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Mysterious Natural Wonders in California and How They Came to Be
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Mysterious Natural Wonders in California and How They Came to Be

From giant redwood trees to strange rock formations, these are the most mysterious natural wonders in California you shouldn't miss.

California.com

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5 min read

December 15, 2020

Giant redwood trees and strange rock formations in Yosemite National Park; purple sands at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur; geothermal areas and scenic views in Lassen Volcanic National Park—running out of new natural attractions to visit is nearly impossible in California. The Golden State is filled with incredible splendor waiting to be explored. Beautiful in their strange, extraordinary features, these California natural wonders attract many adventurous souls from around the world. You’ll want to add them to your bucket list.

The Natural Wonders You Shouldn't Miss

Lose track of time as you wander through the majestic Fern Canyon. It's one of the most beautiful places in California, that's for sure.

Fern Canyon

Location: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Orick

In Northern California’s Prairie Creek, you’ll find a natural attraction straight out of Jurassic Park. No, really—a couple of scenes from Jurassic Park: The Lost World were filmed here. (Stop by while on your Northern California film locations adventure.)

Fern Canyon is a narrow canyon with walls that are over 30 feet high. The canyon itself is surrounded by towering giant redwood trees, and the walls of the canyon are lined with five different kinds of ferns. When trekking through Fern Canyon, you’ll come across various types of plants and mosses, some of which have ancestry tracing back 325 million years.

It's time to embrace the beauty of nature as you drive through the Avenue of the Giants. You won't want to miss the scenery.

Avenue of the Giants

Location: Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Weott

Some of the most impressive ancient flora and fauna are found at the Avenue of the Giants. Appropriately named, this California natural wonder is lined with gigantic redwood trees that’ll make you feel infinitesimal in comparison.

You can add this stop to your California national parks road trip itinerary since it’s located right off Highway 101. The most visited grove on-site is Founders’ Grove—the large number of fallen redwoods in the forest make it a great spot for a picnic.

One of California's natural wonders is none other than Glass Beach. Doesn't the beach just scream mystique?

Glass Beach

Location: Glass Beach Drive, Fort Bragg

The origin of this California natural wonder is not as mysterious as the rest on the list. Once owned by the Union Lumber Company, this Fort Bragg destination was a dumpsite back in the early 20th century; the power of nature transformed it into a beautiful natural attractionThe Pacific waves weathered the discarded glass over time into the smooth, beautifully colored pebbles that cover the shore today.

The number of colorful trinkets on Glass Beach has decreased over time due to people pocketing pieces of glass. To keep this natural attraction remaining as one of the most unique beaches in California to visit, the state now prohibits removing any pieces of glass from the coast.

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Go for a stroll amongst the giant sequoias and soak up the trees' ancient wisdom.

Sequoia National Park

Location: Highway 198, Three Rivers

Sequoia National Park is a testament to nature's splendor with its scenic mountain views, giant trees, and deep canyons. Make sure to visit the mesmerizing Crystal Cave, one of the 240-plus known caves in Sequoia National Park. Guided tours take you through several massive areas within the cave, introducing you to all sorts of unique formations.

At the national park, you’ll also find another natural wonder of the earth: the General Sherman Tree. Named after war general William Tecumseh Sherman, this is quite possibly the largest tree in the world by volume. The 275-foot-tall tree is 16,005 square feet in volume and somewhere between 2,300 and 2,700 years old. You best soak up the tree's ancient wisdom.

Admire this magnificent basalt formation when at the Devils Postpile National Monument.

Devils Postpile

Location: Devils Postpile National Monument, Mammoth Lakes

This mysterious natural wonder will leave you breathless. Just outside of Mammoth Lakes, you’ll come face to face with over 400 basalt columns, standing tall at over 600 feet high. The rocks’ geologic properties make this California natural wonder unique. About 100,000 years ago, the columns began forming when large lava flows from the Upper Soda Springs area began cooling. Today, the Devils Postpile is all about beautiful waterfall hikes and camping in the great outdoors.

When in California, head to Fossil Falls to see the smooth black rocks scattered across the landscape.

Fossil Falls

Location: Off of Highway 395, Little Lake

Despite what the name suggests, there are no waterfalls at this California natural attraction. Upon arrival, you'll instead be greeted by a large valley of smooth black rocks. Nearly 20,000 years ago, volcanic flows left fields of volcanic rock lying on the desert lands. When glaciers from the Sierra Nevada melted after the last ice age, they formed runoff rivers and lakes; this runoff eroded the rocks, forming the rounded shapes found today. This rare natural wonder is a sight you shouldn't miss.

Mojave Lava Tube

Location: Mojave Natural Preserve, San Bernardino County 

A trail that traverses shiny black rocks leads to the California natural attraction known as the Mojave Lava Tube. Explore the volcanic phenomenon up-close by touching the walls of the tube—observe the irregular shapes formed by the cooled down and hardened lava. The tube is especially loved by nature photographers; the light beam that shines through the lava tube at certain times of the day will take your breath away.

Take a trip to Death Valley National Park to explore the natural wonders and breathtaking desertscape.

The Sailing Stones

Location: The Racetrack Playa, Death Valley National Park, Inyo County

There’s something magical about rocks that move on their own—visit Death Valley National Park to spot the intriguing Sailing Stones for yourself. Large rocks with miles of tracks left behind are found scattered around the desert here. The rocks’ remnant trails show the rocks have rolled and zigzagged their way across the landscape, sometimes as far as 800 miles.

This mysterious natural wonder has been studied since the 1900s. There have been many theories; however, scientists haven’t been able to agree on one conclusion. It’s difficult to track the rocks’ movement, but if you want to catch them in action, your best bet is to visit during the winter months.

For an exhilarating adventure, trek to the famed Slot Canyon at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Slot Canyon

Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs

The Slot is a beautiful California natural attraction situated in the heart of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, about a two-hour drive from San Diego. One of the most exhilarating hikes you can embark on in Southern California leads you to this narrow siltstone canyon. Although the hike is only 0.8 miles, it’ll take you a while to conquer—sometimes the canyon becomes so narrow that you have to move sideways to get through it. Make sure to set aside extra time to admire the natural beauty of the desert lands.

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