The state of California with its natural setting, world-class surf spots, mountains, wine country, and desert terrain make it the most populated state in the US. Here are some highlights of the diverse natural environments of California that will make any local proud.
Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.
The Eye at Hidden Valley campground, Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree National Park gets its name from the iconic Joshua tree forests that abound on the 780,000+ acres of the park. Mountains run along the south-west edge, but the park is mostly desert: the higher Mojave and lower Colorado. The park is popular with rock climbers and scramblers because of its large boulders and rock formations, and there’s also camping facilities (backcountry camping is allowed with registration) and trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.
Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, Inyo County
Standing at 282 feet below sea level, Badwater Basin is a salt pan extending in all directions as far as the eye can see. The white path is created by the many footprints of Badwater visitors crushing the salt beneath their sneakers.
Artists Palette, Death Valley National Park
When it comes to Death Valley, as Californians like to say, “half the park is after dark”. It’s a prime location to see the stars — in fact, it is certified as a “Gold Tier” international dark sky by the International Dark Sky Association, which essentially means the night sky retains its darkness with minimal interruption from city lights. Whether you have a telescope or just look up at the sky, you should definitely star-gaze in Death Valley.
Little Lakes Valley Trail, Bishop
Little Lakes Valley, in the Central California backcountry, has some of the most well traveled and well-loved trails in the Sierra. In winter, stop for a cross-country ski tour along Rock Creek on a groomed trail flanked with Jeffrey and lodgepole pines.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death Valley National Park
The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are the best-known dunes in Death Valley and just minutes from the Stovepipe Wells Village Hotel. The sand dunes are best visited around sunrise or sunset when the pastel light paints the mountains in shades of pink and blue.
Los Angeles National Forest Park Matador Network
Explore a nature playground, hit the trails & learn about the surrounding area and wildlife at the park’s education center.
Lower Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, Yosemite Valley
Besides being a national park, Yosemite is a designated World Heritage Site. Around the size of the state of Rhode Island, it has thousands of lakes and ponds and has around 1600 miles of streams and 800 miles of hiking trails.
Mattole Point, Lost Coast
The Lost Coast is located in the King Range National Conservation Area and is definitely one of California’s premier outdoor trips. Start the hike at either Shelter Cove / Whitethorn in the south or Mattole Beach in the north; a few shuttle services can help you out with transport.
Terranea Cove Beach
San Gorgonio Peak, Mount San Gorgonio
At 11,503 feet, Mount San Gorgonio is the highest peak in Southern California. There are a few ways to hike to the peak. The Vivian Creek trail is the quickest way to the summit at 10 hours roundtrip. It’s a tough hike but doable in a day.
An incredible moderate hike is the Ewoldsen Trail, it starts in Julia Pfeiffer Burns state park and climbs 1520 feet up out of the redwoods and onto an elevated ridge line where you can take in views of a long section of the coastline. It’s a 5.3 mile round trip hike, and has some fairly steep climbing along the way.
Tioga Pass in the Sierra Nevada mountains is the highest highway pass in California. Just about every bend in the road reveals another awesome view, here are three famous stops you won’t want to miss on the eastern section of the road at Tioga Pass, Olmsted point, Tenaya Lake and Lembert Dome.
Montage, Laguna Beach
Ubehebe Crater is 777-foot deep and half-mile-wide from the rim trail. Scientists are still unsure of how old it is and the estimate of its age range from 800 to 7,000 years old.
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
If you’re looking for easy access to beautiful redwood forests, Julia Pfeiffer Burns state park is a go to spot. Within moments you’ll be in the midst of a huge grove of redwoods. Logs criss-cross the creek and lead to spots off the beaten path. Bring a picnic basket and relax here for a while.
Point Reyes National Seashore
Just an hour north of San Francisco, Point Reyes provides 150 miles of excellent hiking trails and camping opportunities within easy reach of the city.
Bonsai Rock, Sand Harbor
Sand Dollar Day Use Beach, Big Sur
Sand Dollar beach is one of the easiest access and friendliest breaks in Big Sur. It’s no secret spot, but the fact that it’s so far from any major town means you’ll likely only have a few other people in the water with you. It’s the biggest beach in Big Sur, so it’s also a good spot to find some sand and spend the day.
El Matador State Beach, Malibu
Six miles north of Malibu and 25 miles from Santa Monica, it’s past just past Leo Carrillo Beach, accessible via a steep gravelly path. Wear shoes and don’t bring too much gear.
Sonoma Coast State Beaches are windswept and wild. Salmon Creek at the southern end is great for kids as they can swim in the much-warmer creek, while Goat Rock Beach at the northern end is especially dramatic with the Russian River pouring into the Pacific.
Huntington Dog Beach
Huntington is one of the many dog-friendly beaches in Los Angeles and a great place to hang out with the family.