Home to some of the world’s most visited sites – think Half Dome, General Sherman, and Joshua Tree – California offers a unique landscape to outdoor adventure seekers. This list details the best California parks and forests that tend to fly under the radar but are sure to thrill.
Listed from North to South:
Redwood National Park
This park offers so much more than just tall trees. Covering protected coastlines, rivers, and forests there is something for every outdoor adventure lover at Redwood National Park. Raft down the Smith River and experience Class I-IV rapids, or rent a bike to tour the vast forest for a few deep inhales. Not many California parks offer this type of aromatherapy.
Tahoe National Forest
Tahoe is one of the most popular sites to see in California. For adventure seekers, it’s an outdoor dreamscape. Tahoe appeals to both summer and winter lovers with access to skiing, kayaking, and mountain biking. Mountain bike the Pacific Coast Trail which stretches over 100 miles within the National Forest. Shred the mountain region with any number of ski resorts nearby.
Inyo National Forest
“The mountains are calling, and I must go”. John Muir was speaking about the Sierra Nevada mountain range when he uttered this famous phrase. Inyo National Forest encompasses the Eastern Sierras where travelers are able to ski, backpack, mountain bike, and paddleboard throughout the seasons. Day-hike the Sabrina Lake Trail to enjoy a series of high alpine lakes surrounded by a glacier and 13,000 ft granite peaks.
Big Sur State Park
*cue the Big Little Lies soundtrack*
Big Sur State Park is a stretch of rugged California coastline that truly has no equal. Zip through the streets of surrounding Monterey on an electric bike. Hike and camp through the Big Sur backcountry. Whatever you do, don’t take TLC’s advice on this one – do go chase waterfalls. McWay Falls is the most recognizable in the area but there are several along the Little Sur River. Our favorite is the Pico Blanco Camp Falls.
Los Padres National Forest
Wine country that focuses on the epic island and ocean views from atop a vast mountain range suits all outdoor lover needs. The Los Padres National Forest is hailed for its mountains, streams, beaches, and rivers that are ripe for mountain biking and hiking. Our favorite is Jesusita Trail which offers the best views in town at the top of Inspiration Point. After a full day of adventuring, reward yourself by cruising into town for a wine tasting or brewery hoping.