California is known for its trendy coastal cities, fantastic beaches and climate, and its world-renowned national parks. The state receives hundreds of thousands of tourists a year who come to get a taste of life in the promised land where the American continent gives way to the Pacific Ocean.
It would be fair to say that the vast majority of visitors to California tend to stick to well-established tourist routes. As any Californian will tell you with a smirk, this is a massive shame. There are plenty of marvels located far off the beaten track that come close to the majesty of some of the state’s most visited national parks.
In this article, we bring you some of the lesser-travelled spots in California which are perfect for those of us looking for a more tranquil and personal experience on our holiday. Read on to find out about our list of the top off-the-beaten-track destinations that you can visit the next time you are in the Golden State!
- Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area
As the hordes descend on Yosemite in the summer, Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area is often overlooked. Located around 14 miles southeast of the eastern entrance to Yosemite, Mono Basic is a high-altitude saltwater lake that is over 13 miles wide at its broadest point. The lake is perhaps the oldest lake in existence, formed maybe 700,000 years ago.
The lake provides a home for a wealth of avian species and is known for the stark limestone columns that are found along its south bank. There are some excellent camping opportunities to be had where you can spend the night.
- Mammoth Lakes
If you like skiing or other winter sports, consider taking a trip up to Mammoth Lakes. Located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains on the Nevada border, the town has emerged in recent years as a popular spot among mountain enthusiasts. There is a working cable car that takes you up the mountain, where you can enjoy panoramic views at any time of the year. The area is brilliant for all kinds of outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing kayaking and mountain biking.
- Bodie State Historic Park
California was once the site of one of the biggest gold rushes in the United States. Although there is not much gold left in these here hills, the remnants of the gold mining settlements endure in the form of several ghost towns scattered across the state.
One of these ghost towns is found in Bodie State Historic Park. Just 20 miles southeast of Bridgeport, the town of Bodie was a working gold mining area until 1876. When the gold ran out, however, the town fell into disrepair and soon became uninhabited. Today, it makes a great tourist stop for anyone who wants a true taste of what life must have been like in California 150 years ago.
- Mount Shasta
Located at the southern end of the Cascade Mountains in Siskiyou County in the northern part of the state, Mount Shasta is an imposing volcano with an elevation of 14,179 feet. Dominating the landscape for miles around, the mountain is a great place to engage in a number of outdoor pursuits. Head up to the Mount Shasta Ski Park for some brilliant winter sports. Alternatively, you can use the town of Mount Shasta City as a base for hiking and camping trips.
- Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park takes its name from Lassen Peak, the 10,457-foot volcano on whose slopes it lies. The landscape here is seriously diverse. One the one hand, you have the snowy peaks of the mountains, while on the other, you have lush pine forests and lakes interspersed with hot springs and mud pots.
After hiking some of the hugely impressive mountain trails in the park that take you past some amazing alpine scenery, there is nothing better to soothe the aching muscles than soaking in one of the many spa resorts that are found nearby.
Before you head out to California, remember that if you are coming from Europe, you will need to apply for an ESTA visa to enter the country as a tourist. If you are unsure about how to apply or whether you qualify, check out this useful ESTA guide for more info. Once you have done this, you are free to roam as you please for up to three months – easily enough to do all the things on this list!