Thanks to temperate climates and a diverse range of beautiful scenery, California is a destination you can explore year-round. And when it comes to outdoor activities, the options are endless—whether you want to spot migrating whales in Orange County, hike to a hidden swimming hole near Santa Barbara, or anything in between. Below are 10 ideas for how to spend time outdoors on your next Golden State vacation, from San Diego to Monterey.
Commune with Redwood Giants
Giant Forest, Sequoia National Park
When you’re surrounded by a grove of giant sequoias, it’s easy to feel small. Sequoia National Park was established to protect the Sequoiadendron giganteum (giant sequoia), which is the state tree of California (along with the coast redwood, Sequoia sempervirens).
Wander through the Giant Forest here, where among the 8,000 giant sequoias you’ll find the General Sherman Tree, the largest living thing on earth by volume.
Experience Remote Camping
Little Harbor Campground, Catalina Island
You can reach Catalina Island via a short 22-mile ferry or helicopter trip—from Dana Point, Newport Beach, Long Beach, or San Pedro—and arrive in Avalon to stroll around the shops and each at ocean-view restaurants. But for a bit more of an adventure, consider hiking or biking your way to Little Harbor to discover the remote Little Harbor Campground and Shark Harbor Campground on Catalina’s under-the-radar backside. (The Wildlands Express Shuttle will also get you there.) You can order food and drinks—or stock up yourself—at the Two Harbors General Store and get your goods delivered to your campsite for $20. Explore the island’s surrounding waters on a kayak—rentals are available year-round from Wet Spot Rentals.
Find Your Way in the Desert
Indian Canyons, Palm Springs
This ruggedly beautiful area features more than 60 miles of trails through scenic terrain in the ancestral home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in Greater Palm Springs.
Popular trails include an easy path through Andreas Canyon, which passes through a California fan palm oasis; the moderate Murray Canyon Trail, which ends at the Seven Sisters Waterfall; and the Indian Potrero Trail, which leads to past a series of stone pools to a hidden plateau surrounded by rock formations.
Hang Ten, California Style
Monterey Bay Surf Lessons, Monterey/Carmel
California takes its surf culture seriously, but having fun is always the first goal of surfing.
If you’re a newbie or merely looking to improve your skills, get a boost with private surf instruction from Monterey Bay Surf Lessons.
An extra bonus to surfing in the Monterey Peninsula is that you get to gaze at the glorious Monterey and Carmel shorelines between sets.
Hike for the Views
Hit the trails at Mount Hollywood, which rises over the center of the park behind the Griffith Observatory, and offers panoramic views of Los Angeles. If you’re looking for a prime view of the famed Hollywood sign, head to the Mount Lee trails.
Savasana Out to Sea
Mother’s Beach YOGAqua, Marina del Rey
Breathe the fresh air while you take a YOGAqua class on a paddleboard in this Southern California beach town.
Even if you’re new to yoga, the water-based Vinyasa yoga flow class will make you feel like you’re one with the ripples on the liquid surface.
Challenge your mind and body in true California beach style, and then paddle around to check out the Marina del Rey scenery.
Take a Fragrant Breath of Fresh Air
San Diego Botanic Garden, Encinitas
Thanks to San Diego’s sunny skies and mild climate, 5,000 plant species from all over the world thrive here. Take your time along the four miles of trails among majestic palms, flowering trees, and the country’s largest bamboo collection.
The diverse topography spanning 37 acres includes a variety of microclimates that give outdoor and botany fans a sensation of going from a desert environment to a tropical rainforest.
Tour an Estuary by Kayak
Snag your rental craft at Central Coast Outdoors or A Kayak Shack, and paddle out into the waters protected from the open ocean by a 4-mile-long sandspit. From this different perspective, among the harbor seals and sea otters, take your time enjoying the views of Morro Rock and the coastal hills. Note: Check hours first.
Voyage to the “Galapagos of North America”
Island Packers trips to Channel Islands National Park, Ventura/Oxnard
Voyage from either Ventura or Oxnard harbor to visit Channel Islands National Park, where the “Galapagos of North America” is revered for its endemic plants and abundant wildlife. Isolation over thousands of years has resulted in unique animals and plants, and a visit here lets you see coastal Southern California as it once was. Feel the marine breeze in your hair on the cruise over and back with Island Packers, which visits all five islands that make up the Channel Islands National Park and National Marine Sanctuary. For a different perspective of the coastline, consider launching 1,000 feet in the air with Channel Islands Parasail.
Watch the Sunset
Table Rock Beach, Laguna Beach
Follow the wooden stairway down to this picturesque pocket beach to end the day and leave the stress behind. The north and south ends of Laguna Beach‘s Table Rock Beach are capped by cliffs, which feel as if they’re protectively embracing the sand.
Bring your towel or chair, find the perfect spot, and inhale the salt air.
Source: Excerpt from Visit California Tourism Board
Lead: California Coast – Wallpaper Safari
Sequoia National Park – Pixabay
Camping on Catalina Island – Wallpaper Flare
Indian Canyon, Palm Springs – Visit Palm Springs (Tourism Board)
Monterey – Pixabay
Griffith Park Trails – pxfuel
Marina del Rey – Pixabay
San Diego Botanic Garden – Pixabay
Morro Bay Estuary – Wikimedia Commons by ALAN SCHMIERER, License Creative Commons 1.0 Universal
Sunset at Laguna Beach – Wallpaper Safari