Welcome to California, the state that’s world-renowned for its beaches and wine. It’s also the place to be for those looking for the perfect backdrops to capture Instagram-worthy shots. There’s no chance of you running out of photo settings with the Golden State’s majestic, natural and human-made wonders. Hit the road and visit some of the most beautiful places to see in California!
1. Yosemite Falls
Tucked in the Yosemite National Park, this breathtaking wonder is the fifth highest waterfall worldwide at 2,425 ft. from top to bottom. It is divided into three falls. The top one accounts for most of the drop at 1,439 ft, the middle reaches 675 ft., and the final falls at 320 ft.
Much of the cascading water comes from snowmelt, which is why it’s best to stop by Yosemite Falls during spring when the flow is at its peak due to the snowmelt. You can reach the peak of the falls by following some of the hiking trails in the national park.
The hike typically takes eight hours, but the view is more than worth the effort, since the top of Yosemite Falls offers some of the most stunning views of the valley. With its impressive height, powerful flow, and picturesque surroundings, Yosemite Falls is indeed one of the most beautiful places to see in California.
2. Muir Woods
Muir Woods Stepping into this redwood reserve is a lot like stepping into an enchanted forest. The towering coastal redwood trees exude an ethereal feel and the woods are alive with forest sounds. A federally protected National monument since 1908, the Muir Woods features six miles of hiking trails for exploration.
Talk to a ranger to determine the best one for your trip. Despite California’s reputation as a hot destination, the Muir Woods is damp and cool throughout the year. Bring a jacket during your trip just in case. Rains are common from November to April. Don’t worry about traversing through muddy, forest terrain. Raised boardwalks mark pathways throughout Muir Woods to protect the trees’ sensitive root structures. While you’re in the woods, respect the silence, don’t feed the animals, avoid poison oak and stinging nettle.
3. Painted Canyon
One of the most unique wonders of the El Dorado State, the Painted Canyon is a colorful, high-walled, tight gorge that’s punctuated with mudstone and rock outcroppings. It is located in the Mecca Hills Recreation Area of California, an hour southeast of Palm springs.
The canyon gets its name from its vivid color combination, which includes red, brown, gray, and pink with the occasional green from hardy vegetation. Exploring this spectacular natural wonder involves climbing a lot of ladders, so don’t forget to bring several water bottles before you enter the gorge.
Don’t worry; the ladders are secure. Take your time marveling the spectacular rock formations and natural passages. Just be prepared to get dusty during your adventure in the Painted Canyon.
4. Big Sur
Jagged cliffs, a stunning ocean vista, and majestic rock formations —the Big Sur undoubtedly offers one of the most majestic stretches of coastline in the Golden State. It’s no wonder it’s one of the most beautiful places to see in California.
The Big Sur is nestled between Hearst Castle and Carmel-by-the-Sea, bordered by redwood trees, fog-banked canyons, and rolling meadows. Once you’re done soaking in the breathtaking view, explore the various trails around the area. The Bird Island Trail, for instance, will take you to a well-hidden cove with iridescent waters. Elephants seals are known to frequent the Big Sur’s sandy shores and gray whales have been sighted in its waters twice a year.
5. Glass Beach
One of the most beautiful places to see in California is a beach, covered in round, smooth pieces of colorful glass instead of the usual sand. The Glass Beach is a popular beach in the MacKerricher State Park. The area used to be the local’s dumping ground. Locals believe that the surf turned the shattered mirrors, pottery, bottles, and windowpanes into smooth glass over time.
Wear comfortable shoes or sturdy sandals when you hit Glass Beach. Soak in the surf, enjoy the cool ocean breeze, and sour the shoreline for coves and tide pools. Come by the beach at different times of the day and marvel at the ways the sunlight hits the gorgeous glass pieces. Pets can tag along in this stunning destination as long as you leash them, so feel free to introduce your pooch to glass-covered shores.
6. Carlsbad Ranch
Flowers are the reason why Carlsbad Ranch is one of the most beautiful places to see in California —50 acres of vibrant, colorful blooms. The flower fields of Carlsbad Ranch are home to a vibrant rainbow of ranunculus flowers. They are nestled on a hillside with a breathtaking view of the Carlsbad coastline.
Wear something white or light-colored to make sure you’ll stand out when you take photos among the lovely fields. The flowers are in full bloom from the beginning of March through the start of May, so schedule your visit then.
7. Bowling Ball Beach
One of the most Instagram-able locations in the Golden State, the Bowling Bowl Beach is nestled in the northern end of Schooner Gulch State Beach. When the tides are low, you’ll find rock formations that look like over-sized bowling balls along the shoreline. Most are 2-3 ft. in diameter and almost perfectly spherical.
The balls are the result of a geological phenomenon called “concretion,” in which mineral cements bind grains of stone or sand to create huge formations. Bowling Ball Beach’s iconic boulders are the product of millions of years’ worth of erosion and concretion.
To reach Bowling Ball Beach, you’d need to go or park at Highway 1. Locate and follow the trail that leads to the beach carefully since much of the way has been eroded. Then, you’ll need to climb down a wooden ladder, cross a small stream, and go over a few boulders to get to the scenic beach.
Remember: the “bowling balls” are only visible during low tide, so check tide tables before travelling to the beach.
There’s much to discover in the Golden State, even for the thrifty traveler. Aside from the most beautiful places to see, make sure to check out these absolutely free things to do in California!
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