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CALIFORNIA TRAVEL GUIDE

Yosemite Falls, California McWay Falls, California Redwood National Park, California

Welcome to the bigroads.com travel guide to California! Hopefully this page helps provide some inspiration and tips to help you plan your next trip to California.

Take note that I build and maintain this website as both a hobby and public service. I take joy in performing travel research and sharing my experiences and adventures. I do not make any profit from this website, and you will see no ads on it. Your constructive feedback about this site and its content is encouraged. Please email me if you have any suggestions or ideas for improvement.

Author/Contributor: Greg Parsons

OVERVIEW



You could spend six lifetimes exploring California. No other state in the country has as many natural or tourist attractions as California does. It has more national parks than any other state (currently nine), some of the largest cities in the country (e.g. Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco), and an 840-mile long coastline. California has more wineries than any other state...by a landslide. The state also has the lowest point in the U.S. and the tallest point in lower 48 states. California also has the largest trees in the world (sequoias and redwoods). Throw a pin on a map of California and you could probably spend a week exploring just that area.

TOP 10 ATTRACTIONS IN CALIFORNIA



Are you short on time or struggling to choose something to do or see in California? Here are my choices for the top 10 attractions or experiences in California, in no particular order:

Gaze at the tallest trees in the world in Redwood National Park
Tour some of the amazing museums of Los Angeles (e.g. the Getty Center)
See the largest trees in the world in Sequoia National Park
Walk the trails of Yosemite Valley within Yosemite National Park
Drive the Big Sur highway along the California coast (US-1)
Visit the hottest and driest environment in North America in Death Valley National Park
Hit the slopes at one of the world-class ski areas near Lake Tahoe
Head to the the premier family destination of Disneyland
Drink your way through a few wineries in Napa Valley and/or Sonoma Valley
Relax at any one of California's fantastic beaches
Visit some of San Francisco's most famous sites (e.g. Alcatraz Island, Golden Gate Bridge, etc.)

If I could select only one place to visit in California, I would choose Yosemite National Park. The granite domes and mountains are breathtaking.

For a list of 10 great attractions in each U.S. state, click here.

5-STAR ATTRACTIONS IN CALIFORNIA



Here is my opinionated list of 5-star attractions in California. I believe each of these attractions should be on your California bucket list since they are all noteworthy from a national perspective:

Northwestern California / Northern Coast (including Crescent City, Eureka, Klamath, and Redwood National Park)
Avenue of the Giants - a 31-mile paved scenic drive that parallels US-101 through the Redwoods region; "the finest forest drive in the world"
Crescent City - a small city known for its rugged beaches, historic lighthouses, and as a key gateway to the Redwoods region
Drive-Thru Tree Park / Chandelier Tree, Leggett - one of several trees in California that you can drive through; this one is small vehicles only
Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Weott - features the world's largest remaining contiguous old-growth forest of Coast Redwood trees
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Crescent City - famous for its old-growth redwood trees
Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, Fort Bragg - the best botanical gardens in northern California; includes attractive coastline views
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Orick - famous for its sandy beaches, scenic drives, hiking trails, redwood trees, and an elk herd
Redwood Highway (Highway US-101) - the primary driving route through the Redwoods region
Redwood National Park - known for its huge old-growth coast redwood trees, dense forests, scenic drives, and rugged coastline
Trees of Mystery, Klamath - a tourist attraction featuring a giant Paul Bunyan statue, unique redwood trees, and a sky canopy trail
Wineries in Mendocino County - there are more than 500 wineries in this county; this area is known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Northcentral California / Northeastern California / Shasta Cascades
Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail - an excellent 25-mile unpaved rail trail from Susanville to Westwood that includes tunnels and trestles
Bolt's Antique Tool Museum - a small but comprehensive museum with 12,000-plus tools on display
Burney Falls, McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, Burney - an exceptional 129-foot waterfall that stems from an underground spring
Castle Crags State Park, Castella - features impressive granite towers and 28 miles of hiking trails, including some with Mt. Shasta views
Feather Falls, Plumas National Forest - an outstanding 640-foot waterfall; the trail is unfortunately CLOSED as of 2022 due to fire damage
Lake Shasta Caverns - a tourist attraction that combines a boat ride and a guided cave tour
Lassen Volcanic National Park - known for its volcanoes, meadows, and geological features (incl. steaming fumaroles and bubbling mud)
Lava Beds National Monument, Tulelake - a volcanic park that features lava-tube caves that you can enter (bring a headlamp!)
McCloud Falls, Shasta-Trinity National Forest - take a hike on the McCloud River Trail to visit three excellent waterfalls
Mount Shasta - one of California's premier mountaineering destinations; you can see a great viewpoint from CA 97 in the town of Mt. Shasta
Pluto's Cave, Klamath National Forest - bring a headlamp and hike into a lava tube cave
Potem Falls, Shasta-Trinity National Forest - XXXXXX
Sacramento River Trail - an excellent 12-mile paved rail trail along the Sacramento River
Subway Cave, Lassen National Forest - explore a 1/3 mile lava tube off CA 89 near Cave Campground (30 min north of Lassen Volcanic NP)
Sundial Bridge, Redding - a beautiful cable bridge for walkers and cyclists that spans the Sacramento River; one of CA's most unique bridges
Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding - XXXXXX

Napa and Sonoma Wine Country (including Napa, Santa Rosa, and Sonoma)
Armstrong Redwood State Reserve, Guerneville - features a temperate rainforest with a small grove of coast redwood trees
Castello di Amorosa, Calistoga - visit a 107-room Tuscan-style castle
Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center - exhibits, art, and sculptures related to the famous cartoonist (e.g. Charlie Brown/Snoopy)
Guided bike tours in Napa Valley - several companies offer excellent guided cycling tours of various areas of Napa Valley
Healdsburg - a small city that serves as a major wine country destination; it has many boutique hotels, shops, and fine dining
Hot air ballooning in Napa - one of the very best places in the U.S. for hot air balloon rides; several operators are in the area
Napa - a medium-sized city at the southern end of Napa Valley, which is the winery/vineyard capital of the U.S. (> 400 wineries!)
Napa Valley - a world-famous wine-producing region with beautiful rolling hills and more than 400 wineries
Napa Valley Wine Train, Napa - take a three-hour, 36-mile long train ride that typically stops at several wineries along the way
Oxbow Public Market, Napa - an attractive shopping market with many different food vendors
Russian River - a river with different sections that are popular for whitewater rafting, canoeing/kayaking, and tubing
Safari West, Santa Rosa - a large, private wildlife preserve with guided safari rides; features nearly 900 animals from 90 unique species
Sonoma - a small city with many fantastic wineries/vineyards; the city is also known for its spas and its historic downtown area
Sonoma Valley - this fantastic alternative to Napa Valley has more than 400 of its own wineries
Sonoma Zipline Adventures, Occidental - an excellent aerial adventure park with zip-lining
Sonoma Coast State Park, Bodega Bay - a top-rated state park that offers beaches, rock bluffs, headlands, natural arches, and secluded coves
St. Helena - a small city in the northern section of Napa Valley known for its boutique shops and wineries; the "Main Street of Napa Valley"
Wineries in Napa Valley - there are more than 400 wineries Napa Valley, California's most famous wine region; just north of San Francisco
Wineries in Sonoma Valley - there are more than 400 wineries in California's second most famous wine region; just north of San Francisco
Yountville - a very small city that is considered the top culinary destination within the Napa Valley region

San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area
Alamere Falls, Point Reyes National Seashore - take a long hike to see a 40-foot waterfall that dumps directly onto a Pacific Ocean beach
Alcatraz Island, San Francisco - take a ferry to visit America's most famous prison; book reservations month in advance (they always sell out)
Asian Art Museum, San Francisco - an art museum that claims to have "one of the most comprehensive Asian art collections in the world"
Cable Cars of San Francisco - take a ride on the world's last manually-operated cable car system; a quintessential San Francisco experience
California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco - one of the largest and best natural history museums in the U.S.; aquarium & planetarium too
Chinatown, San Francisco - visit the largest Chinatown outside of Asia and the oldest Chinatown in North America; outstanding food!
Computer History Museum, Mountain View - arguably the best computer technology museum in the U.S.
Exploratorium, The, San Francisco - an excellent science, technology, and art museum; located on Pier 15
Ferry Building Marketplace, San Francisco - a famous artisan food marketplace
Fisherman's Wharf / Pier 39, San Francisco - the most popular tourist area in San Francisco has many shops and restaurants, plus seals
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco - an iconic, world-famous red-orange colored suspension bridge that you can walk or drive across
Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco - a huge urban park with excellent views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco - a rectangular urban park with gardens, trails, museums, and more; south of the Golden Gate NRA
Guided food tours in San Francisco - San Francisco is a dining destination, and several companies offer guided food tours
Guided sightseeing tours in San Francisco - there are several companies that over guided sightseeing tours in San Francisco
Japanese Tea Garden, San Francisco - visit the oldest public Japanese garden in the U.S.; located within Golden Gate Park
Legion of Honor, San Francisco - an excellent art museum in Lincoln Park known for its ancient and European art
Lombard Street, San Francisco - walk or drive on what is likely the most crooked street in the world (it has eight consecutive turns!)
Marrakech Magic Theater, San Francisco - a historic historic speakeasy with live entertainment (including magic shows)
Mosaic-tiled stairways in San Francisco - there are several decorated staircases in the city to find and walk up (e.g. 16th Avenue & Moraga St.)
Mount Tamalpais State Park, Mill Valley - offers some of the best hiking close to San Francisco; many excellent scenic views
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley - see the closest redwood trees to San Francisco; the park has several miles of hiking trails
Oracle Park, San Francisco - a great MLB ballpark; home of the San Francisco Giants
Painted Ladies, San Francisco - a row of pastel-colored homes on the eastern side of Alamo Square Park; beautiful views of the city
Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco - an iconic Roman/Greek-like structure in the Marina District
Point Reyes National Seashore - features 100 square miles of beaches, lagoons, and forested hills; don't miss the Cypress Tree Tunnel
San Francisco - a major city known for its diverse culture and food; attractions include the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and cable cars
San Francisco Cable Car Museum, San Francisco - a free museum with exhibits on, and examples of, San Francisco's iconic cable cars
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), San Francisco - one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the U.S.
Sausalito - a small city that looks like a "Mediterranean fishing village"; famous for its views of San Francisco and its houseboat communities
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Vallejo - a large amusement park with more than 40 rides (including 10 rollercoasters)
Stanford University, Stanford - tour one of the most beautiful college campuses in the U.S.
Twin Peaks, San Francisco - a small park offering fantastic, elevated views of San Francisco
Walt Disney Family Museum, San Francisco - a museum that celebrates the life and legacy of the famous Disney founder
Winchester Mystery House, San Jose - tour a "beautiful but really bizarre" 160-room Victorian mansion

