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Must-See Natural Attractions in California

Must-See Natural Attractions in California

California is home to many natural attractions. From desert landscapes to forested explorations, these are the natural attractions to visit.

Betty White


4 min read

March 05, 2021

I had the privilege of seeing numerous natural attractions while living on another continent, but the more I discover the natural charms of the Golden State, the more I feel like I’ve visited sites on another planet. Needless to say, I feel devastated by the current situation and all it imposes. However, the memories of my travels and the anticipation of new trips keep me going. I hope these must-see natural wonders in California will light a travel-crazy spark in you like the one I feel after studying a map of the Golden State.

The Golden State’s Top Natural Attractions

The giant trees in Sequoia National Park are full of wonder.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

I saw the trees in Sequoia National Forest as a child and once again a few years ago. The best thing about my second visit was that my awe hadn't diminished a bit. I still felt tiny and humbled by these giant elders. I'm not a tree-hugger in common sense, but should I ever decide to hug a tree, it would be one of these. If only I had an embrace of over 30 feet wide. Nevertheless, I plan repeated trips to this majestic place. Feeling the inner child's astonishment again is well worth the three and a half hour drive from L.A.

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It's hard to beat the Firefall phenomenon at Horsetail Fall in Yosemite National Park.

Firefall, Yosemite National Park

I didn't know anything about Yosemite’s Firefall before I went to see it, so I honestly believed I would witness a spectacular flow of lava. So silly of me. In truth, the Firefall is a phenomenon that occurs in late spring when the red light of Yosemite National Park’s sunset reflects off Horsetail Fall, making it look like liquid fire. The sight I observed was not as overwhelming as some spectators claim it can be, but I blame the clouds on that day in late February. Still, the falls—and the rest of Yosemite—are spectacular in their own right and are natural attractions worth savoring, with or without the Firefall on the menu.

Seeing bioluminescent wave along San Diego's shoreline might inspire you to move to SoCal.

Neon waves, San Diego

It was not my first time spotting bioluminescence, but the scope of the bluish neon light along the San Diego shore left me breathless. Now I know I was lucky to see it in its full magnificence. I was invited to visit as soon as the red tides occurred. Lending their reddish color to the water by day, phytoplankton make the waves shine blue come nightfall. If you get the chance to witness this mesmerizing natural wonder once, you're bound to relocate closer to this place, just as I did a few years ago.

Death Valley's sailing stones are some of California's greatest mysteries. The rocks wander across the desert landscape, leaving a trail behind them.

Death Valley National Park

For a place with such a grave name, Death Valley certainly has a lot to offer in terms of wildlife—though you wouldn’t want to encounter most of its residents. But I didn’t come looking for the desert’s inhabitants.

I was after the phenomenon called the sailing stones or wandering rocks which can be found on Racetrack Playa. Even as I dove into the region’s geology, the bizarre paths trailing behind the stones didn't become any less magical. On the contrary, I'm looking forward to visiting again, this time during the winter months. Not only is the weather more tolerable then, but it's also the time when stones can be spotted moving along the desert floor.

Another wonder of the earth I got to experience rather by chance, while in the Valley, was Eureka Dunes. Home to the highest dunes in California, this vast sandy space, empty of visitors, truly impressed me. You won’t find sandworms here, so feel free to sit or lay in the sand and wander off in your thoughts. If you get to hear the rumbling of the singing sands, know that I envy you.

Light flows into the Lava Tube tunnels in the Mojave Desert.

Lava Tube Caves, Mojave Desert

Since I'm into molten rocks—and perhaps because the term pyroduct is as cool as this 7.6 million-year-old lava—I headed out to see the Lava Tube in Mojave. It felt amazing to step down into the dark tunnels, touch the rough walls, and watch the beams of light shine through natural skylights in the volcanic cave ceiling. Whether you're there to photograph or simply explore, Lava Tube ranks highly among the must-see locations in Southern California. When you're able to visit, go with a small group, bring mirrors, and have fun reflecting the beams.

Fern Canyon is a sight to see. With plant-covered walls, cobbled streams, and fallen trees, there's nowhere quite like it.

Fern Canyon, Redwoods State Park

Fern Canyon’s narrow structure would be enough to make you feel secluded if it weren’t for the site’s large number of visitors. It’s typically open year-round and draws a steady inflow of curious souls who can’t get enough of its unique natural beauty. If you can manage to distance yourself from the crowd, this is the perfect place to let your imagination run wild. Different varieties of moss make parts of the canyon wall look like blueish-green interdimensional portals, like something you can see in Rick and Morty. It’s easy to imagine an alien hand emerging from the fern wall, grabbing onto you, and pulling you in. I guess it's a great place for fantasy lovers. This prehistoric-looking setting has been a prime location for filmmakers for the very same reason.

I am perfectly aware that my list of must-see natural attractions in California is bound to change over time. It’s going to expand dramatically and I fervently hope I'll manage to see some of these fantastic spots again. At first glance, it may seem like nothing has changed since the last visit, but I have learned to look twice. California’s outdoor attractions are nature's art galleries, and the exhibitions are often quite dynamic.

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