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25+ Killer Outdoor Spots in California

California Insider Guides
by Matador Creators Mar 20, 2017

This piece could easily include over 100 spots. California simply has so many waterfalls, hikes, swim holes, canyons, and coastline. Everything happens outdoors. It is, arguably, the best state in the US for outdoor life. We’ve gone through travelstoke and compiled a collection of your favorite places in the state.

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.


 Glacier PointYosemite Village, United StatesGlacier Point was one of my favorite views in Yosemite. Go at sunrise to get this view with the sun coming up behind half dome.
Warning: that ledge is as dangerous as it looks, be careful out there.

This is the granddaddy of all of California’s national parks and no matter when you go it will stun you into silence. Yosemite’s big stars are the scenic mountains and waterfalls, but Yosemite Valley should not be overlooked, where you can get an ant’s eye view of it all.

Lower Yosemite Falls

 Lower Yosemite FallsYosemite Valley, United States#hiking #beautiful #unitedstates #yosemite #nationalpark

Palomarin Trail Head-Alamere Falls

 Palomarin Trail Head-Alamere FallsBolinas, United StatesAlamere Falls is a 8.4 mile and beautiful coastal trail in southern Marin. At the end of the hike you end up at a waterfall that runs into the ocean. Tips: Get there early to beat the crowds and to score a parking spot. Wear shoes with a good grip so you don’t fall on your bootay. #hiking

Death Valley

As one of the largest national parks in the country, this dessert valley does not cease to surprise visitors with it diverse geography, changing climates and expansive landscape. Located in the central part of the state near the Nevada border, its 3.3 million acres include salt flats that dip below sea level, mountainous sand dunes and sandstone canyons of many colors. Not surprisingly there are also mystical elements like the mysterious moving rocks that leave trails of their movement across dried mudflats. If there is a place in California that will make skeptics believe in magic, Death Valley will do the trick.

San Elijo Lagoon

 San Elijo LagoonEncinitas, United StatesThis is my backyard in North County, San Diego…fun little spot to explore #hiking

Lemkes Lagoon

 Lemkes LagoonNevada City, United States#hiking #swimminghole created this little known swimming hole on Google maps and has been high trafficked since I created it

Located about 5 miles north of Nevada City, California. Park your vehicle just past the bridge and take the Hoyts Crossing trail. After a mile hike along the South Yuba River, you’ll come to Lemkes Lagoon — a swimming hole with cliff jumping that you’ll most likely have all to yourself. (Be aware of nudists!) Bring some rope as it’s a steep scramble down to the swimming hole. Dogs are not a good idea here.

Stout Grove Trailhead

 Stout Grove TrailheadCrescent City, United StatesOne of my favorite trails I walked in the redwoods. Felt like walking among giants. #hiking #redwoods #forest

Hendry Winery

 Hendry WineryNapa, United StatesBeautiful winery 5 min from downtown Napa. You’ll need to make reservations to come get the tour and do a tasting. #wine

The Hendry Ranch has 114 acres of vineyard and is situated in the hills north-west of Napa. A perfect place for an afternoon with the family and dog.

Little Lakes Valley Trailhead

 Little Lakes Valley Trailhead (Gem Lakes)Bishop, United StatesGreat short hike to #BoxLake in #LittleLakes valley #Inyo #nationalpark
We camped here two nights, caught lots of fish and were blown away by the good weather and great views.

 Mammoth MountainMammoth Lakes, United StatesCan you say BURIED in powder?! This was the best snow I’ve ever been in to date! Mammoth Mountain is my favorite place to snowboard in the US! #snowboarding

A snow-covered wonderland in the winter and a scenic lake town in the summer, this high elevation destination is an ideal escape for those looking to take a break from city life. For ski and snowboard enthusiasts there is plenty of fresh powder in the winter months and in the summer there is plenty of hiking, fishing, biking and paddle boarding to keep you active. After a trip to Mammoth, the beach will seem like old news to you.

Topanga State Park

 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.

There are plenty of trails to explore around Los Angeles that will give your lungs a break from the smoggy city air. Be prepared for a dessert-like climate that can change from freezing to scorching in the time span of just a few hours.

June Lake

 June LakeJune Lake, United StatesSunrise Car camping overlooking June Lake California. #camping #outdoors #junelake #California #dogs

Mono Lake

Located in Mono County in the northeastern part of the Golden State, this lake is known for it eerie beauty and its usually high content of salt due to the lack of an outlet for the water to go anywhere. If it feels as if it has been created during the prehistoric era, this is because it was formed at least 760,000 years ago.

