California Road Trips - 50 Life-Changing Adventures - 67

32

Natural
Wonders
SANTA CRUZ

SUNSET STATE BEACH
SAN JUAN BAUTISTA
MOSS
LANDING

MORO ROCK
BEAR GULCH
VISALIA

Kicking off at the Pacific coast and winding
into the Sierra Nevada mountains, this threeday drive across Central California reveals some
of the state's best natural wonders-redwoodedged creeks, rafts of sea otters, spouting whales,
volcanic caves, soaring condors, and the world's
largest living trees.

Valley's grasslands to Pinnacles National Park. Home of cliffs and
crags formed by an ancient volcano, Pinnacles attracts rock climbers,
hikers, birders, and wildflower fans. Turn on your headlamp or
flashlight to light your way through Bear Gulch's tunnel-like talus
caves. You'll squeeze through clefts in the rock and twist through
narrow passageways, then pop out in the daylight. Or traipse

With lots of hikes and outdoor activities, this trip will burn some

through the High Peaks, a maze-like cluster of boulders, pinnacles,

calories, but what the heck-you don't go on a road trip so you can

and spires. From the trail's high point watch magnificent California

stay in the car.

condors fly overhead, their wingspans stretching up to 10 feet.

From Santa Cruz, steer south to Aptos, where trails meander
through redwood and fir trees at The Forest of Nisene Marks State

Zooming east, nab a motel room in Visalia and try a foodie riff on
tortillas and cheese at Quesadilla Gorilla. In the morning, head to

Park. Take an easy stroll along Aptos Creek, or in the rainy season,

Sequoia National Park's Ash Mountain entrance. Don your driving

get your feet wet as you cross multiple streams to Maple Falls.

gloves-in the next 16 miles, the Generals Highway navigates 130

Then take a detour from forest to ocean-Sunset State Beach's three-

curves and 12 switchbacks as it ascends to Giant Forest. Once you

mile expanse of soft sand and dunes invites surfers, anglers, and

enter this grove of the world's most massive trees, ditch the car.

beach-strollers.

Walking among the giant sequoias is the only way to fathom their

Motor south to Moss Landing, a working fishing harbor dotted

PHOTOGRAPH: MARJI LANG

the night at Hacienda de Léal near the town's graceful adobe
mission. The next morning, get up early to cruise through Salinas

sheer size and regal beauty. The General Sherman Tree, the world's

with art galleries, antique shops, and slapping-fresh seafood

largest living tree by volume, always draws a crowd. Pay homage to

restaurants. It's also California's most reliable spot to observe sea

this behemoth, then move on to the quieter Congress Trail, where

otters feeding, frolicking, and caring for their young. Poke around

hundreds more gargantuan trees grow.

the harbor to find fuzzy otters popping up between the boats, or
look for them at Moss Landing State Beach's protected cove. Hop

Round out a perfect day in Sequoia with a heart-pumping climb
up Moro Rock's 390 stairsteps. Even young kids can make it to

aboard one of Sanctuary Cruises' boats for a chance at spotting

the top of this bald granite precipice with a sweeping vista of the

whales and dolphins in Monterey Bay.

saw-toothed Great Western Divide. For dinner, head to the park's

Heading inland, break up your drive in historic San Juan Bautista.
Indulge in a traditional Basque meal at Matxain Etxea, then spend

Wuksachi Lodge. In The Peaks' glass-walled dining room, every table
overlooks a forest of firs and the Silliman Crest.

67

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP

SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK



California Road Trips - 50 Life-Changing Adventures

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California Road Trips - 50 Life-Changing Adventures - Cover1
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California Road Trips - 50 Life-Changing Adventures - 1
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