Central Valley: North (including Sacramento)
American River Bike Trail (aka Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail) - an excellent, 32-mile long paved rail trail from Old Sacramento to Folsom
Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Arnold - one of the best places in California to see giant sequoia trees
California State Capitol Museum, Sacramento - take a guided tour of the state capitol building
California State Railroad Museum, Sacramento - this is arguably the finest railroad museum in the U.S.
Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento - the oldest art museum in the western U.S.; known for its extensive collection of Californian art
Jelly Belly Self-Guided Factory Tours, Fairfield - take a free, 40-minute tour of how Jelly Belly jelly beans are made
Mercer Caverns, Murphys - one of several show caves in central California that offer guided underground tours
Moaning Cavern, Vallecito - one of several show caves in central California that offer guided underground tours
Sonora - a very small inland city known for its "historic downtown charm", gold rush history, and access to nearby outdoor recreation

Lake Tahoe area
Boat tours on Lake Tahoe - boating is very popular on Lake Tahoe
Casinos in South Lake Tahoe - there are several casinos in the Lake Tahoe area
Desolation Wilderness - an outstanding wilderness area just wester of Lake Tahoe that offers exceptional hiking and backpacking
Emerald Bay State Park, South Lake Tahoe - excellent hiking, biking, and water sports in what is often called the best section of Lake Tahoe
Heavenly Ski Resort, South Lake Tahoe - the largest ski area in the Lake Tahoe region; one of the best ski resorts in California
Kayaking on Lake Tahoe - kayaking on this beautiful lake is a very popular activity
Kings Beach State Recreation Area - a small but attractive and popular beach on the northern end of Lake Tahoe
Kirkwood Ski Resort, Kirkwood - one of several excellent ski areas in the Lake Tahoe region
Lake Tahoe - the second deepest lake in the U.S.; surrounded by outstanding biking, hiking, skiing, 4x4 driving, and other outdoor recreation
Lake Tahoe Balloons - offers excellent hot air balloon rides with views of Lake Tahoe and nearby mountains
Mount Tallac - take a challenging hike to one of the best views in the Lake Tahoe region
Northstar California Ski Resort, Truckee - one of several excellent ski areas in the Lake Tahoe region
Palisades Tahoe, Alpine Meadows - one of several excellent ski areas in the Lake Tahoe region
Pope Beach, South Lake Tahoe - a popular public beach on the southern shores of Lake Tahoe
Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster - a popular mountain coaster at the Heavenly Mountain Resort on the CA/NV border
Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Resort, Soda Springs - supposedly the largest cross-country ski area in North America
Rubicon Trail - a world-renowned, 22-mile long challenging 4x4 driving route; not to be confused with the nearby Rubicon Trail hiking trail
South Lake Tahoe - a small resort city on the shores of Lake Tahoe that offers access to outstanding outdoor recreation (including skiing)
Sugar Bowl Resort, Norden - one of several excellent ski areas in the Lake Tahoe region
Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center, Truckee - one of the best places to go cross-country skiing in California; more than 60 miles of trails
Tahoe Treetop Adventure Parks, Tahoe City - a fun aerial adventure park with zip-lining
Truckee - a "bustling mountain town" near Lake Tahoe that has nearby access to several fantastic ski/snowboard resorts

Western Sierra Nevada (including Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Park, and Yosemite National Park)
Ansel Adams Wilderness - a large wilderness area that offers exceptional hiking and backpacking in alpine and sub-alpine terrain
Boyden Cavern, Sanger - guided tours of an underground marble cave
General Sherman, Sequoia National Park - take a short walk to see the world's largest tree (as measured by volume)
Glacier Point Road, Yosemite National Park - a scenic national park road leading to outstanding views of Yosemite Valley and Half Dome
Half Dome, Yosemite National Park - a large, stunningly beautiful granite dome that strong hikers and rock-climbers try to ascend
High Sierra Camps - a series of 9 rustic lodging facilities in the mountains (5 of which are remote and require hiking or horseback riding)
John Muir Trail - a world-famous, 211-mile hiking trail from Yosemite Valley to the 14,505' summit of Mt. Whitney; permits are required
Kings Canyon National Park - known for its sequoia trees, deep valleys, alpine scenery, and 5-star hiking and backpacking trails
Moro Rock, Sequoia National Park - take a short walk up a large granite dome-shaped monolith for spectacular views
Sequoia National Park - features the world's largest trees, including General Sherman; outstanding hiking and backpacking trails
Tioga Road, Yosemite National Park - an exceptionally scenic but seasonal paved road north of Yosemite Valley; typically open June-Sept
Yosemite National Park - one of the premier national parks of the U.S.; features granite monoliths, sequoia trees, and towering waterfalls
Yosemite Valley - the heart of Yosemite National Park and where most visitors spend their time; walk or cycle around to see the waterfalls

Eastern Sierra Nevada
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, Inyo National Forest near Bishop - drive a scenic paved road to the home of the oldest trees in the world
Ansel Adams Wilderness - a large wilderness area that offers exceptional hiking and backpacking in alpine and sub-alpine terrain
Bodie State Historic Park, Bodie - visit a preserved California gold-mining ghost town; I would argue this the best ghost town in the U.S.
Devils Postpile National Monument, Mammoth Lakes - see beautiful geologic formations and Rainbow Falls (one of CA's best waterfalls)
Hot Creek Geologic Site, Mammoth Lakes - see interesting thermal features including blue pools of boiling hot water and small geysers
Inyo National Forest - an enormous and gorgeous wilderness park that offers some of the finest outdoor recreation in the U.S.
John Muir Trail - a world-famous, 211-mile hiking trail from Yosemite Valley to the 14,505' summit of Mt. Whitney; permits are required
John Muir Wilderness - a 650,000-plus acre wilderness area in Inyo and Sierra National Forests; offers world-class hiking and backpacking
Mammoth Lakes - a mountain town with excellent scenery, hiking, and skiing/snowboarding; gateway to Devils Postpile National Monument
Mammoth Mountain, Mammoth Lakes - California's highest lift-served four-season resort; offers excellent skiing and mountain biking
Manzanar National Historic Site, Independence - visit the site of a World War II Japanese internment camp; take note the camp itself is gone
Mono Lake, Lee Vining - a saline lake famous for its tufa formations and excellent bird-watching
Mount Whitney, Lone Pine - take a day hike or backpacking trip to the highest point in California (also the highest point in the lower 48)

