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3 Amazing Adventures For Your California Bucket List
By: Anna Cohen   |  Email: Anna Cohen

Backpack in Redwood National and State Parks

Camp at Wild Willy Hot Springs

Hike to Burney Falls

3 Amazing Adventures For Your California Bucket List

Load up your backpack and head to the Golden State.

California is a big state, in fact, it is the third largest in the country. Most people associate California with movie stars, avocados, and tech. But for an adventurer, it is so much more. Head to the eastern side of the state and you will run into California’s crowning glory: the Sierra Nevada. This region is an explorer’s dream. From Yosemite to Mammoth, you will find breathtaking vistas and challenging hikes. You’ll see turquoise mountain lakes and stunning cliff-faces. The possibilities are endless. Oh and did we mention the redwood forests, out-of-this-world desert landscapes, hot springs, rugged coastline, or dreamlike campsites? If you're ready to have an epic adventure-of-a-lifetime (and snag some beautiful photos while you’re at it), then load up your backpack and head to the Golden State.


1. Backpack in Redwood National and State Parks

This backpacking trip allows you to explore some of the tallest trees in the world, get amazing starlit view, and potentially run into Sasquatch...he's out there, somewhere.

Day 1: Check with the Rangers station before heading up for best camping opportunities. Assuming you've checked with the rangers for approval...if there are openings, off of the main road, there are side streets with access to the beaches. Pull into one of these areas and drive down as far as you can – this may involve squeezing your car through spaces between boulders. If you find such a spot, congratulations! Camp where the river meets with the ocean, and you will be a light, 10-15 minute walk from camp. If this isn't feasible, as Joshua notes in the review, there is plenty of dispersed camping available along the route to Tall Trees Grove. Either way, bring water with you.

Day 2: Head for Tall Trees Grove in the ancient forest (1.4 miles, 800-1,000 ft descent). First stop at the Thomas H. Kuchel visitors' center to obtain a permit and a gate code to access the dirt road. The road to the Tall Trees Trailhead is narrow and unpaved, and takes roughly 45 minutes. The small parking lot does not accommodate RVs or trailers, and there are bathrooms at the trailhead.

The loop to the groves is 0.5 miles long, but can consume a couple hours...easily. Stop to look around in amazement, go for a creek swim – take your time.

If you are camping overnight on the gravel bars on Redwood Creek, you will be required to walk 15 minutes (half mile) down the creek to camp off-site. This is a great place for night photography, since you are far away from strong light pollution.

Day 3: Start out by wading up Redwood Creek – water shoes are recommended. After 1.7 of admiring the creek, you will come to Emerald Ridge Trailhead. The trailhead is not very noticeable, but you will eventually see the sign to your left.

There are many campsites set up along the creek where you can spend the night. If you have time to spend, set up camp then continue further up the creek, then float all the way back down to camp. This is nature's best lazy river, and a hell of a way to see the redwoods. You can also hike Emerald Ridge Trail to view some more redwoods, then head back to camp for the night.

Day 4: Hike 0.9 miles on the Emerald Ridge Trail back to the parking lot, and say goodbye to the redwoods.

Please help protect these areas and practice Leave No Trace ethics. Put out and cover fires, help pick up trash, and make it look like you were never there. Poop 200-300 feet away from water and bury it. If we all do our part to make it better than when we arrived, it will be a better place down the road for the next crew!

Key Coordinates:

The Redwood Creek: 41.2992260, -124.0337130
Tall Trees Grove: 41.2081300, -123.9930940
Beach Camping Area: 41.174714, -124.102471


2. Camp at Wild Willy Hot Springs

Take a soak in this hot spring with stunning views of the Eastern Sierra. The tubs are large enough to fit approximately 30 people. The hot springs are on public land, but please be thoughtful when camping -- choose established areas and pull-offs. Remember to pack out all of your trash!

Also known as "Crowley Hot Springs", Wild Willey's is located a short drive from Mammoth Lakes. For more information on the hot springs and the public land restoration, check out the BLM's Website. From Mammoth Lakes, head south on the 395 for 3.5 miles until you make a left at Benton Crossing Rd. Continue on Benton Crossing for 0.4 miles, which becomes Minnow Creek for 0.1 miles and then continues onto Benton Crossing for another 0.6 miles until you reach your destination.

Remember when visiting the hot springs to practice Leave No Trace principles and to bring cans instead of bottles for your beverages.

Key Points:

If camping, make sure you're on the BLM land, you can find our more information about maps here or contact the local office at (760) 872-5000
To get to the hot springs from The Green Church off of the 395, cross over 3 cattle guards and make the first possible right after the third guard (immediate after you cross over it). This is approximately 3.0 miles after you pass the church


3. Hike to Burney Falls

Theodore Roosevelt referred to these falls as the “eighth wonder of the world.

Although the falls can be seen right from the parking area, this scenic 1.3 mile loop is a great hike for all levels of hiking ability. Heading out on this trail will take you to the base of this 129 foot tall waterfall. Allegedly, Theodore Roosevelt referred to these falls as the “eighth wonder of the world”.

Looking for an overview of the camping and trail areas, take a look at the park map. From the side bar of the McArthur-Burney Falls State Park page, you can make cabin or campground reservations if you'd like to make an overnight trip. 

Quick Notes:

Can I swim in Burney Falls? No, unfortunately swimming in the Burney Falls is prohibited. 
Is there a cost to visit the falls? Day use fees for McArthur-Burney Falls are $8 to $10. 

3 Amazing Adventures For Your California Bucket List

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