After realizing 6 months have passed since we hit the road fulltime, I decided to sit down and go over all the amazing places we’ve visited. It has certainly been a whirlwind with lots of new parks, cities, and other awesome locations. However, a few stand out as special in our memories. These are my top 10 destinations so far.
My Top 10 Destinations
1. Avenue of the Giants
This is a scenic 31-mile highway in Humboldt County running through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. There are small towns ( I use towns loosely here as some are just a shop or cafe) along the way to stop for food, entertainment and fun.
However, our favorite part is the trails among the redwood forests. All along the highway there are parking areas with designated trails. You can also hike in the state park. There are history markers, explanations of the trees and the land and more. So get out of the car and explore. We don’t think you’ll be disappointed. We saw no one else while hiking these trails over the course of a day, which was pretty awesome! The one downside is the no dog rule on any of the trails.
We suggest you pack a lunch, your camera and some hiking shoes.
2. Lake Havasu City
We thought this city on the Arizona side of the Colorado River (other side of river is California) was super fun. It had a great balance of outdoor activities, restaurants, shopping, and water activities. I wrote a whole post about this place because we enjoyed our time here so much.
The BLM land surrounding the town is great for boondocking, exploring, hiking, 4 wheeling (Jeep/ATV), seeing wildlife, and experiencing the desert.
The lake offers tons of water activities including kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, boating and swimming. There are ample state parks in the area and the temperatures in winter are like summer, so it’s great to be outside.
3. Pedernales Falls State Park
This is a state park in the hill country of Texas that is worth a visit. I loved this place because it was beautiful, quiet and serene. There is plentiful hiking, exploring and enjoying. There is even a bird watching area that I thoroughly enjoyed. You could spend a whole day exploring.
I went on a warm winter day, but from what I understand this place gets CROWDED in the hot summer. It is close to Austin, so I wouldn’t doubt that. If you have the chance, go during the week and hopefully you’ll find the same peace and quiet I experienced.
4. Sea otters on California coast
While we didn’t experience campgrounds on the coast of California until we got way far north, I made it a point to drive the 2 hours to experience these awesome sea mammals.
They were as much fun as I expected and I was thrilled with my day. I also enjoyed the drive through farm country and was able to stop at a farm stand for delicious local produce. Overall, it was an amazing day and put a huge smile on my face.
How did I find these guys? I did some research online for sea otters and came up with locations to check out. I got lucky and found them right away, but I’m also pretty good at picking wildlife spots and have quite a few years photographing wildlife, in particular.
5. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
As I learned about the impending super bloom that was being predicted across southern California, I was happy to be able to change our plans to experience it. While the town of Borrego Springs isn’t much to write about, I did enjoy their small farmer’s market (Friday mornings Nov-April).
However, the super bloom and the desert surrounding the town were simply amazing. The colors, the scenery, the sculptures and the wildness of the park made us fall in love with this place. I understand it would be a totally different experience in a different time of year, but that’s what makes it pretty amazing. There are ample boondocking opportunities around here or your pick of posh RV parks with golf courses.
This is a place worth exploring. A place you can boondock and be away from it all. A place for hiking, photography and fun.
6. Red Rock Canyon State Park
I loved exploring this wild California state park. It has only one designated trail. Other than that you can explore anywhere. It also has rugged off road terrain for 4 wheeling and exploring further.
Once again the wildflowers were amazing here and the geological formations were pretty cool too. I was happy to be able to explore this place off trail with the dogs.
To be specific the ranger at the visitor center told us to explore wherever. This place has been used for filming quite a few movies, if that helps tell you the beauty of it.
Once again I suggest packing a meal, water, hiking shoes and enjoying this vast wildnerness.
7. Private location on Eel River
While staying among the redwood trees at a very quiet campground (Redwood River Resort), we got to know the work campers. Afterall, they were pretty much the only other people in the park and we were right next to them. The work campers were super nice and knew the area very well. Thankful for their wonderful tip to visit this awesome secret location. They trusted us enough to share with us and we feel pretty blessed for that.
To preface: the main road through here, Highway 101, had a major rockslide just a few short miles south of the campground which made this area extra quiet for quite a few days. We were fortunate to sneak through during the 24 hours that it was open over a 2 week period. It’s also early before the main season for this area.
While I will not share this local location, it definitely made the top 10. It is peaceful, serene and beautiful. Did I mention the serenity of this place was magical? On a warm spring day I really enjoyed the hike to get here along with a little swim in the river. Even the dogs enjoyed this place. Luckily we had it all to ourselves!
8. Indian Canyons – Palm Springs, CA
The Indian Canyons as you can imagine are located on an Indian reservation. However, they are spectacular with palm oases, hiking trails and desert scenery all mixed into one. You can easily spend a whole day hiking and exploring these beautiful canyons and the many trails offered here.
I hear it gets busy and they will close it if the parking area gets full. I suggest arriving early since you don’t want to be hiking in the midday desert heat anyways, right?!?!
I also suggest wearing sandals as there were tons of creek crossings on this hike. Let’s just say your feet will be wet. You cannot avoid the water and it was refreshing and awesome! California experienced an extremely wet winter this particularly year, so maybe that’s what helped make this hike more beautiful. We can’t say for sure since we haven’t been before.
There are quite a few trails to choose from here and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with any of them. There is also an entrance fee of $9/per person and the canyons are only open 8-5pm.
9. Shelter Cove
This little coastal town on the Lost Coast of California was to us, a little gem. It is about a 45 minute drive down a windy mountainous road to get there. However, we thought it was well worth the effort.
What makes this town neat? The black sand beach, the tidal pools, the lighthouse and the wildlife. We enjoyed a nice walk along the beach where we saw seals and whales in the water and hanging out at the tidal pools exploring the wildlife in them. Thankful we packed a picnic lunch since there aren’t too many dining options in town. Plus, we got to eat by the ocean!
We met a nice backpacker who gave us a bit more information on hiking the trails in the area. You can backpack along the lost coast for days and enjoy the beautiful vistas from your backcountry campsites. Maybe an activity for when we go back!
The Lost Coast is a mostly natural and development-free area of the California North Coast. It was named the “Lost Coast” after the area experienced depopulation in the 1930s and the rugged geotechnical challenges of the coastal mountains make this stretch of coastline too costly for state highway or county road builders to establish routes through the area. The result? The most undeveloped and remote portion of the California coast. Most of this region’s coastline is now part of either Sinkyone Wilderness State Park or King Range National Conservation Area.
10. Joshua Tree National Park
I had no idea of what to expect when we set out for this national park. However, I was amazed.
The trees are beautiful, the hiking fun, photography at night and sunset is spectacular (it was a full moon at the time) and the Cholla cactus garden blew us away.
It’s a rugged landscape that is fun to explore, hike and photograph. Definitely a place I would return for further exploration!
Once again I suggest packing a meal, plenty of water, and exploring this great place. If you have a smaller rig or want to tent camp, you can even utilize one of the campgrounds for a more intimate experience.
Can you tell we have spent a bit of time in California and I’m loving it? What are some of your favorite destinations and why?