Garrapata State Park (Carmel, CA)
This was one of our favorites with our growing family. We loaded the kiddos up in our backpacks and headed out to explore the bluffs overlooking the ragged rocks and waves where land meets the pacific ocean. The trails are very wide and are accomodating. A few steps are required to go the entire way.
A word of warning is that if you are sensitive to poison oak, be sure to stay on the main trail. There are a number of little offshoots (especially near the hill) that offer some great features, but at a little risk.
Crowley Lake Columns (Mammoth Lakes, CA)
This one was a surprisingly cool spot I found while using google maps to chart our path to Death Valley last March . It is such a different and very satisfying site to visit. Literally colmns rising out of the ground directly adjacent to a beautiful lake with reflections of the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains.
There are 2 different routes to get there. One is a 12ish mile long road around Lake Crowley or the short cut that crosses the dam and requires a 4×4 with some clearance to scale a single hill to a dirt road on the other side. From there it’s a short distance to columns.
Salmon Falls Hidden Bridge (Folsom, CA)
When Folsom Lake is full, this very cool feature is deep beneath the water and the waves until it’s levels drop down below the 400ft level. This short and very accessible trail takes you down below the high-water mark of Folsom Lake to where the historical town of Salmon Falls used to be, complete with a bridge that crosses over the American River. This is well worth the journey should Folsom Lake or California drought conditions make it available.
Tahoe East Shore Trail (Incline Village, CA)
The Tahoe East Shore Trail is a somewhat newer trail that just opened that gives a glorious view of Lake Tahoe. This fully paved path follows along the scenic East Shore of Lake Tahoe. The trail has some elevation gains (great views) and descents (perched right above the water) with excellent views abounding.
Saline Valley Warm Springs
The Saline Valley Warm Springs is a pretty remote spot within the Death Valley National Park. There are 2 springs fairly near each other with another one a few miles up a bumpy dirt road. This spot was one of my favorites, especially when getting up really early in the morning to catch the sunrise. The views are unobstructed of the beautiful mountain ranges on all sides.
The one word of warning I would provide is that the roads are, well…… very annoying.. Google “washboard road” to learn more. It consists of a road, with little evenly spaced tiny bumps for miles. Increasing the speed rattles your vehicle and everyone just has to grin and bear it. The big rocks of other roads seemed much more pleasant. But it does scare off the average person from being there and makes for one great story.