Think you’ve seen all of California? Think again. We traveled to five different remote locations to discover some of California’s lesser-known attractions. From an active volcano to a wine country destination to an historic honky-tonk, these locations make great trips for those who like to explore a little off the beaten path. Discover these five surprising California spots, listed north to south.
1. Sundial Bridge: A functional Work of art
Redding has some secret gems that make a pleasing start to your trip. Start at Sundial Bridge. This remarkable pedestrian bridge designed by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, spans the tree-lined, trout-filled Sacramento River in Turtle Bay Exploration Park. The 700-foot-long span is undeniably striking, with its glass block walkway, soaring white tower, and suspension cables forming a functioning sundial—a nod to human creativity and ingenuity, both important themes of the 300-acre park.
Before you cross the bridge, visit the adjacent visitor center. Outside, Paul Bunyan’s Forest Camp lets kids learn about what it was like to be an early logger in the region; there are also recreations of a traditional Native American bark house. Inside, interpretive displays shed light on local wildlife and natural history.
Now walk across Sundial Bridge. On the far side of the bridge, opposite the museum, is the 200-acre McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens.
Where to Stay: JGW RV Park, Redding
2. Lake Almanor & Lassen Volcanic National Park: A tranquil lake and active volcano
Tucked away in California’s northeast Shasta Cascade region are many secret finds, especially for outdoors lovers. Lake Almanor offers classic lake bliss: water sports, family-friendly activities, and a tranquil ambience. It also neighbors one of California’s coolest and most surprising spots: Lassen Volcanic National Park, with its bubbling mud pots and steaming vents. While the area is most popular during summer, fall brings incredible autumn colors.
Where to Stay: Durango RV Resort, Red Bluff
3. Murphys: Under-the-radar wine-tasting
California has no shortage of amazing wine country destinations. But if you’re looking for a lesser-known locale for sipping, head to the quaint town of Murphys, where more than two dozen boutique wineries are open year-round for wine tasting. Plus, Gold Country has both deep history thanks to the prospectors and impressive natural features, like Calveras Big Trees State Park and Moaning Cavern.
Where to Stay: Jackson Rancheria Casino RV Resort, Jackson
4. Buck Owen’s Crystal Palace: A honky-tonk venue
Put on your boots and head to this Bakersfield venue for live music and dancing that celebrates the rock-meets-country musical style known as the Bakersfield Sound. Country star Buck Owens opened his namesake Crystal Palace in 1996, and today it still boasts a full calendar of music and events. The venue is also home to a museum filled with music memorabilia, much of it from the 1960s, when Owens put his stamp on the music scene.
Where to Stay: Orange Groove RV Park, Bakersfield
5. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park: One of the best spots for stargazing
You haven’t seen a night sky until you’ve seen it in the remote Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Surrounded by mountains and with a local focus on eliminating light pollution, this is the first International Dark Sky Community in the Golden State, making it a prime spot for stargazing. In 2009, the International Dark-Sky Association designated Borrego Springs as the second International Dark Sky Community in the world.
During daylight hours, explore the town of Borrego Springs and keep an eye out for the cool statues of other-worldly creatures made by metal sculptor Ricardo Breceda. In late winter and early spring, you’ll see a gorgeous carpet of wildflowers covering the desert.
There are not many places in the world where you can get to the beach in an hour, the desert in two hours, and snowboarding or skiing in three hours. You can do all that in California.