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Exploring California: From Beaches to Mountains

Lila Walter of Alexandria shares the many places to visit in California.

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When we think of California, especially on the east coast, the Hollywood sign and Malibu pop into our minds. Palm trees, Rodeo Drive and celebrity mansions also flood our minds. Yet, there is more to the “golden” state than these images. California became a U.S. territory in 1847 and gold was found in Sutter’s Mill in 1848, which prompted many settlers to move across the country to seek their fortunes. Before reaching statehood in 1850, California was inhabited by Native Americans, Asians, Spaniards and Mexicans. Their influences remain today, providing a rich tapestry of cultures that makes California so unique. There are other features of California that people should experience, such as its beaches, mountains and wineries.

Many seem to forget that California is a very large state; it takes up two-thirds of the west coast. This provides many opportunities to take advantage of what it has to offer. In Southern California, there are many scenic towns to visit, such as Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Barbara. If you are into bike riding, there is The Marvin Braude Trail, a 22-mile paved bicycle trail that starts at Torrance Beach and ends at the Will Rogers State Beach. You’ll pass many landmarks, including Venice Beach boardwalk, Hermosa Beach and the Santa Monica Pier.

If you are looking for cooler weather, the central part of the state has a number of great places to visit. Cities such as Fresno, Monterey and Modesto provide stunning backdrops to areas where there are quaint shops, bed and breakfasts and national parks. Big Sur is a big draw with beautiful cliffs and forestry that are perfect for hiking and camping. Also, you must see Cannery Row in Monterey. Once a number of fish canneries, it now hosts a number shops, spas, wine tastings, restaurants and more.

For skiing, you would head north to the mountains. There are a number of ski resorts and the ski season can run into June. The top ski resorts include Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Dodge Ridge Ski Resort and Northstar California Resort. If you want to enjoy a ride on a lake, check out Lake Tahoe. This famous resort area is located on the border of California and Nevada in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. For those who love wine, Napa and Sonoma Valleys are filled with gorgeous wineries. Northern California also has a number of fun cities to experience, such as San Francisco, San Jose, Sausalito and Mendocino.

From the beaches to the mountains, there is a lot of California to explore. In the span of a day, you can surf in the morning and ski in the afternoon. You can also play a round of golf and then take in a musical. California is a place where you can plan multiple trips and experience something new with each one.

Originally published at on December 10, 2019.