By Cityseeker Staff
People around the world know that California is a perfect destination for nature and road trip lovers alike. There is just so much beauty to behold when driving up its coast, across its vast deserts, or through its colossal forests and scenic mountain ranges.
Here at Cityseeker, we’ve put together a list of our 10 best escapes to nature throughout California. We’ve also put together a map at the end so we can all plan a little road trip getaway this long weekend and take in all the natural splendor the Golden State has to offer.
Joshua Tree National Park is the perfect getaway for those in the Los Angeles, San Diego or Las Vegas areas. This desert park is home to numerous varieties of plants and animals that brave the climatic extremes and unpredictable rain. Even the park’s namesake, the Joshua tree, resides here and blooms in the spring. With almost 800,000 acres (3,23,748.5 hectares) of land and three ecosystems surviving within it, you just might catch a glimpse of a California Mountain Lion stalking its prey or a California Desert Bat flying overhead. If you’re looking for an overnight adventure be sure to checkout one of the nine campgrounds, but if spending the night in the desert isn’t your cup of tea, stop by the ranger’s office to find out about the guided and unguided tours available.
Death Valley National Park is famed for its extreme arid temperatures. While it’s difficult to believe much can survive the boiling temperatures up to 134 degrees Fahrenheit (57 degrees centigrade), the park’s desert wildlife proves otherwise. From Bighorn Sheep, Coyote and the evergreen creosote bush, the desert changes through the seasons and offers up a burst of colors in spring when the wildflowers bloom spectacularly. Top scenic spots include Zabriskie Point, overlooking the sci-fiesque multi-hued Furnace Creek; otherworldly Twenty Mule Team Canyon and the badlands; and the desolate Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.
Considered to have existed for almost 760,000 years, the Mono Lake is perhaps, one of the oldest in the country. Boasting an extremely productive ecosystem, the desert lake has always been a source of wonder for many. The wonder only escalated when, after huge amounts of water was diverted to another location, great calcium-carbonate formations were exposed. These geological formations called tufa towers stretched to almost 30 feet (9 meters). Owing to the mystique of the spiry-looking tufa towers, the rare flora and fauna, and the brilliant green shade that the lake takes on in spring, a large number of tourists visit this spot every year.
Azure blue skies and emerald green waters make up the magnificent Lake Tahoe and its surroundings. A large freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe is located along the border of the US states of California and Nevada. It is considered the largest alpine lake in North America and was formed about 2 million years ago. During the summer, the lake is perfect for water sports, including swimming and scuba diving. During winter, the area is draped in sheets of soft white snow that make for ideal skiing conditions. On top of gorgeous mountain and lake scenery, there are also ski resorts, casinos and many more tourist attractions.
A World Heritage Site, Yosemite National Park is a bountiful reserve nestled in the heart of the Sierra Nevada, a mere 40 miles (225 km) to the east of San Francisco. Giant sequoias tower to dizzying heights at the Mariposa Grove, while the bare walls of the hulking Domes rise from the verdant depths of the valley. From the thunderous descent of the Yosemite Falls to the to the wildflower-laden Tuolumne Meadows, the Yosemite National Park is a tapestry of awe-inspiring spectacles, dappled with pristine lakes and etched with canyons; a maze of stark granite walls riddled with tumbling cascades that drench the scene in a cool mist. Amid the varied habitats of the Yosemite National Park thrives a fascinating variety of flora and fauna including the endemic Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep. Visited by thousands each year, the Yosemite National Park continues to inspire awe in the hearts of even the most irreverent. There are several permanent campgrounds and accommodations, dining options, a Visitor Center, and a myriad of hiking trails at the Yosemite National Park, weaving the perks of civilization through the heart of the wilderness.
Nestled in the midst of the Sierra National Forest, with lofty mountains and majestic pine trees forming a stunning background, Bass Lake is a popular tourist destination throughout the year. Just a few miles away from the gateway of the Yosemite National Park, it is also a census-designated place. It is said that when the Mono Indians came to inhabit this area, it was a lovely meadow with a creek flowing through it. The lake was formed after a dam was built on the creek for electricity. Known as Crane Valley Reservoir, it lost all its fish when a lumber company polluted the lake. It was restored and filled with bass, hence its present name. Today, it has a rich population of bluegill, bass, carp, rainbow trout, crappie, Kokanee salmon and catfish. This gorgeous reservoir with its warm turquoise waters and many marinas, offers several recreational opportunities. From fishing to swimming, boating to hiking, picnicking, wakeboarding, water skiing, water scooting and camping, there is plenty to do on its shores. Its north shore features three resorts, private cabins and vacation rentals. Don’t miss this spot if you are looking for a memorable, mountain lake experience.
Big Sur is one of the most beautiful stretches of the California coast. This central-California locale encompasses several state parks, gorgeous beaches, and jaw-dropping views. Big Sur stretches from the Carmel River in Monterey County to San Carpoforo Creek in San Louis Obispo County. The beauty of this hard-to-reach landscape has attracted artists, adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts to its shores and trails. Visitors can enjoy hiking, kayaking, swimming, and many other outdoor sports while visiting Big Sur.
Visit this expansive national aprk to discover a unique set of rock formations called the Pinnacles, which were created as a result of volcanic activity. Spread over 26,606 acres (10,767 hectares), the park attracts rock climbers as well as avid nature enthusiasts thanks to its rocky landscape. Interesting places to explore at the park apart from the Pinnacles are the Balconies and Bear Gulch rock caves. The park also boasts a plethora of flora and fauna including the Townsend’s Big-Eared Bats and the California Condor. Camping facilities at the park are available.
A gargantuan grove of trees that shoot from the slopes of the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains depict nature’s unfathomable beauty. Named after the towering resident trees that dwarf every other being in its unencumbered swathe of wilderness, the Sequoia National Park is home to a warren of wonders. Sheer cliffs of the Sierra Nevada compete with the astounding beauty of the General Sherman tree, the largest tree on earth. While the front country of the park is largely cloaked by blue oak woodlands and mild river valleys, where the elusive mountain lion basks in the morning sun, the back country is characterized by an astonishing expanse of trails like the High Sierra, only accessible by horseback. It is here that the trail ascends from the Kern Canyon, among one of the last vestiges of the Ice Age, to meet the summit of Mount Whitney at 8000 feet (2,400 meters). A host of soul-stirring alpine journeys await bushwalkers and backcountry hikers who strive to traverse this Goliathan tapestry of trails. Other spectacular wonders that lie within the grand folds of the park include a sequoia-fringed meadow called the Crescent Meadow, the Tokopah Falls, the granite Moro Rock, and the Giant Forest Museum.
This park is an extraordinary place of beauty and diversity. Kings Canyon National Park, located in the southern Sierra Nevada mountain range, has to its credit some of the most scenic natural wonders in its 461,901 acres (186,925 hectares) that will leave you awestruck. Gigantic trees, some of the deepest canyons, and highest peaks in the country dot this landscape. It is every bit a vibrant mix of tall cliffs, green meadows, waterfalls and rivers. It is no surprise then that over 2,000,000 people visit every year.
So there you have it! Ten of the most gorgeous natural places you’ll find throughout the State of California. Be sure to take your time at each location and enjoy the fresh air and scenery–a road trip like this may only happen once in a lifetime!
Did you know that you can create your own collection of road trip destinations using our handy Cityseeker Collections feature? We’ve put together a collection of our own of the 10 destinations above, why don’t you try to plan a road trip of your own?