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While most people think of California as a beach state, it is actually one of those rare states that has everything. Major cities, deserts, redwood forests, beaches, mountains, and several major national parks are all here. There is also the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood theme park near Los Angeles.

California is bigger and has MUCH more variety of types of places and activities than Florida, but you can’t possibly see them all in one vacation.

Considering how much wilderness there is in California, even the most adventurous souls might find it difficult to explore it all. However, it is certainly not impossible. However, there may be instances where you do not have ample time to go on an expedition to every possible place. Hence, if you are wondering where all to go backpacking in California over a weekend-long trip, this list is for you.

California has some incredible hiking routes in USA. Between Lambert Dome in Yosemite or Eagle Lake or Ewoldsen Trail in Big Sur or Kelso Dunes in Mojave National Preserve, you could spend months hiking your way up the coast along Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. You can spend one day up in the mountains, skiing down the snowy slopes and the next enjoying a wine tasting in Napa Valley.

California has so many different spots to see. You can spend your days down south and explore the deserts of Joshua Tree. You can head up north and get lost in the mountains of Yosemite or stop by San Francisco. You can find lava tunnels, 5,000-year old trees, and cacti double the size of you.

The only probable difficulty with choosing California as your next big hiking trip in US is deciding where to go and what to see in Big Sur in California, Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, San Francisco, Sacramento, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe. There are so many options that your head might start to spin just thinking about it.

Inland California has the Sierra Nevada mountains, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Joshua Tree National Park, the Palm Springs area, redwood forests, various wine countries, Death Valley, Anza Borrego Desert, Mammoth Lakes, and many others.

things to do in california

Read on to find out the ultimate backpacking list for those who want to fall in love with California.

1. Sacramento


The capital of California is a spectacular travel destination, offering a wide melting pot of entertainment and attractions for everyone. From the Railroad Museum to Funderland Park, through natural settings, Sacramento's possibilities are almost limitless. Among things to do in Sacramento take a historic cruise on the Sacramento river.

This is a very popular attraction among visitors. It consists of enjoying a boat trip on the river, while observing important enclaves of the city and listening to its history. During the walk you can see the famous ship where the Delta King Hotel works, among other points of interest.

Get closer to Fairytale town. This is a must see if you are traveling with children. Farmer Brown's Barn features Maddie, the moon-jumping cow, and Winnie the Pooh's friend Eeyore. You'll love the Urashima Taro Japanese Garden, which is also in Fairytale Town. Japanese white anemones flourish there and an ancient maple lives.

Visit the Sacramento zoo. The Sacramento Zoo includes a habitat for lions, zebras and other animals in the African savannah, and also an area where the Australian desert is recreated. There you can see the kangaroos leaping among the flocks of emus. There is also an area dedicated to the world of reptiles, without forgetting the red pandas, which are the stars of the zoo.

Sacramento comes alive at the various events that take place in the city throughout the year. These include the California State Fair and the Sacramento Music Festival, as well as frequent outdoor festivals, art walks, and live music in many bars in the city.

Finding its location in Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Grizzly Lake is a must-visit for those who wish to please themselves with the splendid view of mother nature. With an incredible waterfall in the middle of the forest, this lake looks like a heaven on the earth. If you ever wanted to fly-fish, this is the place for you.

Within the 7-mile stretch to the Grizzly Lake, you can camp at a nice meadow at about 5.7 miles according to an article. Carry easy-to-cook foods and snacks along with you on the trip. Since there bears around, it is best to tie up your food around a tree while you sleep.

Shelter Cove is one place where you will come across the bear prints. The tide comes along the beach every 12 hours, making for an awe-inspiring sight. If you plan to go there, camp at the Buck Creek, for its scenic beauty having a mountain stream around and gentle oceanic waves. Those who find their interest in climbing mountains can do here at King Range, which culminates at the King’s Peak.

2. Redwood National and State Parks


Surfing is altogether a breath-taking experience, both for the people who have done it before and the ones who are new to it. This Park has a great facility for doing so in the middle of the woods. Besides, redwoods all around tend to make even the imagination exhilarating. There are a lot of camping facilities in California you can avail while on the route to Tall Tree Grooves, which you come across in the ancient forest.

