You'll have to pay nine bucks to get into the tribal-owned preserve, so spend the day hiking one or more of the multiple trails, passing pools, streams, waterfalls, and maybe even some bighorn sheep and tarantulas (for real, we've seen them) along the way.
Just driving through is cool enough, but you can also take a marked 3-mile hike and do this trippy "singing sand" thing with your feet while you're at it.
You don't have to worry about catching these falls on a good day as they pretty much never stop flowing thanks to the underground springs that feed into them from above.
If the tide level is just right, this is one of the most SWTF (Seriously What The F*ck) things in California.
The California drought has kinda ruined this one, but when the water levels are right and you're near the east side of the Monticello Dam at Lake Berryessa, this open bell-mouth spillway (basically what lets them release flows of dam water into Putah Creek) is one of the coolest things you'll ever stare into (from a very, VERY safe distance) in your life.
It's also become a makeshift memorial to musician Gram Parsons, since his remains are buried there after a couple of his friends stole his body from the airport and incinerated it in the park. Yes, this beach on a pristine cove is adjacent to one of the country's biggest metropolises, but since access requires a decent trek down (and then an even more strenuous one back up), it manages to stay pretty desolate.
And the beach is actually made up black sand (but you knew that), so it heats up nicely, providing a little warmth in the face of those blustery Nor Cal days.
Located about an hour southeast of Palm Springs, this is hands down one of the most unique California "hikes" you'll ever go on, largely because it's a LADDER hike (! One of the coolest natural wonders of the Sierras, the Seven Teacups has been described as one of the world's (WORLD'S! And that's the rub on this one -- you need, like, ropes and stuff to climb it. While years of dumping Fort Bragg garbage along the coastline in the '50s and '60s was mostly the worst thing ever, it wasn't totally and entirely, thanks to Glass Beach -- a beach filled almost entirely with sea glass. Just make sure you use the right access point -- one of the trails is closed.
) through a narrow and actually really refreshingly cold gorge formed years ago by the San Andreas Fault. because 1) holy crap look at it, 2) it's an international Biosphere Reserve (what does that even mean??? But if you do (or find a friend who knows what the hell they're doing and can carry you up or something) you'll be rewarded on the way back down, which people have been known to take inflatable killer whales and alligators down (just, duh, make sure the water depth is OK before you kill yourself). Just don't take any of it with you -- because of souvenir hunters and the waves (which are constantly grinding down the glass), it's actually diminishing. This way WAY Northern California redwood forest on the Lost Coast is like any other redwood forest, except it's known as the Enchanted Forest (!!!
If you're looking to actually see an oasis, this is the real-deal.
A bubbling stream in the middle of a canyon preserve just a few miles from Downtown Palm Springs keeps this cluster of thousands of palm trees growing and green all year long, making it one of the world's largest fan palm oases.
The whole "Painted Canyons" name is thanks to the walls, which are washed with pinks, reds, grays, browns, and greens -- especially when you first pull into the canyon. If you really want to explore this thing (and you can), you're gonna need a bathing suit. ) gets a lot of the Big Sur attention -- as it should, it's freaking ridiculous -- as does Bixby Bridge (also great), but Pfeiffer Beach might actually be the gem-ier gem. ), and 3) it's a narrow gorge carved out by Home Creek with walls hugged by seven types of ferns, some of which date back 325 million years. This is a must-read if you're gonna actually try this thing. ) and is home to insane candelabra trees and the three fairy godmothers who're trying to keep Princess Aurora safe. Seriously though, the Lost Coast is one of the true gems of California, and this right here is one of the true gems of the Lost Coast.