Central Coast (from Los Angeles to Santa Cruz; includes the Big Sur Highway, Carmel-by-the Sea, Monterey, and Santa Barbara)
17-mile Drive, Monterey - a scenic toll road on the Monterey Peninsula that features dramatic coastal cliffs, beaches, and many coastal views
Asilomar State Beach, Pacific Grove - features a scenic beach and rocky coves; close to the northern gate of 17-Mile Drive
Bubblegum Alley, San Luis Obispo - some will say this place is gross, but this is a 70-foot long alley of chewed bubble gum; add your own!
Carmel-by-the-Sea - a very small beach city with many boutique shops, art galleries and restaurants; gateway to US- 1 / the Big Sur Highway
Channel Islands National Park - take a boat/ferry to visit the "Galapagos Islands of California"; a rare island wilderness
Getty Villa, The, Malibu - see Greek and Roman art in a re-created Roman seaside home
Giant Dipper, Santa Cruz - an iconic wooden rollercoaster on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Hearst Castle, San Simeon - take a guided tour of an opulent 165-room estate that sits on 127-acres; one of the best mansion tours in the U.S.
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Felton - one of the best places to see redwood trees in central California
Huntington Beach Pier, Huntington Beach - one of the longest ocean pieces on the West Coast (1,850 feet long)
Huntington State Beach, Huntington Beach - a popular beach in "Surf City USA"; includes a portion of an 8.5 mile paved beach-side trail
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur - take a short walk to see 80-foot tall McWay Falls drop into beautiful Big Sur coastal scenery
Madonna Inn, San Luis Obispo - a world-famous hotel with 110 uniquely themed guest rooms (including a cave and jungle room)
Mission Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara - tour a Spanish mission from the late 1700s
Montana de Oro State Park, Los Osos - a beautiful coastal park with rugged cliffs and 7-miles of undeveloped shorelines; great hiking trails
Monterey - a small coastal city famous for its aquarium; has boutique shops and historic buildings; gateway to US- 1 / the Big Sur Highway
Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey - this aquarium is consistently rated as one of the top 5 aquariums in the U.S.
Monterey Bay Coastal Recreational Trail - an excellent, 18-mile long, coastal paved rail trail from Pacific Grove to Castroville
Morro Bay - a small coastal city famous for its ancient volcanic mound (Morro Rock); "the Gibraltar of California"
Mystery Spot, Santa Cruz - a tourist attraction featuring demonstrations of "gravitational anomalies"
Ocean View Boulevard, Pacific Grove - a scenic drive along the coastline near Monterey; "a free version of the famous 17-mile Drive"
Pacific Coast Highway / Big Sur (US-1) - many would say this is the best coastal drive in the U.S. (although the Oregon Coast competes)
Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach - one of the most famous public golf courses in the world
Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur - one of the best and most popular beaches in the Big Sur region; includes a natural sea arch
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Big Sur - one of the best places to go camping on the Big Sur coastline; has redwood trees and hiking trails
Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery, San Simeon - a popular place to see large groups of elephant seals in the wild
Pismo Beach - a small coastal city famous for its beaches and ocean scenery; hiking, surfing, and ATVing are all popular activities here
Point Lobos State Reserve, Carmel-by-the-Sea - features beautiful hiking trails, rocky cliffs, and fine coastal views
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum, Simi Valley - one of the top presidential museums in the U.S.; includes a Boeing 707 aircraft
Santa Barbara - a medium-sized coastal city famous for its beaches and Mediterranean-style architecture; gateway to the Channel Islands
Santa Barbara County Courthouse, Santa Barbara - take a quick look at what some call the "most beautiful government building in the U.S."
Santa Barbara Zoo, Santa Barbara - a great medium-sized zoo near the ocean
Santa Cruz - a medium-sized coastal city known for its beaches, seaside amusements, and its youthful/hippy spirit
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk & Amusement Park, Santa Cruz - a mile long old-fashioned boardwalk and seaside amusement park
Solvang - a very small Bavarian-themed city with many boutique stores and restaurants; the "Danish capital of America"
State Street Promenade, Santa Barbara - the heart of downtown Santa Barbara with a 10-block pedestrian/tourist walkway
Whale watching tours from Monterey, Moss Landing, or Santa Cruz - each of these towns offer excellent whale-watching boat tours
Wineries in Paso Robles Wine Country - there are more than 200 wineries in this region

Central Valley: South (including Bakersfield and Fresno)
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, Lancaster - considered the "most consistent place in the state to see blooms of California poppies"
Forestiere Underground Gardens, Fresno - take a guided tour of a hand-built network of underground rooms, courtyards, and passageways
Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area, Hollister - one of the best places in the state for ATV/OHV riding
Pinnacles National Park - known for its rock towers, spires, sheer-walled canyons, spring wildflowers, and talus caves
Vasquez Rocks Natural Area, Agua Dulce - a high desert park known for its interesting rock formations; popular for rock climbing

Central and southern deserts of California (including Palm Springs, Borrego Springs, and Death Valley National Park)
4x4 driving in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park - the largest state park in California has amazing 4x4 driving trails
4x4 driving in Death Valley National Park - the 4x4 driving trails in this national park lead to many spectacular remote destinations
ATV/OHV-ing on the Imperial Sand Dunes - one of the best places in the state for ATV/OHV riding
Alabama Hills, BLM Land - a land of rounded rocks, natural arches, and eroded hills in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs - a desert park that offers interesting geology and some of the best 4x4 driving trails in CA
Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park - visit the lowest point in North America; best visited from November-April due to high heat
Cabazon Dinosaurs, Cabazon - a classic roadside attraction featuring two gigantic steel-and-concrete dinosaur statues
Coachella Valley Preserve, Thousand Palms - a nature park near Joshua Tree known for its hiking trails and palm oases
Crowley Lake Stone Columns, Bishop - take a 4x4 drive and then a short hike to visit fascinating rock columns on Crowley Lake
Death Valley National Park - a large and notoriously hot desert park with barren and inhospitable landscapes; outstanding 4x4 driving trails
East Jesus, Niland - a "junk art park" made by a variety of artists
Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch, Oro Grande - an art park with tree-shaped sculptures made from glass bottles and other recycled items
Joshua Tree National Park - known for its iconic trees, cholla cactus gardens, and interesting (and often climbable) rock formations
Kelso Dunes, Mojave National Preserve - these sand dunes are the most popular destination in Mojave National Preserve
Living Desert Zoo & Gardens, Palm Desert - features many themed gardens and a zoo with more than 500 animals
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death Valley National Park - take a moderate hike to the most accessible sand dunes in the national park
Mobius Arch, Alabama Hills - a stunning natural arch featuring amazing views of the Sierra Nevada mountains; popular with photographers
Mount San Jacinto (aka San Jacinto Peak), Palm Springs - one of the most "prominent" mountains in the U.S. (meaning a large elevation gain)
Mount San Jacinto State Park, Idyllwild - features some of the best hiking in southern California; tops out at 10,834-foot San Jacinto Peak
Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs - this is the main strip of Palm Springs; the "Rodeo Drive of the Desert"
Palm Springs - a medium-sized resort city in the desert known for its hotels, restaurants, and golf courses; gateway to Joshua Tree NP
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Palm Springs - one of the best aerial tramways in the U.S.; from the tramway, you can hike to San Jacinto Peak
Palm Springs Air Museum, Palm Springs - one of the best aircraft museums in the U.S.; more than 60 aircraft are on display
Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs - a great medium-sized art museum with a small theater
Racetrack Playa, Death Valley National Park - a very remote dry lake accessible via a 4x4 driving route; famous for its "sailing stones"
Salvation Mountain, Calipatria - a religious folk art project on a man-made mountain; one of California's top roadside attractions
Sky Art Sculptures, Borrego Springs - go exploring to see more than two dozen life-size metal sculptures in a desert landscape
Trona Pinnacles, California Desert National Conservation Area - features 500 towering tufa towers and spires (some more than 100 feet tall)
World's Tallest Thermometer, Baker - a famous 134-foot thermometer visible from I-15 as you travel between Los Angeles and Las Vegas
Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park - drive a scenic paved road to the most famous vista in Death Valley National Park

Los Angeles area (including Anaheim, Malibu, and Santa Monica; see below for the rest of southern California)
Anaheim - a large city southeast of Los Angeles that is home to the Disneyland amusement park and other Disney attractions
Battleship USS Iowa Museum, Los Angeles - a maritime museum that includes tours of a Navy battleship
California Science Center, Los Angeles - an excellent science museum that includes the space shuttle Endeavor
Disney California Adventure Park (DCA), Anaheim - one of two amusement parks of the Disneyland Resort
Disneyland Park, Anaheim - the most-visited amusement park in CA; one of two amusement parks of the Disneyland Resort
Downtown Disney, Anaheim - an outdoor shopping and entertainment district within the Disneyland Resort
Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles - a famous MLB ballpark; home of the Los Angeles Dodgers
Getty Center, The, Los Angeles - a "miraculous arts center compound" known for its art, architecture, gardens, and L.A. views
Grand Central Market, Los Angeles - a popular public market with many food vendors
Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles - the most-visited public observatory in the world; offers live planetarium / astronomy shows
Griffith Park, Los Angeles - a large urban park with excellent hiking trails and views of Los Angeles
Guided celebrity tours in Hollywood - several operators in the area offer various types of celebrity and Hollywood-themed tours
Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles - a very touristy area with many shops, restaurants, and attractions
Hollywood Bowl - one of the finest outdoor concert amphitheaters in the U.S.
Hollywood Sign, Los Angeles - an iconic American landmark and cultural icon/sign; Griffith Park probably offers the best views
Hollywood Walk of Fame, Los Angeles - features more than 2,700 sidewalk-embedded stars with names from the entertainment industry
Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino - a tourist attraction featuring a mix of rare books, gardens, and art
Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park - one of California's best theme parks; features more than 40 rides and attractions
Korean Bell of Friendship, San Pedro - a cultural landmark featuring a large bronze bell in a Korean-style stone pavilion
La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, Los Angeles - visit an active paleontological research site
Los Angeles - a major city famous for its museums, celebrity culture, movie/TV production, theatre, and professional sports
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles - believed to be the largest art museum in the western U.S.
Malibu - a small coastal city with 27 miles of beachfront; known for surfing, its fishing pier, and as a hangout of the rich and famous
Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, Buena Park - one of several locations in the U.S. that offers this highly-rated dinner theater experience
Mosaic Tile House, Venice - a roadside attraction / art project feature a 1940s home that is covered in mosaic tiles
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles - supposedly the largest natural and historic museum in the western U.S.
Nethercutt Collection, Los Angeles - an excellent auto museum that offers guided tours of more than 250 American and European vehicles
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena - a great art museum most known for its European paintings and sculptures
Original Farmers Market, Los Angeles - a historic farmers market with more than 100 grocers, shops, food vendors, and restaurants
Paramount Studio Tour, Los Angeles - guided cart tours of one of Hollywood's major film studios
Petersen Automotive Museum, Los Angeles - one of the world's largest and best auto museums; has a collection of more than 400 vehicles
Randy's Donuts, Inglewood - one of the most iconic donut shops in the U.S.; a giant donut on the roof provides a fun photo-op
Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills - three blocks of this street is famous for its high-end designer and boutique shops
Runyon Canyon Park, Los Angeles - a popular hiking destination in Los Angeles that offers fantastic views of the city
Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica - a lively beach pier with a small amusement park (Pacific Park), good fishing, and great views of the beach
Santa Monica State Beach, Santa Monica - a popular, three-mile long sandy beach
Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia - a large and highly-rated amusement park with a whopping 20 roller coasters
South Bay Bicycle Trail - a 22-mile paved path that mostly travels along the beach from Will Rogers State Beach to Torrance County Beach
Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica - a three-block long pedestrian zone with more than 80 shops and several restaurants and bars
Trail Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest - a photogenic 40-foot waterfall located about 1 hour north of Los Angeles
Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal City - a large and famous film studio and theme park; one of California's most popular attractions
Venice Beach and Venice Beach Boardwalk, Venice Beach - an eclectic and popular beach with many recreational activities
Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles - a gorgeous (inside and out) concert hall designed by the famous architect Frank Gehry
Warner Brothers Studio Tours, Burbank - take a guided tour through the famous film studio
Zuma Beach, Malibu - one of the best beaches in LA county (some would say it is the best)

