Don’t get us wrong — We love San Francisco, LA, and San Diego. But there’s something to be said about the Golden State’s great outdoors. From Highway 1 to the Redwoods, here are the top places to visit in California for a weekend in nature.
This surreal stretch of landscape seems like something you’d see in a galaxy far, far away. Along the state’s eastern edge, Death Valley National Park is one of the most popular places to visit in California. It’s home to colorful canyons (Titus is the most famous), Badwater Basin’s 200-square-mile salt flats, and steep sand dunes. Just make sure not to venture into the ninth circle of hell during the unbearable summer heat—they don’t call it Death Valley for nothing!
One of the best places to visit in California is Redwood National Park
. In the state’s northernmost tip, a whopping six-hour drive from Silicon Valley, you’ll find this iconic forest. Its massive trees tower above at 250 feet high and up to 14 feet wide. (Some are so big, you can even drive your car through the trunk!) For the best views, hike the flat trails around the 400- to 800-year-old giants.
Yosemite National Park
For an easy weekend escape from San Fran, drive 3.5 hours north to the quaint Mendocino county. Watch the fog creep over the charming Point Arena Lighthouse
before heading to Glass Beach
, where sand and pebbles are replaced with thousands of seaglass pieces—a treasure trove for any ocean aficionado. Prefer land over water? Go for a hike along the coastal bluffs in Mendocino Headlands State Park
, check out the colorful flora at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
, or explore the canyons and caves within Russian Gulch State Park
. At the end of the day, rest your weary legs at one of the charming Victorian inns by the Blue Door Group.
Tahoe is like California’s adult playground. In the winter, it’s got the 4,800 acres of rocky chutes, powder bowls and groomed slopes at Heavenly Ski Resort
, which straddles the California-Nevada border. Meanwhile, come summer, everyone goes boating around the lake and hiking the 64,000-acre Desolation Wilderness
(Mount Tallac Trailhead is a popular alpine trek, with panoramic views of Lake Tahoe Basin and the snowcapped Crystal Range.) The best year-round crash pads are definitely the funky Basecamp Hotel, which has fire pits, a rooftop hot tub and mountain views, as well as the hipster-chic Coachman Hotel
, a nouveau motel with a buzzy bar, beach volleyball courts and a cool-kid pool scene.
Report by Chelsea Bengier for Jetsetter