California's 5 Most Spectacular Landscapes
PHOTO: .Tunnel View, Yosemite (Photo via Flickr/Micelle Rae Holland)
California seems to have the best of everything: warm and sunny year-round weather, excellent gastronomy, world-class cities, beautiful beaches, a low-key attitude, a vibrant blend of many cultures and all sorts of adventure. And rounding off the list is an eclectic mix of landscapes that are some of the best in the country, if not the world. From sweeping coasts to larger-than-life deserts, here are five of the Golden State’s most spectacular landscapes.
Yosemite National Park
There’s a reason why Yosemite’s high sierra landscape attracts travelers from all over the world. This national park’s granite peaks, all herculean and magnificent, watch over its lush valleys flourishing with waterfalls, creeks and rivers, meadows, and alpine lakes. It is without a doubt California’s centerpiece and one of nature’s most majestic creations. The Yosemite Valley alone, albeit touristy and crowded, is home to a number of must-see landmarks, including El Capitan, the Half Dome and Bridalveil Fall. And the valley only covers a small fraction of the whole park. Venture away from it and you’ll come across even more awe-inspiring landmarks like the Cathedral Lakes and Hetch Hetchy Valley, which are mostly crowd-free.
Many have dubbed it the greatest meeting of land and sea, and even that is an understatement. There are no words worthy enough to describe the wonder that is Big Sur. Beyond its absurd beauty, this stretch of craggy coast about three hours south of San Francisco is also embedded with enthralling natural treasures and panoramas yearning to be explored. There are rolling green hills, sparkling beaches, verdant forests, and a waterfall that feeds directly into the sea. There are also plenty of trails to follow and explore for yourself as well as little gems worth pulling over for. During your visit, stay a while. Deluxe hotels are available but to completely immerse yourself, you must camp and sleep under the stars.
Joshua Tree National Park
There’s little wonder why Joshua Tree has become a hippie and bohemian enclave. This desert landscape east of Palm Springs has a mystical or spiritual quality about it that draws those seeking to heal, meditate, or just detach from the digital-driven world. Joshua Tree’s most distinctive and iconic feature is, of course, the Joshua Trees that freckle the landscape. And they’re amazing to photograph, especially silhouetted against the sunset sky. But the park has other breathtaking natural features as well: piles of massive boulders that you can climb, prehistoric oases, and desert hills. Campgrounds abound, from which you can star gaze, see meteor showers and even admire the Milky Way.
Death Valley National Park
One of the hottest places on earth, it’s no surprise that Death Valley strikes fear or maybe intimidation into the hearts of those who are not familiar with it. Those who have seen and experienced its many wonders, however, know it to be a place of spectacular things. Death Valley’s desert landscape boasts many astounding geological features: the Artist’s Palette, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, the Race Track, Devil’s Golf Course, and the ridges at Zabriskie Point to name a few. There are also natural bridges, craters, canyons and ghost towns, as well as colorful meadows of wildflowers in the spring.
Sequoia National Park
This forested landscape located south of bear-riddled Kings Canyon is best known for its ever-growing monoliths. This is a world of giants. And if there ever was a place that will make you feel small and new, it’s here in Sequoia surrounded by red, ancient goliaths. A tumble around in this national park demands a lot of looking up and being in awe. Must-see attractions include General Sherman, named the world’s largest tree; Grant Grove; the Giant Forest; and the Tunnel Log. If your neck needs a break, there are caves, meadows, lakes and vistas also waiting to be explored.