California on Your Next Road Trip by Woodall's Editorial Staff
Much of the American West
prides itself on its diversity - from forbidding deserts to breathtaking
coastlines, from towering redwood forests to snow-capped mountains. But
no state in the West has as much of it as California. The Golden State
is a virtual cornucopia of natural wonders. From top to bottom, explore
its amazingly beautiful coast to the deep woodlands and deserts found here
as well. Stay at hundreds of fantastic California RV Camping Resorts along
the way and you'll enjoy the best California has to offer in California
Sure, California's fantastic
coastlines and towering redwoods of the northern part of the state get
all the attention, but in southern California, deserts dominate the landscape.
Northeast of Los Angeles, the Mojave Desert encompasses more than 15,000
square miles. Although not every part of the Mojave is ideal for a leisurely
picnic lunch (think hot), this "high" desert contains several mountain
ranges and is located well above sea level. These two factors are what
give the Mojave its unique ecosystem, allowing for a variety of wild inhabitants.
Native birds such as the roadrunner and cactus wren often share space with
exotic migratory birds like vireos and flycatchers. Coyotes and kit foxes
prowl the desert hills, as do more docile creatures like bighorn sheep
and wild boars. Like most deserts, the Mojave is susceptible to extreme
weather. Bone-chilling during winter nights and sizzling during the hot
summer months, the Mojave can also offer up a very enjoyable trip during
the spring and fall months.
Mojave Desert, California, USA
In the southern end of the
region, right before the Mojave Desert becomes the Sonoran Desert, lies
Joshua Tree National Park. This 734,000-acre desert sanctuary is home to
some of the country's most unusual and photogenic plants. The Joshua tree
is the largest of the yucca plants and has flourished in this region of
the country. Some two dozen types of bird regularly make the Joshua tree
home and the tree plays an intricate part in the ecology of this desert
wildlife. The park itself offers a 40-mile driving tour where one can meander
through the gentle desert landscape and find plenty of photo opportunities.
North, back across the Mojave
Desert, lies Death Valley National Park. But don't let the name scare you
off - the place isn't out to get you. In fact, Death Valley is the most
visited desert park in the nation. Although this 2.3 million-acre park
certainly delivers its share of forbidding landscape and uninviting weather,
these extreme conditions also create some of the most beautiful and dramatic
scenery in the entire American West. The valley's floor, which lies nearly
300 feet below sea level, eventually gives way to dazzling painted hills
and 10,000-foot snow-capped peaks. Because of the enormity of the park,
driving is essential and many of the park's attraction are spread out.
But once a destination is picked and the rig is parked, Death Valley offers
hundreds of miles of hiking trails for you to soak up the dramatic scenery.
Be sure to visit Telescope Peak in the park's Emigrant Canyon. This peak
is the park's highest, reaching more than 11,000 feet and offering some
Valley, California, USA
As you head north and out
of California's southern desert region, the Sierra Nevadas beckon visitors
with its wide variety of activities and natural beauty. This 430-mile stretch
of granite cliffs and snowy peaks delight visitors with numerous parks
and attractions, including eight national forests, three national parks,
and 14 wilderness areas. Any trip to the Sierra's would not be complete
without visiting one or more of the region's other national parks: the
Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and of course, Yosemite. These national parks are
surrounded by California RV Camping Resorts and California Campgrounds.
The 402,000-acre Sequoia
National Park is the nation's second oldest park after Yellowstone. The
park's most popular attraction (and namesake) is the towering sequoia trees,
the tallest growing trees on the planet. Driving through Sequoia National
Park is an experience in itself. Follow Mineral King Road as it follows
the Kaweah River for 25 miles before reaching the scenic Mineral King portion.
General Highway is another twisting drive that will bring you to a stand
of trees where four of the five world's tallest can be found. Just north
of Sequoia sits Kings Canyon National Park, home of General Grant, the
nation's largest tree. Offer up a salute to the lofty hardwood. Another
must-see is the Zumwalt Meadow, the six-mile valley floor offers excellent
opportunities for day hikes along a peaceful valley surrounded by towering
granite cliffs. North of Kings Canyon lies California's most famous national
park, Yosemite. Crowds can be, well, annoying, so choose your season well
(spring and fall are best). Yosemite's vastness and many isolated areas
make this an extremely pleasant visit and a must for the RVer cruising
Sequoia, Sequoia National Park, California, USA
For even more dramatic scenery
head east of Yosemite just a few miles until you reach Mono Lake. One of
the oldest lakes in America, Mono Lake attracts all types of wildlife to
the area, including unusual sea birds who come seeking food sources that
inhabit the lake's salty water. But the truly significant aspect of Mono
Lake is the calcium-carbonate rock formations found on the lake's shoreline,
porous spires rising out of the salty water, standing like eerie sentinels
protecting the shoreline. Creepy, but cool. From here, choose one of several
routes north, all of which are quite scenic, until you reach the Sierra
foothills and the Lake Tahoe region. Set along the California-Nevada border,
Lake Tahoe has become an immensely popular vacation area, especially for
skiers. Lake Tahoe rewards its visitors with fantastic scenery, relaxing
hikes, and plenty of other outdoor activities year-round. It's easy to
escape the developed shores of Lake Tahoe. The western side of the lake
offers two state parks, Emerald Bay and D.L. Bliss, each with miles of
connecting hiking trails and memorable surroundings. The lake is a wonder
as well. At over 6,000 feet in elevation, this mountain lake is one of
the highest in the world. And its crystal-clear, frigid water beckons the
hardiest of souls to take a dip.