Southwestern California / Southern Coast (see above for Los Angeles and below for San Diego)
Avalon - a small tourist town on Catalina Island with Mediterranean-style architecture, beaches, boutique shops, and boat tours
Big Bear Lake - a small mountain town about 2 1/2 hours east of Los Angeles; famous for its log architecture and ski/snowboard resorts
Catalina Island (aka Santa Catalina Island) - take a boat to visit the most popular island in the Channel Islands; includes the city of Avalon
Catalina Zip Line Eco Tour, Avalon - offers an excellent zip-lining experience
Dana Point - a small coastal city known for its beaches, water sports, surf culture, and whale-watching; gateway to Catalina Island
Flower Fields, Carlsbad - a seasonal attraction featuring 50 acres of blooming ranunculus flowers
Heisler Park, Laguna Beach - a beautiful coastal park with beaches, walking trails, tide pools, and sections of rocky coastline
Laguna Beach - a small coastal city with beaches, art galleries, excellent SCUBA diving and snorkeling, and plenty of tourist/boutique shops
Legoland California Resort, Carlsbad - one of three major LEGO-themed amusement parks in the U.S. (there are two are in FL and NY)
Lions, Tigers and Bears, Alpine - offers guided educational tours of an exotic animal and big cat rescue sanctuary
Mission San Juan Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano - visit a historic Spanish mission from the late 1700s
Queen Califia's Magical Circle, Escondido - a colorful outdoor sculpture park featuring several mosaic-covered sculptures
San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Escondido - a large natural environment zoo; the sister park of the San Diego Zoo (which is 1hr away)
Santa Ana River Trail - a 57-mile paved rail trail with various sections between Huntington Beach to San Bernardino
Self-Realization Fellowship Meditation Gardens, Encinitas - visit a seaside spiritual retreat center with meditation gardens
Whale watching tours from Dana Point - several operators offer excellent whale-watching boat tours from Dana Point
Wineries in Temecula Valley - there are more than 50 wineries in this wine region, which is located between Los Angeles and San Diego

San Diego & Coronado (see above for the rest of northern California)
Balboa Park - a tourist destination with a variety of activities, including hiking trails, gardens, museums, memorials, theaters, and more
Bayshore Bikeway - a 17-mile paved coastal rail trail between San Diego and Coronado that travelers around San Diego Bay
Belmont Park - an old-fashioned seaside amusement park on Mission Beach that is famous for its large wooden roller coaster
Boat tours in San Diego - e.g. sailing tours, dolphin tours, sunset cruises, etc.
Cabrillo National Monument - features the Cabrillo Statue, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, and great views of San Diego
Hotel del Coronado - an iconic, 4-star wooden Victorian beach resort in upscale Coronado
La Jolla Cove - a beautiful cove with a stunning beach, excellent snorkeling, and fantastic sea-kayaking
La Jolla Shores Beach - a beautiful, wide, and popular mile-long beach
Liberty Public Market - an attractive public market with roughly three dozen eateries
Little Italy District - a lively neighborhood with many great restaurants and boutique shops
Maritime Museum of San Diego - a maritime museum that "preserves one of the largest collections of historic sea vessels in the U.S."
Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala - visit a Franciscan mission from the late 1700s
Mission Beach - a very popular long and wide beach with a historic amusement park and a "friendly laid-back vibe"
Mission Trails Regional Park - one of the largest urban parks in the U.S. with more than 65 miles of hiking trails on 8,000-plus acres
Old Town - a lively shopping and eating district with a heavy focus on Mexican heritage
Petco Park - home of the San Diego Padres major league baseball team
San Diego - one of the U.S.'s best major cities; known for its beaches, great climate, and tourist attractions (e.g. San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld)
San Diego Air and Space Museum - a good aviation and space museum within Balboa Park
San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA) - art museum that focuses on American, Asian, European, and Latin American art
San Diego Zoo - easily the finest zoo in America (no other zoo even comes close); a sister safari park is about 1 hour northeast of this zoo
Sea-kayaking in La Jolla - strong paddlers can visit several sea caves
SeaWorld San Diego - a major theme park and marine zoological park; features marine life shows and close-up animal encounters
Spanish Village Art Center - visit a colorful working art village in Balboa Park
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park - a small nature park with coastal bluffs, natural arches, and sea caves; some of southern San Diego's best scenery
Torrey Pines State Reserve - one of the most scenic sections of the southern CA coast; features high broken cliffs, beaches, and hiking trails
Unconditional Surrender Statue - a large (and sometimes controversial) statue in Tuna Harbor Park of a sailor passionately kissing a woman
USS Midway Museum - tour a historic U.S. Navy aircraft carrier; one of the finest military ship museums in the U.S.

Are you aware of any other 5-star attractions in California? If so, please email me at gparsons66@hotmail.com.

For a list of 5-star attractions in neighboring states, click on any of these links:  AZ  |  NV  |  OR

BEST TOWNS & CITIES TO VISIT IN CALIFORNIA



These towns and cities in California are generally regarded as the most interesting to travelers:

Northern California
Crescent City - a small city known for its rugged beaches, historic lighthouses, and as a key gateway to the Redwoods region
Healdsburg - a small city that is a wine country destination; it has many boutique hotels and shops, and plenty of fine dining
Napa - a medium-sized city at the southern end of Napa Valley, which is the winery/vineyard capital of the U.S. (> 400 wineries!)
San Francisco - a major city known for its diverse culture and food; attractions include the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and cable cars
Sausalito - a small city that looks like a "Mediterranean fishing village"; famous for its views of San Francisco and houseboat communities
Sonoma - a small city with many fantastic wineries/vineyards; the city is also known for its spas and its historic downtown area
South Lake Tahoe - a small resort city on the shores of Lake Tahoe that offers access to outstanding outdoor recreation (including skiing)
St. Helena - a small city in the northern section of Napa Valley known for its boutique shops and wineries; the "Main Street of Napa Valley"
Truckee - a "bustling" mountain town near Lake Tahoe that has nearby access to several fantastic ski/snowboard resorts
Yountville - a very small city that is considered the top culinary destination within the Napa Valley region

Central California
Carmel-by-the-Sea - a very small beach city with many boutique shops, art galleries and restaurants; gateway to US- 1 / the Big Sur Highway
Mammoth Lakes - a mountain town with excellent scenery, hiking, and skiing/snowboarding; gateway to Devils Postpile National Monument
Monterey - a small coastal city famous for its aquarium; has boutique shops and historic buildings; gateway to US- 1 / the Big Sur Highway
Morro Bay - a small coastal city famous for its ancient volcanic mound (Morro Rock); "the Gibraltar of California"
Pismo Beach - a small coastal city famous for its beaches and ocean scenery; hiking, surfing, and ATVing are all popular activities here
Santa Barbara - a medium-sized coastal city famous for its beaches and Mediterranean-style architecture; gateway to the Channel Islands
Santa Cruz - a medium-sized coastal city known for its beaches, seaside amusements, and its youthful/hippy spirit
Solvang - a very small Bavarian-themed city with many boutique stores and restaurants; the "Danish capital of America"
Sonora - a very small inland city known for its "historic downtown charm", gold rush history, and access to nearby outdoor recreation

Southern California
Anaheim - a large city southeast of Los Angeles that is home to the Disneyland amusement park and other Disney attractions
Avalon - a small tourist town on Santa Catalina Island with Mediterranean-style architecture, beaches, boutique shops, and boat tours
Big Bear Lake - a small mountain town about 2 1/2 hours east of Los Angeles; famous for its log architecture and ski/snowboard resorts
Dana Point - a small coastal city known for its beaches, water sports, surf culture, and whale-watching; gateway to Catalina Island
Laguna Beach - a small coastal city with beaches, art galleries, excellent SCUBA diving and snorkeling, and plenty of tourist/boutique shops
Los Angeles - a major city famous for its museums, celebrity culture, movie/TV production, theatre, and professional sports
Malibu - a small coastal city with 27 miles of beachfront; known for surfing, its fishing pier, and as a hangout of the rich and famous
Palm Springs - a medium-sized resort city in the desert known for its hotels, restaurants, and golf courses; gateway to Joshua Tree NP
San Diego - one of the U.S.'s best major cities; known for its beaches, great climate, and tourist attractions (e.g. San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld)

There are many other small towns and cities in California that some may find interesting and worth a visit. Here are a few of them: Julian, Huntington Beach, Borrego Springs, Calistoga, Glen Ellen, and San Luis Obispo.

