View from Granite Point Trail at Point Lobos. Photo © Ken Wolter/123rf.

Visit Carmel’s Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

The Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is filled with ragged cliffs, hidden coves, rich marine ecosystems, lovely meadows, and dense pine and cypress forests. Hiking trails crisscross the reserve, the most spectacular of which hug the coastline. Point Lobos might be even more famous for what lies beneath the water than above it; underwater protected areas are home to a diverse marine ecosystem that includes 70-foot high kelp forests.

A black bear in Sequoia National Park. Photo © Nstanev/Dreamstime.

Wilderness Safety in Northern California

If you’re planning a backcountry expedition in northern California, follow all rules and guidelines for obtaining wilderness permits and for self-registration at trailheads. National and state park visitors centers can advise in more detail on any health or wilderness alerts in the area. Additionally, brush up on your wilderness safety; here’s how to prepare for temperature changes, high altitudes, and all manner of local wildlife.

Mono Lake in the South Tufa area. Photo © sarahjanet/123rf.

Mono Lake’s Tufa Towers

Mono Lake, eerie in its stillness, is the main attraction in the northern part of the Eastern Sierra, just east of Yosemite. Over time, the lake has collected huge stores of calcium carbonate, which solidifies into strange-looking tufa towers–freestanding calcite towers, knobs, and spires. If you’re visiting the Eastern Sierra, you won’t want to miss this natural wonder.

Mount Shasta. Photo © Chrisboswell/Dreamstime.

Classic Northern California Road Trips: Mounts Shasta and Lassen

These northern peaks and parklands are some of the state’s most spectacular and least visited. Mount Shasta is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts year-round. You can hike or climb to the summit in the summer and ski down its slopes in winter. Shasta Lake, by contrast, is best in summer, when boating, fishing, and waterskiing can fully be enjoyed. Because of its high elevation and rocky terrain, Mount Lassen’s roads are closed late fall-spring, making it a mid- to late-summer destination.

Craggy rocks rise up along a smooth sandy beach as waves wash up on shore.

The Best California Beaches

From wide, golden beaches with abundant sunshine to boardwalks crowded with kids, cotton candy, and roller coasters, California has any kind of beach you could possibly want. Author Stuart Thornton shares a helpful overview of some of the state’s best options for sun, sand, and surf.

California Poppies. Photo © Biolifepics/Dreamstime.

When to Visit Northern California

Dense in urban culture, awash in vineyards, and with some of the most scenic landscapes in the world, Northern California is a multi-faceted gem. Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, Big Sur, and San Francisco are among the top 10 on most travelers’ bucket lists. Best about northern California is its all-season appeal–from summer sun to winter fun, the best time to go to northern California is now.

Lake Shasta. Photo © Maislam/Dreamstime.

What to See at Shasta Lake

Shasta Lake doesn’t look like most lakes. Rather than a bowl shape, the lake is fed by three major rivers; to create this sprawling artificial lake, five towns were drowned. The remains are still down there, most sunk so deep that even scuba divers cannot explore them. A tour of the amazing Lake Shasta Caverns is a welcome respite from summer heat, and even if you’re not fascinated by engineering statistics and superlatives, a tour of the Shasta Dam is a great experience.

Downtown Oakland skyline. Photo © Eric Broder Van Dyke/123rf.

Things to Do in Oakland

Oakland is the biggest city in the East Bay. Although its reputation hasn’t always been perfect (travelers should probably stay in the popular visitor areas), today a great deal of downtown urban renewal has made it a visitor-friendly place with plenty of attractions, accommodations, and exceptional food. For interactive fun, a truly exceptional museum, and outdoor activities, check out these locations.