One of the most stunning beaches in all of California can be found with a little effort, provided one is located near or around the Northern California Coast. Agate Beach is located within Patrick’s Point State Park, which is also one of the jewels of the California State park system; and is a park with some interesting Native American heritage, and great diverse short hikes. While all of the hikes in Patrick’s Point State Park can be combined to form a larger series of loops, they can also all be done separately as well. While the hike to Agate Beach is very short in terms of distance, it provides a great introduction to the park’s varied types of terrain, and also provides visitors with great views and abundant chances to explore.
Iceland is the land of the midnight sun, the land of fire and ice, the land of Game of Thrones, and most importantly, the land of epic road trips. The most popular road trip in Iceland is unquestionably the Ring Road (Iceland’s Route 1), which circles the island. While Iceland is not one of the larger countries on the planet, completing a circuit of the Ring Road takes at least five days, and because Iceland is one of the countries on the planet with the largest scenery, one cannot fully appreciate the beauty of the Ring Road without taking at least ten days or longer. Unfortunately, in 2016, not everyone has a full ten days or longer to devote to exploring everything that Iceland has to offer. Fortunately, some of Iceland’s best and most iconic features can be explored in the course of a single day road-trip through Southeast Iceland.
The West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island is known for two things: rain, and epic coastal views. While rainfall amounts vary in the Westland, some areas receive as much as 18 meters of rain (54 feet!) a year. As a result of this rain, much of this area is heavily forested with swamps in certain areas. In addition to the fantastic forests that cover the West Coast, the views along the coastline never fail to impress, irrespective of whether there is precipitation or not. One of the easiest, and best hikes in the region, the Truman Track, combines much of the best features of the area, along with a stunning beach, and is a must-do hike for visitors to the region.
Although a variety of great outdoor options exist in North County San Diego, one of the newer outdoor multi-use areas is the Del Dios Highland Preserve. Comprising some seven hundred and seventy four acres of coastal sage scrub and mixed chaparral habitats, the preserve also straddles the San Dieguito and Escondido Creek Watersheds. From 2002 to 2004, the area was restored by the County of San Diego and its partner, the Escondido Creek Conservancy, and from 2005 onward, has been a preserve that has been open to the public. The preserve features one trail, the Del Dios Highland Preserve multiuse trail that is accessible by mountain bikers, joggers, and hikers alike, which also connects the preserve to the nearby Elfin Forest Preserve.
One of the things the backcountry of San Diego is not known for is an abundance of lakes due to the arid climate of Southern California. But, just because such spots are not common, does not mean they do not exist, as the Water of the Woods, Sheperd’s Pond, and some other spots demonstrate. The easiest backcountry lake to hike to in San Diego is Upper Otay Lake; which is also somewhat of a secret location as it is overshadowed by its larger brother, Lower Otay Lake. Both of these man-made lakes are found in the Otay Valley, and were constructed in 1897 (and rebuilt in 1918), and 1959 respectively. While Lower Otay Lake is extremely visible as it occupies most of the Otay Valley, and is accessible by car at numerous locations, Upper Otay Lake is hidden in plain sight behind the Upper Otay Reservoir, and is accessible by a short hike.
In 2016, the Coachella Valley is known for one thing, and one thing only: the Coachella Music Festival. However, it is an area with a rich pre-European history; an interesting mining history; and plenty of unique places such as Salvation Mountain, Slab City, Bombay Beach, the Mud Pots, the International Banana Museum, and many more. Most importantly, it is also where California’s most enjoyable desert hike is located, Ladder Canyon. While I realize this is a bold statement, I feel comfortable making it after all the time I’ve spent over the years in California’s deserts. It’s also important to note that while Ladder Canyon is California’s most enjoyable desert hike, it is not the most accessible, nor the most challenging. Having said all of that, for those outdoor adventurers that are willing to devote a little time and effort in getting to the location, it is a spot that is well worth a visit.
La Jolla, California is a sunny spot with sandy beaches. It is a spot that is well-known for a small cove (La Jolla Cove) where snorkeling, swimming, and scuba diving is popular. It is a location where locals and visitors can view sea lions and seals easily; and it is also a location that has an unobtrusive building with a secret tunnel that leads to a sea cave that is better suited for pirates, smugglers, and every adventure imaginable. For the last one hundred and ten years, this sea cave – the Sunny Jim cave – has been one of San Diego’s best long term microadventures, and is a location with a unique history.