My favorite major city in California is San Diego - I recommend that first-time visitors spend at least 5-7 days there
My second favorite major city in California is San Francisco - I recommend that first-time visitors spend at least 4-5 days there

If you like amusement parks, visit Anaheim/Buena Vista, San Diego, or Santa Clarita.
If you like skiing, visit Big Bear Lake, Mammoth Lakes, South Lake Tahoe, or Truckee.
If you like wineries, visit Calistoga, Glen Ellen, Healdsburg, Napa, Sonoma, St. Helena, or Yountville.
If you want to visit Channel Islands National Park, stay in Ventura.
If you want to visit Death Valley National Park, try to stay within the park itself; otherwise, stay in Ridgecrest, Lone Pine, or Pahrump (NV).
If you want to visit Devils Postpile National Monument, stay in Mammoth Lakes.
If you want to visit Disneyland, stay in Anaheim.
If you want to visit Joshua Tree National Park, stay in Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, or Twentynine Palms.
If you want to visit Kings Canyon National Park, try to stay within the park itself; otherwise, stay in Three Rivers.
If you want to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park, stay in Redding or Red Bluff.
If you want to visit Pinnacles National Park, stay in Soledad.
If you want to visit Redwoods National Park, stay in Arcata, Crescent City, Eureka, or Trinidad.
If you want to visit Sequoia National Park, try to stay within the park itself; otherwise, stay in Three Rivers.
If you want to visit Yellowstone National Park, try to stay within the park itself; otherwise, stay in El Portal, Mariposa, or Vining.

The primary destination towns/cities in Napa Valley include Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga.
The primary destination towns/cities in Sonoma Valley include Sonoma, Healdsburg, Santa Rosa, and Glen Ellen.

Click here if you'd like to see a complete list of towns and cities that I find interesting across the entire U.S.

WHAT IS CALIFORNIA FAMOUS FOR?



Here are some things that California is famous or well-known for:

4x4 driving
alpine scenery
amusement parks
beaches
beach piers
coastal bluffs
coastal scenic drives
deserts
drive-thru trees
earthquakes
gold rush / gold mines
golfing
major cities
movie/film industry
progressive politics
palm trees
raisins
redwood trees
rock climbing
skiing/snowboarding
sequoia trees
Spanish missions
strong environmental protections
sunshine
surfing
technology companies
volcanoes
waterfalls
wineries / vineyards / wine tasting

Click here if you'd like to learn what other U.S. states are famous for.

NATIONAL PARKS IN CALIFORNIA



There are an impressive number of national parks in California, including:

National Parks
Channel Islands National Park - take a boat/ferry to visit the "Galapagos Islands of California"; a rare island wilderness
Death Valley National Park - a large and notoriously hot desert park with barren and inhospitable landscapes; outstanding 4x4 driving trails
Joshua Tree National Park - known for its iconic trees, cholla cactus gardens, and interesting (and often climbable) rock formations
Lassen Volcanic National Park - known for its volcanoes, meadows, and geological features (incl. steaming fumaroles and bubbling mud)
Kings Canyon National Park - known for its sequoia trees, deep valleys, alpine scenery, and 5-star hiking and backpacking trails
Pinnacles National Park - known for its rock towers, spires, sheer-walled canyons, spring wildflowers, and talus caves
Redwood National Park - known for its huge old-growth coast redwood trees, dense forests, scenic drives, and rugged coastline
Sequoia National Park - features the world's largest trees, including General Sherman; outstanding hiking and backpacking trails
Yosemite National Park - one of the premier national parks of the U.S.; features granite monoliths, sequoia trees, and towering waterfalls

National Monuments
Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument
Cabrillo National Monument - features the Cabrillo Statue, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, and great views of San Diego
California Coastal National Monument
Carrizo Plain National Monument
Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument
Castle Mountains National Monument
Cesar E. Chavez National Monument
Devils Postpile National Monument - see beautiful geologic formations and Rainbow Falls (one of CA's best waterfalls)
Fort Ord National Monument
Giant Sequoia National Monument
Lava Beds National Monument - a volcanic park that features lava-tube caves that you can enter (bring a headlamp!)
Mojave Trails National Monument
Muir Woods National Monument - see the closest redwood trees to San Francisco; the park has several miles of hiking trails
Saint Francis Dam Disaster National Monument
San Gabriel Mountains National Monument
Sand to Snow National Monument
Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument
Tule Lake National Monument

My favorite national monuments in California are Cabrillo, Devils Postpile, Lava Beds, and Muir Woods.

National Recreation Areas
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
Smith River National Recreation Area
Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area

National Forests
Angeles National Forest
Cleveland National Forest
Eldorado National Forest
Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
Inyo National Forest
Klamath National Forest
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
Los Padres National Forest
Mendocino National Forest
Modoc National Forest
Plumas National Forest
Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest
San Bernardino National Forest
Sequoia National Forest
Shasta-Trinity National Forest
Sierra National Forest
Six Rivers National Forest
Stanislaus National Forest
Tahoe National Forest

National Historical Parks / Other National Parks & Properties
Alcatraz Island
California National Historic Trail
Eugene O'Neil National Historic Site
Fort Point National Historic Site
John Muir National Historic Site
Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail
Manzanar National Historic Site
Mohave National Preserve
Old Spanish National Historic Trail
Point Reyes National Seashore
Pony Express National Historic Trail
Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial
Presidio of San Francisco
Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park
San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park

If you are visiting Death Valley National Park for the 1st time, I would explore the park for 3-4 days. Add more days if you have a 4x4 vehicle.
If you are visiting Joshua Tree National Park for the 1st time, I would explore the park for 2-3 days. Add more days if you are a rock climber.
If you are visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park for the 1st time, I would explore the park for 2-3 days.
If you are visiting Kings Canyon National Park for the 1st time, I would explore the park for 1-2 days. Add more days if you are an avid hiker.
If you are visiting Pinnacles National Park for the 1st time, I would explore the park for 1-2 days.
If you are visiting Redwood National Park for the 1st time, I would explore the park for 1-2 days. Add more days to visit excellent nearby state parks.
If you are visiting Sequoia National Park for the 1st time, I would explore the park for 1-2 days.Add more days if you are an avid hiker.
If you are visiting Yosemite National Park for the 1st time, I would explore the park for 3-4 days. Add more days if you are an avid hiker.

For more information on California's national parks, visit the California page of the National Park Service. For an overview of all U.S. national parks, click here.

STATE PARKS IN CALIFORNIA



California has more than 275 state parks, making it one of the largest and best state park systems in the country. Many would agree that these represent many of California's finest state parks:

Flagship / Premier State Parks:
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park - a desert park that offers interesting geology and some of the best 4x4 driving trails in CA
Asilomar State Beach - features a scenic beach and rocky coves; close to the northern gate of 17-Mile Drive
Bodie State Historic Park - visit a preserved California gold-mining ghost town; I would argue this the best ghost town in the U.S.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park - one of the best places in California to see giant sequoia trees
Humboldt Redwoods State Park - features the world's largest remaining contiguous old-growth forest of Coast Redwood trees
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park - famous for its old-growth redwood trees
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park - take a short walk to see 80-foot tall McWay Falls drop into beautiful Big Sur coastal scenery
McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park - features an exceptional 129-foot waterfall that stems from an underground spring
Montana de Oro State Park - a beautiful coastal park with rugged cliffs and 7-miles of undeveloped shorelines; great hiking trails
Mount San Jacinto State Park - features some of the best hiking in southern California; tops out at 10,834-foot San Jacinto Peak
Point Lobos State Reserve - features beautiful hiking trails, rocky cliffs, and fine coastal views
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park - famous for its sandy beaches, scenic drives, hiking trails, redwood trees, and an elk herd
Santa Monica State Beach - a popular, three-mile long sandy beach
Torrey Pines State Reserve - one of the most scenic sections of the southern CA coast; features high broken cliffs, beaches, and hiking trails

Other Notable State Parks:
Ana Nuevo State Park
Armstrong Redwood State Reserve
Emerald Bay State Park
Castle Crags State Park
Crystal Cove State Park
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park
Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve
Mount Diablo State Park
Mount Tamalpais State Park
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
Red Rock Canyon State Park
Sonoma Coast State Park

My favorite state park in California is Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. You just can't beat its coastline view that includes a waterfall dumping onto its beach.

To see my list of the top 100 state parks in the country, click here.

BEST WATERFALLS IN CALIFORNIA



California has hundreds of natural waterfalls (perhaps even more than 1,000!). Yosemite National Park is world-famous for its waterfalls, which generally flow from spring through the early summer. Here are many of the best waterfalls in California:

Yosemite National Park
Bridalveil Fall
Horsetail Fall
Illilouette Falls
Nevada Fall
Ribbon Fall
Vernal Fall
Yosemite Falls

The rest of California
Alamere Falls in Point Reyes National Seashore
Brandy Creek Falls in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
Burney Falls in McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park
Darwin Falls in Death Valley National Park
Feather Falls in Plumas National Forest
McCloud Falls in Shasta-Trinity National Forest
McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Potem Falls, Shasta-Trinity National Forest
Rainbow Falls in Devils Postpile National Monument
Trail Canyon Falls in Angeles National Forest (near Los Angeles)

For a listing of all known waterfalls in California, visit the World Waterfall Database.