Meeks Bay Campground

 Meeks Bay CampgroundTahoma, United StatesMeeks bay has some of the friendliest access to the clear blue water around Tahoe. When other spots are crowded, it’s still possible to find a spot to yourself here. I recommend peddling north across the bay, to a long empty coastline where you can find some solitude.


California may conjure up images of white sand beaches, but if you do not go further inland you will miss another kind of beauty: its towering redwood trees. Located in central California, an entire forest of these giant beauties awaits and it never gets old. If you want to take a break from the real world, escape to Crystal Cave, a subterranean space that has its own underground streams and stunning rock formations.

Wildcat Campground

 Wildcat CampgroundBolinas, United StatesA 6 mile hike from the Bear Valley center will bring you to this excellent campground with stunning views. Choose your campsite wisely, our favorite is #6, and reserve in advance as this is a very popular campground. You can make a driftwood fire on the beach if you purchase a permit at Bear Valley. It is also a mile up the beach from the famed (getting to be too famed) Alamere Falls. Beautiful spot! #camping #hiking

Joshua Tree

 Hidden Valley campgroundTwentynine Palms, United StatesOne of my favorite places in California! Watched the sunset from The Eye at Hidden Valley Campground!

The result of the crossroads of two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, this national park is worth making the trek out from Los Angeles to immerse yourself into a different world. The diverse desert landscape with it short shrubby trees and spiky leaves seems like it came right out of a Dr. Seuss book. To really get the full experience, you should spend the night at one of the nine campgrounds, where you can hear the coyotes howl at the moon in the pitch-black night.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Volcanic activity has shaped one of California’s most unexpected national parks, with its bubbling hydrothermal pools and jagged volcanic peaks formed from long-ago eruptions.

Emerald Pools

Located about 26 miles West of Truckee, California, take Interstate 80 west from Truckee or 80 East from Auburn. Take exit 161 to Rte 20 and head north past Camp Spaulding. Take a right onto Bowman Lake Road until you cross over a bridge. Park in the parking lot on the right-hand side. Emerald Pools has two separate swimming holes. If your mood is to relax and hang out then choose the upper pools (take the trail at the parking lot). The upper pool offers a rope swing and some spots to hang a hammock. If you’re feeling adventurous, then head across the street and scramble down to the mountain, which doesn’t really have a trail. Once you get to the river, follow it until you hear the waterfall. This is a mecca for cliff jumpers. Jumps range from 20 to 100 feet. Head farther down the river for a more relaxed setting. Dogs should be okay at the upper pools, but don’t bring them to the lower ones.

Rock Springs Trail Head

 Parking Lot for Rock Springs Trail HeadStinson Beach, United StatesEpic hiking and mountain biking trails with spectacular views of Stinson Beach and Bolinas. #hiking #mountain-biking #MTB #stinson

Bonsai Rock

 Bonsai RockNew Washoe City, United StatesThe coastline around Sand Harbor is some of my favorite in Lake Tahoe. Giant round boulders line the beaches and offer secluded spots to hang out. Sand Harbor itself is super crowded, but half a mile south is Bonsai Rock. I carried a paddle board down and used it to wander the shoreline while I waited for sunset. Being on the east side of the lake, it’s a very popular vantage point for photographers, and for good reason. #paddleboarding #sunset #photography

Sand Dollar Day Use Beach

 Sand Dollar Day Use BeachBig Sur, United StatesSand 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. #hiking #surfing #bigsur #adventure #accessbigsur

Seascape Beach Resort

 Seascape Beach ResortAptos, United StatesGreat spot to have a bonfire and check out the stars. #beach #bonfire #stars #seacliff

Sonoma Mountain

 Sonoma MountainSonoma, United StatesAfter driving round Petaluma for a good hour We finally found a hidden redwood grove hidden up a windy mountain road
#adventure #magical #california #redwoods

 Speedboat BeachKings Beach, United StatesThis is one of my favorite spots in Tahoe. In Summer it’s a great swim spot, but no matter the time of year it’s the perfect place to catch sunset. #laketahoe #sunset

The giant headache to get up to this popular destination on winter roads or in summer traffic will disappear once you step out of your car and breathe in that crisp mountain air. Don’t forget your selfie stick to prove to social media that you are in Lake Tahoe and overlooking the lake to make the rest of us jealous.

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