California is full of diverse landscapes. The golden state is home to many different ecosystems – from desert to forest and tundra to alpine. From the highest mountain in the contiguous United States to the some of the biggest and oldest trees on the planet, from one of the hottest places in the world to the lowest elevation place in North America, from the massive ancient forests to the sprawling cities and so much more.

Here is a selection of some of the best destinations and most beautiful places in California.

SF Golden Gate


The Golden Gate bridge. Land’s end. The foggy city. This landmark of the San Francisco Bay is iconic, and for a good reason. There are several incredible view points around the bridge, perfect for watching the fog roll in over the city and the ships and boats traveling in and out of the bay.

Hikes leading to gorgeous vistas are located on both sides of the bridge, with each location offering a different perspective on the Golden Gate Bridge and the city of San Francisco.

Mono Lake Tufa


The Mono Lake Tufa are an alien landscape on earth. Mono Lake is a saline lake in the Eastern Sierra desert with strange, delicate, natural limestone formations that appear extraterrestrial.

Walking along these formations or swimming in the lake is a great day activity, but when the sun sets and the stars come out, this area becomes a landscape that is truly out of this world.

Mount Shasta Sunrise


Tranquil Lake Siskiyou is situated in the shadow of Mt. Shasta, and provides beautiful views of the mountain. Trails encircle the lake, weaving through surrounding forests and up into higher elevations for incredible lake and mountain views.

Swim in the lake’s warm waters in summer, stargaze from the dock after nightfall, or watch a sunrise from the shores. Keep an eye out for local wildlife in the early hours of the morning, and count shooting stars from the shores by the fireside at night.

Highway 1 Coast


Highway 1 runs along the California coast, through epic scenery for much of the state. Enjoy a long drive along the coast, watch the waves crash along deserted beaches and the watch sea birds fly in the sunshine. Unnamed turnouts and vistas provide views you can’t get anywhere else, easily turning any roadtrip into twice the length just from stopping so frequently.

Burney Falls


McArthur-Burney Falls is a massive waterfall that flows year-round. This beautiful falls tucked in the forests of Northern California looks like it is straight out of a fairytale.

Walk to the pool at the base of the falls, feel the mist hit your face as you climb across the rocks along the river, and keep an eye out for giant nests in the treetops. (Look closely for the eagle nest in the photo above, if you can spot it.)

Big Sur


Big Sur is a beautiful coastal area with dramatic bluffs overlooking the ocean, dense forests beside the sea, and endless opportunities for adventure. Experience lonely stretches of desert beaches, trails through cypress, pine, and eucalyptus forests, and rocky cliffs with breathtaking ocean views. Big Sur is the perfect place to explore the California coasts – sandy beaches, craggy cliffs, and seastacks in the ocean that have been eroded by the changing tides.

Yosemite Sunrise


Yosemite Valley is a glacier-carved valley surrounded by intense mountain peaks. In any season, Yosemite Valley makes an incredible adventure, whether you are looking for a day trip or beginning an expedition into the backcountry.

Trails weave through meadows, alongside rivers, and beneath precipitous waterfalls. The valley floor is shaded by the forests of the massive Redwoods and giant Sequoia trees, yet even these extraordinary trees are dwarfed by towering granite cliffs.

California is such a diverse state, with abundant natural beauty, there are endless places to explore.

Although this list only covers a few beautiful and amazing destinations in the Golden State, stay tuned for Amazing Places in California: Part 2!


Where are your favorite hidden gems and places to explore in California? Let us know in the comments!