My recommendations of places to visit, fall 2016.

A student requested this and a few more let me know they were interested.  For what it’s worth, visit these places and you will probably not regret it.  Here goes:


  1. Sequoia National Park: enter from highway 198, stop at Potwisha and Hospital Rock, continue to Giant Forest, and don’t miss the long precipitous descent into the Kings River Canyon.
  2. Big Sur: Route 1 is an epic drive from Cayucos up to Monterey.  Camp in the redwoods.
  3. Baja California: Drive the long road south, stop at Bahia de Magdalena to see the whales, bunk in La Paz at Jacque Cousteau’s old stomping grounds and finally, make your way to the desolate coastline at Cabo Pulmo.
  4. Yosemite: John Muir country.  Totally superfluous.  If it’s summer, enter from the east over Tioga Pass.  If you want to avoid crowds, wait till summer dies down to explore the valley with the waterfalls and monoliths.  Go rafting on the Merced or Tuolumne Rivers.
  5. Highway 395. One of California’s best kept secrets.  Head north to Mono Lake and take some time to wander around Bodie.
  6. Joshua Tree National Park: It’s a landscape straight out of a Dr. Seuss Book.  But you have to camp to catch the mind-boggling star display.
  7. Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest: East of Bishop, up a treacherous mountain road.
  8. Morro Bay Estuary: Visit the state park, Los Osos, and Montana de Oro.  Try to fit in a trip to the farmer’s market in San Luis Obispo.
  9. Carrizo Plain National Monument: Spring wildflowers, an alkaline flat, antelope and tule elk; this one is off the beaten path.
  10. Lassen National Park: Cinder cones, lava tubes and black sand dunes high in the mountains; the scenery is outrageous.
  11. Muir Woods: Dense redwood forests just across the Golden Gate from San Francisco.  Hike through the forest and over the coastal grasslands before dropping down to Stinson Beach.
  12. Bodega Bay: Stunning California coastline; continue north through Mendocino County and it just gets better and better.
  13. Trail of 100 Giants: Near the Kern River watershed.  I would sleep in a yurt at Redwood Meadow, but that’s just me.
  14. Capitol Reef National Park: The gems of southern Utah are closer than they seem.  Along the way, you can hit Zion, Bryce Canyon and the lesser known Capitol Reef.  Of course, if you’ve gone that far, you should visit Arches and Moab.
  15. Saguaros: The quintessential cactus.  Check out Saguaro National Park surrounding Tucson, or instead head to Picacho Peak or Catalina, both State Parks to the north of the city.  While you’re there, check out the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and maybe Biosphere 2.  And Eat – Tucson was the first city in the US to be recognized by the United Nations for its culinary heritage.
  16. Mesa Verde: A little far afield, but closer than you might think.  This is where you can see and tour fantastic cliff dwellings.
  17. Redwood State Park: The best of the tall trees are in far northern California.
  18. Channel Islands National Park: Not Catalina; the rest of the islands.  Check back next semester – we are trying to arrange a trip for interested students!
  19. Black Canyon Water Trail: Up the Colorado River by kayak to the base of Hoover Dam.  There are side canyons with isolated hot springs all along the way.
  20. The Grand Canyon: If you’ve never stood on the rim, you should.  Splurge for a meal at El Tovar.  Shoot for a table by the windows.


A bit more local.

  1. Anza-Borrego State Park: The biggest of California’s 280 State Parks.  Stay away from the OHV area and discover palm oases, mud caves, and the northernmost populations of elephant trees.
  2. Palomar Mountain: There’s a reason they put the observatory there.  Camp in the state park or closer to the Cal Tech facility.
  3. El Matador State Beach: One of the best.  North of Malibu.
  4. Cabrillo National Monument: At the tip of Point Loma; commanding views, trails through coastal sage, and excellent tide pools down on the water.
  5. Border Field State Park: A surprisingly desolate beach for Southern California.  Officials blame the polluted water from the Tijuana River.  I think they just want to keep people away from the border fence.
  6. The tram: If you missed it this semester, join us next.  It’s a really cool experience.
  7. The Salton Sea: It’s just plain weird.  Stick to route 111 on the east side, grab a date shake on your way out, stop at the International Banana Museum and then make your way to Salvation Mountain and Slab City.
  8. The Ladder Canyons: Travel through Mecca, a true California farming town, to this array of slot canyons.
  9. The Santa Rosa Plateau: The gem of Riverside County.  Go for the wildflowers, go for the vernal pools.
  10. California Science Center: Great museum overall.  And you can see the space shuttle up close.
  11. Aquarium of the Pacific: Monterey Bay gets all the love, but this is my pick for best aquarium.
  12. Indian Canyons: Enormous palm oases on the Agua Caliente Reservation, a stone’s throw from Palm Springs.  Go on a Thursday – there’s a huge street party in Palm Springs every Thursday night.
  13. California Poppy Preserve: Keep an eye on the spring wildflowers (there are websites that track this).  If you hit this place at the right time, it will blow you away.
  14. La Jolla Cove: Kayak, snorkel; take your pick.
  15. Tahquitz Fire Lookout: It’s quite a hike up and out of Idyllwild, but you’ll feel like you are on top of the world.  And like you are a million miles from southern California.
  16. California Coastal Trail: Who knew?  A hiking route that hugs the beach from Mexico to Oregon.
  17. Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens: This is a good one for native flora.  Or check the Los Angeles Arboretum.  Or the Huntington Gardens.
  18. San Elijo State Beach: Beach camping.
  19. Mt. San Jacinto: It’s your college’s namesake.  It’s a pilgrimage.  It’s worth it.  John Muir supposedly said that “The view from San Jacinto is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth!”  And that man had seen quite a lot of the earth.
  20. Hmmm… wherever you are, go outside.  This is California.  The weather is perfect.  People all over the world would love to be you.