Caves (only accessible from the water!) with Central Coast Kayaks. On land, explore the Pismo Beach Preserve on a docent-led hiking tour or hop in a Hummer or on a horse for a tour of Oceano Dunes Natural Preserve. Wind down from an adventure-filled day with a glass, bottle, or wine flight at Taste of the Valleys.
Alabama Hills and Lone Pine
A drive on Highway 395 makes for the perfect rugged road trip through California’s gorgeous Eastern Sierra. Heading northeast en route to Mammoth Lakes, you’ll arrive at a small town with a surreal backdrop—Lone Pine—about 4.5 hours in. The Western-style buildings and surrounding mountains have appeared in many historic films since the silent movie era, especially the famous arches of Alabama Hills. If you turn left on Whitney Portal Road and drive for 20 minutes, you’ll reach the Whitney Portal, a gateway to summit the 14,505-foot Mount Whitney.
Continuing on Highway 395, it’s only 90 minutes to reach Mammoth Lakes, a laid-back mountain town with star ski slopes at Mammoth Mountain, California’s highest resort at 11,053 feet. Kick off your Mammoth day with a hot burrito and organic coffee at Stellar Brew Natural Café en route to Mammoth Mountain for a full day of skiing or snowboarding. (Fun fact: Both gold medalist snowboarders Chloe Kim and Shaun White train here.)
Rest your head at the elegant, cozy Westin Monache Resort, Mammoth, where you can valet your snow equipment at the end of the day (free of charge) and head straight for the hot tub. For dinner, opt for margaritas and Mexican food at Gomez’s or try Mammoth Rock Brasserie for sophisticated French food. Surprising Mammoth Rock twist—there’s a bowling alley in the basement!
Before another day on the mountain, wake up with a hike to Mammoth Lakes Basin, a five-minute drive from downtown. Prepare to snap some photos of the jaw-dropping views of alpine lakes surrounding by snowy peaks and towering trees.