California Off the Beaten Path: 5 Uncrowded Scenic Gems

Jocelyn Murray July 11, 2014 No Comments

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Avalon, Catalina Island

Avalon Dunes on Catalina Island
photo by A. Strakey

Catalina Island is easily reached by a comfortable ferry ride less than one hour from Los Angeles. The Santa Catalina Island Interpretive Center is a wealth of information about the island’s history, animal and plant life, and ocean and marine life. Hiking trails abound, while off-road four-wheel-drive guided tours boast breathtaking views of hidden coves, mountain peaks, and the great Pacific Ocean. While it’s only 22 miles off the Los Angeles coast, it’s a world of natural beauty that should not be missed.

 

Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
photo by National Ocean Service

The Channel Islands are perfect for camping, hiking, fishing, kayaking and snorkeling. Its primary residents are the birds and many species of animals that live here, making the islands wildly alluring, yet close enough to civilization from which regularly scheduled ferries depart. Its unspoiled coves are home to colorful sea stars, orange garibaldi and spiny sea urchins.

 

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park
photo by Esther Lee

Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert is known for its spiny yucca trees whose branches reach like arms up to the desert sky. It’s a wonderful place to hike and enjoy the landscape’s rugged character with cholla cacti, boulder mounds, flowering desert plants, and mountains in the distance. Both northern and southern entrances to the park are near oases with campgrounds.

 

Pinnacles National Monument

Pinnacles National Monument
photo by Richard Johnstone

The rocky terrain of Pinnacles National Monument is at once captivating and ominous. From its canyons to its rugged spires, it is a wilderness of wonder with 30 miles of hiking trails that boast gorgeous views with a variety of rich wildlife supported by the fertile soil belonging to the ancient relics of an extinct volcano.

 

Red Rock Canyon State Park

Red Rock Canyon State Park
photo by John Fowler

Just a few hours away from Los Angeles, Red Rock Canyon State Park is a geological treasure trove. Time and erosion have sculpted its dunes, cliffs, clay and sandstone formations into corrugated shades ranging from deep reds to bleached whites. Cargo wagons once stopped in this area for water in the nineteenth century. It has also been used to film Hollywood movies like Jurassic Park. Its arid isolation inspires a kind of reverence.

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Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

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