Sierra Foothills Photos: California’s Rolling Hills

This region of California is known as the “gold country”, and because my family immigrated here from Europe generations ago, it holds a special place in my heart. I hope my Sierra foothills photos will help you appreciate this scenic gateway to Yosemite & the high country.

Brown Hills East of Oakdale on Highway 120 - Sierra Foothills Photos
Foothills East of Oakdale on Highway 120

Photos of Sierra Foothills

Oakdale / 120 Foothills

Rolling Hills of California, Black and White - East of Oakdale, near Jamestown
Rolling Hills of California – Black and White

While “rolling hills” can be found throughout the state, these were captured just east of Oakdale, in the central valley. As you continue gently climbing (often you don’t even realize it’s happening), you’ll also come across beautiful grassland used for cattle grazing.

Green grass with grazing pool reflection, cattle farm along Highway 120 in March
Green grass with grazing pool, in March

Even though these grassy hills are generally golden brown through the year, there’s a brief window in early spring when they’re nice and green. Above I captured cloud reflections in a natural pool used by the cows.

Sonora Foothills

Golden hills behind barbed wire - Sonora Farmland - Sierra Foothills Photos
Golden hills behind barbed wire – Sonora Farmland

Further north and at about 2000 ft in elevation, I took this photo on the outskirts of Sonora. This farmland is located near the Tuolumne river canyon, just north of Don Pedro Reservoir.

Groveland Foothills

Yellow wildflowers and oak tree in green field - Stanislaus National Forest
Yellow wildflowers and oak tree – Stanislaus National Forest

Further east across the Tuolumne River, you’ll find Groveland, the real gateway to Yosemite. A bit higher up in elevation (3,000 ft maybe), again, these hills are usually dry and brown. I just happened to visit during a lush spring (after a very wet winter). This field of yellow wildflowers was a nice surprise!

Lush Tuolumne Canyon Foothills north of Groveland
Lush Tuolumne Canyon Foothills north of Groveland

Although the real sierra mountains lie ahead to the east, here you’ll find the foothills becoming more jagged and prominent. The Stanislaus National Forest boundary is located nearby as well.

Highway 120 at Don Pedro Reservoir

Green Foothills and Highway 120 view, portrait  - Groveland in February
Green Foothills and Highway 120 view – Groveland in February

One of my favorite things to do is climb the Groveland foothills and look back down on Don Pedro and the San Joaquin Valley in the distance. Can’t beat a view like this, and it’s particularly good at sunset!

Sierra Foothills Photos – Sunset

Orange Sierra Sunset over 120 @ Don Pedro Lake - Sierra Foothills Photos
Fiery Sierra Sunset over Don Pedro Lake & Foothills

Although it’s a bit off the beaten path, here you can relax and watch the tourists driving to and from Yosemite on windy Highway 120. It’s always amazing to look at Don Pedro Lake and think about how that water comes from the Tuolumne River, way up in the high country.

As rain and snowmelt, it travels down through Hetch Hetchy reservoir, by here, and eventually ends up in the taps and faucets of San francisco!

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About My Photos

The images on this website are available for licensing and/or sale as framed prints. If you’d like to purchase them for a blog, news article, or gift, feel free to contact me with the specifics. This way you’re supporting photographers such as me directly (as opposed to buying from a faceless stock photo corporation).

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– Nathan Allen

About Me

Photographer Nathan Allen

I’m Nathan Allen, photographer / creator of (Yosemite Photos) and international travel site I Dreamed Of This. In truth, I lived in San Francisco, New York, & Singapore…but nothing compares to life in the mountains. I share my experiences HERE.