The 13 best places to visit in Southern California
Along California's famous Highway 1, on the very edge of what is defined as Southern California is The Piedras Blancas Rookery, the only elephant seal rookery in the world that is easily accessible and free to the public all year round. Covering a 9.6 kilometre (6 mile) stretch of beach, these massive creatures can be viewed in large numbers throughout the year, with January, April and October bringing as many as 17,000 elephant seals to the San Simeon shores.
13. Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery
Completed in 1933, to the east of San Diego just north from the border with Mexico is the Goat Canyon Trestle, measuring 229 metres (751 ft) in length it is the largest all wood trestle in the world. Made from wood rather than metal due to the incredible heat fluctuations in the Carrizo Gorge, rail travel over the trestle continued up until 2008.
12. Goat Canyon Trestle
Between Los Angeles and Death Valley National Park, in the Californian Desert on the edge of what is considered Southern California is the 15 square kilometre (5.8 square miles) geological feature 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.
11. Trona Pinnacles
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 of 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.
10. 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.
In the extreme south west of the state, directly south from 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.
8. San Diego
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 offer visitors the best views in San Diego county.
7. Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
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 notable places in the park is known as Fonts Point, offering an incredible view over the jagged desert landscape.
6. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
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 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.
5. Los Padres 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.
4. Mojave National Preserve
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, cougar 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.
3. Angeles 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.
2. Joshua Tree 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.