California is not only one of the largest states but also straddles portions of the Rocky Mountains while having a long coastline. The combination of all these features makes it a wonderland of significant natural and man-made sights and attractions. Choosing the best ten from the plethora of possibilities is a challenge in and of itself. However, here are my selections for the very best of California.
1. San Francisco – The "city by the bay" is one of the world’s most exciting and interesting places. It has long been associated with romance as well as the avant garde. It is truly a travel destination and warrants at least three to four days for an adequate visit.
2. Yosemite National Park – John Muir made this incredible testament to the power of glacial erosion famous. Now its vistas are recognized around the world.
3. Pacific Coast Highway – Highway 1 and 101 stretches from San Diego in the south to the Oregon border, winding along the beautiful coastline and providing gorgeous views of sandy beaches, rocky shores and numerous offshore islands. This is, without question, one of the greatest scenic highways in the world.
4. Death Valley National Park – This stark, eerie landscape is strangely beautiful although one of the harshest places on the planet with temperatures in the summer reaching 130 degrees. It is also one of America’s largest national parks.
5. San Diego – Often praised for its spectacular year-round weather, this cosmopolitan city, on the border with Mexico, has great attractions and an exciting atmosphere.
6. Sequoia/King’s Canyon National Parks – These abutting natural areas showcase the earth’s largest living things, the Giant Sequoias.
7. Los Angeles – This huge city is world famous as the center of America’s film industry. Its ideal climate and proximity to both mountains and ocean have made it an attractive place to settle for many displaced Americans.
8. Napa & Sonoma Valleys (Wine Country) – The two best known wine producing areas of the United States are extremely close to one another making this a popular destination for oenophiles from around the world.
9. Redwood National Park – This northern coastal area showcases the world’s tallest tree, the California Redwood. Roads and trails within the park allow visitors access to a number of groves.
10. Monterey & Seventeen Mile Drive – This area of the coast, roughly midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, is particularly scenic, and the towns of Monterey and Carmel are attractions themselves.
Other sights considered:
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Joshua Tree National Park
Channel Islands National Park