To fulfill your hunger, don't forget to carry snacks like nuts, bars, trail max, dry fruits, coffee and tea sachets, and sandwiches.

3. Kings Canyon National Park


It is a 46-mile hike through Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. It is one of the most popular hikes when it comes to Sierras. With lakes, greens and mountains all around, this place is as serene as a place can be.

About 8 miles into hiking through the dense forest around the Lake, you will come across a camping site where you can stay and rest for the night. According to an article, you can either camp at the Upper Paradise valley, Middle Paradise valley or the Lower Paradise Valley. Going ahead in your trail, you can also camp at the area surrounding the Lake.

When it comes to food, you can either eat instant snacks or fast foods that need minimal cooking with the help of a bonfire.

4. Beach Camp on Santa Barbara


Placed beside the Pacific ocean at a secluded location, Santa Rosa Island provides you with a place to camp in a tent on a beach, being in the land of extremes near Los Angeles. One of the least visited National Park, you will come across many unique plants and animals here. One of the rare animals found here include the native fox species.

You will even come across Torrey Pines in the Island, which is only found in a grove near San Diego elsewhere.

5. Sonoma


With a stretch of over 24-mile coastline, this place requires you to visit with your vehicle or a shuttle car. There are a lot of places where you can camp while you trek. The Lost Coast is found in the Northern part of California’s coast. To explore more around the area, two of the beautiful places you can go to are Mattole and Black Sands Beach.

With camps laid out, Lost Coast provides you with the opportunity to trek and hike in this wonderful pace.

6. Big Sur


The Pacific Coast Highway route is a beach and driving lover's dream. Travel in California hundreds of kilometres by the sea with stops as essential as the Big Sur or the Bixby Creek Bridge. While it is true that the shortest way to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco is by taking I-5 (Interstate 5), it is worth spending some time driving along the California coast route, an iconic road that does not will leave you indifferent.

If you are organizing a trip to California, read this post with the entire route.

For the trekkers, the trek to Sykes Hot Springs is approximately 10 miles along the Pine Ridge Trail. It is best to visit this place in the off-season, to get on the trail quickly. Since the water runs fast in the winter and spring season, you gotta be extra cautious on the trail. The hot springs at this place will strengthen your resolve of considering the mother nature exhilarating.

Whenever you have to find a place to rest during the trail, there are places you can camp at. The 3 campgrounds that are quite popular would be Terrace Creek, Barlow Flat, and Sykes. As far as a toilet is concerned, you will come across a small wooden box with a hole in it on the trip. Thus, be prepared for the challenges on the trip. The beauty of the trail makes it worth the effort.

7. Lake Tahoe


Due to its beauty, this place has become quite a famous site for visitors. Having some of the best waterfalls you can witness in California, Ropi Lake also has Lake Tahoe by its side. The hike is about 5.6 miles, which takes slightly longer to finish than one of the same distance. Going forward in the Trail, you will come across Ropi Lake Falls, making up for a fantastic viewpoint.

8. Death Valley National Park


This lunar landscape called Death Valley is located about 300 kms north of Los Angeles and about 240 kms west of Las Vegas, on the border between California and Nevada. This park is the second in extension after Yellowstone National Park. March and April are the best months to visit the Valley of Death. From Las Vegas, Death Valley is reached in less than two hours by entering Amargosa Valley through state highway 95.

The first interesting point you will find is Dantes View. Yes, the reward is good, there the views are spectacular, it is the best way to get an aerial view of Death Valley. On your way to the Visitors Center at Furnace Creek you will find Zabriskie Point, one of the most beautiful geological phenomena in the valley.

You have to climb a small hill to see how the earth in this place has wrinkled giving a spectacular yellow tones. This point you will have to reserve to arrive very early or leave at sunset, when the sunlight illuminates and does not burn the beautiful colors of the rocks. You can enter between these yellow formations at Twenty Mule Team Canyon.