Northern California remains
one of America's most popular and beautiful regions. Yes, there's much
more here than San Francisco, although that's a wonderful place to start
things off. While having only a fraction of the population of southern
California, the northern regions offer the most diverse and impressive
landscape in the American West.
The Lava Beds National Monument
is 47,000 acres of hardened molten lava, which makes for interesting landscape.
To visit the Lava Beds National Monument is truly a unique adventure. The
region was once a hotbed (literally!) of underground flowing lava tubes.
Today, the flows have subsided, but in their wake, a blessing of nearly
200 caves and grottoes, many of which are open for exploration. Whether
you're an experienced spelunker, just starting out, or simply curious about
this underground world, Lava Beds National Monument is entertaining, nonetheless.
For birders, a must-stop
is the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge and the Lower Klamath National
Wildlife Refuge. While these two adjacent parks, located just north of
the Lava Beds, play host to a wide array of permanent and migratory birds,
the area is best known for its migratory bald eagle population, generally
regarded as the nation's largest. Don't forget the binoculars. Directly
west of these wildlife refuges, along the California coast, clustered together
are several redwood areas that make for wonderful stops. While Redwood
National Park anchors the area, the coastal drive is also lined with several
areas featuring northern California's star attraction, the mighty redwood.
Much of the American West
prides itself on its diversity - from forbidding deserts to breathtaking
Continuing along the California
coast, about an hour north of San Francisco, lies the Point Reyes National
Seashore, a majestic peninsula that juts out into the Pacific Ocean. Scientists
believe the delicate sediment found here may one day disconnect itself
from the California mainland. Here's a hint: Try not to be there when it
does. But until that day, the area is easily accessible and offers fantastic
rewards for wildlife enthusiasts. Nearly 500 types of birds call Point
Reyes home, or at least during their migratory travels. Dozens of mammals,
including several marine types, can easily be found here as well.
If you do nothing else, make
sure you travel Highway 1, one of the most scenic drives in the entire
world. Here, the journey is as good as the destination, although Big Sur
won't disappoint. This region has inspired generations with its tantalizing
views and dazzling sunsets. Because of the numerous RV parks and campgrounds
that make up the region, Big Sur easily affords days of leisurely outdoor
Just in case you want to
get out of the RV for a day trip, leave your rig behind in Ventura (wave
to the Woodall's office) or Santa Barbara and take a chartered boat to
explore the Channel Islands. Sea lions frolic along the islands' beaches.
Whales cruise for food just offshore. A myriad of shorebirds roost about
the islands' high ground. Santa Cruz Island is the largest and ecologically
diverse of all the Channel Islands. Managed by the Nature Conservancy,
the island dazzles with its steep, craggy cliffs, hidden caves, sandy beaches,
and much more.
Train Travel to Southern California by J. Michael Key
It's easy to get to and around
California when you choose train travel, no matter where you start your
journey. You can get here via Amtrak from any part of the country; there
are schedules available at every station as well as on their website, which
makes it easy to find out exactly how to get where you're going. With the
cost of gasoline continually on the rise, taking a train can be a more
economical and definitely more relaxing alternative to making long-distance
If you're coming from far
away, there are Amtrak sleeper cars which make overnight trips comfortable.
Once you've arrived in California, it's easy and inexpensive to travel
from city to city by train. Again, you can find information on schedules
and routes at a couple of different sources.
Amtrak serves all the major
cities along the California coast as well as providing routes which reach
farther inland and to the rest of the nation. If you're headed into Los
Angeles, you'll probably transfer to the LA regional rail network MetroLink,
which provides service to areas where Amtrak does not. You can find MetroLink
schedules at many train stations in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
Valley Wine Train, Napa Valley, California
Amtrak can get you into southern
California and in greater Los Angeles (including Orange County and areas
of Riverside and San Bernadino counties) you'll probably do your train
travel on MetroLink. If you happen to be headed to San Diego, you can ride
the San Diego Coaster, which is a major part of San Diego county's extensive
Metropolitan Transit System. The Coaster connects San Diego proper to the
northern suburbs; it's used by many area commuters and is a convenient
way to get around the area - it also connects with the Los Angeles MetroLink
One thing which southern
California is somewhat infamous for is traffic - and you can avoid the
hassle by choosing train travel instead of renting a car while you visit.
It's also more convenient than flying; and Amtrak and regional rail systems
like the San Diego Coaster and MetroLink let you relax and see some sights
you'd miss if you were taking the freeways.
You can find schedule information
for the San Diego Coaster on the web - and if you'll be traveling by rail,
you can even print this information for reference while you visit. The
schedule features a route map, timetable and everything else you need to
know to ride this increasingly popular regional railway. The system has
been growing in popularity to the point where cars have been added by trains
to accommodate increased ridership.
There are vending machines
at Coaster stations where you can purchase your tickets using cash or a
credit card - you can purchase round trip or one way tickets, with a one-way
being the best choice if you don't intend on returning on the same day
as you depart. You can simply buy a ticket for your return trip when you're
ready to leave.
If you're coming all the
way from the East Coast, you may want to fly into southern California and
then use train travel to make your way from place to place. If you don't
have time to take a train all the way across the country, this may be preferable
to making your entire trip via Amtrak.
When you're planning your
next trip to California, consider taking Amtrak - and once you're in the
area, remember that MetroLink and the San Diego coaster are a convenient
and comfortable way to get around. If you'd rather avoid the traffic and
enjoy your trip, train travel is often a faster way to get to the places
you want to see on your California vacation.