Earth, sea and sky: California’s must-see natural wonders
I’ve never been to California, but one of the things I love to do is to dream-travel through books, documentaries and other people’s articles. A few days ago I came across this article from the US Tourism Authority that talks about California as a paradise for nature lovers.
There are as many different landscapes as there are ways to discover this part of the world.
In this article, I’d like to bring you along as I explore unspoiled landscapes, where nature shows itself naked and raw in its incredible beauty and variety. As we follow earth, sky and sea, together we’ll find out what the best destinations for nature lovers are, as well as the top places for those who prefer experiential tourism to mass tourism.
“Whether your element is earth, air or water, get ready to explore the Golden State!”
CALIFORNIAN LANDSCAPES: EARTH
- A road trip to the national parks – Majestic Mountain Loop / Sierras
One of the most beautiful itineraries among the Californian parks is the Majestic Mountain Loop which includes three iconic High Sierra destinations: Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. Ideal for a three-day road trip, with breathtaking views, rivers, waterfalls and beautiful locations like Crystal Cave, General Grant Tree and Glacier Point.
- Group tours and adventures – Joshua Tree National Park
To explore this national park, famous for its Joshua trees, the best thing is to either walk or drive a jeep. Here, where the deserts of Mojave and Colorado meet, travelers will find a variety of truly unique animals and vegetation, rare geological formations and unforgettable starry skies. Agencies like Desert Adventures and Big Wheel Tours offer a rather relaxing approach, valid alternatives for less sporty travelers.
- Tidepools and history of the West Coast – Cabrillo National Monument / San Diego
The only national park in San Diego tells the story of this region and its ecosystem through a unique perspective. The trails dedicated to the study of coastal habitats, the military structures of the Second World War and a 19th-century lighthouse (one of the first of the West Coast) are not to be missed. But the real highlight of your visit here will be the tide pools. These water basins amongst the rocks are real biosystems where plants, invertebrates and fish live.
CALIFORNIAN LANDSCAPES: WATER
- Island Adventures – Channel Islands National Park / Channel Islands
Often referred to as “Galapagos of North America,” the Channel Islands are usually less crowded than the US national parks on the mainland. This national park includes 5 of the 8 islands of the archipelago and is a convenient starting point for visiting one of the largest sea caves in the world or kayaking in secluded bays. Access to the islands is only possible on boats owned by the Island Packers Cruises company. Camping on the Channel Islands is certainly an experience to try at least once, remember though that it’s necessary to book on the website of the National Park Service.
- Kayaking in Redwood – Redwood National and State Parks / Orick
Redwood National and State Parks offers some of the largest and most majestic trees in the world. In the park, it is possible to go kayaking along the Smith River or stand up paddle boarding in the bay near Stone Lagoon. The Redwood Rides and KayakZak agencies can help you organize tours and guided tours in the area.
CALIFONRIAN LANDSCAPES: AIR
- Fly over Yosemite National Park
Millions of people visit Yosemite every year but only a few have the privilege of observing the park from above on a small plane. Private tours organized by various companies including Yosemite Air Tours and Airborne Aviation Services depart from local airports and fly over the area. It is only possible to imagine the thrill of flying over the falls, the granite formations and the panoramic peaks of Yosemite.
- Climb above the clouds at Pinnacles National Park – Pinnacles National Park / Monterey County
Hike the pinnacles of Pinnacles National Park or one of the High Peaks trails to reach 7,000 meters above sea level, a unique experience that offers breath-taking views of the volcanic landscape with oak forests dotted by wildflowers. With a little luck, you can also observe the condors, rare birds protected by the Californian state.
- Soar over the cliffs of Torrey Pines – Torrey Pines Gliderport / San Diego
Located in the southern part of the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, Gliderport impresses flight fanatics and newbies alike since 1930. From here you can paraglide over the villas and cliffs of La Jolla.
I hope this brief deep-dive into California’s natural wonders can help you choose what to see outside of the usual picture-postcard locations in this state.