The 30 best places to visit in California


Along Interstate 10 between Los Angeles and Joshua Tree National Park are two of America's most recognizable roadside attractions, the Cabazon Dinosaurs. Completed in 1975 after 11 years construction is the 46 metre (151 ft) long Brontosaurus, Dinny The Dinosaur, and the 20 metre (66 ft) tall Tyrannosaurus Rex, known as Mr. Rex, completed in 1986.

30. Cabazon Dinosaurs


Around 210 kilometres (130 miles) north west along the coast from Los Angeles is the city of Solvang, the Danish word for 'Sunny Field'. Founded in 1911 by a group of Danes who travelled west to establish a Danish community far from the winters of the mid west, the city today boasts bakeries, restaurants, shops and architecture in a traditional Danish style. With copies of famous Danish landmarks, including a copy of the famous Little Mermaid Statue, Solvang is a little bit of Denmark in California.

29. Solvang


Between the city of Los Angeles and Death Valley National Park is the 15 square kilometre (5.8 square miles) geological feature in the Californian Desert known as the Trona Pinnacles. The unusual landscape consists of a large number of tufa spires, some measuring 43 metres (141 ft) high above the Searles Lake Dry Basin, a large area of flat dried mud with mountain ranges in the distance.

28. Trona Pinnacles


East of San Diego, covering some 100 square kilometres (39 square miles) in the Cuyamaca and Laguna Mountains is the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, an elevated region of mountains, meadows and forests. Famed among hikers, two of the finest trails in the park are the Eagle Peak Trail and the more popular Three Sisters Falls Trail. Starting just west of the Cuyamaca Mountains, both share the same trail head, and both are regarded to offer visitors the best views in San Diego county.

27. Cuyumaca Rancho State Park


In the north west of the state, covering some 3,875 square kilometres (1,496 square miles) is Six Rivers National Forest, named after the Eel, Van, Duzen, Klamath, Trinity, Mad and Smith Rivers which pass through the forests boundaries. Made up of wilderness areas, mountains, large old growth forests and beautiful alpine lakes, Six Rivers National Forest is an often overlooked tourist destination.

26. Six Rivers National Forest


Directly east from San Diego, covering around 2,371 square kilometres (915 square miles) is the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the largest state park in California. Located within the Colorado Desert of Southern California, it encompasses part of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountain Ranges. With 180 kilometres (112 miles) of hiking trails and incredible natural scenery, one of the most noteworthy locations in the park is Fonts Point, offering an incredible view over the jagged desert landscape.

25. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park


North east from the city of Sacramento and north west from Lake Tahoe is the 3,527 square kilometre (1,362 square mile) Tahoe National Forest, a landscape of large forests and rugged mountains. Containing the northernmost grove of giant sequoias, known as 'tiny' giant sequoia grove, a host of alpine lakes and large old growth forests, Tahoe National Forest is another beautiful protected area in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.


Pictured is Snow Mountain.

24. Tahoe National Forest


In the far north west of the State, bordering Shasta Trinity National Forest, Six Rivers National Forest and the State of Oregon is the 7,032 square kilometre (2,715 square mile) Klamath National Forest, encompassing part of the Klamath Mountains. Home to black bears, mountain lions and a whole host of other animal species, this forested wild land also contains Mount Eddy, reaching the 2,751 metre (9,025 ft) above sea level. Pictured is Castle Lake & Mount Shashta.

23. Klamath National Forest


In the west of the state, directly north from the city of San Francisco is the 3,696 square kilometre (1,427 square mile) Mendocino National Forest, one of the least accessible protected areas in California. With no roads leading into the forest, this untouched mountainous terrain is a favourite among hikers, backpackers and photographers who like to get lost in the wilderness. One of the highlights of the region is around Lake Pilsbury, where the tule elk herds graze in large numbers. One of only two locations in California to see this beautiful beast, they are among the largest mammals native to the United States.

22. Mendocino National Forest


East of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and west of the White Mountains is the now arid valley of the Owens River, the Owens Valley, known as the Land Of Little Rain. Surrounded by peaks that reach over 4,300 metres (14,108 ft) above sea level, Owens Valley is one of the deepest valleys in the United States. The sight of this great open alkali flat from one of the many high vantage points is a photographers dream.

21. Owen's Valley


In the extreme south west of the state, directly south from the city of Los Angeles on the Pacific coast, immediately adjacent to the border with Mexico is the city of San Diego, Spanish for Saint Didicus. Sometimes called the Birthplace Of California, the city is known for its mild year round climate, beaches and attractions such as Balboa Park, Belmont Amusement Park, San Diego Zoo and Sea World.

20. San Diego


North west along the coast from the city of Los Angeles, covering a vast 7,700 square kilometres (2,973 square mile) is Los Padres National Forest, a mountainous terrain that reaches 2,697 metres (8,847 ft) above sea level. Encompassing part of the beautiful Big Sur coastline, this location has become a very popular area for hiking, with more than 520 kilometres (323 miles) of trails cutting into the scenic interior. One of the rarest and most impressive sights in the forest for the lucky few is the California condor, the largest North American land bird.

