Nevada Mountains: These
high alpine mountains run parallel to the ocean for half the length of the state and contain some of Cailfornia's most dramatic hiking and biking trails, superb mountain climbs, and stunning scenic drives. But beware the cold, even in mid-summer (at night) and prowling bears.
Some of the best National Parks in the Sierra Nevada are Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia and the John Muir Wilderness.
Yosemite National Park
One of the most popular parks
in the country; massive trees, big waterfalls (tho' not if it's
a dry summer), monstrous monolithic rocks and huge crowds can be
found in Yosemite Valley, but head up to the hundreds of miles of
trails around beautiful, alpine Tuolumne Meadows and similar areas
to escape from the masses.
Pictures and information.
Sequoia and King's Canyon National Parks
are right next to each other so treat them as one experience.
See the world's largest tree, the General Sherman in the Giant Forest,
and the General Grant in its namesake Grove, climb Moro Rock for
the views and enter the massive Crystal Cave.
Lake of the Lone Indian, John Muir Wilderness, Sierra Nevada
Rush Sierra Nevada foothills: at the bottom of the north west slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range are
the hills and rivers that created the great 19th century gold rush.
There's plenty to explore just like the prospectors before you, try the Empire
Mine State Historic Park for the old mines and North Star Mining
Museum for the tools used to mine them;
Jackson has the Kennedy Mine and related museum; Cave City 9 and
Murphy's have further tourable mining caverns; Sutter Creek
still has good architectural references to it's 19th C mining days.
Lake Tahoe: cut
by both California and Nevada borders is this grand lake
embraced by forests and mountains.
Head for Lake Tahoe - Nevada State Park and DL Bliss State Park
for hiking and beaches but
avoid the charmless southern shores.
This fiery volcanic mountain range extends all the way from
northern California through Oregon, Washington and into British
for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, golf, skiing
in the winter and other activities; McCloud town at Shasta's base is pleasant and convenient.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
offers miles of lava flows and craters. It could save
a trip to Iceland except it lacks stinking fish.
Lava Beds National Monument:
geothermal hot spots, sulphorous vents and caves,
as well as Lassen Peak, the biggest plugged volcano in the world.
Desert: The smallest desert in North America is also the most extreme, handle
with care, it will melt you if given the chance, so perhaps visit in spring?
Joshua Tree National Park
Tree National Park (photo at top): a
striking park of strange wind-twisted Joshua trees (yuccas), cacti
galore, big piles of granite rocks and some discreet wildlife. Hike
or mountain bike, plus it's got great, cheap camping and some of
the best rock climbing in the state. Joshua Tree Pictures and information
Palm Springs, adjacent to Joshua Tree NP, there's not much in the way of
sights but an exclusive place to relax (or live full time), with pools and air con to
keep the desert heat at bay.
Excellent for panoramic golf courses but otherwise just stop by to hike in the
San Jacinto Wilderness State Park and visit the Desert Museum.
Desert: California's hottest desert, reaching into Arizona and also Mexico, where it takes its name
from the state of Sonora. Cacti are in abundance; visit during spring
for cooler weather and flowers in some parts.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, east
of San Diego and just north of the Mexican border, there are some fine hiking routes
and 4WD tracks but self-sufficiency is required, this is no place for amateur adventurers.
Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, Sierra Nevada Mountains;
Marin Headlands (Mt Tamalpais State Park, Muir Woods National Monument,
Point Reyes National Seashore); Death Valley and Joshua Tree
National Parks, Mojave Desert.
Tree National Park for small-time fooling around or Yosemite (and nearby Mammoth) for the real thing. El Capitan to be precise. Otherwise there's also
Sequoia and King's Canyon National Parks or Pinnacles National Monument in Castle Crags.
Mountain biking: Mt Tamalpais State Park, Marin Headlands; Joshua
Tree National Park, Mojave Desert.
Skiing and snowboarding: Mammoth
Mountain, Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park,
Sierra Nevada Mountains; Mt Shasta, Cascade Range.
Beach, Long Beach.
Skateboarding and inline skating: San Francisco, let gravity do the work; Venice,
Los Angeles, to hang out and look cool, but watch out for local
Birdwatching: Sonny Bono Salton Sea
National Wildlife Refuge.
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