The California Republic holds more than just Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Exploring the state, you'll find out why. From the Redwood forests to the Golden Coast, Sierra Nevada and Inland Deserts, California is made to be discovered. To inspire some wanderlust, we've compiled a list of 10 of California's best spots to explore and to Instagram. Adventure enough on your own and you'll surely find many more.
Glacier Point - Yosemite
The Yosemite Valley is jam-packed with granite cliffs, raging waterfalls and lush forests. And there's no better place to witness it all than the top of Glacier Point, overlooking Half Dome, Nevada and Vernal Falls and the Yosemite Valley. The hike from the Valley to Glacier Point on the aptly named Four-Mile Trail is steep but rewarding. If you're feeling lazy, Glacier Point Road will get you there, but can be a long drive from the Valley floor. For an alternative viewpoint with fewer crowds, consider nearby Olmsted Point or Taft Point.
Want to learn more about Yosemite? Check out our destination profile.
Golden Gate Bridge
Perhaps more than any other bridge in the world, the Golden Gate is instantly recognizable. Bright red and visible from nearly anywhere in the Bay Area, the Golden Gate Bridge is as photogenic as can be. The best views can be had from the Marin Headlands area, on the bridge's north side. Here, numerous trails criss cross steep hillsides, offering panoramic views of the entire Bay, with the Golden Gate towering in the foreground.
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Joshua Tree National Park
Closer to a Dr. Seuss book than anything on this planet, Joshua Tree National Park is home to the drooping namesake Joshua Trees, bizarre rock piles and sweeping deserts. Only a couple hours from Los Angeles, the park is easy to access and features plentiful hiking, bouldering and rock climbing possibilities. At night, Joshua Tree's remoteness allows for incredible stargazing. For an adventure, consider bouldering at night with a headlamp or under a full moon.
One of California's biggest tourist destinations, Disneyland has been captivating visitors since its construction in 1955. With icons such as Space Mountain, the Matterhorn, and of course the gorgeous castle, it should be easy to get a picture that captures the magic.
McWay Falls - Big Sur
The jewel of California's Central Coast, Big Sur is a photographer's dream. With rugged cliffs, redwood forests and abundant wildlife, the region makes for a fantastic adventure. But perhaps no spot on the coast is as unique as McWay Falls. Located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, the water of McWay Falls drops directly from the cliffsides onto the beach - or at high tide, into the ocean.
Want to learn more about Big Sur? Check out our destination profile.
The Hollywood Sign
Los Angeles' version of the Statue of Liberty, the Hollywood Sign towers above the city in the Hollywood Hills. The hike to the sign is nice, but the best photos can be taken from down below. Consider starting at the Griffith Observatory, another Los Angeles gem, and hiking through the hills and canyons for a great view of the Hollywood Sign, as well as the sprawling metro area below.
Located in the "Last Free Place in the United States," Salvation Mountain rises up from the vast desert east of the Salton Sea with almost miraculous audacity. Constructed over decades by a local resident as a tribute to God's Love, it has become an Instagram hotspot, and has been featured in numerous films, including one of Adventure Cascadia's favorites, Into the Wild. While in the area, be sure to check out the rest of Slab City, and consider exploring the nearby Anza-Borrego Desert or Imperial Sand Dunes, or driving up the road to Joshua Tree National Park.
Both the hottest and lowest point in North America, Death Valley's sun-faded rocks offer an aura of desolation. But this desert environment belies the fact that Death Valley is home to immaculate biodiversity, including Bighorn Sheep and wild Burros. The Sierra Nevada gracing the Valley's western boundary offers an excellent backdrop for photography. Try going in the spring when the Valley explodes in a bloom of wildflowers.
Sequoia National Park
At the southern end of the Sierra Nevada, Sequoia National Park is like Yosemite without the crowds. Filled with its namesake Giant Sequoia trees, the park is excellent for hiking and exploring. If you're looking for an adventure, go in winter. The Sequoia trees' cinnamon-colored bark spectacularly stands out against the snow, and there will be few, if any, people around.
Sunset Cliffs - San Diego
In San Diego's trendy Point Loma neighborhood, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is a strip of sandstone bluffs overlooking the Pacific. At extremely low tide, numerous caves open up that can be explored. And during spring and fall, migratory gray whales are a common sight. Or, you could always try to capture one of those legendary California sunsets.