In the Furnace Creek Area you can find the Visitor Center, in addition to several camping sites, a restaurant, a shop, the Borax Museum and a gas pump. Following in the direction of Badwater Basin, you will arrive at an unpaved road in good condition and after no more than 10 minutes you will reach Devil's Golf Course, one of the best spots in the park. There the soil is desert with a thick layer of salt and rocks covered with this same mineral.

Badwater Basin is the place everyone wants to reach. It is the lowest point of the western hemisphere that is 86 meters below sea level. There is a protected area of ​​salt flats. If you get into them, remember to bring enough water. On the way back you will pass through Artist's Drive, a 9-mile road with a single direction.

This road takes you to one of the most photographed spots, Artist's Palette. The color that the rocks have acquired in this place, in green, yellow and red tones, come from the oxidation of mica, iron and manganese. Another good way to approach the entrance to Death Valley if you come from Las Vegas, is entering the park by Beaty, to the north, where shortly after you can see the ruins of Rhyolite, one of the many ghost towns that are scattered on the West Coast.

If your rental car is 4×4, you can continue entering the park through the Titus Canyon, where you will pass through the bottom of a beautiful rocky outcrop. In Stovepipe Wells Area, what will most surprise you will be the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Even a StarWars scene was filmed in this place. In the Mosaic Canyon, very close to Stovepipe Wells, is this marble canyon.

Scotty's Castle Area is the castle that gives its name to this area, in addition to the Ubehebe Crater, formed more than 300 years ago, Eureka Dunes. And finally, the famous and mysterious The Racetrack, where heavy rocks leave a trail of movement that no one knows how to explain.

9. San Diego


Of course there are rocks that stand out on a cliff that look more imposing. For examples, the rock that seems to levitate, known as the Trolls Tongue or Trolltunga in Norway. But in this case, it's called Potato Chip Rock, and it's located in California, inside Lake Poway Park, near San Diego.

It is as picturesque as the reason why it has become one of the most fashionable places for Instagram lovers and other social networks in which to share our coolest photos of the holidays. Of course, here the reason is, precisely, that the idea is for those who visit to take photos, since it is a rock on a ledge that, thanks to the perspective and a good framing and trimming , will allow those who see us to have all a feeling of vertigo.

The photos made by many travelers on the Preikestolen, a rocky outcrop in Norway where photos are very dangerous and which, even so, are still a habit (although there have been accidents) are famous. In fact, for many, it is quite a sensation to sit in what they call the pulpit. Well, in California it is similar, but without risk to fall from the rock, since the fried potato barely has a couple of meters of height (three, to be exact).

In order to reach Potato Chip Rock it is necessary to travel first to the summit of Mount Woods, so the photo there usually becomes a trophy of a day of hiking in nature.

California’s beaches are surprisingly cold. From about Santa Barbara down to San Diego is the only part of the state where the ocean water is warm enough in summer to swim without a wet suit. Even in San Diego in May and June, it can be gloomy and foggy at the beach even when it’s warm and sunny a couple miles inland, so have a sweatshirt handy.

Locals in San Diego find it hilarious at the beach at 10am to see tourists dressed in bikinis and wondering why is it cold this is supposed to be California. It’s warmer in the afternoon when the fog burns off and the sun comes out. Then you can get a tan. The beaches in California are more spectacular though. There are hills and even mountains on the coast.

The beaches are plenty wide, the sand is tan and a little more course but still decent. The waves are big and scenic and good for surfing, if that’s your thing. When the sun is out the temperature is usually 75 to 80 degrees and the water temperature is about 70. That’s Southern California.

Central and Northern California beaches/coast are even more spectacular, but relatively cold. They are mostly undeveloped and uncrowded. It’s truly scenic and beautiful, but not warm.

10. Newport Beach


The heart of Southern California is Orange County, and Costa Mesa, the City of the Arts and the Mecca for arts and theater, is tucked away in Orange County. Costa Mesa boasts loads of high-end shopping and restaurants. Costa Mesa makes a perfect destination for an Eatcation, allowing visitors to experience a multitude of cultural dining choices. For the beach lover, some of Southern California's best beaches are just a short distance away.

Six distinct neighborhoods make up Costa Mesa: Eastside, Westside, SoBeCa District, Central, South Coast Metro, and Mesa Verde. Eastside is known for its culinary innovations and is home to Hi-Time Wine Cellars. Westside is the former industrial area for the city and has undergone a transformation into an area bursting with restaurants, art studios, and other small businesses.