BEST SCENIC DRIVES IN CALIFORNIA



California is one of the very best states in the country for scenic drives. Here is a list of many of the best scenic drives in California:

Northern California
Avenue of the Giants/CA-254, Humboldt Redwoods State Park - a 31-mile paved route that parallels US-101 as it travels thru the state park
Howland Hill Road, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park - a 10-mile dirt/gravel route from Crescent City to US-199 near Hiouchi
Lake Tahoe Scenic Drive - a 72-mile paved loop around Lake Tahoe; the road includes travel in both Nevada and California
Lassen Peak Highway, Lassen Volcanic National Park - a seasonal 30-mile paved route connecting the northwest and southwest park entrances
Newton B. Drury Scenic Byway, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park - a 10-mile paved route through the state park
Redwood Highway/US-101 - a 174-mile paved route from Leggett to Crescent City; several state parks en route also have their own drives
Silverado Trail, Napa Valley - a 33-mile paved route from Napa to Calistoga; this road parallels CA-29, which sits a few miles to the west
US-1 from San Francisco north to Fort Bragg - a 167-mile paved coastal route that starts just north of the Golden Gate Bridge

Central California
17-Mile Drive and the Monterey Peninsula - a 17-mile paved coastal toll road; local (and free) roads in Monterey also offer great views
Alabama Hills roads (e.g. Movie Road) - several dirt/gravel roads on this BLM public land offer great views of the Sierra Mountains
Artists Drive, Death Valley National Park - a 9-mile paved one-way driving route off Badwater Road
CA-46 from Paso Robles west to CA-1 - a 21-mile paved route that connects US-101 to the Pacific Coast Highway (aka CA-1)
CA-190 through Death Valley National Park - a 130-mile paved route from Death Valley Junction to Olancha
Death Valley National Park - this park is nationally famous for its 4x4 high-clearance offroad driving (e.g. Racetrack Valley, Titus Canyon)
Generals Highway, Sequoia National Park - a 45-mile paved route from the southern entrance of Sequoia National Park to CA-180 near Kings Canyon National Park; portions of this road are closed in winter
Glacier Point Road, Yosemite National Park - a seasonal 16-mile paved route from Wawona Road; typically open from late May-November
Kings Canyon Scenic Byway/CA-180 - a seasonal 52-mile paved route from Dunlap to the end of the road in Kings Canyon National Park
Pacific Coast Highway/Big Sur Highway/US-1 - an exceptional 485-mile paved route from Santa Monica to San Francisco; closures are common
Tioga Road/CA-120, Yosemite National Park - a seasonal 59-mile paved route from Crane Flat to Lee Vining; typically open June-October
US-1 from Santa Monica west to Point Mugu Beach - a 41-mile paved coastal route that starts just west of Los Angeles
US-395 from Bradys, CA to Carson City, NV- a 291-mile paved route along the eastern Sierra Mountains
Whitney Portal Road - a seasonal 13-mile paved route from Lone Pine through the Alabama Hills into the Sierra Mountains

Southern California
Angeles Crest Scenic Byway/CA-2 - a seasonal 66-mile paved route from La Canada Flintridge (near LA) to CA-138 in Phelan
Anza-Borrego State Park roads - this park is nationally famous for its 4x4 high-clearance offroad driving
Geology Tour Road, Joshua Tree National Park - an 18-mile dirt/gravel route that requires a 4x4 vehicle (high-clearance may also be helpful)
Park Boulevard, Joshua Tree National Park - a 35-mile paved route through the heart of the park; this is the primary road in the national park
Rim of the World Scenic Byway/CA-18 - a 110-mile paved route from Cajon > CA-138 > CA-18 > Big Bear Lake > CA-38 > Redlands

Other notable scenic drives in California include the June Lake Loop, Palms to Pines Scenic Byway, and the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Highway.

For a list of great scenic drives in each U.S. state, click here.

BEST BEACHES IN CALIFORNIA



California has 840-miles of coastline, and it is famous for its beaches. You can visit many outstanding (and warm) beaches between Los Angeles and Morro Bay. You can find beaches more north of Morro Bay, but most of them aren't nearly as good (or warm) as those found in southern California. Here is a list of many of California's best beaches

San Diego area
Coronado Beach, Coronado
La Jolla Shores Beach, La Jolla
Mission Beach, San Diego
Silver Strand State Beach, Coronado
Tourmaline Beach, San Diego

Between San Diego and Los Angeles
Aliso Beach, Laguna Beach
Bolsa Chica State Beach, Huntington Beach
Calafia Beach Park, San Clemente
Corona Del Mar State Beach Park, Corona Del Mar
Dana Strands Beach, Dana Point
Doheny State Beach, Dana Point
Huntington Beach, Huntington Beach
Main Beach Park, Laguna Beach
Moonlight State Beach, Encinitas
Newport Beach, Newport Beach
Oceanside Harbor Beach, Oceanside
San Onofre State Beach, San Clemente
South Carlsbad State Beach, Carlsbad
Tamarack Surf Beach, Carlsbad
T-Street Beach, San Clemente
Treasure Island Beach, Laguna Beach

Los Angeles area
Dockweiler Beach, Playa Del Rey
El Matador Beach, Malibu
Hermosa Beach, Hermosa Beach
Leo Carrillo State Beach, Malibu
Malibu Beach, Malibu
Point Dume State Beach, Malibu
Santa Monica State Beach, Santa Monica
Sunset Beach, Pacific Palisades
Sycamore Cove Beach, Malibu
Venice Beach, Venice
Zuma Beach, Malibu

North of Los Angeles
Arroyo Burro Beach County Park, Santa Barbara
Carmel-by-the-Sea Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea
East Beach, Santa Barbara
Emma Wood State Beach, Ventura
Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur
Pismo Beach, Pismo Beach
Port Hueneme Beach Park, Port Hueneme
Seacliff State Beach, Aptos

BEST RAIL TRAILS IN CALIFORNIA



Here is a list of some of the best rail trails (or similar cycling paths) in California:

American River Bike Trail
Bayshore Bikeway in San Diego
Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail - often rated one of the best rail trails in the U.S.
Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail
Sacramento River Trail
Santa Ana River Trail
South Bay Bicycle Trail

For detailed information on all known rail trails in California, visit the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy website.

BEST AMUSEMENT PARKS / THEME PARKS IN CALIFORNIA



California is absolutely loaded with amusement parks, including some of the very best parks in the country. Here is a list of the finest amusement parks in the state:

Northern California
Funderland Amusement Park, Sacramento
Roseville Golfland Sunsplash, Roseville
WaterWorks Park, Redding

Central California
California's Great America, Santa Clara
Children's Fairyland, Oakland
Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park, Gilroy
Island Waterpark, Fresno
Raging Waters, San Jose
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, Concord
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Vallejo

Southern California
Belmont Park, Mission Beach, San Diego
Castle Park, Riverside
Disneyland California Adventure Park, Anaheim
Disneyland Park, Anaheim
DryTown Water Park, Palmdale
Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park
Legoland California Resort, Carlsbad
Pacific Park, Santa Monica
Raging Waters, San Dimas
SeaWorld San Diego, San Diego
Sesame Place, San Diego
Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia
Universal Studios, Hollywood

BEST MUSEUMS IN CALIFORNIA



California has many excellent museums. The best museums in California include:

Northcentral California / Northeastern California / Shasta Cascades
Bolt's Antique Tool Museum - a small but comprehensive museum with 12,000-plus tools on display

Napa and Sonoma Wine Country (including Napa, Santa Rosa, and Sonoma)
Castello di Amorosa, Calistoga - visit a 107-room Tuscan-style castle

San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area
Alcatraz Island, San Francisco - take a ferry to visit America's most famous prison; book reservations month in advance (they always sell out)
Asian Art Museum, San Francisco - an art museum that claims to have "one of the most comprehensive Asian art collections in the world"
California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco - one of the largest and best natural history museums in the U.S.; aquarium & planetarium too
Computer History Museum, Mountain View - arguably the best computer technology museum in the U.S.
Exploratorium, The, San Francisco - an excellent science, technology, and art museum; located on Pier 15
Legion of Honor, San Francisco - an excellent art museum in Lincoln Park known for its ancient and European art
San Francisco Cable Car Museum, San Francisco - a free museum with exhibits on, and examples of, San Francisco's iconic cable cars
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), San Francisco - one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the U.S.
Walt Disney Family Museum, San Francisco - a museum that celebrates the life and legacy of the famous Disney founder
Winchester Mystery House, San Jose - tour a "beautiful but really bizarre" 160-room Victorian mansion

Central Valley: North (including Sacramento)
California State Capitol Museum, Sacramento - take a guided tour of the state capitol building
California State Railroad Museum, Sacramento - this is arguably the finest railroad museum in the U.S.
Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento - the oldest art museum in the western U.S.; known for its extensive collection of Californian art

Eastern Sierra Nevada
Bodie State Historic Park, Bodie - visit a preserved California gold-mining ghost town; I would argue this the best ghost town in the U.S.
Manzanar National Historic Site, Independence - visit the site of a World War II Japanese internment camp; take note the camp itself is gone
Museum of Western Film History, Lone Pine

