Tag Archives: California

Castle Mountains National Monument

Overview

Designated in February 2016, this small monument borders Nevada and is surrounded by the much larger Mojave National Preserve on its other three sides.  Its highest point is Hart Peak (5,543 feet), named for James Hart who discovered gold here in 1907 and founded a boomtown that reached 1,500 residents. 

Highlights

Hart Peak (5,543 feet), Hart Mine ghost town, view of Castle Peaks

Must-Do Activity

This new National Monument is undeveloped with no trails, no visitor center, and little signage.  Drive or walk its network of dirt roads to get a feel for the Mojave Desert.

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

Joshua trees are always photogenic, especially when the jagged Castle Peaks are in the background (though they are outside the monument’s northern boundary within Mojave National Preserve).

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

There are visitor centers in the adjacent Mojave National Preserve that have hours posted here:

https://www.nps.gov/moja/planyourvisit/visitorcenters.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Walking Box Ranch Road is a groomed dirt road passable to any vehicle from Highway 164 west of Searchlight, Nevada.  Access roads from Mojave National Preserve require high-clearance.

Camping

Dispersed camping is allowed within the monument.  Hole-in-the-Wall Campground within Mojave National Preserve is accessible by paved road from Interstate 40.

Explore More – Piute Spring is charged by the aquifer within Castle Mountains National Monument; when researchers tested it, how long ago did its water fall as precipitation?

Devils Postpile National Monument

Overview

Originally managed as part of Yosemite National Park, this monument was established in 1911 to protect it from demolition by dam builders.  It is only 798 acres, so it can easily feel crowded; therefore we recommend getting an early or late start when the shuttles from Mammoth Lakes, California are not running.

Highlights

Devils Postpile, Rainbow Falls, Minaret Falls

Must-Do Activity

Devils Postpile National Monument is named for a 60-foot tall wall of columnar basalt formed by a volcanic eruption that occurred less than 100,000 years ago.  These interesting columns are one to three feet in diameter and more than half are hexagonal in shape. 

Best Trail

The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail runs through the monument, but just outside its boundaries in Inyo National Forest is a 3-mile round trip hike to pretty Minaret Falls.

Instagram-worthy Photo

A short 1.3-mile roundtrip hike takes you to 101-foot-high Rainbow Falls, which usually lives up to its name and is one of the most stunning waterfalls we have ever seen. 

Peak Season

Due to high snowfall in the Eastern Sierra, it is generally only open from June through October. 

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/depo/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$20 per vehicle or America The Beautiful pass, but most visitors have to pay $8 per person for a shuttle bus to enter the monument.

Road Conditions

You are only allowed to drive your own vehicle down the narrow access road if you are staying at Reds Meadow Resort or the Inyo National Forest campground.  Otherwise, you must pay to take a shuttle from Mammoth Lakes, California. 

Camping

A 21-site campground is located near the National Monument and many others outside Mammoth Lakes, California in Inyo National Forest, where dispersed camping is also allowed in some places.

Explore More – How did glaciers help expose the Devils Postpile formation 10,000 years ago?

Cabrillo National Monument

Overview

Cabrillo National Monument is named for a Spanish explorer that sailed the California coastline in 1542 before mysteriously dying in the Channel Islands.  Located on Point Loma peninsula west of San Diego Bay, the steep cliffs offer great overlooks of Coronado Island and the city beyond. 

Highlights

Cabrillo statue, 1854 Old Point Loma Lighthouse, tidepools

Must-Do Activity

To find out more about the history of Spanish exploration in this region, check out the museum and talk to one of the costumed actors (it is southern California after all).  The national monument is a great place to imagine life at the Old Point Loma Lighthouse or learn the military past of the strategic defense post Fort Rosecrans. 

Best Trail

Follow the road downhill to the Pacific Ocean side of the peninsula to a great spot to explore tidepools.  Watch for migrating gray whales in the winter and the many unique bird species that migrate up and down the coast.  There is also the 2.5-mile roundtrip Bayside Trail.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Old Point Loma Lighthouse was built in 1854, but due to that famous California coastal fog it was retired from service in 1891.  Climb its circular stairs for a unique photo that looks like the inside of a seashell.

Peak Season

Year round, but less likely to be foggy in the winter.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/cabr/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$20 per vehicle or America The Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Mission Trails Regional Park off Highway 52 and other private campgrounds are located nearby.

Explore More – You would expect that Spain purchased the statue of Cabrillo, but which country actually did?

Sequoia National Park

Overview

In 1890, Sequoia became the second National Park in the United States in order to protect its famous groves of giant sequoia trees, not to be mistaken for California’s coast redwoods.  The park’s hub in the Giant Forest contains the General Sherman tree, the largest by volume in the world.  Most of the park is in the High Sierra and includes Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous U.S. at 14,505 feet. 

Highlights

General Sherman Tree, Moro Rock, Crystal Cave, Mt. Whitney

Must-Do Activity

The remarkable giant sequoia tree can live over 2,000 years, reach three hundred feet in height, and grow the largest wood volume of any single-stemmed tree on the planet.  They are only found in 75 protected groves scattered throughout California’s Sierra Nevadas.  Bring your whole family to see how many people it takes arms linked to reach around the base of one of these massive trees.  With circumferences reaching over 100 feet, you are going to need a big family! 

Best Trail

Crescent Trail starts near the General Sherman tree, winds up the hill, and then connects with the Trail of the Sequoias, which passes the dense clusters of the Senate and House Groups.  It is especially nice when there is snow on the ground.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Any time of year is great to visit, but the winter is perhaps the prettiest as the snow contrasts nicely with the orange bark of the giant sequoia trees.

Peak Season

Summer due to the high elevation

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$35 per vehicle or America The Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

Roads are paved, but steep, winding, and narrow.  The rough Mineral King Road is closed in winter.

Camping

There are several large campgrounds near the Giant Forest, as well as two on the rough road to the remote Mineral King section of the park.  All backcountry camping requires a permit and is on a quota system during the summer.


This design we created to celebrate Sequoia National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – Why do park rangers recommend you wrap your car with chicken wire when you visit Mineral King?

Manzanar National Historic Site

Overview

One of the many things that makes this country great is its willingness to remember inglorious moments in its past, such as the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.  Following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order authorizing the detention of more than 110,000 U.S. citizens of Japanese descent.  Manzanar War Relocation Center was the first of 10 internment camps built throughout the western U.S.  It held about 10,000 citizens (mostly from Los Angeles, California) in 36 blocks of wooden barracks across a one square-mile fenced enclosure. 

Highlights

Museum, film, reconstructed barracks, gardens, memorial

Must-Do Activity

Opened in 2004, the National Park Service visitor center is located inside the former camp auditorium, which now houses an excellent museum.  Self-guided walking and auto tours take visitors to two reconstructed barracks, the camp gardens, and a cemetery with the Manzanar Memorial.

Best Trail

You can walk or drive the 3.2-mile auto tour with 27 interpretive stops.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Located in the camp’s cemetery, the Manzanar Memorial is often swathed in origami paper cranes.

Peak Season

Summer, though temperatures can get hot with little shade.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/manz/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Manzanar is located right off Highway 395 west of Death Valley National Park and the dirt roads inside the site are passable by all vehicles.

Camping

Camping is available in Death Valley National Park and dispersed camping is allowed in the scenic Alabama Hills managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Explore More – How many Japanese-Americans served in the U.S. military during World War II?