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California for Nature Lovers

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We've listed some of the state's most exciting natural destinations, but also check out the spots we rate tops for scenery in nearby states.
I like mountains, ocean, deserts. Where can I find unspoiled vistas and explore Mother Nature?

Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View

(c) Betsy Malloy 2005

Underrated and Spectacular

They're listed first because under-visited spots are still the most pristine, and because they're personal favorites.

Coast

Desert

  • Joshua Tree: Not really trees, they look kinda like them. Popular with rock climbers.
  • Anza-Borrego: The largest desert state park in the U. S.
  • Death Valley: Possibly the world's hottest place, it abounds with austere natural beauty.

Mountains

Lakes

  • Lake Shasta: It can be crowded in summer, but in late fall or winter, you'll have it almost to yourself.
  • Lake Tahoe: It's over-developed, but a list of California lakes seems incomplete without it.
  • Mono Lake: Lowered water levels have created fantastic tufa towers and a unique ecosystem.

Animals

Trees and Wildflowers

Birding

  • California Condors: Where you can see them in the wild, take a tour or get a closer look in a zoo.
  • Herons and Egrets: Not always where you might expect.
  • Mono Lake: A major stop on the Pacific Flyway.
  • Bolsa Chica: This coastal wetland is improbably located in Orange County.
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