10 Unique Summer Excursions in Northern California and Nevada
Great Basin National Park – Baker, NV
The park’s namesake, the Great Basin, measures roughly 200,000 square miles and is home to over 800 species of plants and 61 species of mammals. This mystifying area drains internally, with no streams, creeks or rivers reaching either the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. With sights like these, as well as incomparable fishing, hiking, climbing, and more, Great Basin National Park is one Nevada treasure that should not be missed.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park – Angels Camp, CA
Considered the longest continuously operated tourist destination in California, Calaveras Big Trees State Park is premier outdoor destination. The park is located just east of Angels Camp in the Stanislaus National Forest. Two groves of giant sequoia redwoods are featured and protected in the park.
These giant specimens can reach 250 to 300 feet tall and more than 25 feet across, dating back in age 2,000 to 3,000 years old. Hikers enjoy easily navigated trails in both the North and South groves.
The North Grove is more popular, with the more remote South Grove offering more solitude. Enjoy an outdoor adventure on your next visit to Gold Country.
Washoe Lake State Park – Carson Valley, NV
In 1977, Washoe Lake State Park was officially established, in efforts to preserve this beautifully scenic region for future generations to enjoy. When visiting the park today, enjoy the wetlands, sand dunes, and wide variety of wildlife present in the area. The park is a birdwatchers dream, as the lake is a host to most migratory birds. You may even be able to spot pelicans, great blue and night herons, mountain bluebirds and red winged blackbirds. Also, keep your eyes peeled for deer, reptiles and even a coyote or two.
The Skunk Train – Fort Bragg, CA
Enjoy scenic views and a comfortable ride the next time you visit the North Coast of California. Head for Fort Bragg and embark on a tour of the Mendocino County on the Skunk Train. Officially known as the California Western Railroad, this popular passenger train follows a path heading southeast into Willits.
The California Western Railroad operates diesel-powered trains and steam-powered. Enjoy a ride through the Redwood Forests where you’ll pass by the Noyo River and Pudding Creek. The “skunk” moniker came about around 1925, when the CWR gas-powered trains – the common saying was, “you can smell them before you see them.”
Singing Sandbox at Sound Mountain – Fallon, NV
During the last ice age, Lake Lahontan covered much of what is now central Nevada. After the lake dried up, it left behind massive sand dunes at what is now Sand Mountain Recreation Area, 19 miles east of Fallon along Highway 50. Sand Mountain is a popular off-highway vehicle area, open to motorbikes, all-terrain vehicles and dune buggies, but it also offers hiking and biking opportunities. In quieter moments, listen carefully: the sand at Sand Mountain is the right size and silica composition to sing, moan and hum as it bounces over the dunes, a phenomenon that only occurs in a handful of deserts around the world.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk – Santa Cruz, CA
You’ll find stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, and a fun-filled day when you visit the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Home to the famous Giant Dipper roller coaster, this is the ultimate fun-zone in Santa Cruz. Ready for a thrill? Try riding the Tsunami, the Hurricane or the Crazy Surf.
The Haunted Castle is ready for screaming fans and the Sea Swings will have you dangling. No visit would be complete without riding the historic 1911 Looff Carousel. The variety of Arcade games, Laser Tag, Mini Golf, restaurants and shopping round out your Central Coast California visit.
Paddle Board at Lake Tahoe
Trapped in a basin between California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is one of the true blue gems of the silver state. There are lots of options for getting out on to that blue water, including kayak, canoe, and sailboat rentals, but the latest craze is stand-up paddleboarding (Sup). The learning curve for Sup-ing is fairly friendly, especially on Tahoe’s smooth waters.
Point Reyes National Seashore – CA
Point Reyes National Seashore is a peninsula that extends 10 miles out into the Pacific Ocean north of San Francisco. It is the best raw, rugged nature in this part of the state: dramatic cliffs, strong winds and crashing waves, elk and deer roaming the hills, and barking seals at the beaches. The lighthouse sits precariously down a large staircase at the very tip of the peninsula. Winter and spring are good times to visit for whale watching and the seal viewing.
Rafting or Kayaking the Truckee River – CA & NV
Much of Nevada is high sage desert, but there are a few rivers in the state big enough to sport white water. Running between Carson Pass and Lake Tahoe, the Truckee river is a Class 3+ river, popular with both rafters and kayakers. The Carson, American, and Yuba rivers also offer Class 2 and 3 rapids. Downtown Reno boasts a Whitewater Park with 11 pools over half a mile, a kayak racing course and numerous features and obstacles over which to practice your white-water cartwheeling, spoofing and splatting.
Yosemite National Park, CA
An icon of America’s majestic natural beauty, California’s Yosemite National Park welcomes millions of visitors each year—drawn to its dramatic waterfalls, giant sequoias, abundant wildlife, and awe-inspiring cliffs, like Half Dome and El Capitan. Whether you’re looking for the adventure vacation of a lifetime, want to immerse yourself in the stillness of nature—or simply hike, backpack or ski in one of the most beautiful places on earth, you’ll find your place in Yosemite.
Looks great. Like to have time for one soon. Thanks for the tips.
Yosemite is a must see top of the list place in our state. Did a 35 mile backpack trip in the Grand Canyon of the Tolumne with a group of 9 people aging from 26 to 75 – Epic!!
Looking forward to rafting the Truckee in August with my girlfriends after missing the adventure the past two years due to no water running in the river. Riding the Skunk Train is on my bucket list. Thanks for the info!
Thank you. I think we’ve gotten to all of them except the paddle boarding (have canoed, kayaked and power boated on the Lake but no paddle board) and the Board Walk, been to Santa Cruz to try my hand at surfing, tho’.