19. Los Padres National Forest


North west from Yosemite National Park and directly east from the city of San Francisco is the 3,634 square kilometre (1,403 square mile) Stanislaus National Forest, one of the oldest national forests in the United States. Featuring large old growth forests, high mountains, over 70 lakes and 1,770 kilometres (1,100 miles) of hiking trails, its proximity to the San Francisco Bay Area makes it one of the most visited national forests in California.

18. Stanislaus National Forest


Just north of what is considered Southern California, in the southern Sierra Mountains covering an area of some 4,829 square kilometres (1,864 square miles) is the Sequoia National Forest, named after the majestic Giant Sequoia, the largest trees on Earth. The giant forest covers a landscape of impressive monoliths and glacier carved terrain, with over 1,370 kilometres (851 miles) of hiking trails it makes for a fantastic trekking location. One of the forests best trails is known as The Needles Trail, a 7 kilometre (4.4 mile) hike that allows visitors some of the finest views over the forested valleys.


Pictured from Pine Needles Lookout.

17. Sequoia National Forest


North east from the city of Fresno, between Kings Canyon National Park and Yosemite National Park is the 5,300 square kilometre (2,046 square mile) Sierra National Forest, known for its beautiful mountain scenery. With wonderful oak covered foothills, heavily forested mountain slopes and tundra terrain in the high Sierra Mountains, this wilderness landscape is a favourite among hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, with highlights including the Fresno Dome and the Neldar Grove, home to giant sequoias. One of the most beautiful locations in the forest is within the John Muir Wilderness, shared between Sierra Mountain National Forest and Inyo National Forest, it lies on the Sierra escarpment and hosts some of the most breath taking scenery in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range


Pictured is The Lake Of The Lone Indian in the John Muir Wilderness.

16. Sierra National Forest


In the east of the state, directly south from Las Vegas close to the border with Nevada is the 6,243 square kilometre (2,410 square mile) Mojave National Preserve, protecting part of the Mojave Desert. Major natural features in the reserve include the Marl Mountains, volcanic formations such as Hole In The Wall, the Cinder Cone Lava Beds and the Kelso Dunes, the largest wind created dune field in the Mojave Desert, with some dunes rising to a mammoth 200 metres (650 ft) above the surrounding terrain. 

15. Mojave National Preserve


In the eastern centre of the state, straddling Yosemite National Park, Sierra National Forest and Kings Canyon National Park is the 7,703 square kilometre (2,974 square mile) Inyo National Forest, encompassing parts of the most breathtaking landscapes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Highlights of the forest include the 4,421 metre (14,505 ft) Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the United States outside of Alaska, ancient Bristlestone Pine Forests that protect the oldest trees on Earth, the Hot Creek Geological Site and a whole host of beautiful lakes and vista points.


Pictured is June Lake.

14. Inyo National Forest


Just north of the city of Los Angeles, covering an area of some 2,652 square kilometres (1,024 square miles) is Angeles National Forest, set among the Gabriel and Sierra Pelona Mountains. Home to black bear, cougars and coyotes, the landscape is one of dense shrub forest among rolling hills and steep mountains. With over 1,122 kilometres (697 miles) of trails, it has become a major hiking destination thanks to its easy access from the metropolitan area of Greater Los Angeles.

Pictured is Pyramid Lake.

13. Angeles National Forest


West from Nevada's Carson City, crossing the state line between Nevada and California is the famous Lake Tahoe, simply meaning, 'The Lake', it is the largest freshwater alpine lake in the United States. Surrounded by large forests, the lake is known for the clarity of its water and the panorama of surrounding mountains on all sides. The beauty of the lake and its wonderful pristine surrounding nature has made it one of the most visited tourist attractions in both Nevada and California.

12. Lake Tahoe


In the northern centre of the state, covering an enormous 8,943 square kilometres (3,453 square miles) is the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, the largest national forest in California. Home to large wilderness areas, steep mountains and large forests, major features include the man made Shasta Lake and the 4,322 metre (14,179 ft) Mount Shasta, from which the park takes its name. The national forest contains over 740 kilometres (460 miles) of trails including a large part of the Pacific West Trail, one of the most famous hiking routes in the world. For driving, the 805 kilometre (500 mile) Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway takes visitors from Lassen Volcanic National Park to Mount Shasta and then onto Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, travelling through some incredible and unique volcanic scenery.

11. Shasta-Trinity National Forest


East of Los Angeles, covering 3,200 square kilometres (1,235 square miles) across the Mojave Desert and lower Colorado Desert is the Joshua Tree National Park, named after the native Joshua Tree. In the higher and cooler Mojave Desert, the Joshua Trees grow in patterns from dense forests to distantly spaced specimens, in a terrain of desert shrub land interspersed with huge boulder piles and interesting geological features. With its other wordly feel, Joshua Tree National Park has become one of the most popular and famous protected areas in California.

