1. Malibu Creek, Calabasas
This is the former site of the 20th Century Fox studios’ location ranch, where they filmed the TV show M*A*S*H. There are still plenty of artifacts from the show-from the iconic ambulance to a recreation of the famous signpost. If seeing TV show memorabilia is not your thing, you can go on an easy stroll to the rock pools instead. Make sure to bring a picnic, since there are plenty of tables to have a leisurely meal on.
2. Angel Island, San Francisco Bay
Often referred to as the “Ellis Island of the West,” this immigration checkpoint in the San Francisco Bay, welcomed approximately one million immigrants during the first half of the 20th century. This park is worth exploring on foot or on a bike for its views of the San Francisco skyline, Mount Tamalpais, and the Marin Headlines. There are 11 environmental campsites on the island if you’re looking for an overnight adventure.
3. Año Nuevo, Pescadero
Año Nuevo is famous for being a breeding ground for Northern elephant seals and California sea lions in the winter. It has become such a popular attraction, that you need a reservation during the winter breeding season. Many people come solely for the marine mammals, but the landscape is worth exploring too, with rugged seaside cliffs and wetland marshes.
4. Pfeiffer Big Sur, Big Sur
Located on California’s central coast, this state park looks out on the Santa Lucia Mountains to the east and the misty Pacific Ocean in the west. The stretch of highway known as Highway 1 is a popular scenic drive with roads winding along the seaside cliffs. There are plenty of opportunities for visitors to hike, camp and explore the beach for treasures big and small.
5. Big Basin Redwoods, Boulder Creek
For those who cannot get enough of California’s redwoods, this state park should be on the top of your list. Located just an hour away from San Jose, it feels like a world away from the hectic pace of Silicon Valley. The majestic redwoods are the main attraction but there are also plenty of scenic waterfalls and hiking trails to take it all in from.
6. Mount Tamalpais, Mill Valley
Located in Marin, this state park boasts some of the best views of the San Francisco Bay. The mountain is high enough so that you are usually engulfed in clouds, making for a very surreal experienced indeed. The hike to the top is not very strenuous and takes about two hours on average. There are also a limited number of campgrounds available within the park.
7. Bodie State Historical Park, Bridgeport
This one’s for the historical and paranormal enthusiasts out there. It’s a ghost town in the Bodie Hills that sits on the California/Nevada border. Bodie began as a small mining town in 1859 but quickly grew in size after there were discoveries of gold nearby. In the early 20th century, residents started moving away after the gold fever died down. Now you can visit the deserted town, and peek into the abandoned buildings that seem untouched, and frozen in time.
8. Topanga State Park, Topanga
Nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains, this is the place to take a break from city life. There are plenty of stunning hikes for all experience levels. One of the most popular hikes is Eagle Rock, which has many tiny cliffs to explore and relax in at the end of the trail. Make sure to watch your step, since rattlesnakes are known to make a sudden guest appearance.
Topanga State ParkLos Angeles, United StatesWith so many excellent hiking trails around Los Angeles, next time you’re in LA, get away from the Hollywood sign and go explore! Like this trail in Topanga State Park, just outside Santa Monica.
9. Butano, Pescadero
Featuring a secluded redwood tree canyon, this park is a quick drive from San Francisco’s South Bay, and makes a great getaway with plenty of dog-friendly campsites. This state park is on the quieter side, where the banana slugs often outnumber the humans.
10. Old Town San Diego, San Diego
Located in the Old Town neighborhood of San Diego, this historical park feels like you have taken a step back in time. This state park honors the early days of San Diego and includes a collection of preserved buildings from 1820 to 1870, including the first public school house in the city. Make sure not to miss the Wiley House, one of the most haunted places in the U.S.
11. Marshall Gold Discovery, Coloma
You can almost hear the shouts of “eureka” as you make your way through the site where the first gold was found by James W. Marshall-an event that naturally sparked the California Gold Rush. Walk around the exhibits to learn about the lives of miners, Chinese immigrants, and Native Americans-all key players in this important moment in the state’s history.