It’s elementary. Northern California has Yosemite, Muir Woods, miles of spectacular coastlines, great wine tasting, majestic trees and bucolic farmlands. Southern California has traffic, smog, and over-priced theme parks. Right?
Well, if you know where to look, a lot of what everyone loves about Northern California can be found not that far from L.A. and Orange County. Here are some examples of how one can sample a bit of the Northern California experience right here in So Cal.
Waterfalls. With several tiers totaling about 500 feet, Big Falls near San Bernardino is no Yosemite Falls, but from up close, it’s pretty impressive. Other famous waterfalls in Southern California include Paradise Falls, Escondido Falls, Holy Jim Falls and Sturtevant Falls.
Trees. It might not be General Sherman, but the Champion Lodgepole Pine near Big Bear Lake, at 112 feet, is no slouch. A long drive and a short hike will get you to the base of this tree, which sits in an attractive meadow at 7,000 feet above sea level. During October, don’t miss the famous quaking aspen groves, also near Big Bear Lake.
Wine. In southwest Riverside County, the city of Temecula boasts some great wine-tasting. Nearby, the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve allows hikers a chance to see both some of So Cal’s history, and in the spring, the rare phenomenon of the Vernal Pools, small lakes which consist entirely of rain water and evaporate by the summer.
Mines. While the Gold Rush may have happened to the north, Southern California has a long and interesting history of mining as well. Big Horn Mine, high in the Angeles National Forest, is a popular destination, with great views of Mt. Baldy along the way. In San Diego County, the mountain town of Julian not only has a rich history of mining, but a four-season climate. The nearby Volcan Mountain Reserve nicely showcases the pleasant, rural landscape of the San Diego mountains.
Coast. Although it’s paved, the walk along the bluffs at Point Vicente provides some amazing ocean views. Other scenic coast walks include Point Dume in Malibu, the Corona Del Mar sea caves in Orange County and the Torrey Pines State Resreve in north San Diego County.
Mountains. Still not convinced? Perhaps you should know then that when John Muir–the naturalist who is the namesake for beloved Muir Woods and the John Muir Trail–described a view as being “the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on the earth”, he was talking about Southern California’s own San Jacinto Peak. In all fairness, smog and civilization have taken their toll on the view that Muir saw in the mid-19th century, but it’s still a must-do for any So Cal hiker, whether via the famous aerial tramway or from up the western slope.
Obviously, hikes such as San Jacinto, Champion Lodgepole and Big Horn Mine are best done during the warm summer months, so while you’re waiting for the snow to melt, consider hiking in a climate not found in the north: desert. Some of Southern California’s famous desert hikes include Vasquez Rocks, the Devil’s Punchbowl and the Stone Pools near Palm Springs.
No disrespect is meant toward Northern California; just don’t overlook Southern California’s natural side.