10. Joshua Tree National Park


On the western coast, located just north of what is considered Southern California between San Francisco and Los Angeles is the relatively small Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, nicknamed, 'Mini Yosemite'. Protecting part of the Big Sur, the landscape is a rugged and mountainous section of the central coast of California, where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise from the Pacific Ocean. Praised for its dramatic scenery, the Big Sur has been regarded the longest and most scenic stretch of undeveloped coastline in the United States outside of Alaska. Highlights in the area include the Bixby Creek Bridge just north of the park and the extremely beautiful McWay Falls in the south. Falling 24 metres (80 ft) into McWay Cove and the Pacific Ocean, it is one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the United States.


Pictured is McWay Falls.

9. Big Sur


In the northwest of the state, comprising Redwood National Park, Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks, the protected area combines to cover 560 square kilometres (216 square miles) of old growth temperate rain forest, home to one of the largest tree species on Earth, the giant redwood. Protecting 45% of the remaining coast redwood old growth forests, the Redwood National and State Parks have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

8. Redwood National & State Parks


On the western coast, around halfway up the state of California is the city of San Francisco, Spanish for Saint Francis, the main city of Northern California and one of the most well known and most visited cities in the United States. Known as the 'City By The Bay' among many other nicknames, San Francisco is known for the rise of hippie culture, the sexual revolution, the summer of love, gay rights movement, cool summers, steep hills, bridges and the most famous prison in the world, Alcatraz.


With so much to see, click here for the Must See Places In San Francisco...

7. San Francisco


North of Sequioa National Park, covering some 1,869 square kilometres (722 square miles) of the Sierra Nevada Mountains is Kings Canyon National Park, named after the rugged glacier carved valley that measures over 1,600 metres (5,249 ft) deep. Characterized by some of the steepest vertical mountains in North America, the landscape is beautifully defined by enormous forests with giant sequoias, open meadows, large lakes, serrated ridged mountains, deep valleys and powerful waterfalls such as Grizzly Falls. The combined Pacific Crest Trail and John Muir Trail cross the entire length of park, accessing the beautiful back country and making for one of the finest hiking trails in the United States.

6. King's Canyon National Park


On the western coast is one of the most famous cities in the world, Los Angeles, known as the City Of Angels, the second most populated city in the United States after New York. The cultural, financial and commercial centre of Southern California as well as the largest city on the west coast, Los Angeles is famous for its Mediterranean climate, its beaches and of course Hollywood. With so many locations and landmarks made famous through movies and TV series, Los Angeles is a tourists dream destination, which is why it is one of the most visited cities in the United States.


With so much to see, click here for the Must See Places In Los Angeles...

5. Los Angeles


In the north east of the state, directly north of the state capital, Sacramento, is the 431 square kilometre (166 square mile) Lassen Volcanic National Park, named after the Lassen Peak, the largest plug dome volcano in the world. The area surrounding the peak remains active, with boiling mud pots, openings of the planets crust known as fumaroles and many hot springs. The landscape is a beautiful terrain of high mountains, pine forests, clear lakes, jagged craters, steaming sulfur vents and one of few areas on the planet where all four types of volcano are found, namely plug, dome, shield, cinder cone and stratovolcano.

Pictured are the Painted Dunes.

4. Lassen Volcanic National Park


Situated between Sequoia National Forest and Kings Canyon National Park in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains is the 1,635 square kilometre (631 square mile) Sequoia National Park, encompassing a forested mountain terrain that sits 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) above sea level. Preserving a landscape that resembles the southern Sierra Nevada before European settlers, the park is notable for containing five of the ten largest trees in the world, including General Sherman. Dating over 2,500 years old with a height of 84 metres (275 ft) it is the largest current living organism on Earth. Other than these magnificent giant trees, highlights of the park include Tunnel Log, Tokopah Falls, Crescent Meadow and Moro Rock, the latter allowing visitors to hike to its peak with magnificent views over much of the park.

3. Sequoia National Park


In the eastern centre of the State, straddling the border with Nevada is the 13,650 square kilometre (5,270 square mile) Death Valley National Park, the largest protected area outside of Alaska. Lying east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains between the Great Basin and the Mojave Desert, Death Valley is a diverse environment of salt flats, sand dunes, badlands, valleys, canyons and mountains of fantastic geological features. Its sheer desolate nature, extreme temperatures and diverse environments has made it one of the most famous and most visited locations in the United States.

2. Death Valley National Park


In the east of the state, directly east from the city of San Francisco, between Sierra National Forest and Stanislaus National Forest in the Sierra Nevada Mountains lies the 3,029 square kilometre (1,170 square mile) Yosemite National Park, a name in Miwok that means 'Killer'. Known the world over for its granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, giant sequoia groves, lakes, mountains, meadows and glaciers, this magnificent park is designated almost entirely a wilderness area, with most visitors staying within the relatively small Yosemite Valley. With over 1,300 kilometres (808 miles) of hiking trails, one of the most popular is to the summit of Half Dome. Visitors require a permit in advance with a maximum of 300 people selected by lottery to hike on any given day. Regarded one of the most astonishingly beautiful natural terrains in the United States, Yosemite National Park has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Pictured is Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View.

1. Yosemite National Park

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