Central Coast (from Los Angeles to Santa Cruz; includes the Big Sur Highway, Carmel-by-the Sea, Monterey, and Santa Barbara)
Getty Villa, The, Malibu - see Greek and Roman art in a re-created Roman seaside home
Hearst Castle, San Simeon - take a guided tour of an opulent 165-room estate that sits on 127-acres; one of the best mansion tours in the U.S.
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum, Simi Valley - one of the top presidential museums in the U.S.; includes a Boeing 707 aircraft

Central and southern deserts of California (including Palm Springs, Borrego Springs, and Death Valley National Park)
Palm Springs Air Museum, Palm Springs - one of the best aircraft museums in the U.S.; more than 60 aircraft are on display
Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs - a great medium-sized art museum with a small theater

Los Angeles area (including Anaheim, Malibu, and Santa Monica; see below for the rest of southern California)
Autry Museum of the American West, Los Angeles
Battleship USS Iowa Museum, Los Angeles - a maritime museum that includes tours of a Navy battleship
California Science Center, Los Angeles - an excellent science museum that includes the space shuttle Endeavor
Getty Center, The, Los Angeles - a "miraculous arts center compound" known for its art, architecture, gardens, and L.A. views
GRAMMY Museum L.A. Live, Los Angeles
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
Hollywood Museum, Hollywood
Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino - a tourist attraction featuring a mix of rare books, gardens, and art
La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, Los Angeles - visit an active paleontological research site
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles - believed to be the largest art museum in the western U.S.
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles - supposedly the largest natural and historic museum in the western U.S.
Nethercutt Collection, Los Angeles - an excellent auto museum that offers guided tours of more than 250 American and European vehicles
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena - a great art museum most known for its European paintings and sculptures
Petersen Automotive Museum, Los Angeles - one of the world's largest and best auto museums; has a collection of more than 400 vehicles

San Diego & Coronado (see above for the rest of northern California)
Maritime Museum of San Diego - a maritime museum that "preserves one of the largest collections of historic sea vessels in the U.S.
San Diego Air and Space Museum - a good aviation and space museum within Balboa Park
San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA) - art museum that focuses on American, Asian, European, and Latin American art
USS Midway Museum - tour a historic U.S. Navy aircraft carrier; one of the finest military ship museums in the U.S.

BEST DAY HIKES IN CALIFORNIA



California has thousands of miles of hiking trails, and there is fantastic hiking to be found all over the state. Here is a list of many of the best day hikes in California:

Redwood National Park and surrounding area
Boy Scout Tree Trail, Jebediah Smith Redwoods State Park
Fern Canyon Loop Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park - permits may be required
James Irvine Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail, Redwood National Park
Miner's Ridge and James Irvine Loop, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Tall Trees Grove, Redwood National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park
Bumpass Hell
Cinder Cone Trail
Kings Creek Falls
Lassen Peak

Lake Tahoe area
Eagle Falls and Eagle Lake Trail, Desolation Wilderness
Glen Alpine Trail, Desolation Wilderness
Granite Lake and Maggie's Peaks, Desolation Wilderness
Mount Tallac, Desolation Wilderness
Rubicon Trail, Eldorado National Forest (this is not the same Rubicon Trail as the famous off-roading driving trail)
Twin & Island Lakes, Desolation Wilderness

Yosemite National Park
Cathedral Lakes Trail
Clouds Rest
Four Mile Trail
Grizzly Giant (Wawona section)
Half Dome
Mist Trail / Nevada Falls / Vernal Fall / John Muir Trail Loop
Mount Dana
Panorama Trail
Walking around Yosemite Valley (e.g. to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls)
Yosemite Falls

Sequoia National Park
Alta Peak
Congress Trail
Franklin Lakes
General Sherman Tree
Lakes Trail to Pear Lake
Monarch Lakes
Moro Rock

Pinnacles National Park
Balconies Cave
Condor Gulch
Condor Gulch Trail / High Peaks Trail Loop
High Peaks-Balconies Loop
Juniper Canyon
Moses Spring and Rim Trail Loop

Death Valley National Park
Darwin Falls
Golden Canyon and Gower Gulch Loop
Gower Gulch
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Mosaic Canyon
Natural Bridge
Telescope Peak
Wildrose Peak Trail

Joshua Tree National Park
Arch Rock
Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail
Hidden Valley
Lost Palms Oasis
Ryan Mountain
Split Rock Loop

San Diego area
Potato Chip Rock near Poway
Torrey Pines State Reserve trails

The rest of California
Alamere Falls, Phillip Burton Wilderness Area
Annie's Canyon Trail, San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve
Big Pine Lakes Basin, Inyo National Forest
Burney Falls Loop Trail, McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park
Deep Creek Hot Springs, San Bernardino National Forest
Ediza Lake & Shadow Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness
Feather Falls, Plumas National Forest
General Grant, Kings Canyon National Park
Granite Peak, Trinity Alps Wilderness
Hole-in-the-Wall Rings Trail, Mojave National Preserve
Kelso Dunes, Mojave National Preserve
Little Lakes Valley, John Muir Wilderness
Mono Lake South Tufa Trail, Mono Lake
Montana de Oro Bluffs Trail, Montana de Oro State Park
Mount Baldy, Angeles National Forest
Mount San Jacinto-Round Valley, Mount San Jacinto State Park
Mount Whitney, Inyo National Forest
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve Loop Trail
Rainbow Falls, Devils Postpile National Monument
Ruwau and Chocolate Lakes Loop, John Muir Wilderness
Sandstone Peak, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout, Tahoe National Forest
South Fork Big Pine Creek, Inyo National Forest, John Muir Wilderness
Tomales Point Trail, Point Reyes National Seashore
White Mountain Peak, Inyo National Forest

Take note that an increasing number of hikes in California are requiring permits/advance reservations. Make sure to research any entry requirements before attempting to go for a hike.

The highpoint of California is Mt. Whitney (14,505') in Inyo National Forest in the eastern Sierras. A very challenging day hike or a backpacking trip is needed to reach the summit. Both day hikes and overnight trips require permits (which are very difficult to obtain due to high demand).

BEST BACKPACKING TRIPS IN CALIFORNIA



California offers some of the very best backpacking opportunities in the country. Here is a list of many of the premier backpacking routes in California:

Ansel Adams Wilderness trails - e.g. Ediza Lake and Shadow Lake, Minaret Ridge and Minaret Lake
Desolation Wilderness trails
High Sierra Camp Loop in Yosemite National Park
High Sierra Trail in Sequoia National Park and Inyo National Forest
Humphreys Basin and Evolution Basin in Kings Canyon National Park
Inyo National Forest trails
John Muir Trail
John Muir Wilderness trails - e.g. Big Pine Lakes Basin
Kings Canyon National Park trails
Lassen Volcanic National Park Lakes Loop
Lost Coast Trail
Mount Whitney
Rae Lakes Loop in Kings Canyon National Park
Sequoia National Park trails
Skyline-To-The-Sea Trail in Castle Rock State Park
Tahoe Rim Trail
Trans-Catalina Trail, Catalina Island
Trinity Alps Wilderness trails - e.g. Canyon Creek Lakes, Grizzly Lake
Yosemite National Park trails

Take note that an increasing number of hikes in California are requiring permits/advance reservations. Make sure to research any entry requirements before attempting to go on a backpacking trip in California.

In addition to the backpacking trails/areas listed above, the Sierra Mountains of California offer an unbelievable of off-trail backpacking opportunities. If off-trail backpacking is your thing, do some research and you'll find some of the most mind-dazzling scenery in the U.S.

CLASSIC OUTDOOR ADVENTURES IN CALIFORNIA



California, being the large and diverse state that it is, offers many outstanding outdoor adventures. Here are some of the classic outdoor adventures in the state:

