Southern California might be known primarily for its beaches, but there is much more to it. From incredible National Parks to sweeping wildflower fields, we’ve put together a collection of the most gorgeous spots around, and what you can expect if you visit them.
Sequoia National Park
A huge park located in the southern part of the Sierra Nevadas, Sequoia National Park stretches across over 400,000 acres. Established in 1890, the park has been standing strong for over a century, giving visitors gorgeous places to vacation and enjoy some serenity. The park is primarily known for its Giant Forest, filled with some of the oldest and largest ancient coastal redwood trees in the world. It’s also home to Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the contiguous United States. When visiting, you can enjoy a variety of activities, including camping, hiking, backpacking, fishing, and more.
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is located on the northern side of Los Angeles County, a space protected under the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The reserve is home to the best California poppy blooms in the state, filling the space with bright, vibrant blossoms. In addition to poppies, the reserve is known for growing wildflowers like owl’s clover, lupine, goldfields, cream cups, and coreopsis. To catch the best colors of the year, time your visit between mid-February and late May.
Draping across the border of Southern California and Nevada lies Death Valley National Park, east of the Sierra Nevadas. This is the largest national park in the contiguous United States, containing a portion of the Mojave Desert as well as a variety of salt-flats, sand dunes, badlands, valleys, canyons, and mountains. A large majority of the park is also a designated wilderness area, housing a array of desert-adapted plant and animal species. When visiting, you can camp, hike, drive, bike, backpack, and more.
Another incredible national park in Southern California is Joshua Tree National Park. This park brings together the distinct ecosystems from the Mojave and Colorado Deserts to house an incredible range of plants and animals. The land has been shaped by strong weather throughout the years to create a fascinating landscape where you can enjoy hiking, camping, climbing, bird watching, and stargazing.
Stretching along the coast and slightly inland between Ventura and Monterey sits Los Padres National Forest, a wilderness area including about 875,000 acres of forestry. Included within the park’s boundaries are the Ventana, Silver Peak, Santa Lucia, Machesna, Garcia, San Rafael, Dick Smith, Sespe, Matilija, and Chumash wilderness areas. This a great spot for hiking and backpacking, containing over 1,200 miles of trails.
Also in the San Diego area is Coronado Beach, with a gorgeous shore spreading out in front of the Hotel Del Coronado. You don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to enjoy this beach, which stretched out across a mile and a half behind some beautiful Ocean Boulevard houses. Here, you can enjoy a variety of activities including swimming, boogie boarding, body surfing, and visiting the tide pools. For ideal surfing conditions, head north to North Beach, or opt for a doggie day even farther north at Dog Beach.
Located in Monterey County on the central coast of California, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park spans over 1,000 acres. The park stretches across the Big Sur River, sloping down the west side of the Santa Lucia Mountains, filled with redwoods, conifers, oaks, sycamores, cottonwoods, maples, alders, and willows. These features make Pfeiffer a beautiful spot for visitors to explore, and be on the lookout for animals like bobcats, deer, squirrels, and colorful birds. Today, the park is best known for its camping facilities and hiking trails.