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Where To Go For Outdoor Adventure in California

published on March 24, 2023 by

If you’re someone who loves outdoor adventure, California has everything you’re looking for. From skiing to surfing, from coastal beauty to spectacular deserts, the Golden State offers a wide array of fun in diverse natural landscapes. Discover where to go — and what to do.

San Diego

The Destination: With a practically perfect climate and sunny skies year-round, the greater San Diego area seems like it was made for outdoor adventure. From sandy beaches to gorgeous desert landscapes, it’s a destination that suits all levels of experience.  It’s also home to some seriously amazing outdoor attractions, including the famed San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. And of course, you can easily get out on the water, whether you’re interested in whale watching, surfing or stand-up paddle boarding (SUP). 

The Outdoor Adventure: In the mood for a long walk on the beach? Take a stroll on the South Carlsbad State Beach trail. At just under four miles, it offers spectacular coastal views — keep an eye out for dolphins frolicking in the surf. 

The Resort: Four Seasons Residence Club Aviara

Palm Springs

The Destination: California’s high desert is known for its huge music festivals (Coachella, anyone?), luxurious resorts and stylish ambiance. But Palm Springs and the surrounding areas are also a great place for fresh-air fun with 300 days of sunshine a year. Nearby Joshua Tree National Park is a place like no other, with 1,250 square miles of otherworldly rock formations and scenic hikes — there’s a reason the park is among the fastest-growing in the national park system. In the spring, Palm Springs blooms beautifully with thousands of dazzling wildflowers, attracting hikers from all over the U.S.

The Outdoor Adventure: Indian Canyons Nature Preserve offers both natural and cultural immersion, including a stunning 60-foot waterfall and Native American heritage rock art that was carved centuries ago.

The Resort: Marriott’s Desert Springs Villas

San Francisco

The Destination: Mix outdoor adventure with urban flair in the Bay Area. Start your San Francisco trip with a stroll across one of the destination’s most iconic spots — the mighty Golden Gate Bridge. The pedestrian walkway is open 365 days a year … and it’s free! Take some time to enjoy the sprawling Golden Gate Park, with more than 1,000 acres of manicured gardens, peaceful trails, rolling meadows and more. And though San Francisco isn’t known as a beach town, there are still sandy shores to enjoy, including Aquatic Park, where the swimming is great. 

The Outdoor Adventure: Just a short drive from the city, Muir Woods National Monument is a stunning spot, with towering old-growth Redwood trees — some of which are more than 250 feet tall. 

The Resort: The Ritz Carlton Club, San Francisco

Lake Tahoe

The Destination: California’s greatest skiing and snowboarding can be found in Lake Tahoe. From mid-November through mid-April, the slopes here are filled with fresh powder. But this destination is a year-round outdoor playground. In the warmer months, kayaking is a popular pastime — and once you’ve glided across the calm, crystal-clear waters of Lake Tahoe, you’ll know why. Mountain biking is also big, with miles of trails that offer thrilling rides through the mountains.

The Outdoor Adventure: The Lake Tahoe Water Trail offers 72 miles of kayak/canoe/SUP excitement, with easy-to-follow signage and stunning scenery everywhere you turn. 

The Resort: Marriott’s Timber Lodge Tahoe

The Newport Coast

The Destination: Located just down the coast from Los Angeles, the Newport Coast is one of California’s best-kept travel secrets. Here, you’ll find pristine beaches, craggy cliffs, aquatic activities and much more, all in a perfectly laid-back-but-luxurious setting. It doesn’t just attract a human clientele, either; the Newport Coast is a whale watching hotspot year-round, with December through April offering the most bang for your buck. And birdwatchers should make plans to visit the Upper Newport Bay Nature Reserve, one of Southern California’s largest coastal wetlands, which gives you the chance to spot rare migratory species in the winter months. 

The Outdoor Adventure: A natural gem, Crystal Cove State Park offers outdoor adventurers 3.2 miles of coastline to explore, along with 2,400 acres of backcountry trails and tidepools that teem with marine life. 

The Resort: Marriott’s Newport Coast Villas

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