Most Beautiful Places to Visit in California in Your Lifetime: When one hears or thinks about making a trip to the US, the first image that pops in our head is the iconic screens of Times Square, New York or the amazing innovations and technological breakthroughs of Silicon Valley, Northern California. While these are frequently depicted in most popular sitcoms and in the news, there is a lot more to the States than just tall buildings and tech. While in the US, if there is one place where you can get a sneak peek into the beauty and diversity of the US, it is California. Situated on the Western coast, the state bolsters a diverse terrain. From deserts to mountains, beaches and even islands. Much like its terrain, the people are just as much diverse: socially, culturally as well as professionally.
California is home to several natural as well as man-made treasures. Its forests are home to an astounding diversity of life, thanks to its varied terrains and climate. Its coastal scene draws vacationers and serious surfers alike. It is also a haven for art, culture and history. From museums of art, natural history and science, to the globally acclaimed film industry of Hollywood. The country also has a rich theater culture. Those looking for free expression of humanity, it boasts some of the most nostalgic graffiti and street art. Let’s begin with the natural gems of California that you can see if you have a US visa.
California’s Natural Treasures
California has 9 National Parks. The highest in any state of the USA. Although the state ranks third in the nation for hunting, the National Parks are largely protected and hence, reserve their pristine essence. Owing to the diversity in terrain, weather, and its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, each National Park is unique and has its own vivacity in wilderness.
Joshua Tree National Park
Location: 501mi south of San Francisco (SF)
Once the seat of the Pinto culture between the years 8000 to 4000 BCE, the national park is named after the curious looking Joshua trees dominating the otherwise desert land. The park also has many oases encircled by California Palms. The only palm native to the Western US. Rare and uncommon animals and birds include the California Mountain Lion, California Black Bear, the Bald Eagle and the world’s fastest flyer, the Peregrine Falcon.
Sights to look out for: Rattlesnake Canyon, Giant Marbles, and the Wonderland of Rocks. Artists can look out for the Hicksville Trailer Palace and Artist Retreat to spend some time and find inspiration.
Pinnacles National Park-Most Beautiful Places to Visit in California
Location: 123mi south of SF
The park is named after the cliffs, crags and caves that are the remnants of the 20 million years old,Pinnacles volcano. The remnants have journeyed through tectonic shifts from its original spot!Ironically, this ancient territory was declared a National Park only recently and is the newest national park in California.
Sights to look out for: Stone artefacts of the Chalon and Mutsun of the Ohlone people, post-rain carpet of wildflowers, grey pines, blue oaks and cliffs, Prairie Falcons and Californian Condors,caves, trails and hikes.
Yosemite National Park
Location: 195mi east of SF
One of the most famous national parks in the world. It is one of the first territories in the US to be declared a national park, in 1890. Its iconic Yosemite Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in the world. It draws numerous hikers, climbers and campers throughout the year to witness its contrast of cliffs and greens. During the spring season, its waterfalls transform into slushie falls due to the formation of frazil ice.
Sights to look out for: Half Dome, Black oaks, incense-cedars, giant sequoia groves, the Sierra Nevada red fox, andrare birds such as the pine grosbeak, sooty grouse, or the black-backed woodpecker.
Channel Islands National Park-Most Beautiful Places to Visit in California-Most Beautiful Places to Visit in California
Location: 380mi south of SF and a 12mi boat-ride
Area: Combined area of 346mi2
The Channel Islands National Park is one of its kind. The five islands are Anacapa, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Miguel and Santa Rosa. They exhibit climatic conditions much like that of coastal Los Angeles. Their origin as volcanic islands grant them geological formations and ecosystems like no other. This has earned the islands its status as biosphere reserve from UNESCO, in 1976. It has over a hundred endemic species of animals. That is, they exist only on the Channel Islands.
Sights to look out for: White sandy beaches, green mountains, rocky cliffs, and sea caves, Island Oaks and mallows, the rarest pines in the US – the Torrey pines,underwater Giant Kelp forests, seals and whales off the coast.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Location: 247mi north-east of SF
This one, you must have recently seen on the news.The Dixie fire of August 2021 burned down more than a third of its forests in about 3 months. While the forest is still recovering, it is largely closed to visitors. However, the safer areas have begun opening up in the month of October 2021. Among the recently opened areas is the Lassen Volcanic Peak trail, where one can climb to the summit of one of the world’s largest plug-dome volcano. As it snows here most of the year, the best time to visit is between July and October.
Sights to look out for: River trails, tranquil lakes, thickets of firs and pines, mountains, the colorful, bubbling sulphur lake at Bumpass Hell (closed due to the fire).
Death Valley National Park-Most Beautiful Places to Visit in California
Location: 521 miles south-east of SF
While most of the national parks are known for their flora, fauna, hills and ranges, the Death Valley National Park is an expanse of arid desert with mountains and sand dunes situated at 282 feet below sea level,lowest in North America. It derives its name from the lives lost during the California Gold Rush of 1849. Temperature soar as high as 57°C,at Furnace Creek, its hottest region.However, once the spring showers begin, the valley gets covered in wild flowers, drawing butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.
Sights to look out for: The moving rocks of Race track Playa, the colored hills of Artist’s Drive, the Wild rose Charcoal Kilns and the Ubehebe Crater. The Death Valley National Park has been designated as a dark sky park, making it an ideal location for sky gazing enthusiasts.
Redwood National Park
Location: 318mi north of SF
Area: 217 mi2
The Redwood National Park is perhaps the greenest in California.Its mountains, woods and water bodies are home to a rich ecosystem of plants, critters and animals such as Roosevelt Elks, Banana Slugs, Pacific Giant Salamanders, and marbled murrelets. Although it is good to visit any time of the year, the best time is around July, when it is not as cold as the rest of the year.
Sights to look out for: Fern Canyon, the Crescent Beach Overlook, Elk Meadow, Bald Hills, Gold Bluffs Beach and the Redwood Creek Overlook,Treetop Canopy Walks and… Tree Houses!
- Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
Location: 260 miles south-east of SF
The Sequoia National Park too draws its name from its Sequoia forests. Even the terrains and climate of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are similar to that of Redwood National Park.Among the many sights the parks are known for, the immensity of the General Sherman Tree surpasses all. It is the largest known living organism on the planet.
Sights to look out for: Tree tunnels, the Crescent Meadow, Mount Whitney, Moro Rock Trail, Crystal Cave and the many waterfalls.
The Humans of California
Besides the natural beauty of California, one mustn’t miss these obscure, beautiful spots of human expressions.
- Street art: Mission Murals (San Francisco),Wide Open Walls (WOW) events, Donner Summit Tunnels, Venice Beach, Long Beach Murals, and many more. Several apps are available to track them down.
- Museums: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Morton Simon Museum, Peterson Automotive Museum, Skirball Cultural Centre, The Getty Centre to name a few.
- Architecture, infrastructure and such: Golden Gate Bridge, The Big Sur drive and Hearst Castle, Coit Tower.Sea side towns of Marin County, Napa Valley vineyards, Point Arena Lighthouse at Mendocino, Palm Springs and the Coachella Music Festival.
The diversity, human and natural history of California make it a gem among the United States territories. It is certainly gifted in terms of natural resources, but it is also gifted in diverse cultures, architecture, traditions and arts.Thus, reserving a special spot on the list of places to experience on your next US visa.