In a new photographic series exploring America’s natural beauty, 7 wonders of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas and Colorado are showcased.
Our look at California, the third largest state in the country, is in honor of Yosemite National Park’s 125th anniversary on October 1, 2015. The “Golden State” has so many natural wonders, from gorgeous national parks like Yosemite, full of valleys carved by glaciation, to islands full of wildlife, that it is difficult to limit our list to just seven.
1. National Park Yosemite
One of America’s most famous national parks is Yosemite National Park because of its jaw-dropping waterfalls, cirque lakes, polished domes, and gorgeous valleys. According to Lonely Planet, it receives about four million visitors each year. October 1, 2015 will mark the 125th anniversary of National Park’s establishment. Its distinctive landscape was formed by repeated glaciations over millions of years and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Yosemite Valley, a granite wall valley only seven miles long and nearly a mile wide, is a good example of topography formed by glaciers in the park. Mountain climbers love the valley’s famous cliffs, including Half Dome and El Capitan. According to Lonely Planet, Half Dome is North America’s sheerest cliff, accessible via a 17-mile round-trip trail from the Valley.
It also contains many other famous waterfalls, including Yosemite waterfall. When the orange glow of sunset reflects on Bridalveil Fall (the first waterfall seen when entering the valley) and Horsetail Fall, a waterfall that appears on fire in mid- to late-February.
2. Forest of the Sequoias
Sequoia National Forest in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains is home to the world’s largest tree, the giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum). Described as an evergreen conifer with thick reddish-brown bark and enormous trunks, giant sequoias are described by MonumentalTrees.com.
There are 33 protected giant sequoia groves in the national forest, the largest concentration in the world, according to the USDA Forest Service.
Tourists can look around in these groves. Many people go to the national forest to see “General Sherman,” which, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, is the world’s biggest tree. It has a circumference of about 85 feet. According to the Guinness website, the tree has the same amount of wood as 630,096 board feet, which is enough to make more than 5 billion matches.
3. Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and Channel Islands National Park
National Geographic says that until the early 1800s, Chumash tribes lived on the eight Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California. Channel Islands National Park and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary have been around since 1980. They cover five of these islands and six nautical miles of the sea around them. The National Park Service says that because these islands are so far away, they are one of the least visited national parks in the United States.
National Geographic says that the islands were made by tectonic forces about five million years ago. They have always been separate from the mainland. The Park Service says that because they were far away from the mainland, they had a lot of different kinds of plants and animals. Lonely Planet says that this is why the Channel Islands National Park has been called “California’s Galapagos.” Over 2,000 plant and animal species, like seabirds, seals, and sea lions, live on the islands. 145 of these species are unique to this planet. National Geographic says that the islands are home to the only breeding colony of northern fur seals south of Alaska. They also have giant kelp forests and are a great place to watch whales.
In addition to seeing wildlife, the islands are a popular place to hike, kayak, scuba dive, and camp.
4. National Park of Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree National Park is where the Colorado and Mojave deserts meet. It is almost 800,000 acres in size. In the desert, you can find rugged mountains that have been twisted by the weather and granite monoliths that have been exposed by the sun.
The park is known for its Joshua trees, which are yucca plants that are as big as trees. Lonely Planet says that Mormon settlers gave these strange-looking trees their name because they thought the upward-growing branches looked like the prophet Joshua pointing the way to the promised land.
5. State Beach of Natural Bridges
The main thing to see at Natural Bridges State Beach is this natural bridge, which was shaped and worn away by the waves.
The California Department of Parks and Recreation says that you should go to the beach at low tide to see sea stars, crabs, and sea anemones, as well as birds, migrating whales, seals, and otters.
In its monarch grove, the state beach is also a temporary home for up to 100,000 monarch butterflies every year. Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks says that between the middle of October and the end of January, visitors can see the butterflies in the grove’s eucalyptus trees or flying from tree to tree.
6. Formation of Devil’s Postpile
Devils Postpile is a rare rock formation that stands 60 feet tall. Atlas Obscura says that these columns were made when the Upper Soda Springs area’s flowing lava cooled. As the lava cooled, vertical cracks formed in the rocks, which then grew into the basalt columns. The National Park Service says that a glacier then showed the column formation.
Today, the monument is a great place to hike and camp, and it gives you a great view of Rainbow Falls.
7. Lake Tahoe
Lonely Planet says that Tahoe is one of the highest alpine lakes in North America and the second-deepest lake in the United States. Some activities that can be done outside all year are swimming, hiking, skiing, and snowboarding.