The SoBeCa District is home to The LAB, a shopping center for creatives and small business. You'll also find lots of exciting restaurants sprinkled throughout SoBeCa. Central District is all about fun! Here you'll find events year-round, including concerts and the OC Fair. South Coast Metro is ground zero for the arts, with Broadway shows, the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, and more.

California produces much of the nation’s fruits and vegetables, and culinary arts is an industry here. Epic Wings (formally known as wings n things) is a whole new level of flavor. While their menu lacks diversity, they make up with power hitting flavor in their buffalo sauce that is mouth watering, garlicky and will make you cough if you get a whiff from its vinegar aroma. Not to mention that their breadsticks are so much better than that of Olive Garden.

Mesa Verde is a home decorators paradise with a large variety of cutting-edge home furnishing shops and interior decor businesses. It's also home to the OC MIX, a wildly popular food hall. Go straight to any small Mexican restaurant that ends with ertos. From Albertos to Rigobertos. Go there and get the California burrito. Instead of rice, you get french fries in the tortilla wrapped goodness with tons of meat and guacamole and sour creme.

If you have a bit of spare change, then a California burrito, a grilled steak burrito with cheese and fries is the best bang for your buck. Some dining halls even have these and occasionally people make that one burrito their only meal of the day.

Mission burritos are a different beast from their SoCal counterparts, but still are hearty enough that sometimes a single one can be lunch and dinner for a day. The reason it’s called Mission-style is because it’s regional to the Mission district in San Francisco. And that’s the type of burrito that Chipotle does.

On every corner is a small independent mexican takeout restaurant (usually called a taco shack). Their menus are all pretty much the same. The top two items are the Carne Asada and Carnitas burritos. Almost all meat, no rice or beans or other starchy fillers, just a little bit of pico de gallo and optionally guacamole. All rolled up in a fresh, tender 15″ flour tortilla.

Mission style burritos consist of rice, beans, cheese, sour cream, salsa, guacamole and a host of veggie elements, from avocado and pico de gallo to jalapeƱo pepper and lettuce. Sometimes there is meat too. Often the tortillas are steamed and include rice, unlike California Burritos.

Pretty much every tourist relies on packaged ramen, but many lean into the Asian culture and add in cheap staples like tofu, spam, eggs, mushrooms, and Bok Choi from the local asian grocer.

Due to the large Vietnamese population in the Bay Area, pho is often a go-to for a large cheap meal with friends. At some places you can get a huge washtub-sized bowl of pho with loads of beef for $6. That can keep you full for 2 meals.

San Diegans love their brunch. But if you’re one of those people who needs food to function in the morning, a humble Clif Bar is a popular choice. They’re also one of the cheapest bars to buy, at about $1 a pop. With it being rush hour always in the Bay, many don’t have breakfast. Or, if they do it’s a mug of coffee so they don’t fall asleep on BART (Bay Area’s heavy rail) and wind up in downtown Berkeley.

It’s also cheaper to drink homemade coffee than to, you know, eat actual food. Fruit can be super cheap in SoCal and often the cheapest three are bananas, oranges, and apples. Although they might not be the most filling, a lot of people in Southern California are very into health and can be found snacking on fruit at least once a day.

There’s just a weird amount of people I know who eat and actually enjoy this. It’s cheap, calorific, and seriously flavorful, all of which help when you’re struggling to afford food. I’m not a fan, but hot Cheetos and cream cheese have a cult following in the north.

Nothing says SoCal quite like IN-and-Out Burger, specifically their animal-style fries and double-doubleburger are manna. They’ll probably tear a hole in your stomach if you’re lactose intolerant, but they’re so good that it’s honestly worth the pain.

Several other beautiful places do not find a place on this list. However, that does not take anything away from them. For you to be able to explore the landmark places better, always carry the United States Scratch Off Map with you. Every place in California is wonderful, with each having its own set of charms. This makes it a city you should definitely have on your to-visit place.
Kalyan Panja Kalyan Panja Author

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