4x4 driving in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
4x4 driving in Death Valley National Park
4x4 driving in Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area
4x4 driving in Mojave National Preserve
4x4 driving the Rubicon Trail along Lake Tahoe
ATV/OHV-ing in Frank Raines OHV Park in Patterson
ATV/OHV-ing in La Grange OHV Regional Park in La Grange
ATV/OHV-ing in Dumont Dunes OHV Area in Baker
ATV/OHV-ing in Foresthill OHV Area
ATV/OHV-ing in Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area
ATV/OHV-ing in Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreation Area
ATV/OHV-ing in Imperial Sand Dunes in El Centro - one of the largest OHV recreation areas for sand dune-riding in the U.S.
ATV/OHV-ing in Johnson Valley OHV Area
ATV/OHV-ing in Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area
ATV/OHV-ing in Stoddard Valley OHV Area
Backcountry skiing near Lake Tahoe
Backcountry skiing in Lassen Volcanic National Park
Backcountry skiing on Mount Shasta
Backcountry skiing in Sequoia National Park
Backcountry skiing to one or several of the Sierra Club huts
Backcountry skiing in Yellowstone National Park
Backpacking in the Ansel Adams Wilderness
Backpacking in the Desolation Wilderness
Backpacking the High Sierra Trail
Backpacking in Inyo National Forest
Backpacking the John Muir Trail
Backpacking in the John Muir Wilderness
Backpacking in Kings Canyon National Park
Backpacking on Mount Whitney
Backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail (or a portion of it)
Backpacking in Sequoia National Park
Backpacking in the Trinity Alps Wilderness
Backpacking in Yosemite National Park
Bouldering in/near Bishop
Bouldering at Black Mountain the San Jacinto Mountains
Bouldering in Devil's Punchbowl Natural Area
Bouldering in/near Idyllwild
Bouldering in Joshua Tree National Park
Bouldering in/near Sonora Pass
Bouldering in Vasquez Rocks Natural Area
Cage diving with great white sharks in the Farallon Islands
Canoeing/kayaking on the Russian River
Canoeing/kayaking on the Smith River
Cross-country skiing at Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Resort in Soda Springs - supposedly the largest cross country ski area in North America
Cross-country skiing at Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center in Truckee
Cross-country skiing at Tahoe XC in Tahoe City
Cycling the American River Bike Trail
Cycling the Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail
Cycling the Bayshore Bikeway in San Diego
Cycling the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail
Cycling the Santa Ana River Trail
Cycling the South Bay Bicycle Trail
Day hiking Clouds Rest in Yosemite National Park
Day hiking Half Dome in Yosemite National Park
Day hiking Mount Baldy in Angeles National Forest
Day hiking Mount Whitney in Inyo National Forest - this is the highest point in the lower 48 states; permits required (and are tough to obtain)
Day hiking San Gorgonio Peak
Day hiking Telescope Peak in Death Valley National Park
Day hiking White Mountain Peak in the White Mountains Wilderness
Fly-fishing on the McCloud River
Fly-fishing on the Trinity River
Ice climbing in Lee Vining Canyon (e.g. Chouinard Falls, Main Wall)
Ice climbing in/near June Lake (e.g. Roadside Ice, Horsetail Falls)
Mountaineering on Mt. Shasta
Mountaineering on Mt. Whitney (e.g. Mountaineers Route)
Mountain biking in/near Big Bear Lake (e.g. Skyline Trail, Snow Summit Bike Park, Snow Valley Bike Park, etc.)
Mountain biking in Exchequer Mountain Bike Park in La Grange
Mountain biking in/near Fairfax (e.g. Camp Tamarancho)
Mountain biking in Mammoth Mountain Bike Park
Mountain biking in Mt. Shasta Bike Park
Mountain biking in Sapwi Bike Park in Thousand Oaks
Mountain biking in Skypark at Santa's Village in Skyforest
Mountain biking in Stafford Lake Bike Park in Novato
Mountain biking in/near Truckee (e.g. North Star Bike Park, Truckee Bike Park, etc.)
Rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park
Rock climbing near Lake Tahoe
Rock climbing in Lee Vining Canyon
Rock climbing in the Needles area of the southern Sierra Mountains
Rock climbing in Yosemite National Park
SCUBA diving in Lake Tahoe
SCUBA diving in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
SCUBA diving on Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands
Skydiving in one of the 1-2 dozen places in California that offer it (e.g. Skydive Perris, GoJump Oceanside, Skydive Surfcity Santa Cruz, etc.)
Snorkeling on Catalina Island
Snorkeling in La Jolla Cove
Snowmobiling in/around Lake Tahoe
Snowmobiling in/around Mammoth Lakes
Snowmobiling in/around Weed
Tubing the Kern River
Tubing the Russian River
Tubing the Sacramento River
Tubing the Truckee River
Whitewater rafting the American River
Whitewater rafting the Kern River
Whitewater rafting the Klamath River
Whitewater rafting the Merced River
Whitewater rafting the Sacramento River
Whitewater rafting the Salmon River
Whitewater rafting the Trinity River
Whitewater rafting the Tuolumne River
Whitewater rafting the Yuba River

SKI RESORTS IN CALIFORNIA



California is one of the best states in the country for skiing and snowboarding. These ski/snowboard resorts are generally considered the best in California:

Premier Ski/Snowboard Resorts:
Alpine Meadows - 100-plus trails; 1,802ft vertical drop; 8,637ft summit
Heavenly Ski Resort - 97 trails; 3,500ft vertical drop; 10,040ft summit
Kirkwood Ski Resort - 86 trails; 2,000ft vertical drop; 9,800ft summit
Mammoth Mountain Ski Area - 150 trails; 3,100ft vertical drop; 11,053ft summit
Northstar California Ski Resort - 100 trails; 2,280ft vertical drop; 8,610ft summit
Palisades Tahoe - 170 trails; 2,850ft vertical drop; 9,050ft summit
Sugar Bowl Resort - 94 trails; 1,500ft vertical drop; 8,383ft summit

Other than Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, all of the ski areas listed above are within an hours drive of Lake Tahoe.

Other Notable Ski/Snowboard Resorts:
Bear Valley
Big Bear Mountain Resort
China Peak
Dodge Ridge Mountain Resort
Homewood Mountain Resort
Sierra-at-Tahoe

Big Bear Mountain Resort is generally considered the best ski area in southern California.

CALIFORNIA TRAVEL TIPS



For offbeat and unique California attractions, visit one or both of these amazing websites: Atlas Obscura and Roadside America

UNIQUE / SPECIALTY FOODS TO TRY IN CALIFORNIA



Here are some unique / specialty foods to try while you are in California:

avocado toast
barbecued oysters
black mission figs
california burrito - a burrito that typically includes french fries
cioppino - this is popular in San Francisco
cruffin
dates / date shakes
dungeness crab
fish tacos
garlic fries
garlic ice cream
mission burrito
santa maria barbecue
sourdough - this is popular in San Francisco (e.g. boudin style)
tamales

For a list of unique foods and mom-and-pop type eateries and restaurants in California (or any other U.S. state), visit the Roadfood.com website.
For a list of unique foods to try in each of the 50 U.S. states, click here.
For a list of the top-rated beers to try in California (or any other U.S. state), visit the Beer Advocate website.

OTHER KEY CALIFORNIA INFORMATION



State Capital:
Sacramento

Major Airports:
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Oakland International Airport (OAK), Sacramento International Airport (SMF), San Diego International Airport (SAN), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), and Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC)

Largest Cities:
Los Angeles (3,919,973), San Diego (1,402,838), San Jose (1,026,700), San Francisco (887,711), Fresno (551,595), Sacramento (542,481)

Primary U.S. Interstates:
I-5, I-8, I-10, I-15, I-40, I-80

State Highpoint:
Mt. Whitney (14,505') in Inyo National Forest in the eastern Sierras. A very challenging day hike or a backpacking trip is needed to reach the summit. Both day hikes and overnight trips require permits (which are very difficult to obtain due to high demand).

Professional Sports Teams:
MLB: Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants
NBA: Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakes, Sacramento Kings
NFL: Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers
NHL: Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks
WNBA: Los Angeles Sparks

Funny or Unique Town/City Names:
Badwater, Condemned Bar, Cool, Dunmovin, Forks of Salmon, Happy Camp, Hellhole Palms, Last Chance, Nice, Pumpkin Center, Rough and Ready, Weed, Weedpatch, Wimp, and Zzyzx

Take note that in general this travel guide intentionally excluded restaurants, lodging/hotels, breweries, wineries/vineyards, and certain other types of attractions (like arcades, ax-throwing, bowling alleys, and escape rooms). These types of places tend to come and go, and keeping up with that would be too challenging. I encourage you to use Google Maps, Tripadvisor, Yelp, and other travel sites that have reader reviews to find the latest and greatest places that I haven't covered here.



views along the southern California coastline
views along the southern California coastline

seals along the California coastline
seals along the California coastline

Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park, California

Heart Rock in San Bernardino National Forest, California
Heart Rock in San Bernardino National Forest, California

Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park, California
Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park, California

Sequoia National Park, California
Sequoia National Park, California

Kings Canyon National Park, California
Kings Canyon National Park, California

Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park, California

Cathedral Peak in Yosemite National Park, California
Cathedral Peak in Yosemite National Park, California

Torrey Pines State Reserve near San Diego, California
Torrey Pines State Reserve near San Diego, California

Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, California
Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, California

the view from Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, California
the view from Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, California

Mount Whitney, California
Mount Whitney, California

the summit of Mt. Whitney, California
the summit of Mt. Whitney, California

the summit of Mt. Whitney, California
the summit of Mt. Whitney, California

the summit of Mt. Whitney, California
the summit of Mt. Whitney, California

Arch Rock in Joshua Tree National Park, California
Arch Rock in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park near Palm Springs, California
Joshua Tree National Park near Palm Springs, California

McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, California
McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, California

Lombard Street in San Francisco, California
Lombard Street in San Francisco, California

Redwood National Park, California
Redwood National Park, California

a San Diego sunset
a San Diego sunset

Alcatraz near San Francisco, California
Alcatraz near San Francisco, California

Alcatraz near San Francisco, California
Alcatraz near San Francisco, California

Death Valley National Park, California
Death Valley National Park, California

Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park, California
Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park, California

hiking in Death Valley National Park, California
hiking in Death Valley National Park, California

driving to Death Valley National Park, California
driving to Death Valley National Park, California


ROAD TRIP GUIDEBOOKS



In addition to the information found on my website, I personally recommend purchasing these road trip/travel-related guidebooks. Click on any book cover to read reviews and/or purchase these books on Amazon.com.

        


MORE U.S. STATE TRAVEL GUIDES



Did you enjoy this state travel guide? If so, here are links to more of my comprehensive U.S. state travel guides:

Alabama Maryland Oregon
Arizona Massachusetts Pennsylvania
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California Minnesota South Carolina
Colorado Mississippi South Dakota
Connecticut Missouri Tennessee
Delaware Montana Texas
Florida Nebraska Utah
Georgia Nevada Vermont
Idaho New Hampshire Virginia
Illinois New Jersey Washington
Indiana New Mexico Washington DC
Iowa New York West Virginia
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Louisiana Ohio  
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