The Americas

The 9 best hidden destinations in California

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Want to escape the typically trodden tourist routes around California, USA? Go where no tourist has gone before with these 9 unlikely, but totally Instagrammable, destinations.

1. Death Valley National Park

The Sailing Stones of Racetrack Playa
Two hours east of Los Angeles, you’ll find Palm Springs and Death Valley National Park. The park is the lowest, driest, and hottest area in North America. So, why go there? Other than attending Coachella festival, you need to see the Sailing Stones of Racetrack Playa. Having puzzled scientists for years, these stones appear to move across the dried lake bed of Racetrack Playa, leaving a spooky and inexplainable trail behind them in the mud.

2. Mammoth Lakes

Devil's Postpile

While Mammoth Lakes is well known for its snow fields, it’s also home to a number of natural sculptures formed from volcanic eruptions. The strange peaks of Bishop Tuff in Long Valley Caldera were formed when ash and lava cascaded over the desert, while the unusual Devil’s Postpile near Mammoth Mountain is made up of layers upon layers of basalt columns.

3. Avenue of the Giants

Redwood Grove

A drive through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, north of San Francisco, is a requirement for all nature lovers. The park is home to the largest forest of coastal redwoods, one of the biggest tree families in the world. An excellent spot for hikers or simply picnicking amidst the quiet of an incredibly old and majestic forest.

4. Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Anyone who’s seen Into The Wild may be familiar with Salvation Mountain – a man-made sculpture not far from Slab City. Created by local resident, Leonard Knight, the small mountain is painted in lead-free murals and artwork inspired by the Christian beliefs of love and peace. A stark contrast to the bland desert surrounding it, the site is now considered a national treasure of the area.

5. Glass Beach, Fort Bragg

Glass Beach at Fort Bragg

A visit to Fort Bragg is definitely worth bragging about. Not only does the dramatic coastline look like something that survived the Jurassic period, but it’s home to the quirky, Glass Beach. Years of dumping garbage north of the town has resulted in a shoreline made completely of sea glass. Summer is high tourism so we suggest a visit in the shoulder season. Just be quick – high tides and changing environments means the glassy shoreline might not be there much longer.

6. Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

An hour and thirty minutes south-east of Los Angeles, you’ll find the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve. A protected area of California, the poppy reserve is responsible for the most consistent blooms of California’s state flower, the poppy. Plan your visit between mid-February and mid-May to be rewarded with a stunning panorama of rich yellow and orange poppy blooms.

7. La Jolla Sea Caves

La Jolla Sea Caves

You could be forgiven for thinking the La Jolla Sea Caves were on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, yet they’re located just 20 minutes north of San Diego. The jaw-dropping Sunny Jim Sea Cave can be accessed via a man-made tunnel at The Cave Store, but we recommend hitting the high seas and exploring the caves with La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks.

8. Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach Pier

Escape LA and head north to Pismo Beach in San Luis Obispo County where you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. A little less pretentious than some of the big city beaches, Pismo Beach is dotted with modest surf shacks where everything comes served with a side of local humility. The clam chowder at Splash Cafe is well-known locally and is worth the trip itself.

9. Healdsburg


Wine lovers will be big fans of Healdsburg. Tucked into the heart of Sonoma County, Healdsburg is the cornerstone of three major wine areas – Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley – meaning you’ll be treated to some of the best vino around in one handy, bike-accessible, area. Grab some nosh at local favourite, Costeaux French Bakery.


Kristen Hyde is a freelance wordsmith from Sydney who now lives in London because she heard the weather was awesome. You can follow her adventures in ol’ Blighty at Where in the World is KH. For more instantaneous updates of her travels, what she eats, and what she sees on the Tube, you can follow her on Instagram.


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